On Wednesday, days after Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump called for a ban on all Muslims entering the United States until "our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on," one of the United States' foremost European allies has taken notice. More than 200,000 Britons have signed a petition to ban Trump from their country. The British parliament is required to consider any petition with more than 100,000 signatures, so this issue will have to be debated.
This is not an official position of the British government, to be clear. British finance minister George Osbourne said Wednesday that Trump's right to enter the country shouldn't be in question:
Frankly, Donald Trump's comments fly in the face of the founding principles of the United States. [Robust democratic argument] is the best way to deal with Donald Trump and his views rather than trying to ban presidential candidates.
Even if some in the British government were keen on the idea of banning Trump, it makes perfect sense that officials would be reluctant to say or do so. After all, he's been leading in the polls for almost half a year. If he actually becomes president, British leaders will have to work with him, so saber-rattling over his broadly racist, xenophobic policy proposals could be a little premature.
But this much is clear, at least: If history is any indication, what Trump's actually gone on the record with as regards to Muslims and Latino immigrants in particular could have conceivably earned him a ban from the UK, because it's done this sort of thing before. British society may not be keen on Trump's brand of scorched-earth religious bans — it boasts an estimated Muslim population of more than 2.5 million — but it has indulged in some individual bans of politically inflammatory or otherwise objectionable people before.
For example, back in 2009, Bay Area right-wing radio host Michael Savage (real name Michael Weiner) received a very public ban from entering Britain, thanks to a long history of virulent remarks about Muslims, among other groups.
Savage was (and still is) something of a notorious figure in far-right radio. In 2008, he was the subject of widespread criticism after making wildly inflammatory remarks about children on the autism spectrum, saying that many were simply "brats" who needed to be "told to cut the act out."
The British Home Office didn't elaborate on the reason for the ban at the time, beyond saying that Savage was "engaging in unacceptable behavior by seeking to provoke others to serious criminal acts and fostering hatred which might lead to inter-community violence. Similar bans were placed on high-ranking members of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church for it's overtly hateful efforts, as well as R&B/hip-hop performer Chris Brown following his abuse of Rihanna.
And make no mistake, this idea isn't only being pushed by online petitioners — The Independent highlighted the "ban Trump" idea on its front page Wednesday, making it pretty plain where they stood. A ban on traveling to the U.K. would certainly have some practical consequences for Trump, especially if he doesn't end up becoming president — he's the owner of two golf courses in Scotland.