Friday, July 26, 2019

Boris Johnson Arrives on the World Stage

Yesterday, Boris Johnson arrived in the British Parliament with a bang, not with a whimper. The brash and boisterous Johnson stood his ground in the great debating society that is parliament. As opposed to certain other politicians of note, Johnson is brilliant, with a full command of the issues, and thoroughly articulate.

It is worth noting, the British Prime Minister leads his party in public debate with the opposition. Margaret Thatcher revelled in it. Theresa May flailed about… diminishing herself and diminishing her nation.

Whether a newly energized prime ministership will re-energize a flagging nation remains to be seen. In a recent post I suggested that we ignore the mindless blather about how Johnson was like Trump-- therefore deserving of nothing more than being tarred with every species of criminality. And naturally, worthy of nothing less than a great resistance movement. I suspect that Johnson’s performance yesterday put that to rest… for now, at least.

Why, even New York Times columnist Bret Stephens is coming over to the Johnson camp. After all, he notes, consider the alternatives.

Boris Johnson has been Britain’s prime minister for not quite a day, and the reviews are in. He’s a disaster! A fraud! A Trumpy toff and shameless showman whose ego is inversely correlated to his merit and whose tenure of office won’t just be bad for the United Kingdom, but very possibly the death of it.

Johnson might be half-inclined to agree. As he once said of himself: “You can’t rule out the possibility that beneath the elaborately constructed veneer of a blithering idiot, there lurks a blithering idiot.”

God save us from self-deprecating humor. 

As for the alternatives, Stephens lists:

Waiting to feast on the entrails of a failed Johnson premiership are, from the left, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn — a man who called for closing down NATO, eulogized Hugo Ch├ívez, and kept company with Holocaust deniers — and, from the right, Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage — a man who said he’d get rid of anti-discrimination employment laws because “there should be a presumption for British employers in favor of them employing British people as opposed to somebody from Poland.”

But, Stephens observes, the British voted for Brexit and they should have Brexit. If their leaders call for another referendum, a do-over, the results would be catastrophic. A supposedly democratic nation that rejects the results of a democratic election is heading for disaster. After all, respecting election results is the first rule of democratic decorum. Look around you on any given day and you will see how much trouble certain people have produced by refusing to do as much.

Brexit was an assertion of British independence from European bureaucrats. Once upon a time, not that long ago, the European continent was overrun by Nazis and fascists. Only Britain held out against the barbarous hordes. Losing its independence to people who either belonged to the hordes or collaborated with them would be a loss of dignity.

But, can Britain stand on its own? Since the punditocracy tells us that it can’t, that probably means that it can. After all, it has an ally in the United States. At least it does today. We recall that our former president interfered in the Brexit vote by telling the British people that if they detached from the EU, they would not be welcomed into a trading alliance with America. They would, in Obama’s words, go to the back of the queue.

Stephens assesses Britain’s place in the world:

One of the frequent criticisms of Johnson and other Brexiteers is that, like Victorians born a century late, they have an exaggerated sense of the U.K.’s significance. Yet for all of its relative decline, Britain has four of the world’s 10 best universities, the fifth-largest economy, the fourth-largest navy (by tonnage), and a globally deployed military. It is second only to the U.S. in Nobel laureates, just as London is second only to New York as a global financial capital. Its literary and artistic scenes remain fecund and globally influential, and its political leaders, until dismal Theresa May, always punched above their weight.

All this means Britain remains a pillar of the Western world. If Johnson fails badly, more than just his mandate or career go down with him.

So, Stephens lays out the case for Johnson, with far more objectivity than the screeching pundits who are praying for him to fail:

His mistakes are many, but many of them are venial: He was sacked by The Times of London, for instance, for making up a quote concerning the love life of King Edward II (1284-1327). He has loads of enemies, but by many accounts he has a gift for personal friendship and, unlike his three immediate predecessors, a deep political base. He has a profound sense of history, and writes remarkably well about it. His two terms as mayor of London involved some harebrained schemes, but he still managed to leave office with a near-60 percent approval rating in a city that leans left. His close association with the Brexit campaign gives him a chance, as May never had, to command its allegiance.

He has charisma. He’s eloquent and disarming. He is capable of winning people over.

He’ll need to, if he’s going to bring Britain out of the political deadlock that led to the crushing defeats of May’s Brexit plan. He’ll need it, too, to negotiate a trade deal with the U.S., which Johnson has promised and which post-Brexit Britain cannot do without. For once, Britons should be grateful that Johnson, who in 2015 described Donald Trump as “clearly out of his mind,” has done so much to cultivate a relationship with the president.

For your edification, here’s Johnson in action yesterday on the floor of Parliament, responding to Labour Party leader Corbyn:


UbuMaccabee said...

Boris fights. I love a fighter.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Corbyn is a loon. Watching Boris trade barbs with him is going to be the best thing since Thatcher and Kinnock in the 1980s. Thatcher made Kinnock crazy. Suppose that’s why Biden plagiarized so much of Kinnock’s stuff — Kinnock was a loser.

Boris had a hilarious smackdown on the Scottish Nationalist MPs yesterday as well. Very entertaining.

trigger warning said...

Boris Johnson is a prodigious intellect.

Sam L. said...

Trump says BoJo is his BO. (Not really, they do look to be unidentical twins, and drive the opposition completely nuts and waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay past "around the bend".)