If you cast your mind back to the halcyon days of 2016, it’s just about possible to catch the last lingering sense of optimism.
Back then, Britain – reeling from the shock of the narrowly decided Brexit vote – and America, stunned by the wafer thin victory which gave Trump the White House, had a sense that although things looked precarious, maybe we could all pull together and steer the northern Anglosphere away from the rocks.
Perhaps, for example, President-elect Trump would rise to the occasion and learn to be more statesmanlike. Or at least, it was possible that the people around him would reign in his worse impulses.
Similarly, people in Britain felt that although the Brexit vote was a setback, perhaps it could be argued down to a minor diplomatic spat, or even reversed entirely with a second vote.
Thinking about all of this from the vantage of 2019 feels a little like scribbling crude drawings of a leafy paradise on charred scraps of paper whilst crouched in some blasted nuclear wasteland, but the point is that in 2016, when bad things happened, society still had hope.
This is not the feeling in the UK today, as Boris Johnson assumes the leadership of the country. Whilst this might be hard for American readers to understand, an incompetent racist with laughable hair has just seized the reins of power.
The Daily Mail – indisputably Hitler’s favourite British paper – has called Johnson’s victory a “landslide,” which is a little difficult to swallow. Boris was not elected in any meaningful sense, but rather selected as the new head of the ruling Conservative Party by the party membership. Given that the Conservative Party has a dwindling membership with an average age of seventy-two, it’s hard to describe anything they decide upon as “a landslide.” In point of fact, the new leader of the United Kingdom has been put into power by the decision of one five-hundredth of the elligible voters in Britain.
Johnson, whose personality is best described as a howling vaccuum prevented from collapsing in on itself only by the twin pillars of nacissism and ambition, has succeeded by courting the lunatic fringe of the Brexit support base, going so far as to threaten to dismiss parliament and force through a “no deal” Brexit in October.
I could point out that right up until the Brexit vote itself, BoJo was on the fence about whether he supported “Leave” or “Remain” in the UK’s independence referendum, infamously penning two opposing columns before decided which one to publish. But it would mean nothing at this stage in the game. The entire Brexit vote was a spat amongst the Conservative Party leaders that got out of hand, with then-Prime-Minister David Cameron attempting to quell dissent by calling the Eurosceptic bluff and anouncing the referendum to (theoretically) shut his critics up. The fact that it spectacularly backfired thanks to Cambridge Analytica, Nigel “gas them all” Farage and the influence of Russian money is old news. What matters is that the hardcore Brexit brigade think Boris is their man. And therein lies his ultimate undoing.
For all his empty bluster about a No Deal Brexit, where Britain walks away from negotiations entirely without cutoms agreements for import or export with Europe, Boris has to realise that such an action would be calamitous. It would deal a savage blow to the UK economy and kickstart a recession at best, and at worst would lead to shortages of food and medicine for every day citizens. On the other hand, if Boris blinks and decides that a No Deal Brexit is not the way forward, his right wing supporters will turn on him like a pack of starving dogs. Come October, Boris’ options are to either commit political suicide or to drive the UK off a financial and social cliff, which is also political suicide, albeit with a much higher collateral bodycount. Either way, Boris has fought tooth and nail, and stabbed innumerable backs, in order to get his hands on an obviously poisoned chalice.
Like Donald Trump, who claims that Boris is referred to as “Britain Trump” in the UK (he isn’t, for grammatical reasons and so many others besides…), Boris Johnson’s desperate, grasping need to attain power was never linked with any ability or intention to govern well. Both men will ultimately bring their nation and their followers nothing but ruin.
It’s perhaps ironic that the western world has sent itself hurtling towards a cultural and financial crater on the 50th anniversay of the moon landings. Amid all the fanfare about the anniversary of Armstrong’s giant leap, there were a number of articles proclaiming that a man setting foot on the moon was proof that anyone could accomplish anything – as though Neil Armstrong were not an intellectually formidable and physically fit engineer and top-level jet pilot selected at great length for his own unique talents.
The truth is that many of us couldn’t be astronauts. An increasing number of us fail to even be adequate human adults. But if there’s one strange silver lining to an era of Trump and Boris, it’s that maybe we all CAN be astronauts. Because if cretins like these can run a country, anything is possible…
Luke Haines is a British writer who is planning to get drunk until this whole thing blows over. Follow him on Twitter @lukedoughaines