Boris Johnson has had a very bad first few days in parliament. In addition to having a 100% loss record in votes, today his own brother Jo Johnson quit the government and said he would not stand in the next election, and a cabinet minister Nick Hurd said the same. In addition, a Labour party MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi took Johnson to task for a 2018 newspaper column where he compared Muslim women covering their faces and bodies to letterboxes and bank-robbers. Watch
But like his hero Donald Trump, Johnson is incapable of being gracious and cannot bring himself to say that he was sorry, as the Liberal party leader Jo Swinson was quick to point out. Instead he gave the pathetic ‘I cannot be a racist since I have relatives who belong to the insulted community’ defense. As John Crace writes:
But the moment when Johnson totally lost the house was when the Labour MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi was applauded for asking him to apologise for his racist comments about “bongo bongo land” and Muslim women looking like letterboxes. An admission that he could have chosen his words better – that language mattered – was all that was required. But Boris is incapable of saying sorry. So he bumbled, anxiously looking round for support, while his entire front bench stared at the floor, refusing to catch his eye.
Yep, there’s no doubt that he’s a man after Trump’s heart. Woe to the British if Johnson ends up negotiating a post-Brexit trade deal with Trump. Even though Trump is a lousy negotiator, Johnson will willingly give away the store.
Reader Kylee sent me this interesting article by Helen Lewis who argues that an early election will make things worse because it will be fought almost exclusively on the issue of Brexit, although many other major issues are at stake that will go undebated.
Every election is a crossroads, a chance for the country to decide its future. Yet for the past three years, hardly any attention has been paid to the very different visions the Conservatives and Labour, the main opposition, have for Britain. The parties are much further apart than they were even in the aftermath of the financial crisis, when both agreed that state spending needed to be curbed and welfare benefits should be reduced. Since then, Labour has elected a strongly left-wing leader, with a foreign policy sharply distinct from that of his predecessors: Much less friendly to the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Israel, and more sympathetic to Iran, Russia, and Venezuela.
As for the Conservatives, their ideological gravity is now—where, exactly? For a small but driven section of the party, Brexit is an opportunity to remake the British economy. The usual shorthand is the Singapore model: low corporation taxes, disempowered trade unions, low regulation, reduced welfare benefits, and a large, but temporary, migrant workforce.
Johnson’s key lieutenant, Dominic Cummings, has a different set of priorities. He favors tax cuts concentrated on the lower-paid; greater investment in public services; a more punitive attitude toward crime, with longer prison sentences; and a move to a points-based immigration system. These are popular pledges, but tax cuts and higher state spending would be extremely expensive.
Then there’s Labour, which claims to be offering a slightly souped-up version of European social democracy, with higher taxes and well-funded public services. Yet the program already outlined by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell is more radical than that—if not quite as extreme as the party’s critics depict.
Sunday’s Financial Times has taken McDonnell’s economic program seriously: He does not hide the fact that he plans an assault on capital by offering renters the chance to buy their homes at a discount; higher taxes on landlords; and a £300 billion, or $365 billion, transfer of shares from large corporations to their employees.
You can see why the political-establishment in the UK is torn. Johnson is a reckless, unprincipled, liar whom any reasonable person would shun. But his policies will benefit a narrow slice of that class while Corbyn will hurt them, and the wealthy love their money more than anything else. Hence they will find ways to tarnish Corbyn using personal attacks. It will be a straight copying of Trump’s odious tactics.