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  • Tancredi Cordero

Imperial hangover and populism: will the Jubilee remind Britons what a leader should stand for?

Updated: Jun 13, 2022

Recently it dawned on me that, after six years of stale rhetoric and nationalist statements, the latest backward threat coming at us from Brexit is the return of the "I"mperial measurement units (Yes, quite right). Such a disingenuous motion, aimed at covering today's inflationary crisis under the warm blanket of the deceased British Empire, shan't surprise the astonished 21st-century citizen. For it flawesly befits the agenda of a populist mochery like Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson. Yes, that is Bojo's real name, which - unlike measuring potatoes in pounds and milk in pints - sounds vaguely foreign and doesn't forthrightly echo the past splendour of the Empire (so dear to the conservative electorate). Moreso, its lengthy juxtaposition of names and surnames would loudly cry "posh toff" in the minds of a lot of good folks out there. Hence, it was appropriate to opt for a more steak-and-kidney name, which became Boris' nom de politique (so dear to the more liberal voters): simply and delightfully, Boris [...] Johnson.

In 2016 I permanently moved to the UK from Italy, my native country, which was (and partly still is) riddled with populism, inconclusive political leadership (at the time, Mario Draghi visited Rome only during his holidays away from the ECB) and cursed by secular constitutional incongruencies and oppressive bureaucracy. The one hope I harboured was to move as far away as possible from such a toxic system and its gatekeepers. Sadly a month after I arrived in the UK, Brexit happened (screw your hopes, you Eurotrash!). The funny part of this story is that I was very excited about such a brave decision to leave the clunky and bureaucratic EU. I must admit I was a bit of a deluded nostalgic myself, and indeed I was a fugitive. I saw first hand how impossible it is to launch and run a business in most parts of the EU. I experienced how "the State" was your archenemy, not your allay, and, more perversely, how people (as a result of the above issues) had little to no respect whatsoever for their countries, be them Spanish, Italian, or French (and others).

When Donal Trump was elected POTUS, we had yet another evidence of how the world had gone mad. A self-proclaimed self-made billionaire who, in reality, is nothing more than a frat trust fund kid from New York, New York managed to become the most powerful man on the Planet. The only money that Trump made on his own he eventually lost. Worth noting that such profits came mainly through his gambling and casino businesses, not precisely an all-American, white fences, stars-and-stripes endeavour. One would not expect Miss Universe, tax avoidance, ties with organised crime and thugs à la Putin on the CV of the leader of the "C"ountry that liberated the Western World from fascism and concentration camps (those in Germany full of "gays, Jews and liberals", not the ones in the Mid-to-Western States full of "Japs” and "red skins"... let's not ruin the narrative, please). So are voters blameable if they vote with their guts rather than their heads? Who would have thought that the reality show The Apprentice was a con and that Trump's campaign team, in partnership with Cambridge Analytica (also hired by the Leavers during the Brexit referendum), was responsible for most of the fake news running on Facebook and other social media, crucial for Trump's victory in the Swing States and eventually the Presidency? Answer: yes, we the people are blameable as voters. Democracy is a right but also a responsibility. People (us) often crave a happy ending. We desperately want to be represented by good fellows who have our best interest at heart. Sadly, through this lovely delivery process, thorny details may be eloquently overlooked, consciously or subconsciously - to draw a parallel, how do you think Harvey Weinstein's abuses lasted for so long? Self-delusion and denial always lurk in the background; we must pay attention at all times.

Finally, after last year's events in Capitol Hill when, in summary, notwithstanding an irate horde of pitchfork bearing mobsters storming the American Parliament (for once, as they love saying over there, ACTUALLY "unprecedented"), Trump got finally ousted from a presidency of despicable order that achieved NOTHING meaningfully positive and reported a streak of damages of considerable proportions. Some may have then realised that populism is bad news (otherwise just blame the Chinese, the Democrats or the Tooth Fairy). However, now that Donald is out, some die-hard fans of sugarcoating politics still have one yellow clown to entrust with their hopes and dreams on the opposite side of the Atlantic. But then came Partygate and populism, alongside the rhetorical hopes of reviving the past glory of the British Empire, spiralled into a potent hangover.

The recent thirty-seven pages report put together by Sue Grey, whose role is ​Her Majesty's Government Second Permanent Secretary to Cabinet Office, is a cavorting tale of party shenanigans and vomiting (yes, also that), as entertaining (albeit not as glamorous) as, I imagine, the frat parties Trump and Bojo attended in their prime. So let's put things straight: most of us did not walk the line of covid restriction completely straight, but a Government that breaks its own rules using Number 10, the symbol of British Democracy, as a stage for its wrongdoing is another story altogether - a story that should be told all across the stand-up comedy bars of the West End. Perhaps the problem is precisely this: Partygate is comical rather than disgraceful, like most of Boris Johnson's fuck ups since he took office. How can you be angry at a clumsy labrador bashing into the walls of a poorly designed kitchen? How can you not excuse a satirical figure for its quasi-Shakesperean shortcomings? Well, let me tell you that the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom should not be a labrador, but a bulldog, and we, ladies and gentlemen, have not just a labrador but a blind one.

Entitlement breeds sloppiness and bad behaviour like a terrible disease. There is nothing worse than a leader who thinks of himself above the rules, especially if he sets these very rules in place. What the administration captained by Boris Johnson did during the events of Partygate is on the border of lunacy and certainly affected by stiff carelessness and sheer contempt for the rules. I recall very well the scandals of Berlusconi during his Presidency. The same was true for him back then as it is today for Johnson: people were excusing his debauchery because Berlusconi was, in the end, a "funny guy" and therefore excusable. How very Italian, right? That would never happen in the UK… Granted there was also prostitution involved with Silvio, so I am afraid Boris gets no supervillain award (or any recognition for that matter). Indeed the Prime Minister spent his [Party's] money much more piously when he allowed his third wife to fittingly redecorate his ministerial apartments - an unmistakable mark of a civilised and indeed well educated man… But, hey, just like Berlusconi, Johnson is a funny guy. So let's continue to excuse him. Rest assured, the scandals will keep on coming ever larger. As a result of forgiving the unforgivable, Italy lost part of its economy and most of its credibility with the rest of the world. In the end: "how can we trust the same people that left a jester in power?!" Let's wait for Great Britain to endure the same. It will be such a spectacle watching the funny guy destroying what we've got left of the long-gone Empire. Please, wake up, folks!

Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson belongs to the same populists club of Le pen, Salvini, Grillo, Trump, Orban and yes also Putin. Not because one campaigned against a war or received a good education, he is to be faithfully trusted and believed as not capable of lying through his teeth via toxic rhetoric, identity politics, clownish stunts and practices of public deception like campaigning for Ukraine, all embellished with its twin flags pin blazing on his accurately dishevelled suit (oh Boris, one of us!). Great Britain deserves a Great Leader, not a mockery, and now more than ever as the country left the EU. History may not be changed, but we know it can be amended for good. Let's hope for a return to sanity in this country. It may result in a less amusing plot than the funambolic adventures of Boris and his drunken mates. Still, it will be a far more credible story for Great Britain, one that will not make us just proud of its glorious past, but also of its future - and not ashamed of its present.

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