Alberta Politics
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson back in the day (Photo: EU2017EE Estonian Presidency, Creative Commons).

Can Boris Johnson do what some of history’s most notorious villains failed to do – destroy the U.K.?

Posted on July 25, 2019, 2:10 am
6 mins

Is it likely Boris Johnson will accomplish something neither Napoleon nor Hitler could manage – to wit, destruction of the United Kingdom?

Perhaps it’s not likely. States like trees, even badly broken ones, possess a powerful life force. But it’s definitely now within the bounds of possibility.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (Photo: First Minister of Scotland/Flickr).

The Royal Navy, after all, might have been able to save the U.K. from France or Germany, as it saved England from Spain with a bit of help from the wind, but there’s precious little it can do about Scotland, is there?

For their part, if the Scots decide they want out, they won’t even need to Build a Wall. They’ll only have to upgrade the one Emperor Hadrian (76-138) left them.

The freshly sworn-in Conservative Prime Minister – chosen by about 0.2 per cent of the U.K.’s population, more than half of them over 55 and nearly 40 per cent of them over 66 – may be a shrewd and clever politician.

Comparing and contrasting the new PM to U.S. President Donald Trump, veteran Irish journalist Patrick Cockburn describes Mr. Johnson’s approach as “more dangerous than Trump’s because it is more insidious.” Or, as New York Times Foreign Editor Roger Cohen summarized the same comparison, “in Donald Trump, consuming vanity is coupled with consuming ignorance. Johnson is equally vain but not equally ignorant.”

Still, it’s unlikely he’s the smartest politician on the island. That by many accounts would be Nicola Sturgeon, first minister of Scotland and leader of, as we would say here in Canada, the independantiste Scottish National Party.

Ms. Sturgeon, by the way, said Tuesday she has “profound concerns” about what Mr. Johnson may get up to as prime minister. What she didn’t articulate as clearly is that she doubtless has profound hopes the kind of leadership Prime Minister Johnson seems determined to provide will make it possible for her to realize her dream for Scotland.

Remember that BoJo, as he is popularly known, was a leader of the successful 2016 Brexit campaign and campaigned to lead the imploding Conservative Party after Theresa May’s resignation as train-wreck PM on the promise to the Tory faithful he will ensure a swift Brexit, with no deal with the European Union if necessary.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

As for Scotland, it voted overwhelmingly to Remain in 2016 after more closely rejecting a referendum to separate from the U.K. in 2014. A key reason for the independence referendum’s outcome was that Scottish voters were threatened with being left out of the EU if they didn’t remain part of the U.K.

So short of a military occupation of Scotland – always possible when a rapidly fading power’s best nuclear submarine bases are at risk – the planets would appear to be moving into alignment for Scottish independence at last.

BoJo, at this point, seems unlikely to do much to assuage the post-Brexit worries of the Scots, not to mention the population of Northern Ireland across the Strait of Moyle, who are in much the same fix vis-à-vis Brexit as Scotland.

Everyone who has followed the man’s career seems to agree he is a genial pathological liar. He “has lied, pandered and guffawed his disheveled way to the highest office in the land, aping the bumbling buffoon and doing great damage,” said Mr. Cohen. “Johnson’s supporters say that one should not take too seriously his overheated and mendacious campaign rhetoric, implying that he will adopt a more moderate approach in office. I would not count on it,” added Mr. Cockburn.

These are indeed strange times when the greatest source of optimism about the West’s conservative leaders is their fundamental dishonesty – giving faint hope they may guiltlessly switch course and do something sensible, for once.

Mr. Cohen asked: “Why not call a second referendum? After three years of inconclusive chaos, with all Johnson’s lies in 2016 now exposed, Britons deserve a chance to say if they really want to leave.”

Makes sense. One can only hope.

Meanwhile back in Alberta, now that Brexit has been exposed as a catastrophe, Conservative Premier Jason Kenney has been strangely silent about his enthusiastic support for the Brexiteers three years ago.

Not so back then, when the master dog whistler, channeling the fury of his own red-meat base here in Alberta, tweeted, “Congratulations to the British people on choosing hope over fear by embracing a confident, sovereign future, open to the world!”

If pressed, though, I expect Mr. Kenney would describe Mr. Johnson as the panacea to all the disasters that have led to Britain’s present sorry state.

As of last night there was no press release on the web page congratulating Mr. Johnson on his ascent to No. 10 Downing Street. Perhaps there will be something today.

6 Comments to: Can Boris Johnson do what some of history’s most notorious villains failed to do – destroy the U.K.?

  1. Jerrymacgp

    July 25th, 2019

    One of the most disconcerting aspects of this whole saga, is the abject failure of the Westminster parliamentary system to operate as designed, even in the land of its birth. Theresa May’s Government lost vote after vote on Brexit. Why were these defeats, on a matter of vital national importance, not considered “want of confidence” that should trigger a general election? Why didn’t Ms May visit the Queen and ask for a dissolution? An election might have forced British voters to take a second look at their rash & divisive referendum decision from a few years ago. It would also have given whatever Government emerged after E-Day a stronger mandate to take whatever action on Britain’s relationship with the EU was in their country’s national interest.

    Who knows … maybe BoJo will surprise us and call for an election to clarify the will of the British electorate … but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

    What a gong show. It’s even rivalling the Circus on Pennsylvania Ave. for chaos. Canadian politics is a relative snooze-fest in comparison.

