New British PM Appoints Brexit Proponent Boris Johnson to Foreign Secretary
Bill Black says Boris Johnson’s demonization of the EU and virtually all of its leaders in his role as an alleged journalist makes him the worst conceivable person to put in a top diplomatic post
SHARMINI PERIES, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore.
The new prime minister, Theresa May, of the UK has made Boris Johnson, the former London mayor who led the Brexit campaign, foreign secretary in her new government. To discuss this I’m being joined by Bill Black. Bill is an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri Kansas City. He’s a white-collar criminologist and former financial regulator, and the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One. Thanks for joining us, Bill.
BILL BLACK: Thank you.
PERIES: So, Bill, who is Boris Johnson?
BLACK: Well, Boris Johnson is a really interesting person. He was sort of a gonzo journalist who was noted for making things up. I mean, he got caught time after time lying. But it didn’t hurt him all that much. He’s very witty. He’s erudite. He likes to break into Latin and Greek and deliver insult after insult. As you said, he led Brexit. Brexit won in a tremendous upset. The initial speculation was that he would become head of the Conservatives, called the Tories in the United Kingdom, because David Cameron was clearly going to have to step down. Cameron did.
But it turned out that most Tories hate Boris Johnson. In fact, most people who know him well think him very clever, funny, but wouldn’t trust him with much anything. And so he’s also known for being incredibly non-diplomatic. I other words, he loves to insult people. He’s the kind of person that was playing with a bunch of kids in India, rugby, right. He’s a fairly large person. These were eight-year-old types. And he did a full body slam of a little kid in rugby, in all of this.
So he is, in many ways, the worst conceivable person to put in a top diplomatic post. And in one of her very first important actions, Prime Minister May has decided to “unify the party” by taking this incredibly anti-, undiplomatic type, and make him the United Kingdom’s representative to the world.
PERIES: Now, what role will he have in negotiating the Brexit itself? Now, it’s interesting that Theresa May herself was actually, her position earlier on, was to stay in the European Union. But is she trying to balance this out with Johnson to ensure that what she recently said, Brexit means Brexit, and she wanted to assure the public that this will be carried out with this appointment?
BLACK: So what she principally wants to do is keep the Tories together. And the Tories are bitterly split on Brexit. But if they turned their back on the vote it was clear that there would be a massive exit of the party. It would literally split, and UKIP, the far-right, anti-immigrant party, would have had dramatic gains.
And all of this is about the internal politics within the Tory party, because no one in their right mind would put Boris Johnson to his position on the basis of merits, right. It’s just a terrible choice.
PERIES: Speaking of merits, Bill, does he have any credentials when it comes to foreign affairs?
BLACK: Yes, he’s had a number of foreign affairs and produced some children outside of wedlock. But no, he has had interactions with a number of people internationally. And they have been nasty insults. Including, by the way, a series of U.S. politicians, as well. So Boris–who, by the way, was American as well as–he had dual citizenship, and may still have dual citizenship, though he’s promised to renounce his U.S. citizenship, has often stuck the knife into the United States, which of course, particularly if you’re exiting the EU, you don’t have all that many friends left.
So probably not the best move diplomatically. But again, none of that has anything to do with what’s really going on. It’s all internal Tory politics that explains these things. And we’ll see whether anybody can work with Boris, because typically they haven’t been able to. They may well create a czar–in fact, May has talked about creating a czar to handle the Brexit negotiations. But you would expect at the barest minimum that their equivalent of the Secretary of State will have significant input into that decision. And Boris Johnson, in terms of the EU has, is hated with a purple passion. Because most of the insults haven’t been going to American politicians, and most of Boris’s insults go to, of course, UK politicians, but also the EU.
He demonized the EU and virtually all of its leaders in his role as an alleged journalist. As I said, sometimes just making up outright lies about what they had done. So this will not be well-received in the EU. And there’s a real question whether he has the discipline to do nitty gritty negotiations for two years.
PERIES: I remember after the mayoral elections in London, and when Boris had lost, his own daughter had tweeted that I don’t understand this man. I don’t know him. He’s not my father.
BLACK: Well, pretty much his whole family came out against him on Brexit. And very openly. So again, he’s not necessarily treated his wife terribly well, as well. So sometimes the children don’t appreciate that a whole lot.
PERIES: All right, Bill. Thank you so much for joining us, and for those who don’t know, that was the Black comedy hour. Thanks.
BLACK: Thank you.
PERIES: Comedy five minutes, I should say. Thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.
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