Boris Johnson Toadies Up to Biden at the G7

Photograph Source: 首相官邸ホームページ – CC BY 2.0

Boris “BoJo” Johnson hosted the G7 summit in Cornwall last weekend. At the top of the summit’s grandiose agenda was the response to the global coronavirus pandemic and climate change. The pro forma pledges were made, but they’ll be broken at the first opportunity since no funding guarantees accompanied these pledges.

BoJo made the 210-mile journey from London to Cornwall by private plane, for which he was widely criticized on social media. Many thought it was a bit rich of him to travel by plane to a conference highlighting action on climate change (there are regular train services between London and the location of the summit).

BoJo has spent his life ignoring any measures or rules that could apply to him; these are for the little people, not His Eminence. So, it was the private plane and not a train. Trains are for plebs and tree huggers like Greta Thunberg and her ilk.

G7 participants witnessed a fly-past provided by the Red Arrows aerobatics team, which of course burnt fuel and polluted the atmosphere.

For part of his trip to Cornwall, BoJo sported a bomber jacket with the words “Prime Minister” stitched on one side, and Richard Branson’s Virgin logo featuring on the other.

The outcome was much ensuing hilarity on social media, with 2 foci: BoJo has been a lothario nearly all his life, and there were comments about the incongruity of a sexually voracious man in his 50s (with an unknown number of offspring) wearing a jacket with “Virgin” written on it; also, the tax-dodger Richard Branson has been a huge beneficiary of Tory outsourcing in the NHS, and some wondered whether BoJo’s wearing Branson’s logo was just a plain and simple acknowledgement that he and his party had long been bought by the Tory-supporting and tax-dodging billionaire.

BoJo, who is acknowledged by his supporters to be unable to come to grips with a one-page briefing note, and who much prefers his almost daily photo-ops to everything else, would doubtless use the G7 summit for photo-ops directing attention away from his disastrous “oven-ready” Brexit plan, as well as his Potemkin-village approach to dealing with climate change.

As the principals arrived for the summit, the normally prosaic New York Times gave BoJo a verbal horsewhipping.

The Times described BoJo as “freewheeling, clownish, slapdash, venal, incompetent, the greased piglet”, with a persona that was “a dizzying blend of deception, bravado and self-deprecation”, who “seems only ever to fail upward, blundering from one success to the next”, a man with an “inaptitude for office”, prospering on “dodgy dealings, sleaze and Britain’s chumocracy”.

Steady on, NYT— you never resorted to this level of vituperation even when you were being really nasty about Fidel Castro!

The 5’8” BoJo did not seem at ease when photographed next to the 6-foot Biden, and clearly wanted to erase signs of his previous hero-worship of Donald Trump.

BoJo therefore gave Biden a gushingly insincere welcome to the summit and the UK.

Biden may be displaying signs of senility, but he fell for none of BoJo’s patently insincere blandishments. “You are a breath of fresh air”, oozed Trump’s erstwhile Brit acolyte. There are no reports that Biden responded in kind.

Angela Merkel is about to retire as German Chancellor, and the recently-slapped (as he took a walkabout in France) Emmanuel Macron faces a difficult re-election next year, but Biden’s rapport with them was obvious. Not so with BoJo— Biden made it clear that BoJo merited the pleasantries befitting a summit host, but that was all.

BoJo’s attempts to curry favour with Biden got nowhere because of a bust-up between him and the EU over the Brexit deal’s Northern Ireland protocol.

BoJo himself had signed-off on a Brexit deal that required a “seamless” border to exist between the EU-member Republic of Ireland (RI) and the UK-member Northern Ireland (NI). This seamless border would effectively grant NI the same position in trade possessed by the EU-member RI, a status that would not of course be granted to the rest of the UK. By insisting that “the UK was a single country”, and that there could be no frictionless RI-NI border as a consequence, BoJo was failing to honour a legally-binding deal he himself had negotiated.

Biden had made his position clear from the outset on the seamless border, which is a central plank in the Good Friday Irish Peace Agreement signed in 1997. In order to buttress the Good Friday Agreement, Biden quickly agreed with the EU on the inviolability of the NI Protocol.

BoJo, termed “Jilted Johnson” in the UK’s mainstream media, was now backed into a corner.

If BoJo was trying to manage impressions, his chief Brexit negotiator, the deeply polemical Lord David Frost, played his part by showing up at the summit wearing Union Jack socks.

Given that BoJo was about to undermine trust in his government and damage its international reputation by abandoning a treaty bearing his signature, PR experts thought the Union Jack socks, which might have played well with a domestic audience, were perhaps not the best visual gesture for an international summit of this kind.

Possibly emboldened by Biden’s unbending position on the Good Friday Agreement, the EU has threatened punitive tariff measures, and legal action, if the UK breached the NI Protocol.

BoJo’s supposed aim at this summit was to convey his florid vision of a “global Britain”, freed finally from the EU’s constraining shackles. But what transpired in Cornwall only underlined his previous history– BoJo is deeply distrusted by nearly everyone, including members of his own party and family, and what he did at the G7 summit did nothing to overturn this distrust. BoJo always wanted to have enough wriggle room to interpret the Protocol whichever way he desires, but it is now obvious that such trickery is getting him nowhere.

Everything in BoJo’s life is strictly a la carte. Everything is pick and choose according to his self-serving whims and fancies. Personal relationships, friendships, political alliances, business dealings, running the government, and so forth, all these are governed by such a la carte principles.

The G7 attendees who flew back to their respective countries would have been off their collective rockers if they thought otherwise about their chronically mendacious summit host.

However, the somewhat puzzling question is why BoJo’s own electorate has not cottoned on to this?

Kenneth Surin teaches at Duke University, North Carolina.  He lives in Blacksburg, Virginia.