  2. Political Ranger

    July 25th, 2019

    The last little while has caused me to reconsider my point of view.

    Notley and her NDP were definitely not the panacea to the knuckle-dragging kleptocracy of the Klien era. However this gov’t did provide modern and progressive policies, was responsive to criticism and hewed close to a centrist approach to government. So why did they fail so badly at the polls? Is it because the other side might have a more valid approach?

    Trump and his Republikan mob have shown time and again their corrupt and incompetent ways but the Democratically controlled Congress has not been able to control or limit them at all. The Democrats seem to be in thrall to process while Trump et al are out and about doing what they wish. Why is a usually loud and boisterous American public going along with Trump’s criminality? Is it because the right wing corporate-sponsored governance model is more acceptable to the American voter?

    Now we have the Brits, the conservative faction of the Brits, faced with a leadership choice between Jeremy Hunt, a sober and serious career politician and BoJo the buffoon. They choose the monkey.
    All across Europe people are choosing populist leaders. Does the majority of peoples across the first world believe that corrupt right-wing demagogues have a superior approach to governance that will result in better lives all around?

    In my consideration, right-thinking people of goodwill are asleep at the switch. The progressive, liberal side of political party machinery are being too cute by half. Perhaps liberals think that ‘everybody knows’ that everybody knows that liberal democracies are best. Meanwhile nobody seems to know what’s at stake.
    Frankly, I would be happy to allow so-called conservatives to run the show but they lie and they cheat and they are as incompetent as the day is long. With this modern batch of conservatives they simply cannot show a single policy, not a single policy presented in America, in Britain, in Europe, in Ontario or in Alberta that is honest and built on rational realistic assumptions; they are, without exception, corrupt and incompetent.

    Mark me down as doubtful!

    Where then is the other side? So far it’s just Elizabeth May. It’s not enough.
    If the liberals do not put anyone in the field and do not mount an effective campaign then the nutjobs win – not because they were right or just or better, only just because they won.
    And we will all suffer because of it.

    • Jerrymacgp

      July 26th, 2019

      I think the progressive side of our political discourse has decided to make perfect the enemy of good, and has been sniping internally over who is more pure in their progressivism, when in fact the real enemy, against whom they ought to be joining forces, are the bigots, the racists, the fascists & their corporatist allies. We see this in the infighting that is Democratic politics in the Benighted States, when what they really need to do is quickly rally around a champion that can stick it to The Donald next year; and we see it in the jostling over who can & cannot participate in various cities’ Pride festivals, when in fact LGBTQ2S+ rights are under incessant attack from the religious right.

      If the left & the centrists & the not-as-nutty moderate conservatives don’t get their collective poop in a group, they will—through mere inattention—allow the mouth-breathing, knuckle-dragging, slack-jawed yokels on the extreme right to sneak into office by stealth.

  3. Dfjo

    July 25th, 2019

    Once again the Brit’s are dealing with policy decisions of the smartest of the smartest. Both, in dress as well as schools.
    Cambridge, Oxford and Eton, the thought processes of this self – anointed lot, remind us that in similar circumstances of about 100 years ago, they almost achieved the same results post First World War. It would seem that affirmative action in Great Britain involves opening up management positions, to people who are not graduates of those schools.

  4. David

    July 26th, 2019

    I suspect Mr. Kenney has his hands full right now and is a bit preoccupied with various things like governing or trying to sabotage Trudeau and Scheer, so he is probably not going to update us on his feelings on Brexit and whether it is still a splendid thing in his mind.

    It seems to me things have become more of a mess in the UK than most would have imagined, with the original Brexit deadline missed, an extension granted, a deadlock between an intractable EU not wanting to renegotiate the deal they made with the former British PM and Parliament not supporting the deal. Into this mess now walks Boris, not so much a bulldog, but more a bull in a china shop, just when one hoped things couldn’t get any worse.

    I suspect Mr. Johnson feels he can play a game of chicken with the EU and get them to blink. I am not sure this is the case and the UK seems to have misjudged or underestimated the EU’s resolve on this issue so far. Many wars have been started because someone seriously misjudged their opponent and thought they would back down. Thankfully in this case, it is a dispute about a trade relationship, not a physical war. I think there is a growing sense of unease about in the UK about Mr. Johnson’s high stakes approach. I doubt it will result in a second referendum, but it may quite possibly result in an election before the deadline, if enough uneasy Conservatives decide they do not want to play Mr. Johnson’s high stakes game.

    Perhaps the UK rather than fall apart, will end up doing what Churchill once attributed to the Americans – exhaust every other possible alternative before finally taking the right course of action, which in this case would be just abandoning this Brexit fiasco. I suspect Mr. Johnson will not be of much if any help in getting to sensible so may ultimately end up on the scrap heap of discarded PM’s due to this issue, much like his two Conservative predecessors, who either couldn’t or wouldn’t bring their own unruly party to heel.

  5. Albertan

    August 30th, 2019

    Now, on a recent trip to the UK and Scotland in July, we heard murmurings that Scotland is concerned that it could lose as many as 100,000 jobs as a result of a hard Brexit, and, the chances of them of having another referendum to separate, as a result, could be real.
    And, there is real concern that with regard to northern Ireland, that ‘The Troubles,’ could rise up again with the risk of a hard Brexit.
    In all, it is felt that ‘Brexit’ is a huge disaster for the UK by many of the locals.


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