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These wannabe emperors are cloaked only by their massive self-regard

Posted on June 11, 2019


If you’re a regular reader – thanks. And apologies for my absence from cyber-space for a while. Work, life and other writing projects have crowded the available space and so this piece will be the last for a further few weeks. When I return in August, who knows what the world will look like? What egregious public actions or utterances will have become so normalised that we don’t even break stride to accommodate them?

I’ll start with Trump – and not just because he’s a fee hit. While he preened and primped his way through last week’s ceremonies, gluing on his faux-sombre expression of dignity and respect, there were, thank goodness – and even on a school day – thousands of indignant, outraged and witty life-affirmers cordoned off a few streets away. The leader of the free world wrote them off as an invented fiction in the same way that he had denied making comments about a nasty Duchess (forgive me if I can’t even be bothered to look up her real title) when they were recorded for all the world to hear. So far, so Trump, so what?

The problem resides in the fact that we’ve become dully anaesthetised to such outlandish denials. For example, after his bizarre claims about the numbers at his inauguration, we rocked with delighted laughter…. but also felt the first twinge of discomfort that anyone could countenance placing such obvious nonsense into public discourse, apparently fearless of the fact that it could damage  his fitness for office. Two years on and we just shrug: we just tell ourselves it’s what he does. He thunders on, impervious in his armour of bluster.

As if one dangerous, self-regarding buffoon was insufficient, we seem intent on cultivating our own. Boris Johnson, Trump’s mini-me (copyright Owen Jones), looks like being the next Prime Minister. Now lest we forget, this man of bus-laden promises and lies, the man who is going to go over to foreigner land and shout at them until they get it, wouldn’t know a political truth or principle if it bit him on his plump behind (and, yes, I know – he’s slimming down and tidying himself up to show what a grown-up up he is). He’s a man of many paid ‘jobs’, is Boris. Sometimes he even coughs up tax on his earnings.

One of his pastimes is writing for the Daily Telegraph. He does so once a week and they pay him £275,000 a year. Just before the Brexit vote, he wrote his column and advocated staying in Europe. And then he wrote another encouraging readers to leave. After a good deal of soul-searching about which track would better serve his lifelong ambition of being Prime Minister the British people, he opted for the latter view along with his mate, ‘snorter Govey’. This isn’t the place to pick over the bones of the days that followed the referendum – Gove and Johnson looking like the victims in a hostage video when Leave unexpectedly won and then Mikey stabbing Bozza in the front as they vied for the top job that neither of them got and which ended up going to a GIRL – but it certainly set the tone for the implosion of public trust in the political system that ensued.

The notion that we are in a post-truth era merits balanced and nuanced consideration, but on most news days, it’s hard to ignore. Marry it up with a public mood of anger and exasperation and we’re on fertile ground for bombast and demagoguery. The idea that the likes of Trump, Johnson and their potential chum, Farage, will navigate us through this is risible and terrifying. So, as I temporarily depart for my other ventures, I leave you with two thoughts.

The first relates to the weary notion that whoever takes over from May will be going over there to jolly well sort them out. Although it’s slightly nerdy viewing, have a look at BBC 4’s Brexit Behind Closed Doors. There’s a lot to dislike about some of the personnel involved, but the Brussels’ Brexit team come over as well-briefed, much more ready for a fight than any of their British counterparts, quick-witted, multi-lingual, appropriately vulgar and, as time progresses, utterly and completely baffled by the ineptitude and unpreparedness of the Brits whom they had imagined to be doughty opponents. Their glee is only marginally tempered by their disappointment at the one-sidedness of the struggle. Quite how a bustling Johnson, armed only with his very own inflated, grotesque view of his raffish charm, thinks he’s going to knock such people off balance is plain embarrassing.

The second thought couldn’t be more different. It’s one of the marks of the Little Englander Brexiteers that they speak as though they won the war when, of course, military action is unknown to any of them. Not so the survivors of the D-Day landings whose efforts we honoured last week. Boys who crammed onto great hulks of boats, rocked and slopped through the Channel, waded out into seawater under constant gunfire and somehow survived and drove back the Nazi army. To think that this unthinkable bravery is invoked by pink-palmed time servers as the same sort of bulldog spirit that we now need to assert our strength and independence is scandalous.

So all power to those still prepared to call out the impostors, to those who laugh at the emperor’s nakedness and who fail to allow the egregious to become the acceptable. It’s going to be a long and difficult fight, but if we really are to honour true heroes, we’ve got no option but to carry it on.

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