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 on: Today at 01:31:13 pm 
Started by Kiwithrottlejockey - Last post by Kiwithrottlejockey

 on: Yesterday at 11:06:16 pm 
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Donald J. Trump's new blonde fuzzy-wuzzy lickspittle…

 on: Yesterday at 10:55:56 pm 
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 on: Yesterday at 10:54:54 pm 
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 on: Yesterday at 10:53:28 pm 
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 on: Yesterday at 10:31:50 pm 
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 on: Yesterday at 10:19:57 pm 
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from The Washington Post…

Boris Johnson's rise could be a preamble to his fall

Johnson wants to lead a Britain liberated from Europe to its former global greatness.
Many experts say he's in for a rude awakening.

By ISHAAN THAROOR | 12:59AM EDT — Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Boris Johnson. — Illustration: Barcroft Media/Barcroft Media/via Getty Images.
Boris Johnson. — Illustration: Barcroft Media/Barcroft Media/via Getty Images.

THIS WEEK, the decades-long quest of Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson — known to everyone by his second name — may be about to reach its apogee. After his widely anticipated confirmation in a leadership vote by members of the Conservative Party, Johnson is expected to carry out the ritual of visiting Buckingham Palace on Wednesday before assuming his role as Britain's newest prime minister.

Johnson's rise to power has been long telegraphed (including in his own weekly columns in the Tory-boosting Daily Telegraph). A scion of wealth and privilege, Johnson went to Eton and Oxford before embarking on a controversial career in journalism that would catapult him into politics. During his stints as a correspondent in Brussels, Johnson charmed right-wing readers with his activist reporting on the foibles and excesses of the European Union — and earned a reputation for sensationalism and shoddy journalism.

“What was irritating is that he … started coming up with some extraordinary and, it turned out, completely inventive untrue stories about Brussels,” Bill Newton Dunn, a long-serving British member of the European Parliament, told my colleagues. He recalled one of many dubious headlines: “Brussels recruits sniffers to ensure that Euro-manure smells the same.”

Now, Johnson gets the chance to prove that the manure in Britain smells different. He has vowed to push forward Brexit, break free of the tyranny of the European Union and lead a liberated Britain to its former global greatness. His supporters are willing to look beyond a cringeworthy record of gaffes, sordid peccadilloes and soft bigotry. Most analysts, though, reckon that he is in for a rude awakening.

In the last tortured months of Prime Minister Theresa May's tenure, Johnson drilled down on an emotive theme: Brexit at all costs. The country's slow lurch out of the E.U. has paralyzed British politics and exasperated voters of all stripes. May couldn't overcome the divisions within her own party about the way forward. Johnson, formerly a foreign secretary in May's government, quit after it became clear May would not deliver the sweeping, clean break from Europe that he and his Brexiteer cohort had promised. For him, it was easier to bide his time and carp from the sidelines than own the mess of disentangling Britain from the continent.

That cynicism was baked in from the start. In February 2016, before championing Brexit, Johnson is said to have drafted two separate columns for the Daily Telegraph, one extolling the merits of leaving the E.U. and another warning that the risks of Brexit were greater than its rewards. He eventually calculated that his political fortunes lay with the former and, as the mayor of London, became the face of the Leave campaign, deploying his wit, irascible enthusiasm and carefully cultivated bumbling affect ahead of a June 2016 referendum no one — including Johnson himself — expected to win.

Now, under a Johnson government, Britain could crash out of the E.U. without a divorce deal in place this Halloween, unleashing untold horrors on the British economy. Westminster watchers puzzle over the profound impediments still facing Johnson in Parliament, the sharpening of knives by rivals within his own party and the probable humiliating concessions he may have to make to get European counterparts to consider renegotiating Britain's terms of withdrawal.

But the prime minister-in-waiting has been reading throughout from a different script. He makes incessant appeals to the bravura and derring-do of Britain's past, summoning the spirit of the Blitz and the stubborn will of his icon, Winston Churchill. In a column this Sunday, Johnson embraced the legacy of the American moon landing. If astronauts “could use hand-knit computer codes to make a frictionless re-entry to the Earth's atmosphere,” he wrote, “we can solve the problem of frictionless trade at the Northern Ireland border.”

