[This article was first published in Catalonia Today magazine, Sept. 2019.]
Unlike this summer’s extreme weather, which came to Europe then went, extreme conservative governments have also recently come but unfortunately don’t seem to be going.
In the UK, the latest incarnation of this threat to the average person is the new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson (or simply ‘Boris,’ as plenty of his fellow media personalities call him.)
But there is only one important question to be asked about him. Who will he and his Conservative Party govern for?
The answer is already clear. If we ignore all his populist, nationalistic public language and ignore his long history of incompetence, his almost continual episodes of self-serving immorality and if we also ignore his continuing catalogue of lies and vile racist and homophobic insults, there is still something much more important than all that staring us in the face.
The fact is that Boris Johnson has always represented no-one else other than the exact same kind of young males who he is pictured alongside in the ‘Wall of Fame’ at Eton, the school where only Britain’s wealthiest families send their children.
In other words, Boris Johnson will continue to act only for the richest part of the social spectrum. His first policy announcement after he declared he would run for the party’s leadership was calculated to let the rich know that he was still well and truly on their side. He stated he would give tax cuts to 3 million higher income earners.
As well as that he is arguing for further cuts to business tax, even though UK corporation tax rates are “one of the lowest…among developed economies, with successive reductions taking it from 28% in 2008 to 19% now.”
The great problem with schools like Eton where Johnson (and 20 other former UK Prime Ministers) went, is that, according to Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine, it is a major part of “an archaic system that teaches those who belong to it that they are destined for the kind of greatness that others cannot reach.”
The idea of a personal destiny is appealing to people like Johnson because as adults it means they believe that they never have to show ability. “Preparatory” boarding schools such as Eton brainwash their young at a time in their lives when they are highly impressionable, being away from their families for almost the entire academic year. In essence, they instill the value of ultimate self-confidence as superior to expertise.
This is exactly the root cause of Britain’s wider mediocrity in much of it’s politics and business; it comes from a social class system that virtually insists on taking nothing at all too seriously.
Johnson’s public image as a mumbling, bumbling, patriotic jokester is initially easy to like. He has a light-hearted charm which works with Anglo people who don’t like anyone to be earnest for very long. Comedy is good entertainment, they’d say.
This tone of amusement was also something Johnson used in his earlier career in journalism and writing. Astonishingly, he wrote a sexist and offensive novel titled Seventy-Two Virgins – A Comedy of Errors (published in 2004) where the main character, obviously entirely based on Johnson, becomes a hero during a terrorist attack. The hand of destiny again.
Ultimately, Johnson is hellbent on “delivering” Brexit at any cost to the middle and working class people of his country. The irony here is that as recently as 2013 he wrote a newspaper article that advised his fellow cabinet ministers “to stop blaming Brussels for all our problems.”
Now though, we have him and his Brexit to more accurately blame. Johnson’s jokes are all the more hollow and the saddest joke is on us.