Despite what Corbyn might imply, British democracy is good at knocking back populist insurgents—as the career of Britain's most actually Trump-like politician makes clear...by Jason Reed / August 23, 2019 / Leave a comment
Boris Johnson is Britain’s Trump. The left’s rhetoric is becoming increasingly bereft of ingenuity, to the point that this is now the go-to line. It was most recently regurgitated by Jeremy Corbyn in his speech earlier this week. During ‘Corbyn in Corby’—an instant classic—everyone’s favourite magic grandpa declared that our new Prime Minister is, for all intents and purposes, the same person as President Trump, insofar as he “protects the vested interests of the richest and the elites while posing as anti-establishment.”
Of course, the irony of Jeremy Corbyn brashly slapping the ‘anti-establishment’ label on the Prime Minister is that his Labour leadership is, in itself, profoundly populist, albeit much less successfully. Corbyn’s abysmal personal approval ratings are a useful demonstration of what happens when haphazard stabs at populism go terribly wrong.
The remainder of what he said is, as usual, many miles off the mark. Beyond baffling hair and arcane promiscuity, Boris Johnson and Donald Trump have very little in common. The latter is nationalist and protectionist, while the former is a progressive liberal.
Whatever his ill-judged and rightly critiqued comments elsewhere, Johnson recognises and welcomes the benefits of immigration. He speaks emotively of his vision for a post-Brexit Global Britain, propped up by thriving free trade relationships, while Trump is calling himself ‘Tariff Man’ and starting trade wars with America’s most important economic partners. Johnson rose to power to fulfil the mandate of the people, whereas Trump stokes his base by churning out nationalist fury, gleeful bigotry and xenophobic bile.
As convenient as the comparison might be for Jeremy Corbyn, Boris Johnson is not merely the British transliteration of President Trump. This is not to say that Britain is exempt from Trump’s brand of politics: the populist wave that carted him into the White House in 2016 was an international one, and its reverberations are still being felt today. Italy’s Matteo Salvini and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, for instance, were propelled to the top of their respective governments by the same electoral shudder that gave us President Trump.
Read Steve Bloomfield on why Boris Johnson is Britain’s populist Prime Minister ___________
The difference in Britain’s case is that our political system is…