Such absurd, if entertaining, commentary won't translate easily into meaningful politics.

“Johnson's entire pitch for the Conservative Party leadership can be read, in fact, as an argument for the force of character,” wrote The Atlantic's Tom McTague. “In his telling, after years of timidity under the dutiful but ineffective leadership of May, the country needs sheer will — not new technocratic fixes — to solve Britain's ills…. This is the Johnsonian view of the world: a romantic, egocentric belief in his personal power to do great things, to solve great puzzles, through the force of his personality.”

In that sense, he's hardly alone. “Boris Johnson, like [former Italian leader] Silvio Berlusconi, [President] Trump and all the other populist seducers who have made their entry onto the world stage of late, stands for the profanation and infantilization of politics,” wrote Jörg Schindler in German magazine Der Spiegel. “If it benefits him somehow, he can be a liberal today, a social democrat tomorrow and conservative the day after. And he doesn't even need to conceal his lack of plans and principles.”

Johnson “played a pivotal role in tipping sentiment” in favor of Brexit, Schindler argued. “And now he's supposed to repair the porcelain he has delighted in smashing over these past years? It promises to be a grandiose — and potentially disastrous show.”

Johnson's embrace of Churchill lends “his own cynicism and mendacity a paradoxical kind of gravity,” suggested Irish writer Fintan O'Toole in a scathing essay. “It is a mark of how far Britain has fallen,” he added, “that, in what may indeed be its biggest crisis since 1940, so many Tories are willing to suspend disbelief in Johnson's pantomime caricature of the man who gave it the courage to ‘stand alone’ in that dark hour.”

Set against Trump, whose “anarchism shades into authoritarianism, Johnson's shades into a kind of insouciant nihilism,” O'Toole mused. “The joker's evasiveness that has taken him to the brink of power will be no use to him if he crosses that threshold and has to make fateful decisions.”

Johnson is now at that threshold; along with countless others, he must be trembling.


Ishaan Tharoor writes about foreign affairs for The Washington Post. He previously was a senior editor and correspondent at Time magazine, based first in Hong Kong and later in New York. Earning a BA with honors in history and ethnicity, race and migration, Tharoor is also fluent in French, Spanish and Bengali.


 on: Yesterday at 10:19:35 pm 
Started by Kiwithrottlejockey - Last post by Kiwithrottlejockey

from The New York Times…

Boris Johnson Is How Britain Ends

Not with a bang, but with a burst of blond ambition.

By JAMES BUTLER | Monday, July 22, 2019

Boris Johnson is angling to become Britain's next prime minister. — Photograph: Tolga Akmen/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.
Boris Johnson is angling to become Britain's next prime minister. — Photograph: Tolga Akmen/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.

LONDON — Boris Johnson, to whom lying comes as easily as breathing, is on the verge of becoming prime minister. He faces the most complex and intractable political crisis to affect Britain since 1945.

That should be concerning enough. But given Britain's political system — which relies for its maintenance on the character and disposition of the prime minister — it carries even graver import. Mr. Johnson, whose laziness is proverbial and opportunism legendary, is a man well practiced in deceit, a pander willing to tickle the prejudices of his audience for easy gain. His personal life is incontinent, his public record inconsequential.

And his premiership could bring about the end of Britain itself.

The state of the United Kingdom, a constitutional compact founded in 1922 and stretching back, in one form or another, for centuries, is severely strained. Though Brexit is primarily driven by English passions, two of the four territories in the Union — Northern Ireland and Scotland — voted to remain. Both present immediate problems for Mr. Johnson — and for the future of Britain.

In Scotland, rancor at the sense that the country's vote counted for little and subsequent repeated bouts of parliamentary chaos have led to renewed calls for a second independence ballot. Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister, insists Scotland will hold one if Brexit takes place. One of the most adroit politicians in Britain, Ms. Sturgeon knows that despite widespread misgivings about Brexit, the majority needed for independence does not currently exist. But recent polling suggests a Johnson government might tilt the scales in her favor. An independent Scotland may be conjured out of the chicanery of Mr. Johnson's rule.

