Boris Johnson was offered a substantial advance from a publisher for a book about William Shakespeare, but despite receiving the money, he chose not to write the book. Johnson’s rise and fall are a cross between a low-rent farce and a performance in the theater of the absurd. It lacks the weight of a tragic event in every way.
As Shakespeare’s political career came to an end, the first line of Mark Antony’s elegy for Julius Caesar, which begins with the line “The evil that men do lives after them,” was the only line that came to mind. Because of all of the public services he provided during his lifetime, a particularly heavy coffin will not be required to bury Lyndon B. Johnson. However, evil will impose a significant burden on future generations.
This is the particular aspect of Johnson’s historical position
It’s difficult to think of a figure who was both insignificant and significant, who was insignificant but had such a profound impact on the world. His reign was brief, but the negative consequences will linger for a long time. He was such a bad politician that he couldn’t keep himself in power even with a parliamentary majority, a sycophantic press, and a cabinet specifically chosen for slavish self-abasement. He couldn’t do it because he was an inept politician. Regardless, he has fundamentally altered the political landscapes of the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Europe.
Johnson’s sinister genius lay in his ability to shape Britain in his image
It has become a rogue state that openly violates international law as a result of his lawless behavior. It is less significant in the eyes of the world because of his insignificance. Its reputation for democratic decency has been irreparably harmed by its never-ending lying and blatant self-serving abuse of power. Because of his lack of a sense of humour, the country he claims to love has become increasingly mockable.
This strange story has no appeal for the majority of people in the United Kingdom, Ireland, or the European continent as a whole. Another great English writer, John Donne, once said, “If a clod is washed away by the sea, Europe suffers.” Britain was never a simple clod, and the country’s exit has left Europe significantly weaker. A dense and delicate network of connections and relationships, both with Ireland and with the continent as a whole, has been severely damaged or frayed. Johnson’s Britain has become a source of further disruption and uncertainty at a time when Europe is dealing with two overlapping existential crises. The climate crisis and the invasion of Ukraine are two of these crises.
It’s unfortunate that Johnson regards all of this as unimportant to him
His desire for power was genuine and profound, as demanding as his other appetites, which were more focused on the body. But, in the end, what did he mean when he mentioned power? Throughout the conversation, his perception was that of a juvenile offender. He discussed the pleasure he derived from causing trouble on Desert Island Discs in 2005, which served as the impetus for his dishonestly anti-European journalism. He stated, “”Everything I wrote from Brussels was sort of chucking these rocks over the garden wall, and I listened to this amazing crash from the greenhouse next door,” she said, “and it gave me this rather strange sense of power.”
It’s an odd concept of power, to say the least
The sound of shattered glass and rocks being thrown over the walls of Johnson’s political opponents on the other side of the Irish Sea and the Channel provides the soundtrack to Johnson’s political career. Boris Island, London’s garden bridge, and the magnificent bridge that was to connect Scotland and Northern Ireland were all creations of Johnson’s imagination. These were all fantasies whose grandiosity rendered them childish, and they were all examples of Johnson’s building products. But, at the very least, none of that happened. It was the destructive side, the pleasure in political vandalism, that became real; this is a reality in which Britain appears to be trapped for some time after his departure.
The most regrettable aspect of this is that he purposefully undermined the Good Friday agreement. It is not difficult to imagine Johnson as arrogant enough to believe that the political institutions of both the UK and the EU are strong enough to withstand the cynical abuse that Johnson would heap on them. However, even he must have had a rudimentary understanding that establishing peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland is a complicated and largely unfinished task. He had to have known that stirring up tribal identity politics would have disastrous consequences, or he wouldn’t have come here.
But he still went ahead and did it
He compared the serious issues at the Irish border to those that arise at the border between two different traffic zones in London. He dismissed Northern Ireland as an annoyance, referring to Brexit as the “tail that was wagging the dog.” Depending on his mood, he either encouraged them to continue their delusions or abandoned them. He preyed on the delusions of his Democratic Unionist supporters. He lied on several occasions about the significance of the protocol he negotiated. He purposefully enacted legislation that was intended to make Northern Ireland a perpetual source of conflict with the EU.
Even though Johnson is no longer alive, his legacy lives on in Guy Verhofstadt.
This accomplished two objectives at the same time. It marked the lowest point in decades of relations between the United Kingdom and Ireland. And autocrats all over the world rejoiced at the news. Another of Johnson’s terrible jokes was making the rule of law and treaty observance a punchline.
On July 1st of this year, Johnson stated in a tweet that “We made a promise to the people of Hong Kong 25 years ago. We plan to keep it.” The Chinese embassy in Dublin responded via retweet, saying, “Two years ago, we made a promise to the Northern Ireland Protocol” (sic). We are steadfast in our pursuit of this goal.” The terrible thing is that the Chinese were correct in this regard: Johnson’s actions have allowed them to ignore the commitments they made 25 years ago. This is the correct thing to do, but it is still terrible.
Johnson has elevated Britain to this level on the international stage, making it fair game for tyrants all over the world to taunt. Even though Johnson was doing the right thing by supporting Ukraine, he was also giving Vladimir Putin reason to believe that the West only pretends to believe in the rule of law.
This decline affects more than just the United Kingdom. It is an issue for every democratic country on the planet. Johnson was in charge of transforming one of the world’s most important historic democracies into a state in which his cynicism, recklessness, and dishonorable behavior became official policy. By doing so, he has given every critic of democracy the opportunity to claim that democracy is a phony system whose rules and values are hypocritically fabricated.
It isn’t, and some people will never stop fighting to protect and expand it
The most important issue that Britain must address is whether it can return to that side of the conflict as an honorable, law-abiding, and serious presence in international affairs. It’s difficult to imagine a reaction from within the ranks of those who let Johnson make such a mockery of their own country. They are the ones who must provide answers to these questions. Johnson’s damage cannot be undone quickly, nor can it be undone by those who found it intolerable only when it threatened their immediate interests. Johnson’s actions cannot be reversed.