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Thu, 9 July 2020

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By Sarah Champion MP and Pauline Latham MP
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Dominic Raab says it would be a ‘distraction’ to cast verdict on Donald Trump’s handling of George Floyd death

Dominic Raab says it would be a ‘distraction’ to cast verdict on Donald Trump’s handling of George Floyd death

Donald Trump caused controversy this week as he warned ‘looting leads to shooting’

3 min read

It would be a “media distraction” to give a verdict on how Donald Trump has handled the death of a black man in police custody, Dominic Raab has said.

The Foreign Secretary said footage of George Floyd’s treatment at the hands of officers had been “very distressing” amid continued unrest in several US cities over his death.

But Labour's Lisa Nandy told PoliticsHome the UK Governemnt had a "moral obligation" to "stand up for our values".

A former police officer has been charged with murdering Mr Floyd in Minneapolis after video emerged of the 46-year-old repeatedly telling officers he was unable to breathe.

As protests turned violent this week, President Trump tweeted that “looting leads to shooting” and said “THUGS” were “dishonoring the memory of George Floyd”.

The US commander-in-chief said: “I can’t stand back & watch this happen to a great American City, Minneapolis. A total lack of leadership.

"Either the very weak Radical Left Mayor, Jacob Frey, get his act together and bring the City under control, or I will send in the National Guard & get the job done right.”

But Mr Raab on Sunday rejected calls to condemn the President’s response, telling Sky News' Sophy Ridge: “I’m not going to start commenting on the commentary or indeed the press statements that other world leaders make or indeed the US president.”

He added: “Footage of what happened to George Floyd was very distressing, as has been the scenes across America of the rioting and some of the violence. 

“And what we do know is that the lead suspect has now been charged with murder, there is a federal review and we want to see de-escalation of all of those tensions and American come together.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer had said Mr Floyd “must not become just another name”, and called for his “shocking death” to act as “the catalyst for change”.

He added on Saturday: “To build a better society we must stand together against racism and injustice.”

Former Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott meanwhile drew parallels between the UK and the US, saying black people in Britain had “long suffered disproportionately at the hands of the state“.

And, in a direct swipe at President Trump, the Hackney MP wrote for HuffPost UK: “We can only hope British politicians learn the right lessons from the current American situation.

"And it is not about sending inflammatory tweets.”

But Mr Raab warned that casting a verdict on US domestic politics could undermine close cooperation between the two countries.

He said: “We will comment on actions and stuff that is material to the relationship we have. But I’m not going to be drawn into the questions of whether the US President’s remarks were the right thing to do. I leave them to comment on their own domestic policies.

“I think all it does is create a distraction from all the things that we’re doing. We’re working very closely with the US on coronavirus, on many other things and frankly it becomes a media distraction and I want to be focused on the job at hand.”

That drew an angry response from Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy.

The Labour frontbencher told PoliticsHome: “Condemning the unlawful killing of George Floyd is not a ‘media distraction’ as the Foreign Secretary described it, but the moral obligation of any government that claims to oppose discrimination and injustice. 

“The UK has a duty to stand up for our values here and around the world - regardless of the countries involved."

The SNP’s defence spokesperson Stewart McDonald meanwhile accused Mr Raab of having "zero moral compass".

 

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