In Northern Ireland, Mr. Johnson is beholden to the Democratic Unionist Party, a hard-line Northern Irish Protestant party on which he will depend for a majority in Parliament. That severely curtails his room for maneuver as he attempts, one way or the other, to take Britain out of the European Union. The D.U.P. will not countenance separation from the rest of the United Kingdom — hence why the so-called backstop, effectively an insurance plan to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and its southern neighbor, fatally scuttled Theresa May's thrice-rejected deal. It is hard to see how Mr. Johnson can extricate himself from this problem, whose protraction may have a decisive effect on the country's internal politics. Calls for a United Ireland, encouraged by demographic change and the waning of unionist sentiment, appear to be gathering more support.

The traditional solution to such an impasse is to call fresh elections. But here too there are problems for Mr. Johnson. Current polls show a fluctuating four-way split with Nigel Farage's Brexit Party, which peeled off much of the Conservative vote in the recent European elections, the Liberal Democrats and the Labour Party. Tory activists believe only Mr. Johnson can woo back the faithful from Mr. Farage, but if he steers the party farther right it would be likely to lose more liberal-leaning seats. Though the temptation of a resounding victory may pull on Mr. Johnson's vanity, the risk of a disastrous rout from a split base, handing Downing Street to Jeremy Corbyn and shattering the Tories, will surely be too great. And any successor to Mrs. May will fear the unpredictability of a snap election.

No way out there then. And the overall political situation has only worsened since Mrs. May's resignation. The European Union — newly configured after parliamentary elections, with an incoming head of the commission who has emphatically ruled out reopening negotiations with Britain — is likely to be short on patience and good will. (It doesn't help, of course, that its officials regard Mr. Johnson as a dangerous buffoon.)

At home, the rise of the Brexit Party constrains his options further. In part to nullify its threat, he has promised that unless a deal is reached by the end of October, the deadline for Britain's departure from the bloc, he will leave without one. And as Parliament, which remains intractably divided, is very unlikely to ratify anything Mr. Johnson presents, a No Deal exit looks far from impossible. The consequences of such a development cannot be foreseen — but they will surely not redound to the benefit of Britain.

Boris Johnson in Southampton, England in June 2018. — Photograph: Matt Cardy/Getty Images.
Boris Johnson in Southampton, England in June 2018. — Photograph: Matt Cardy/Getty Images.

So, the political situation is inclement, the room for maneuver limited, the stakes high. For another politician, assuming power in such circumstances would be daunting — but not necessarily dangerous. In a system that grants significant autonomy to prime ministers and relies on their propriety, character matters. The same scenario can play out differently in different hands. That's why, in the end, analysis comes back to Mr. Johnson and his terrible personality.

He prizes victory above government — his first ambition as a child was to be “world king” — and his political career has been marked by ferocity of campaigning and indifference in office, as both London mayor and foreign secretary. His contempt of scrutiny is plain to see: He was irked and petulant when challenged over budget cuts, the waste of public money on vanity projects or diplomatic gaffes. His easy talk of parliamentary prorogation — effectively suspending the legislature — may be a taste of the chaos to come.

He seems not to have principles. In the late '90s he told a surprised colleague he was “worried I haven't got any political opinions” — before going on to rehearse a hit parade of right-wing classics about “picanninies” and “bum boys” in his Telegraph column. While the insight into the void at the heart of Mr. Johnson's blond ambition is striking, there are some constants to his politics other than his spectacular mendacity: his defense of bankers and pursuit of tax cuts, and a loathing for those who call him to account over facts.

Reality will prove unavoidable on October 31, however Mr. Johnson bluffs. Predictions about Brexit generally assume too much stability in the status quo; Mr. Johnson's slipperiness makes it harder still to predict. Tackling Britain's deep divisions requires depth of character, conviction and principle, none of which its incoming prime minister has ever hinted at possessing.

In Mr. Johnson's queasy novel, thankfully his only one to date, a thinly disguised Boris-like politician muses that “the whole world just seemed to be a complicated joke.”

Britain may be about to discover how it feels to be the punch line.


