Boris Johnson has emerged the new Prime Minister of the United Kingdom more than a month after Theresa May stepped down as a result of the Brexit saga. However, what the world is really talking about is the striking resemblance between the new Prime Minister and the President of the United States, Donald Trump; and this is more than just their hair.
Both are loudmouthed man-children, with a history of adultery and other scandals, whose professional success is a combination of immense privilege, unscrupulous opportunism, and relentless self-promotion, all happily promoted by a complicit media environment. They share an “unorthodox” approach to politics as well as a “tell it like it is” communication style – media euphemisms for reckless opportunism and a combination of homophobia, racism and sexism.
While Trump mainly lies about himself, from his richness to the size of his inauguration crowd, Johnson mostly lies about the European Union. After first being fired by the Times (of London), for making up a quote from his godfather (historian Colin Lucas), he was quickly picked up by the Daily Telegraph as its EU reporter. From Brussels, where his father had served as a Member of the European Parliament and a top Eurocrat at the European Commission, Johnson filed report after belligerent report bursting with lies and myths about alleged EU regulations and scandals, eagerly repeated by the Eurosceptic elites and masses.
Like Trump, Johnson’s “gaffes,” another media euphemism almost exclusively reserved for upper-class white men, include a litany of racist, homophobic, and sexist statement, from referring to Africans as “piccaninies” with “watermelon smiles”, to Muslim women wearing burqas as “bank robbers” and “letter boxes”, to gay men as “tank-topped bumboys” and to female Labor MPs as “hot totties”.
However, there are also important differences between the American president and the British premier. Trump was actually elected by a much larger percentage of the population than Johnson. While Trump lost the popular vote decisively against Hillary Clinton, he was at least elected by 46.1 % of the voting population. In sharp contrast, Johnson was chosen by the membership of the Conservative party, which accounts for roughly 0.02% of the British population. This makes Johnson’s electorate not just smaller than Trump’s, but also even older and whiter.
And while the two share a remarkable flexibility in terms of policy positions, Johnson is much more solidly Conservative than Trump is Republican. Both politically and socially he is the product of an elitist upbringing that is uniquely British and Conservative. As Simon Kuper has so brilliantly described, Johnson is a perfect example of the public schoolboys that brought us Brexit (confusingly, private schools are called public schools in the UK).
This is not to say that Johnson is any less a loose cannon than Trump, but he is much more a professional politician. He is also, professionally and socially, fully connected to the British political and social elites – consequently, unlike Trump, Johnson does not really have a chip on his shoulder about being scolded by “the elite”. His support is therefore much more partisan and much less charismatic – in Trump’s terms, Johnson could not kill someone at Oxford Circus and get away with it.
In short, Boris Johnson is probably as close to a European Trump as you can find – just as Britain is the most American country in Europe. But Johnson is ultimately British, just as Trump is essentially American. He is a product of a specific elitist class culture, steeped in privilege and tradition, to which he has both an allegiance and responsibility.
It is this rootedness in Britain’s elite culture and society that propelled him to power but that will also lead to his downfall. Unlike Trump, who is largely a one-man movement that captured an establishment party with an increasingly anti-establishment electorate, Johnson is the voice of both the establishment and the anti-establishment. And it is this dependence on both elements of the Conservative party, which he perfectly embodies in his own schizophrenic political career, that will make it more likely he goes down into the history books as the shortest term prime minister rather than the prime minister who delivered Brexit.
The new Prime minister might have stemmed out from unpopular choice, but no one can really tell if he would deliver Brexit or fail woefully like his predecessor Theresa May. There have been speculations that he might not in end deliver brexit and would be asked to step down faster than Brexit deal went under the auspices of Theresa May.