Yesterday, I wrote that some Republicans are playing dumb because it gives them a perceived political advantage -- until it doesn't. Britain has its own version of feckless Republicans. Currently, there are not enough truck drivers -- many of whom come from the continent -- to drive the trucks which supply British filling stations. Rafael Behr writes:
The prime minister’s education, upbringing and professional experience afforded him lavish exposure to European cultures and global institutions. He can speak French properly if he needs to. He is a true cosmopolitan in every respect apart from the political posture he found expedient to adopt in pursuit of power. One of the skills he brought to the Brexit project was a truly globalised perspective, which he deployed to draw the most cartoonish fantasies about Britain’s place in the world.
That combination of pompous internationalism and wilful parochialism is now official government doctrine. It has been expressed in various different voices at the Tory conference in Manchester. Liz Truss, newly promoted to foreign secretary, made a speech promising to build “a network of economic, diplomatic and security partnerships” with a list of allies that included Gulf autocracies but not the EU.
The following morning, David Frost, Brexit minister, described EU membership as a “long bad dream.” Significantly, Frost includes the treaty he negotiated with Brussels as part of the nightmare, which is why he does not feel bound to honour its terms. The man whose job should be restoring functional diplomacy across the Channel is instead trumpeting the “British Renaissance” that will be stimulated by severance of continental ties.
There is a price to be paid when leaders pay allegiance to ignorance. And that price is paid when things go wrong -- as they are now doing:
Perhaps Johnson has no choice but to present economic difficulties as temporary turbulence in the transition to a brighter future. He appears still to enjoy considerable benefit of the doubt in public opinion, or at least the chunk of it that wanted Brexit and is feeling no great pang of buyer’s remorse, nor much magnetic pull to Labour. In such conditions, riding out the storm with the usual tricks of bravado and bonhomie might be as good a plan as any. It depends how long the storm lasts, and what kind of stomach the prime minister has for choppy water. He is more showman than helmsman and the dying of applause will soon make him queasy.
As the weather turns increasingly grim, it will be interesting to see how long Bojo remains on the bridge.