Coining a new descriptor in a bumbling speech heralding the most far-right Cabinet in decades, Boris Johnson declared the UK to be the ‘Awesome Foursome’.
Like Jack Kirby’s Fantastic Four, Kung Fu Panda’s Furious Five and Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven — the Awesome Foursome all have unique powers. It’s tempting to see Northern Ireland as the Human Torch, England as Mr Fantastic, Scotland as the Thing, and Wales as the Invisible Girl.
Our power as The Thing is apparently is to tolerate the imposition of some of the most unhinged individuals into the upper echelons of power and to have our economy threatened by the elevation of a power-hungry buffoon high on his own triumphalism and surrounding himself with a mixture of discredited opportunists (under legal investigation), far-right ideologues and extremists.
Any corporate re-branding needs a new slogan — and the ‘Awesome Foursome’ replaces: ‘the Precious Union’; the ‘Partnership of Equals’; the the ‘Family of Nations’ as former brand slogans.
As a slogan it has its ups and downs. It’s not quite as Tolkienesque as ‘the Precious Union’ with its immediate conjuring of Gollum. It’s not quite as sickly as ‘Family of Nations’ with its immediate association with Philip Larkin’s famous line and it’s not quite as other-wordly and blatantly untrue as the ‘Partnership of Equals’ (sub-heading ‘We’ll elect your government for you’).
“Awesome Foursome” fits Boris Johnson’s all-action street-talk: “I say to all the doubters: Dude , we are going to energise the country, we are going to get done”. Everyone knows this is not true but we’re all a bit tired of that whole “truth” thang, right?
But if the new Etonian PM talks like a character from an Ashton Kutcher stoner movie, we shouldn’t let the blether mask the ideological shift at play.
Yesterday was a blood bath of epic proportions, and the media class nodding blithely and treating this as a wholly reasonable process is hilarious. We now have a former Sky CEO as Business Adviser, someone found in contempt of Parliament as Policy Adviser, a devotee of Ayn Rand as Chancellor, Priti Patel — who talked of starving the Irish — now Home Secretary, and Dominic Raab — who had no idea Dover was a port now Foreign Secretary. Finally, of course we have Alister Jack, a non-entity risen from complete obscurity to replace the most discredited and useless Secretary of State for Scotland in a hundred years.
This is not normal.
Any last vestige of old-school Toryism has been abandoned and replaced with hard-core Britannia Unleashed ideologues. As Peter Jukes lays out, the emergence of this group is not some kind of accident, but part of a process and a strategy that has its roots in the Young Britons Foundation (YBF) (‘ The Transatlantic Triumph of Trumpism: Boris Johnson — A Plan Years in the Making’).
As most of the media hide in tradition and process, our friends oversees aren’t so coy. Writing in the New York Times, James Butler writes: “Boris Johnson, to whom lying comes as easily as breathing, is on the verge of becoming prime minister. He faces the most complex and intractable political crisis to affect Britain since 1945.”
“That should be concerning enough. But given Britain’s political system — which relies for its maintenance on the character and disposition of the prime minister — it carries even graver import. Mr. Johnson, whose laziness is proverbial and opportunism legendary, is a man well-practiced in deceit, a pander willing to tickle the prejudices of his audience for easy gain. His personal life is incontinent, his public record inconsequential.”
“The state of the United Kingdom, a constitutional compact founded in 1922 and stretching back, in one form or another, for centuries, is severely strained. Though Brexit is primarily driven by English passions, two of the four territories in the Union — Northern Ireland and Scotland — voted to remain. Both present immediate problems for Mr. Johnson — and for the future of Britain. In Scotland, rancor at the sense that the country’s vote counted for little and subsequent repeated bouts of parliamentary chaos have led to renewed calls for a second independence ballot. Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister, insists Scotland will hold one if Brexit takes place. One of the most adroit politicians in Britain, Ms. Sturgeon knows that despite widespread misgivings about Brexit, the majority needed for independence does not currently exist. But recent polling suggests a Johnson government might tilt the scales in her favor. An independent Scotland may be conjured out of the chicanery of Mr. Johnson’s rule.”
Butler concludes: “…his premiership could bring about the end of Britain itself.”
The potent concoction of contempt, ignorance and disconnect that oozes from this Cabinet makes this prediction highly probable.
Boris’s entire plan is predicated on an interaction with the rest of Europe that’s a fantasy. As Fintan O’Toole said yesterday: “This strategy is based on an idea somehow that Ireland and the European Union is going to be scared by big, bad Boris.”
O’Toole asks: “At what point do you believe we mean what we say? How often do we have to say the Withdrawal Agreement is not going to be re-opened?”
The gulf between the Johnsonian rhetoric and the constitutional and political crisis Brexit has exacerbated is wider than even the super-stretchy Mr Fantastic can join.
It looks more and more likely that Britain will be broken by the hubris of English nationalism and the contempt of British elitism, not the cunning or force of Scottish or Irish nationalism.
Theresa May told us: “Now is not the time”. Johnson’s premiership means: “It’s clobbering time.”