The foreign secretary’s recent remarks have got him into a spot of bother.
He’s got funny hair, talks in a way alien to many and has big political ambitions. Such a statement could be made about either US President Donald Trump or British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. But the similarities do not stop there. Both were born in New York and each one of them have five children. They are also both clearly establishment figures, who have ridden waves of anti-establishment sentiment to get to the positions they now hold.
These coincidences are cherry-picking of course. Both individuals are very different, and have had greatly different careers, only recently converging in the political spheres, but is there an argument to be made that Boris Johnson is trying to Trump up British politics?
One notable feature of Trump’s ascent to the American presidency – and a key aspect of his time in office – is that he said outrageous things and got away with it. He has broken the political game by creating a new paradigm with very few rules. On one level, Boris Johnson has a similar trait. He has long been able to get away with things other politicians would not have. In 2012, the then Mayor of London found himself stuck on a zip wire. For many politicians, such an outcome would have been a disaster, but Johnson managed to turn it into a win.
But this ability to play by different rules has a darker side. More recently, Johnson has arguably been channelling Trump-lite. At the end of September, the Guardian reported that the foreign secretary read out a “colonial-era” poem in a temple in Yangon, Myanmar. The offensive action led to a backlash online and became a big story in the media.
More recently, the foreign secretary said that the Libyan city of Sirte could be transformed into a “new Dubai”, saying that “all they have to do is clear the dead bodies away,” as reported by the BBC.
Like Trump’s controversial comments, Johnson’s recent remarks have led to backlash, and have turned into main stories in the media. Conservatives who already like him and are keen for him to take over as prime minister are probably not going be put off by his remarks. If anything, his comments are a boost to the anti-PC brigade, and are getting him a lot of free coverage.
From this, two questions remain. Is Boris really trying to Trump is way to the top? And secondly, could it work?