Trump and Johnson: our unfortunate special relationship

Last Wednesday, 28th October, the Guardian ran one of its rare single topic double column Leaders devoted to an excoriating denunciation of Donald Trump and his Presidency. Here’s a selection of the words and phrases used:

leader least equipped; divided country; not…a fit and proper person; brazen disregard for legal norms; propagated lies and ignorance; cruel and mean; agenda of corporate deregulation; tax giveaways for the rich; narcissist; devastating lack of empathy; growing gap between the level of competence required… and… ability; cronies whose mob-like fealty to their boss; post shame politician; one rule for wealthy elites and another for the ordinary voter

and that’s just from the first third.

Thankfully by next Wednesday we can reasonably hope that that nightmare will soon be over.

But, alarmingly, every single one of those words applies equally to Prime Minister Johnson and the clique who from the core of his government. And even if Johnson himself is soon dumped three is every reason to expect we shall have to endure government by the band of cronies similarly tarred with these highly illiberal policies for the next four years.

I have been campaigning for liberalism for sixty years now and never expected to see these two countries, both moderately successful in creating functioning liberal democracies and instrumental in trying to spread liberal values and practices to the rest of the world, abandoning the basic practices of fair government for the people.

In “How to be a Liberal”, Ian Dunt describes towards the end of Chapter Four shared post-war aspirations and achievements through the creation of international institutions particularly through the pooling of national sovereignty. Why then have these visions of a better, fairer and more orderly world been abandoned? Dunt deals with this in his final chapter. We liberals have become complacent.

“For many years now,”, he writes (p442), “liberals have failed to argue for our values. We have apologised for them, or seemed embarrassed by them, or not even mentioned them at all.”

Does that apply to the “Focus” led campaigns on your patch?

Dent goes on to argue that the case for immigration is made in the corridors of Whitehall, well away from the public eye, but:

…it was not made in trade union meetings, town halls or news programmes. The defence of human rights was made in the courtroom but not by the water cooler. The argument for countries pooling their sovereignty echoed along the corridors of the EU and the WTO, but it was not made on the street or in the pub.

Liberal Democrats may be bumping along in single figures in the polls but we have never been more necessary. Labour alone will not restore liberal values: consider their record on human rights, migration, crime and punishment, and their lukewarm attitude to the EU.

The torch for liberal democracy is solely in our hands. We must not timidly hide it amid a flurry of pavement politics, but wave it bravely.

* Peter Wrigley is a former candidate in both Westminster and European elections and is currently president of Batley and Spen liberal Democrats

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Having seen Labour at close quarters in their traditional northern power bases over the decades, Peter is well placed to insist “Labour alone will not restore liberal values.” Indeed! The Labour “New Leadership” (odd slogan for a political party) will participate in the traditional battle between an authoritarian left and an authoritarian right. Liberal Democrats have their internal arguments but at least the values make some visible difference to how we deal with each other.

  • The Guardian just hates right wing presidents and prime ministers, whereas the Liberal left can do little wrong in their eyes.. Unfortunately, life is not that simple. Millions of decent Americans think Trump is a great president and millions think he’s the worse. The truth is most likely somewhere in the middle, but one thing is certain the truth won’t be found in papers like the Guardian. I know Biden is well ahead in the polls, but the enthusiasm for Tump seems a far greater than it is for Biden. In 2016 I backed Trump at odds between 3/1 and 8/1, this year I haven’t been able to get 2/1. Tuesday could surprise a lot of people.

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