Our heartiest congratulations to Boris Johnson on his elevation from proud and humble editor of this magazine to the prime ministership of Great Britain, via the mayoralty of London, swinging from a wire at the 2012 Olympics, a fumbled post-Brexit play three years ago and an awkward and unsatisfactory foreign ministership. Still, he got there in the end.
Many commentators, both here and abroad, repeatedly wrote Mr Johnson off as a flamboyant, erratic, mop-headed buffoon. Not so The Spectator Australia. Speccie readers have been kept well ahead of the game. In fact, nearly twelve months ago, while the commentariat were hyperventilating about a second referendum, the backstop, recession, an inevitable Corbyn government, Ms May’s latest ‘plan’ and indeed the Guardian were breathlessly explaining ‘Why Boris Johnson will never be PM’, our astute European correspondent Mark Higgie had this to say in his 11 August despatch: The preoccupation in London of course is Brexit, now just seven months away. Theresa May, having all but surrendered her previous ‘red lines’ in the Chequers plan, is now at war with many in her party. Even if the EU agreed to her plan, she’d struggle to get parliamentary approval. The mood among Tories is that it was a mistake to put May, a Remainer, in charge of Brexit and that Boris Johnson may yet get his big opportunity. Polling suggests he’s the most popular leader among the rank and file and the only leading Tory who would be competitive against Corbyn.
And so it has turned out.
Boris Johnson is a good friend of Australia’s, having worked here, and has repeatedly praised the advantages of our ‘points-based’ immigration system. Among those hwo have helped propel him to the top are Aussies Sir Lynton Crosby and Liberal MP James McGrath.
But comparisons with Donald Trump are flawed. In some ways, Mr Johnson has more similarities with Scott Morrison, and indeed, it is easy to see why Mr Trump appears to like them both, despite Mr Johnson’s initial reaction being that Donald Trump was ‘unfit’ to be president.
Although both BoJo and ScoMo appear as ‘conservatives’ when it suits them, both have a tendency (as John Stone points out this week) to be seduced by luvvy causes. Both, for example, have fallen for the cult of climate change.
Both Mr Morrison and Mr Johnson, in terms of expectations as how they will perform as PM have been extremely lucky, with unbelievably low bars setby their predecessors. Mr Morrison shines compared to the dismal waffler Malcolm Turnbull and Mr Johnson can only ever be an imporvement on the dithering idiocy of Theresa May. Intriguingly, both Mr Turnbull and Ms May were friends together at Oxford. Perhaps it was something in the drinking water: both wound up being the worst leaders of centre-right parties in either country since the 1970s and both managed to destroy the majorities they had been gifted. Along the way, kowtowing to leftist shibboleths, both came very close to handing government to two of the most radical left-wing oppositions in decades. And both were forced to resign thanks solely to their own crippling incompetence.
All in all, an Anglosphere led by Trump, BoJo and ScoMo is not a bad thing at all. The potential is there for a strong US-British-Australian alliance and friendship to bolster Britain post-Brexit. (Canada and New Zealand for the time being fritter away their economic prosperity in a sludge of socialist-inspired identity politics and political correctness).
Yet of the three leaders it is Boris Johnson who potentially faces the trickiest next few months. Hoping to change the national ‘vibe’ around Brexit from one of despair to one of ‘can-do’ positivity is all very well, but unlikely to be enough. In all likelihood, a snap general election looms, plunging Britain into yet more uncertainty, rancour and social upheaval. And the result of such a general election could easily see the Tories diminished in favour of a resurgent Nigel Farage’s Brexit party. (Now there’s someone who is more easily compared to Donald Trump). In the meantime, let’s salute BoJo, ScoMo & Trump. It’s got a certain ring to it.
Cory is right (again)
Senator Cory Bernardi is to be praised and supported in his push to see ‘freedom of opinion, speech, conscience and religion’ elevated above all other human rights and ‘anti-discrimination’ considerations. ‘Some key rights are unalienable and essential to the human condition. Adding ever more rights is nonsensical. Parliament must ring-fence Australia’s key freedoms,’ he maintains. Not for the first time, Cory’s instincts are correct.