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To defeat Boris Johnson, learn the lessons of Donald Trump

3 48 0
21.06.2019

All we need now is for Boris Johnson to praise Mark Field, the government-minister-cum-self-appointed-close-protection-officer who thought the best way to deal with a peaceful distributor of leaflets was to ram her into a pillar and grab her by the neck. If Johnson lauds Field as “my kind of guy”, then the already long list of similarities between Britain’s near-certain next prime minister and Donald Trump will get longer still. Compiling that list might once have been an amusing parlour game for politics nerds; now it is essential preparation for what is to come.

For Trump, you will recall, did not share the public shock at one of his party’s lawmakers using physical violence against a citizen exercising a basic democratic right. In the US case, the offender was Republican congressman Greg Gianforte, who bodyslammed a reporter – a Guardian reporter, as it happens – whose desire to ask a question irritated him. Trump offered no condemnation. Instead, the president said: “Any guy that can do a bodyslam, he’s my kind of guy.”

Still, we need not wait for Johnson to hymn Field’s prowess in manhandling the unarmed to spot multiple parallels between America’s current leader and Britain’s likely next one. The signature nest of blond hair; the political career forged by unexpected success on a TV show; the knack for grabbing attention by ensuring every public moment carries a frisson of danger, generated by the possibility that the rules are about to be broken, often through a remark that is crude or hurtful or both. Both men are skilled at making their appearances seem daringly, and therefore compellingly, unscripted – “seem” being the operative word in Johnson’s case. Note Jeremy Vine’s riveting account of watching the former London mayor deliver an apparently impromptu, even chaotically ad-libbed after-dinner speech – only to see him repeat the exact same performance, word for word, stumble for stumble, several years later.

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