• James Butler is a British journalist who is a co-founder of Novara Media whose writing has appeared in The Guardian and also in The London Review of Books and Vice magazine.

• A version of this article appears in The New York Times on Tuesday, July 23, 2019, on Page A11 of the New York print edition with the headline: “Boris Johnson Is How Britain Ends”.


Related to this topic:

 • Boris Johnson? How Did We Come to This?

 • The Last Gasp of Northern Ireland

 • Boris Johnson, Donald Trump and the Rise of Radical Incompetence


 on: Yesterday at 10:19:04 pm 
Started by Kiwithrottlejockey - Last post by Kiwithrottlejockey

from the New Zealand Listener…

Winging it with Boris: Why Boris Johnson
is not suited for the modern world

The PM-in-waiting exemplifies the UK's preference for bluffers over swots.

By ANDREW ANTHONY | Friday, 29 June 2019

Boris Johnson. — Photograph: Getty Images.
Boris Johnson. — Photograph: Getty Images.

BRITAIN is a country that has made a lot of effort to modernise in the past few decades. But it remains incurably attached to the ancient and the arcane, the tacit and the traditional. If you want to get to the top, there are ways of doing things that are longstanding, unstated and mysterious to outsiders. Because this is a meritocracy steeped in class and privilege, a dynamic 21st-century nation that thrives on hidden social codes and old school ties.

There have been 55 prime ministers since 1721, when the office was first recognised, and 19 of them have attended the same school: Eton. Boris Johnson will make it 20.

Twenty-seven of them went to the same university: Oxford. Unless a skeleton falls out of his cupboard — not the metaphorical kind but a real one with a knife lodged in its ribcage — Johnson will make it 28. Yet if it should turn out that Bojo has actually murdered someone, then his opponent, Jeremy Hunt, who has the charisma of a cyborg, will also make it 28.

I could go on, down to the particular debating societies that have moulded succeeding generations of Conservative British politicians. Johnson was president of the Oxford Union — a kind of preparatory House of Commons for entitled teenagers. Hunt was president of the Oxford University Conservative Association. It's as if, aged 18, they were admitted to a masonic finishing school for PMs.

And what they learnt back then was how to bluff and charm, and to assume an unearned air of importance and generally wing it. Elite British education has long encouraged those who can perform on the day over those who doggedly master concepts, facts and details. Recently, one of Johnson's tutors at Oxford recalled Johnson's approach to work: “If you're intelligent enough, you can rub along in philosophy on a couple of hours a week. Boris rubbed along on no hours a week.”

It means that there is probably no more entertaining legislative body on the planet than the House of Commons, where you're always guaranteed to hear baroque insults and robust banter. But it also means that there's probably no group of politicians less suited to understanding the modern digital world.

I mention this because the UK, even by contemporary standards, is currently witnessing a truly bizarre piece of performative drama. The two surviving competitors in the Tory leadership contest — the winner of which will automatically become prime minister — are in the middle of a six-week electoral campaign, every nonsensical moment of which is screened on national TV and reported in the papers.

It looks just like a real national election, except in this case only 160,000 Conservative Party members are eligible to vote on who will become the next prime minister. The rest of us might as well be Athenian slaves, forced to watch a demos that is restricted to a tiny and ageing elite.

Johnson, who studied classics at Oxford, might enjoy the irony. But there is something troublingly dated about the whole process, as if it were some giant jolly jape dreamt up by bored Oxford students. The truly surreal aspect, though, is that both candidates are promising their electorate a new deal on Brexit that the previous regime was singularly unable to deliver and which the European Union has repeatedly stated is not available.

But the Tory members don't care about any of that. They're too preoccupied with the question of who's offering the most attractive fantasy. And in the realm of incredible and shameless make-believe, there can be only one victor. Step forward, Prime Minister Johnson.


Andrew Anthony is a feature writer for the Observer and is married to a New Zealand. He regularly writes for the Bulletin From Abroad column, published in the weekly New Zealand Listener magazine.

• This article was first published in the July 6, 2019 issue of the New Zealand Listener.


 on: Yesterday at 10:18:38 pm 
Started by Kiwithrottlejockey - Last post by Kiwithrottlejockey

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