World braces with the arrival of the 'British Trump'

President Donald Trump’s doppelganger became the prime minister of Britain Wednesday. Boris Johnson, the flamboyant former British foreign secretary and cheerleading captain of Brexit, is the 14th prime minister to serve during the 67-year reign of Queen Elizabeth II.

Trump finds much to like about the bombastic Johnson. The two share much in common. Both are charismatic and polarizing leaders who are master performers of political theater.

“He’s tough and he’s smart,” Trump said in praising Johnson. “They say (Johnson is) the British Trump. They say that’s a good thing. Boris is good. He’ll get it done.”

Johnson extends mutual appreciation for Trump.

“I am increasingly admiring of Donald Trump,” Johnson said. “I have become more and more convinced that there is method in his madness.”

Johnson will need a method of his own as he faces Britain’s most complicated crisis since World War II. Johnson was the figurehead of the successful 2016 campaign to convince British voters to divorce from the European Union.

Britain has spent three years since trying to extricate itself from the EU without success. The country faces an Oct. 31 deadline to find a solution.

The British government is deeply divided over whether to leave with a “soft” exit that preserves some EU rules and trade regulations, or a “hard” exit that puts all of Britain’s trade agreements with other countries up for negotiation.

Former Prime Minister Theresa May, like Johnson a Conservative Party member, failed three times to win approval from Parliament for compromises she negotiated with EU officials for Britain’s departure. The defeats forced May to resign as prime minister in June.

Johnson, who joined May’s Cabinet as foreign secretary in 2016, resigned in 2018 in protest of May’s compromise attempts. He has been scheming to replace May ever since. He has vowed to make Brexit happen by Oct. 31 with or without an economic agreement with the EU.

British economists warn that a hard Brexit would be a disaster causing steep decline in the national economy from increased costs and less international trade.

A majority in Parliament oppose a hard Brexit. Johnson’s Conservative Party also is divided on the issue. Johnson has threatened to bypass Parliament to take Britain out of the EU, but lawmakers have voted restrictions on Johnson’s ability to suspend the legislative body.

Johnson sees himself, in the Trumpian mode, as a winner whose power of persuasion and forceful personality can prevail in any situation.

Trump and Johnson are cheered by their followers as disruptors operating outside the established political order. Both are gifted communicators who connect with voters. Both also have a talent for aiming biting vitriol at adversaries.

Both are averse to policy detail, and both are prone to abrupt policy shifts. The two men relish the confusion they create with their erratic leadership styles.

Each man exhibits a recklessness that masquerades as a rogue’s charm. Their theatrics often sabotage the policymaking efforts of more serious-minded government officials.

Both have a loose relationship with facts. Each man is in his element speaking falsehoods.

Both used media stardom as a catapult to political prominence. Johnson gained fame as a reporter and columnist for British newspapers. Trump leveraged his popularity as a television star on “The Apprentice.”

Moral convictions are transactional for these leaders. Their vanity replaces idealism as a governing principle.

The stability of democracies in the world today are threatened by a host of challenges including climate change, rapid technology advances, rising despotism, and massive migrations of oppressed people. Yet neither man has demonstrated any great interest in tackling these issues with appropriate gravity.

Serious times call for serious leaders who are guided by an unflinching, magnanimous set of convictions. Democracies advance when their leaders can communicate and achieve lofty goals sanctioned by the electorate.

Donald Trump has shown the world he is not that type of leader. Indications are that the “British Trump” will not be any different.

 

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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