Who is ‘Britain Trump’ – UK’s New Prime Minister Boris Johnson?
“He’s tough and he’s smart. They’re saying, ‘Britain Trump.’ They call him ‘Britain Trump.’”
Boris Johnson replaced Theresa May to become the new prime minister of the United Kingdom on Tuesday, inheriting immediate challenges including the looming deadline for Brexit and escalating military tensions with Iran.
As the former Mayor of London and British foreign secretary, Johnson has a long history in the spotlight of European politics. Throughout that history, the pro-Brexit leader has made countless racist and divisive remarks, from calling black people “picaninnies” with “watermelon smiles” to referring to African children who welcomed Johnson’s visit with a song as “little AIDs-ridden choristers,” that cast doubt on the new prime minister’s ability to unify an increasingly divided UK.
Elected, But not by the British People
Johnson was elected directly within the Tory party establishment, drawing criticism from observers who are frustrated that the British public had no say in choosing their leader.
As the Intercept’s Robert Mackey notes, only 0.3% of the population was involved in the vote, a poor representation of the public’s will: “almost half of the Conservative members are over 65, 71 percent are male, and 97 percent are white.”
“Boris Johnson has won the support of fewer than 100,000 unrepresentative Conservative Party members by promising tax cuts for the richest, presenting himself as the bankers’ friend, and pushing for a damaging No Deal Brexit,” tweeted labor party leader Jeremy Corbyn. “But he hasn’t won the support of our country.”
Johnson is viewed by many critics as an out-of-touch elitist, having attended both Eton and Oxford and belonged to the exclusive, all-male “Bullingdon Club,” whose reported initiation ritual involves burning a £50 note in front of a homeless person.
After his education Johnson worked as a journalist, where he was fired for making up quotations.
Johnson will take up the mantle of delivering Brexit after Parliament rejected the terms Theresa May negotiated with the E.U., prompting her resignation. While Johnson has been one of the most vocal campaigners for leaving the European Union, his pledge to exit the bloc by October 31st will be difficult. The Union insists its deal with May will stand and it will not renegotiate with Johnson.
Economists warn a no-deal Brexit would plunge the U.K. into recession while other analysts believe it would reignite hostilities on the Irish border.
Hope ‘Britain Trump’ Will Forge Friendy US Ties
Conservative party members, such as ardent Brexiteer Nigel Farage, hope Johnson can avert economic shock caused by a hard-Brexit by forging strong ties with U.S. President Donald Trump. On Tuesday, the president seemed to bolster their aspirations by praising the new P.M. as ‘Britain Trump.’
“A really good man is going to be the prime minister of the U.K. now, Boris Johnson,” Trump said. “He’s tough and he’s smart. They’re saying, ‘Britain Trump.’ They call him ‘Britain Trump.’ And people are saying that’s a good thing. They like me over there, that’s what they wanted. That’s what they need.”
However, Johnson actually condemned Trump in 2016 for his claims that Muslim immigration to the U.K. had made parts of London “no-go zones,” saying Trump was “betraying a quite stupefying ignorance that makes him frankly unfit to hold the office of president of the United States.”
“I would invite him to come and see the whole of London and take him round the city,” the former mayor of London added, “except that I wouldn’t want to expose Londoners to any unnecessary risk of meeting Donald Trump.”
Given the president’s tendency to hold grudges against people who speak badly of him (the former ambassador to the U.S. was recently pressured to resign after leaked messages showed his unfavorable views of the president) it is an uncertain time for the future of the relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom.