The evening began disastrously not only because Boris Johnson won by a landslide but because our host, Lord Meghnad Desai, could not cook us a meal, having hurt his right hand (it is in plaster); our collective viewing of the election results was thrown into further disarray because his TV burnt out.
Inexhaustibly stocked row of three refrigerators came in handy: smoked salmon, Italian bread and pizzas. At 10 pm he switched on his IPad. Exit polls had given Boris the biggest victory since Margaret Thatcher in 1987.
A member of the Labour party for 49 years, one would have expected him to become quiet and reflective. Instead he broke into song, wriggling what in leaner bodies would be the waist. We asked for a mini cab. The driver turned out to be a big, burly, black young man with a beard which I find disagreeable when it comes without a moustache.
He was from Conakry, Guinea, the peaceful West Asian country that I have travelled through in the past to reach Sierra Leone. He opened up because of my name. “We have lived peacefully here,” he said, taking one hand off the steering wheel. “Now we shall live timidly.”
London remains the cosmopolitan hub, where Boris has not made much of an impression. Scottish nationalism always had a mellowness of single malt, lilt of the bagpipes and the quaintness of kilts. This nationalism is not claustrophobic because it also reaches out to the EU. In Northern Ireland, Republicanism has gained — so Dublin becomes closer, not farther from Belfast.
The very first to greet Johnson has been Donald Trump, his business cohorts smacking their lips at the prospect of a burgeoning Anglo Saxon club, particularly now that France’s Emmanuel Macron is thumbing his nose at Trump’s America. And Macron is not alone.
The scale of Boris Johnson’s victory boosts what I call Bannonism sky high. Let me explain. George Soros and Steve Bannon, who is a friend of Trump and the KKK, have been shuttling around Europe trying to divert popular anger away from socialism which contemporary capitalism paints in lurid colours. It is McCarthyism to its tips.
While Soros, a liberal capitalist, seeks an integrated Europe to thwart “leftism”, Steve Bannon, Trump’s conscience keeper, is keen for Italy’s Matteo Salvini, France’s Marine Le Penn, Spain’s Santiago Abascal and Britain’s Nigel Farage to clasp hands and shift Europe so far right as to be teetering on Fascism. This school received a boost on Thursday night.
It would be irresponsible to describe Johnson as closet fascist but his friend Farage is. If one surveys the rise of anti migrant, anti semitic parties from Victor Orban of Hungary to leaders in Austria, Germany, Poland — it is a depressing list.
In the presence of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Benjamin Netanyahu and others, the Israeli Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz accused the Polish leadership of antisemitism in almost abusive language: “Poles suckle anti-Semitism from their mother’s milk.” This, from a public platform in Warsaw.
The Warsaw incident came to mind as soon as I saw Tory leader Michael Gove appear behind the microphones at the Tory headquarters to prime up the mood before Boris Johnson made his first appearance after the historic victory. It was the sort of time in the morning when people want bed tea.
Suddenly, a stern looking Gove is brought slowly into focus. And, lo and behold, the only community he mentions are Jews. “Through this campaign, our Jewish citizens have been living in fear.” Then a Churchillian pause: “No longer will Jews live in fear,” he thundered. Why this outburst?
There is a background to this inexplicable intervention. Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, former Co-Chair of the Conservative Party has been fairly regular in complaining that “anti Muslim” prejudice had “poisoned” the party. The principal “culprits” in her line of fire were Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Zac Goldsmith.
Gove’s generosity of expression in favour of Jews, at the moment of Tory triumph, is designed to send a message to the Warsis in the party: like it or lump it. How can the Tories have forgotten Gove’s brazenly anti Muslim book Celsius 7/7 published in 2006?
Corbyn was battered and bruised not only through this campaign but over the years as a “danger to Britain”, “traitor” a friend of Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro and other “devilish” characters. By sheer incantation, some of it sank in. Of course, Johnson’s message was simpler: “Get Brexit done.”
What the mainstream media will keep mum about, alternatives like London Economic, a digital newspaper, publishes and with increasing credibility. The news portal exposed that one of Britain’s leading barristers, Jolyon Maughan QC, director of Good Law Project, alleged that the BBC indulged in showing “coded negative imagery” of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn since his election in 2015.
It is universally proclaimed that Johnson, lies, fiddles expense accounts, is seen at European airports in a daze after late night parties but he remains the darling of the electorate, as result 2019 has shown.
Another London Economic analysis shows that people generally have another perspective when presented with policy options but the very same people vote in a completely different direction. Why? Because the media is bombarding the voter with high level, right wing propaganda.
Lord Rothermere, a billionaire living in France, owns the Mail and the Metro. Rupert Murdoch, billionaire US citizen own the Sun, Fox News, B Sky B, News corp. Alexander Evgeny, ex KGB Russian billionaire, owns the Independent, Evening Standard.
Richard Desmond, a billionaire, did own the Daily Star and if it has passed onto someone else, it certainly is not to the socialist international. In brief, 80 per cent of media is owned by billionaires. For those of us grieving in India on this score, is there not a pattern? As the late Bobby Talyarkhan used to sign off his column: “Do you get me, Steve?” (Agency)