U.K. Tories Slam Trump Critics for 'Virtue Signaling'

Boris Johnson
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson at United Nations headquarters in New York U.S., July 22, 2016. Johnson said opposition politicians who criticized Trump were undermining the national interest. Eduardo Munoz/Reuters

A Conservative MP has blasted supposed "virtue signaling" among critics of U.S. president-elect Donald Trump.

And, speaking in parliament, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said that the opposition Labour party was undermining Britain's national interest by criticizing America's right-wing president-elect and his populist rhetoric.

During a parliamentary session in which Johnson faced questions Trump, James Cleverley, the Conservative MP for Braintree in Essex, asked whether Johnson agreed that "Virtue signaling, while fashionable, is no basis for a productive international working relationship."

Johnson agreed, saying that Cleverley "speaks for many commonsensical people in this house and this country who want to see a thriving relationship between the United Kingdom and the United States of America."

The phrase "virtue signaling," popular among right-wingers, is used to indicate moral positions, often of the left, that they believe are held only for show.

The Labour Party's Emily Thornberry challenged Johnson, saying that Trump's skeptical views on climate change make his election a "hugely dangerous development for the future of our planet."

She asked whether Prime Minister Theresa May would "have the moral backbone to tell [Trump] that he is wrong on climate change."

But Johnson said her words undermined Britain's interests.

"I believe she is being premature in her hostile judgments of the administration-elect and any such premature verdict I believe could be damaging to the interests of this country," he said.

But Johnson said that the U.K. would tell Trump's administration that "we believe [tackling climate change] to be important, we believe it be in the interests of the United States and of the world. "

The U.K. government believes that it can best influence Trump's administration through maintaining close relations, in contrast to countries such as Germany, where Chancellor Angela Merkel has made publicly clear that ongoing co-operation can only come if Trump upholds basic democratic values.

The debate came after Trump embarrassed the U.K. government with a tweet urging it to appoint the populist right-winger Nigel Farage as U.S. ambassador, something the British government rejected.