Saturday, July 13, 2019

Who Is Boris Johnson?

I trust you know that the sophisticated British are looking down their imperious snouts at America’s short-fingered vulgarian of a president. They even floated a balloon of baby Trump in diapers to welcome the American president to London. And they are now up in arms at the fact that their ambassador to Washington, Kim Darroch was forced to resign after his highly unflattering and highly confidential portrait of the American president were leaked. 

Since Boris Johnson, currently the lead candidate to replace the hapless Theresa May as prime minister, did not denounce Trump, the British press has issued forth the usual caterwauling, calling Johnson: Trump’s poodle.

In truth, Trump could have handled the situation more diplomatically. He should have uninvited Darroch from dinner with the leader of Qatar and otherwise allowed the ambassador to resign… which he was obliged to do once the cables were leaked. Less tweeting would do wonders for the Trump presidency. 

One understands that after Brexit, Great Britain will need to forge new trade deals with nations around the world. Maligning the American president will obviously not advance that cause.

Poetic justice being what it is-- the most appealing form of justice-- Great Britain is about to have a man who closely resembles to Trump become prime minister. Only, Johnson has better hair. He has the good grace not to slick his hair into an ersatz helmet. Naturally, sensible voices in Great Britain have raised a hue and cry about the calamity Johnson must become, forgetting that the eminently sensible Theresa May was precisely the calamity they are now warning against.

Given who and what May was, it is not very surprising that Britain would choose her counterpoint to replace her. When your leader manifested flagrant weakness-- see the example of Barack Obama-- you are more likely to choose someone who comes across as anything but weak, even thuggish. It’s a sad commentary on human nature, but electing Obama and May opened the door for their opposite numbers, Trump and Johnson.

As it happens, Johnson is a seasoned politician, a former cabinet member, a former member of the shadow cabinet, a former journalist and editor, not to mention, a serial adulterer. He does seem to have a grasp of how the government works. He knows the characters. He knows his way around policy. World leaders have dealt with him. In those ways he differs from his American role model.

Now, Johnson’s college chum, columnist Toby Young paints a portrait of the next British prime minister:

It is fair to say that the prospect of Boris Johnson becoming the next prime minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has not been universally welcomed on this side of the Atlantic. The 55-year-old Conservative member of Parliament is often described as a “Marmite figure,“ a reference to a salty, waxlike substance that some British people like to spread on their toast. You either love Marmite or you hate it, and the same goes for Johnson. About half the nation breaks into a smile whenever the bumbling, self-deprecating, overgrown schoolboy heaves into view. The other half breaks out in hives.

Young describes young Boris:

Having known Boris since 1983, when we were at Oxford together, I am a fan. He has been described as looking like a sheepdog peeping out from under an upturned colander of spaghetti — he has a thick mop of blond hair that Donald Trump would kill for — and that was as true then as it is today. The striking thing about him as a 19-year-old student is that he was already the finished article, whereas the rest of us were still works in progress. It is not just that he was comfortable in his own skin. He had a Churchillian sense of his own destiny. He gave the impression that at some point in Britain’s future, at a time of national crisis, he would sweep in and save the day. We are about to find out if that was a narcissistic self-delusion or a historical premonition.

Johnson began his career as a journalist. You might think that this would earn him some modest plaudits from the ink-stained multitudes, but of course it doesn’t:

Before entering politics, he had a successful career as a journalist — he became the editor in chief of the Spectator, a prestigious conservative weekly, at age 35 — but was fired from his first job, at the Times of London, for inventing a quote and attributing it to his godfather.

For which he garnered the reputation of being less than honest. And, as it happened, he was also less than faithful to his marriage vows:

As the Conservatives’ shadow arts minister in 2004, he assured the then-leader of the party, Michael Howard, that rumors of his adulterous affair with Petronella Wyatt, the Spectator’s deputy editor, were “an inverted pyramid of piffle.” When they turned out to be true, Howard sacked him.

To each his own taste here, but I find the phrasing, “an inverted pyramid of piffle” to be a welcome addition to political conversation. I like a good turn of phrase, perhaps too much, but still I like someone who has a command of the English language.

