Watching Andrew Marr’s interview with Boris Johnson Sunday morning was educational. And terrifying. Because it made three things clear to me: Why he and the pro-Brexit faction he belongs to really are pro-Brexit, why him being Prime Minister would be a disaster for the UK and especially any part that isn’t the ‘Home Counties’; and why Boris scares me more than Trump.
I watched him say, over and over, to one of the best interviewers on the BBC (yes, they still have a few good ones left) ‘let me explain it to you; let me make it simple for you.’ Mr. Marr, whether you agree with him or not on any given issue, is an intelligent person, well-versed on the issues, an interviewer who does his homework and shows up with facts in hand. BJ, by repeatedly treating AM as though the only reason he questioned BJ’s positions was because he didn’t understand the facts or reality. He was playing a time honoured game of arrogance and subversion: you can only be disagreeing with me because you don’t understand the issue as well as I do. It’s a technique used to shout down and subvert the opposition’s (or doubter’s) legitimate questions, and is often deployed while loudly and repeatedly talking over one’s opposition in the discussion, as he did today. I watched him and realized that if he becomes PM, this is what he will always do to any questions, about his policies or his authority. If you think the current Tory government doesn’t listen to ‘the people’ – as it certainly doesn’t to the people of Scotland or the North of England…or anyone really – just wait until it’s lead by Boris Johnson. His tenure will be a disaster for democracy, because he will have no patience or – in his mind – need for it.
And then there’s Brexit. Two of the reasons he gave for backing it (the third slipped past me in the shock of the moment) caused a light to go on: the possibility of taking back control of UK law-making and UK money. Hearing this, it struck me: both of these sound good, don’t they? They play well among us plebes. Bad ol’ Brussels, running roughshod over our democracy, and taking our money. Those of us who wish to remain part of the EU can talk about what we get back in return, but such a discussion will never win over EU sceptics, because these two issues – freedom and money – are paramount in their feelings about the EU. So pro-Brexit folk think ‘wow, we leave and get our freedom and money back’. But what I realized, listening to BJ speak, is that he and his compatriots aren’t trying to take these things back so they can pass them on to we the people. He said straight out: we want control of these things. And we interpret ‘we’ to mean ‘us’. But that’s not what he means at all. When he says ‘we’, he means the Tory party and his friends, hopefully under his leadership. See above for why I think that would be a knock out punch for Scotland and the rest of the members of this so-called united kingdom.
Seriously, look at the state of the UK deficit, the foodbanks, the attack on pensions, benefits and labour rights, the sell-off of the (English) NHS, and tell me you trust the current and future Tory government (because, with the maneuvers they’re pulling on voting issues, the Tories are going to be hard to unseat) with full control on every pound earned and spent in the United Kingdom, without any of the controls that come along with EU membership. My partner and I work a small farm in Scotland – and we certainly don’t trust them to support our sector in anyway close to the way they’re forced to as part of the EU. Do you? We hear a lot about business owners hating the ‘red tape’ and regulations – never mind whether the numbers of the dissatisfied are manipulated for the cause – how many of those regulations are aimed at workers’ rights and environmental protections? Do you really trust the party trying to make it illegal to go on strike – telling doctors that working at 11pm at night and on Sundays isn’t working ‘unsocial’ hours – to protect your freedoms, your physical and financial safety? Do you trust the government which is cutting subsidies for sustainables, borrowing money from China (with it’s excellent environmental record) to build a nuclear plant, and selling fracking licenses all over the UK, to protect the environment? Do you think it’ll get any easier for small business owners to do business under a Tory government unchecked by EU-wide workers rights?
So, vote for Brexit if you like. But if you do, know what you’re voting for, and who’s not going to give it to you, in or out.
Then, on the other side of the water, there’s Trump. And besides the physical similarities, these two politicians share a lot of attitudes toward those who question them, towards those who are different than them… They see no need for any checks on their power to run the country the way they want – whether it’s Wall Street reforms, the press, or the EU… Workers rights, who needs them? A sceptical press? Sue them in Trump’s case, talk over them in Boris’.
Where these two men differ is in packaging, and that makes all the difference in the world, when it comes to the real possibility of either of them becoming leaders of their countries/unions. And this is the thing that makes Boris scarier for me, as a UK resident and US/EU citizen: While the press like to talk about Trump like he’s an unavoidable avalanche, he carries less than half of his own party, none of the other party, and god knows what the silent majority think. (Despite what the UK press would have you believe, there is another political party running candidates in this election campaign.) Look, really look at his his campaign events – if you think that crowd of baying followers is representative of the entire US, or even the entire electorate…you don’t know the US very well. It’s convenient for ratings, entertainment value, and the tendencey toward wanting a scapegoat for all the world’s ills, to play up the insanity of the people known collectively as ‘Americans’. But I’ve lived in three countries now, and have traveled/lived in multiple locations in the US…and I’m telling you: the average American ‘joe’ isn’t all that different from any hardworking European, and while there are crazies in every pollitical arena (Farage? Wilders? name your own), they don’t tend to get elected to high office if they show their true colours. Trump is entertaining, frightening and a force to be reckoned with, but his packaging has slipped, and he’s revealed himself as the bigoted, self-aggrandizing nutjob that he is. That’s one of the beauties of the long, drawn out presidential campaigns – if you are cracked, you will eventually crumble. So no, I don’t think The Donald will be president. Ever.
Boris, however, is well packaged, still commands a lot of affection among the masses – even among those who don’t like his actual policies – and is rolling right along. I wonder how many heard what he said this morning, and had the reaction I did? Very few, I would guess, because ‘take back our freedom and money’ plays too well when said loudly and often, for many people to listen to the undertones.
I think there’s a very good chance that 1.) Boris will help the UK vote leave the EU, with the resultant loss of any checks on UK government/business powers, and 2.) he’ll be Prime Minister after Cameron steps down. I think this is a much more plausible scenario than The Donald becoming president of the United States.
And I find that a terrifying prospect, for the UK and especially for Scotland. And maybe beyond.