Boris Johnson, Disraeli Has His Eye On Your ‘New Dawn’
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
Boris Johnson, in his latest riposte to Brussels, is the man who won the heart of Brexiteers. This is the Prime Minister who tells the European Union that, unless significant progress is made quickly toward reaching a trade deal, then Britain will spend its time until December 31 focusing on its global trade agenda, relegating its future relationship with Europe to a footnote.
This Boris is in stark contrast to his predecessor, Theresa May. She enters the history books as having been too willing to bow to Brussels bureaucrats, at the expense of Britons and despite a referendum that called for the contrary. The new, post-Brexit Boris is also tacking differently than pre-Brexit Boris, who stirred up unrest among Brexiteers for seemingly going limp on full British independence.
Now, per the London Sun, the Prime Minister, with a ruling majority in Parliament, is feeling his oats. Boris’s “radical reshaping” reminds one of Sixtus V. Cardinal Montalto accedes to the Chair of Peter in 1585 as a “caretaker” pope — infirm and hunchbacked, clearly not long for this world. Yet no sooner is he elected than he throws away his cane, stands bolt-upright, and cries: “Now I am Cæsar.”
The Prime Minister’s renewed vigor thus cheers Brexiteers intent on full independence. This, though, was not Boris’s only volte-face. Students of Benjamin Disraeli have seen in BoJo not a little of that wily Victorian statesman. Both leaders captured the popular appeal and exude a joyous political élan. No less significant, a reputation as a “chancer” clings to them.
Disraeli rose to power on themes of patriotism and paternalism: the former fulfilled by zeal for the British empire, while the latter — the “condition of England” question — Dizzy met with legislation for public sanitation, factory acts, and policies for seaman-safety. Boris, Tories imagined, inherited Disraeli’s mantle for the 21st-century.
The Prime Minister celebrated Britain’s exit from the EU with a boast that, in his “dawn of a new era,” echoes Disraeli’s own hope for Britain’s future: “You deem you are in darkness, and I see a dawn.”
For patriotic appeal, Boris spearheaded British sovereignty and independence. He would return to Britons the tools of free market economics: lower taxes, deregulation, and minimal government. Thus can the UK become a global powerhouse once more. Yet Fleet Street reports that the government plans a plethora of “interventionist” laws.
Laws that would cripple capital accumulation. Laws that would make Britain “carbon neutral” by 2050 and could cost in excess of £3 trillion. “Command” economists entertain lists of infrastructure projects, such as £1 billion high-speed rail and expensively futile “energy alternatives.” To pay for it all comes a budget with tax hikes on wealth creators.
These are anything but “conservative” policies. It’s going to be hard to argue that this is for what Britons voted in the 2016 Brexit referendum. No, these moves align with the social democratic policies of a defeated and discredited Labor party. Or, as James Delingpole laments, “Vote Boris, Get Jeremy Corbyn.”
By this light, Boris more resembles Disraeli’s political nemesis, Sir Robert Peel. In the guise of countering the Irish potato famine with cheap wheat, Peel repealed the protectionist Corn Laws in the mid-1840s — the program of the Opposition parties. Peel “caught the Whigs bathing,” Disraeli thundered in the House of Commons, “and walked away with their clothes.”
To wit: “He has left them in the full enjoyment of their liberal position, and he is himself a strict conservative of their garments.”
Disraeli wrote of “Tory men and Whig measures.” The issue, now, is not free trade or protectionism. Brexit certainly leans to the former. Rather, Brexit was fought on the issue of independence: From the EU especially, but no less from the “Nanny State.” This is where Boris is breaking faith with the Brexit promise.
America has a stake in this, too. President Trump’s mandate is no less imperative and susceptible of sabotage than the British premier’s. How can Britons (and Americans) secure their promised independence from the state? The lane to liberty lies with self-government and personal responsibility. “I am the champion of British liberty,” Boris Johnson must cry. “Tory men and Brexit measures.”