Brexit: Saturday Night Jive, On Election Eve
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.
To gauge what passes for progressive humor on topical politics, one can do worse than watching each week’s cold open that precedes the credits for “Saturday Night Live.” For more than three years, its mainstay has been to heap ridicule on President Trump. Last weekend, SNL widened its net to capture Britain’s Prime Minister.
Briefly but effectively, the comedy troupe skewered Boris Johnson’s failing strategy to put distance between President Trump and ingratiate himself with a global elite that is, undeniably, inimical to Britain’s independence from the European Union.
The skit, set in a high school cafeteria, parodied Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s unguarded remarks, during cocktails at the recent NATO summit, concerning Mr. Trump’s overlong pressers. Messrs. Trump and Trudeau are caricatured, along with President Emmanuel Macron, Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Britain’s Mr. Johnson.
Unfortunately for him, the American president was not SNL’s sole target. Video clips of Mr. Trudeau’s actual faux-pas simply show Boris Johnson listening intently to the Canadian premier’s account, laughing, along with other world leaders, at antics attendant at any international gathering.
Yet in SNL’s scenario, Mr. Johnson is positively gleeful in being part of the global “in-crowd” poking fun at Mr. Trump (a too-seductive temptation for conservatives in politics, academia, and the broadcast press.) Nor is SNL wholly wrong in its depiction of the on-again, off-again bromance between the US-UK leaders.
Mr. Johnson’s leadership qualities were praised by Mr. Trump even when he was but an ex-foreign secretary (doubtlessly awkward for the then governing prime minister, Theresa May). The President continued to talk up Mr. Johnson for No. 10 during his State Visit to Britain in June, even though BoJo begged off meeting him face-to-face.
Meanwhile, Nigel Farage, who had accompanied Candidate Trump on the presidential hustings in 2016, welcomed the opportunity to discuss the fate of Brexit and a bilateral trade agreement with America. With Britain on the cusp of a general election, Mr. Trump gave Mr. Farage an exclusive 30-minute interview, advising Brexiteers that a Johnson-Farage alliance was an unstoppable combination for independence.
“Nige” was in enthusiastic full agreement; “BoJo,” not so much.
Instead, Mr. Johnson explained to a BBC reporter that while he welcomed advice when offered, he diplomatically demurred from accepting Mr. Trump’s advocacy of a Leave alliance with the Brexit Party. Furthermore, Boris hinted to Britain’s most-willing partner for bilateral trade, in the person of Mr. Trump, that he was wrong in dismissing the reworked withdrawal deal with Brussels.
Mr. Trump, to his credit, has not taken offence at Mr. Johnson’s standoffish attitude. As General de Gaulle remarked about foreign policy, “France has no friends, only interests.” Yet in the case of the UK’s exit from the EU, America is a friend with Britain’s best interests at heart. However the EU member countries may be amicably aligned toward Britain, after all, they have vested interests against Brexit.
If Premier Johnson is successful in wresting Britain from Brussels’ grasp, the EU will lose a substantial contributor to its coffers. Barring a mutually beneficial trade agreement, its continental manufacturers will be minus one great importer of its goods.
Moreover, Mr. Johnson’s Conservatives, despite their various “leftist” policies, are well to the right of the EU, let alone the global community. Another reason for Boris not to second-guess President Trump’s overtures on behalf of Brexit.
Saturday Night Live’s sketch writers have unwittingly done Boris Johnson a kindness. Too late to benefit the Conservative leader for the general election campaign; but if Christmas is the time for pantomime, then Mr. Johnson would do well to heed “the fool” in future.
Tories tempt fate by abandoning natural allies to chase after plaudits from political adversaries who care alone for ulterior motives. SNL for a cheap laugh; anti-Trumpers who are no less anti-Brexiteers. If Mr. Johnson succeeds at the polls and the Conservatives again form the government, falling for the allure of hollow acclaim must give way to embracing true allies of British independence — per, no less, the Bard:
“Thy friends suspect for traitors whilst thou liv’st,
And take deep traitors for thy dearest friends.”