By Owei Lakemfa
THE drab and monotonous British politics took an exciting turn this Wednesday, July 24 when Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, Member of Parliament for Uxbridge and South Ruislip replaced Theresa May as Prime Minister.
An excited American President Donald Trump in sending his congratulatory message, had likened Johnson to himself. In a sense he is correct. Both Trump and Boris Johnson are conservative but charismatic risk takers and talkers who can also play the buffoon, but the latter is a Trump devoid of academic hollowness and intellectual void.
Some might be tempted to assume that given the professed camaraderie between Trump and Johnson, another American-British relationship as happened between President Ronald Reagan and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and the President W.E. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair is in the offing. I doubt it. First, Johnson is unlikely to want to go into uncritical alliances such as Thatcher’s supporting the American invasion of weak countries like Nicaragua and tiny Grenada or Blair’s criminal conspiracy in invading Iraq.
Secondly, given the huge intellectual gap between them, it is likely that Johnson would be able to read Trump and put Britain first. Already, Trump has presented Johnson with a crisis over Iran. By wrecking the transnational Iranian Nuclear Deal, Trump had put Britain in the awkward position of backing sanctions against Iran who had been faithful to the deal.
The dirtied waters had indirectly led to Britain and Iran seizing each other’s oil tankers. So rather than concentrate on the Brexit deal, he would be battling with coupling a multinational alliance to secure shipping in the Gulf. That is not to say Johnson will not humour the egoistic Trump because no matter how it is handled, Brexit will be bruising and Britain will need a Preferential Trade Agreement with the United States at least to cushion its effects.
Another point of enthusiasm for me, are the Turkish roots of Johnson which teach us once again that humanity is one. His great grandfather, Ali Kemal Bey was from Kalfat, a village among the hills of the Anatolian Plateau, about 110 kilometres north of Ankara. He was like his great grandson, a journalist and diplomat, and, was a Minister in the government of Sultan Mehmed VI. Kemal in 1903, married Winifred Brun, an Anglo-Swiss in London. The couple in 1910 had Osman Wilfred Kemal, Johnson’s grandfather.
When Brun passed away, her mother, Margaret Johnson, raised Wilfred and his sister in South-West England, where Stanley Kemal, the new Prime Minister’s father was born in 1940. The Kemals adopted their maternal grandmother’s name, Johnson. Johnson is not quite a predictable person, so it will be difficult to envisage his moves and swings but he knows that Brexit had swallowed his last two predecessors and he may also end up in its belly.
His election or selection by 92,153 votes to his opponent, Jeremy Hunt’s 46,656 is a wide margin. But this was a vote only amongst his 160,000 Tory Party members, that is 0.2 percent of the electorate. In his victory speech, Johnson had issued a battle cry to his fellow Tories: “It’s time to get to work to deliver Brexit by October 31, unite the party, defeat Jeremy Corbyn – and energize our country!”
First, as he admits, he has a divided party with some ministers resigning or threatening to do so, even before he was sworn in. Secondly, he has to contend with Northern Ireland which wants a back stop so it will not need to go through physical borders with the rest of Ireland. So for it, a ‘No Deal Brexit’ is out of the question. There is the anti-Brexit Scotland which threatens to relaunch its independence referendum.
Also, there is the opposition Labour Party with its intellectually sound leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who believes that a general election is needed to sweep Johnson and the Tory crowd off the stage and let it negotiate a workable Brexit. Johnson had also once used his sharp tongue to alienate the Liberal Democrats saying: “The Lib Dems are not just empty. They are a void within a vacuum surrounded by a vast inanition.”
Then, there is the European Union, EU,which will make Brexit as difficult as possible in order to discourage other members exiting the union. Germany which Johnson had frequently bashed, is expected to be quite tough on Britain. He once said: “The Italians, who used to be a great motor-manufacturing power, have been absolutely destroyed by the euro – as was intended by the Germans.”
Johnson sees the EU as undemocratic and a childish fantasy: “The truth is that the history of the last couple of thousand years has been broadly repeated attempts by various people or institutions – in a Freudian way – to rediscover the lost childhood of Europe, this golden age of peace and prosperity under the Romans, by trying to unify it.”
In his inaugural speech as Prime Minister, he told his follow citizens: “We will do a new deal, a better deal that will maximize the opportunities of Brexit, while allowing us to develop a new and exciting partnership with the rest of Europe based on free trade and mutual support; I have every confidence that in 99 days’ time we will have cracked it. But we aren’t going to wait 99 days because the British people have had enough of waiting, the time has come to act, to take decisions, to give strong leadership and to change this country for the better.”
He boasted: “The people who bet against Britain are going to lose their shirts because we are going to restore trust in our democracy, and we are going to fulfill the repeated promises of parliament to the people and come out of the EU on October 31, no ifs or buts.”
On Brexit, there were rigorous campaigns for stay led by then Prime Minister David Cameron, and for Brexit led by Johnson. The British electorate was presented with both sides of the argument and their implications before the vote. With the vote for Brexit, Britain became like a pregnant woman who if she is not aborting the pregnancy, must give birth. It seems Johnson’s position is that if Britain is not feeling the birth pangs and would not give birth to baby Brexit naturally, the birth must either be induced or a caesarian section will be carried out not later than October 31.
What I would love to see in British politics is the entertainment, drama, colour and rhetoric of a Boris Johnson and the uncommon commitment and pro-people policies of a Jeremy Corbyn. Unfortunately, I cannot get the best of the two worlds; so I will put my bet on the later to deliver a better world.