Boris Johnson, Brexit and the UK Election — What the US Thinks

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In the UK’s general election, the Conservative Party, led by right-wing Prime Minister Boris Johnson, won a landslide victory. His mantra of “get Brexit done” cut through with voters. The Labour Party, led by veteran left-winger Jeremy Corbyn, running on a platform of socio-economic transformation and increased public spending, imploded and recorded its worst national defeat in 86 years.

US commentators surveyed the UK scene and saw comparisons with the American political landscape…

New York magazine, Jonathan Chait: “The British election results, like any election results, are the result of unique circumstances and multiple factors. They are also, however, a test of a widely articulated political theory that has important implications for American politics. That theory holds that Corbyn’s populist left-wing platform is both necessary and sufficient in order to defeat the rising nationalist right. Corbyn’s crushing defeat is a decisive refutation.”

Lessons for the Democrats…

The Washington Post, Dan Balz: “The results in Britain are likely to intensify the debate among Democrats over both the party’s agenda and its path to victory. Can Democrats really win back working-class voters, and, if so, how? Or should they bank on returns from the 2018 midterms and subsequent elections that have shown the power of the suburban vote as a foundation of the party’s emerging coalition?

Reading too much into what happened in Britain is risky. But so, too, is dismissing those results as of no relevance to politics here.”

But were they the wrong lessons?…

FAIR, Alan MacLeod:There are a number of serious flaws with the reasoning, however. Few of these articles note that the UK’s version of Medicare for All, the National Health Service (NHS), is exceptionally popular, and the number one source of national pride for Britons. The NHS is so beloved that more people would countenance privatizing the army before the hospitals.”

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson bore a startling political resemblance to Donald Trump …

The New York Times, Roger Cohen: “That’s the story of Brexit, a national tragedy. That’s the story of Johnson, the man of no convictions. That’s the story of Trump, who makes puppets of people through manipulation of outrage and disregard for truth. That’s the story of our times. Johnson gets and fits those times better than most. He’s a natural.”

But he is also now a figure who commands respect…

CNN: “Boris Johnson’s journey from political novelty act to most powerful British Conservative since Margaret Thatcher is nothing short of astonishing.

As news broke that he’d secured the parliamentary majority needed to pass his Brexit deal, Johnson’s transition from controversial Euroskeptic media personality to serious statesman was complete.”

But the UK’s great gamble on leaving the European Union could seriously backfire…

The Berkshire Eagle, E.J. Dionne: “As for the European Union, the great paradox is that what looks like a Brexit landslide is nothing of the sort. Taken together, the pro-leave parties — the Conservatives and the Brexit Party — received around 46% of the vote.

Labor, the Liberal Democrats, the pro-EU Scottish National Party (which swept Scotland), and the Greens won just over 50 percent.

Johnson outplayed Europe’s fractured supporters ruthlessly and brilliantly. He has yet to persuade his country that the course he is about to embark on is right.”

And Johnson’s legacy threatens to be the breakup of the UK…

Associated Press, Jill Lawless: “Johnson’s commanding election victory this week may let him fulfill his campaign promise to ‘get Brexit done,’ but it could also imperil the future of the United Kingdom of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Scotland and Northern Ireland didn’t vote for Brexit, didn’t embrace [the] Conservative electoral landslide — and now may be drifting permanently away from London.”


Related front page panorama photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from Vera Kratochvil / publicdomainpictures.net.

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