For Boris Johnson To Succeed, He Needs To Pick The U.S. Over The EU

For Boris Johnson To Succeed, He Needs To Pick The U.S. Over The EU

Give the mess Britain is in, simply invoking the spirit of Nelson won’t be enough. Boris must lead London to choose a side soon, between D.C. and Brussels.
Sumantra Maitra
By

Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, or Boris, as he is known internationally, is a strange man, adored and worshipped by his base and despised by the far left. But this July 23, Boris won the Conservative Party leadership race in the United Kingdom to replace Theresa May as prime minister and take the reins of this country to lead us to Brexit — or perish on the way.

It was also on July 23, back in 1759, that one of the most famous warships in the history of all naval battles was laid down in Chatham Dockyard. HMS Victory, the flagship of Adm. Horatio Nelson, was 259 feet long and used more than 6,000 oak trees for her hull. The rest is, as they say, history.

Nelson ordered Victory for his own use, took her in the campaigns in the Mediterranean, and more famously in Trafalgar. It was Victory that hoisted the “England Expects” sign, and it was Victory where Nelson was fatally shot, desperately winning the battle, breaking the back of Napoleonic France, making sure English remained the global common language of commerce, and turning Britain to an unrivaled hegemon for the next century and half.

Britain must, once again, rise to the challenge. It now faces the European Union alone, with no empire to back her up and the closest ally in the United States driven away by her own leftist politicians and contradictory policies. With the intractable North Irish border problem no closer to being solved, Britain remains tied to the European superstate, and Boris haunted by his own promises.

Nelson would have loved such a challenge. “Before this time tomorrow, I shall have gained a peerage, or Westminster Abbey,” Nelson said once, noting he would either be victorious in a battle and win a lordship or die and be buried in Westminster. Whether Boris wants such a challenge remains to be seen.

Who Is Boris Johnson?

The broader assessment is that Boris is a character straight out of a P.G. Wodehouse novel, a sort of throwback to the bumbling Brit, the type who somehow established an empire while drinking tea and never quite understood how to manage it. It couldn’t be further from the truth. Boris is perhaps one of the most qualified and astute British politicians of recent history. Born in upper-middle-class New York, he went through the classic Eton-Oxford route to be a scholar in classics at Balliol College.

He then was one of the European correspondents of the Telegraph and eventually went on to be the editor of The Spectator, a post he held until 2005, only to give up for a career in politics. Boris was twice elected mayor of London, changed the city landscape, introduced “Boris Bikes” (a bicycle-sharing scheme), cracked down on public drinking on tubes and metros, tackled the London riots, and opened London for more business, along with the completion of the successful London Olympics.

His successor, Sadiq Khan, has reversed most of those decisions, and as a result there’s not a street in London where homeless people are not loitering and littering, nor a single neighborhood where knife crime does not occur.

A Misunderstood Man

People sometimes equate Boris with other populist leaders, but he’s rather incomparable in that regard. On the other hand, Boris is not a conservative in the truest sense of the term either. He embodies the pro-business and freedom ideals of the British Liberal Party’s 19th-century heyday, and with instinctive Victorian propriety. For someone who has been LGBT friendly, it is miraculous that Boris draws so much flak from the left simply because of his two instincts, which are now taboo in the media and academic circles.

First is public propriety and manners and social cohesion, which Boris thinks are important for the continuation of civilized society. As an author on Winston Churchill who has made clear he wants to follow in Churchill’s footsteps, Boris still has the Tory sensibilities of hierarchy and public propriety, which made him a lot of enemies from the libertarian and liberal left.

Second, Boris is an old-fashioned nationalist. To him, Britain and British Parliament and institutions and court should be supreme and should not be subservient to the borderless technocratic superstate in Brussels. In a twist of fate, the one who is a scholar of classics with volumes of works on the Greeks and Romans became the lead campaigner of the Leave campaign.

Boris Johnson’s Uphill Battle

He missed the chance earlier, due to his own callousness immediately after the referendum, when he should have been the prime minister. Instead, he went to play cricket with some aristocracy, which led to a bizarre series of events of backroom lobbying and politics and resulted in the disaster of May’s premiership, the worst humiliation in the history of post-war Britain.

But the challenge Boris faces is supreme. Regardless of his theatrical instincts, Britain cannot succeed in the world alone, without being aligned to the two giants: the EU or the United States. Successive British politicians and prime ministers have tried to hedge and virtue signal their way out, and those days are over.

One recent incident of Iran seizing a British tanker displays how horribly isolated Britain is, on one hand cutting down its Royal Navy and independent deterrence and relying on the United States, and on the other virtue signaling on the Iran nuclear deal by siding with France and Germany, neither of which would ever come to aid Britain in a time of need.

This is the choice Boris faces, and this is a choice he must make fast within days of his premiership. If he is genuinely intending to save Britain from Jeremy Corbynite communism and political oblivion, he needs to act instead of blustering. Simply invoking the spirit of Nelson and Churchill won’t be enough.

Sumantra Maitra is a doctoral researcher at the University of Nottingham, UK, and a senior contributor to The Federalist. His research is in great power-politics and neorealism. You can find him on Twitter @MrMaitra.

Copyright © 2019 The Federalist, a wholly independent division of FDRLST Media, All Rights Reserved.