Just speaking for myself and my warped moral sense, I believe that if a man is going to have an adulterous affair he cannot do much better than to do it with a woman named Petronella. What is it about the names they give to British women? For my part, Petronella deserves a place in the book containing names like Hephzibah. Of course, I am referring to Hephzibah Anderson, famed journalist.

As for Johnson’s foreign policy experience, at least he has had some, though he has not always covered himself in glory. Young reports:

The highest office he has occupied was secretary of state for foreign and commonwealth affairs from 2016-2018, and he did not cover himself in glory. Until that point, people assumed his befuddled persona was just an act, but he was not always on top of his brief as foreign secretary, such as the time he told Parliament that a British woman, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who had been arrested in Iran, had been “simply teaching people journalism.” That did not reassure the Iranian authorities, and she remains in prison to this day.

Beyond his facility with the English language, Johnson is decidedly politically incorrect:

Well, his journalism may occasionally stretch credulity, but he is one of the funniest writers — and speechmakers — of his generation. He is also marvelously politically incorrect, the real reason he is so widely disliked by Britain’s sanctimonious Establishment. In a column for the Daily Telegraph last year, he compared burqa-wearing Muslim women to “bank robbers” and “letter boxes,” jokes that led to accusations of “Islamophobia” even though he went on to oppose Denmark’s burqa ban in the same column.

An army of offense archaeologists has trawled through everything Johnson has ever said or written, frantically searching for evidence of his “bigotry.” But the truth is he is a liberal conservative who is pro-immigration and once joined a pride march wearing a pink cowboy hat.

As for executive experience Johnson was mayor of London. In that post he amassed a record of achievement that far exceeds that of the current sad-sack mayor Sadiq Khan. He followed it by successfully leading the Brexit campaign:

Yes, he was an underwhelming foreign secretary, but he enjoyed huge success as mayor of London, first beating the hard-left incumbent, Ken Livingstone, in 2008 in what has traditionally been a Labour-supporting city, and then winning reelection. During Johnson’s eight years in office, crime plummeted, construction boomed and he cut road traffic fatalities by 50 percent. He went on to shore up his bona fides as an election-winning machine when he led the “Leave” campaign to victory in the 2016 European Union referendum.

Evidently, we are not dealing with the British version of Comrade de Blasio.

Good luck to our cousins across the pond.


trigger warning said...

I suspect most Americans don't appreciate the magnitude of Johnson's mayoral victory over "Red Ken" Livingstone. Wikipedia says that Johnson has "5 or 6" children, one of which bears my absolute favorite English girl's name, Lettice. I love the guy.

Favorite quote:
"My chances of being PM are about as good as the chances of finding Elvis on Mars, or my being reincarnated as an olive."

Sam L. said...

"Since Boris Johnson, currently the lead candidate to replace the hapless Theresa May as prime minister, did not denounce Trump, the British press has issued forth the usual caterwauling, calling Johnson: Trump’s poodle." Now, that's disgusting! Should be "Trump's English Sheep Dog". Dang Frenchie lovers!!!

Clearly, he will give the press much to write about.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Until the “reputable, respectable” politicians of the Establishment start reflecting the sensibilities and interests of their constituents, the more the “populist” politicians will win.

The Democrat Leftists haven’t a clue what the country wants, and don’t care to learn. The GOPe is an illegal immigration ring, with people who want more tax cuts to defund programs for the squalid illegal immigrants from the $#%&hole countries.

Britain is no different. Boris Johnson can do no worse than Donald Trump has. And I think Trump has done well by almost every economic measure.

Blue collar America (aka, the majority) has never had it better. The Kochs, Steyrs, Soros’, Bezos, Zuckerbergs, Bloombergs, Romneys, etc. can go to Hell for all I care. Life out here in the Districts is going surprisingly well, and no one trusts the media.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Also, consider Boris Johnson’s successor. Or Michael Bloomberg’s, for that matter. Same ideology, same results. Leftists are destroyers.