Johnson in Downing Street: curse or blessing?

Commentators are very divided when it comes to the new British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. For some he's a notorious liar with nothing but his own interests in mind; others say his populist approach is misunderstood, and that any comparison with Trump's politics is nonsense.

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Lrt (LT) /

An egocentric liar

For the British prime minister his own interests come first, columnist Ramūnas Bogdanas laments on the website of the public broadcaster LRT:

“During his five years as Brussels correspondent for The Daily Telegraph he drummed all kinds of nonsense about the EU into the heads of British Conservatives, fuelling Euroscepticism in the process. ... He's already told so many lies that his promise to consummate Brexit by 31 October means nothing. ... Already it's clear that the narcissistic, egocentric Johnson will adjust his behaviour as necessary to remain prime minister for as long as he can. If he believes new elections will achieve that goal, he'll call them. If a new referendum can help him along, he'll do his best to prove that that's just what the country needs.”

Portal Plus (SI) /

A man who strikes the right tone

Slovenia-based journalist Keith Miles explains in Portal Plus why Johnson is so popular:

“He has a way of explaining his ideas that can almost be compared to using parables. He picked up this style in his university days while studying Greek dialectics. It's often misunderstood and described as fake news. But for normal citizens who've had enough of political correctness it's understandable. In these times marked by a deep rift between the so-called elites and the normal citizens, Johnson owes much of his charisma to his ability to engage with the public. He talks to people without underestimating them. He listens to them, and his patriotism chimes with their own.”

Expresso (PT) /

The difference between Johnson and Trump

Boris Johnson is often labelled a nationalist and compared with Donald Trump. Political-scientist João Marques de Almeida disagrees in Expresso:

“Boris Johnson is much more a classic liberal than a nationalist. Trump is a chauvinist, Boris a cosmopolitan. Trump is very much against migration, Boris is for it. ... Trump denies climate change and the importance of environmental policy. Boris does not. Trump is a self-made man with serious education deficits, Boris went to the best British schools and graduated from Oxford. And above all, Boris was never accused of gross violations of justice, threatening the rule of law or corruption.”

The Independent (GB) /

Primal scream of despair

Anyone who wants to understand Boris Johnson should read his recent column for The Daily Telegraph, argues The Independent, and quotes it:

“'If we can put a man on the moon we can solve the Northern Irish border problem.' The only reaction that anyone with more than two brain cells can possibly have to such mendacious garbage is a kind of primal scream of despair. The people who sent man to the moon had a plan, and decades of hard work. They did not get there simply through the power of lies. The Irish border problem was already solved, through the stunning and humbling political achievement of the Good Friday Agreement. Brexit is not struggling for a way to solve the problem. It is the problem.”

Público (PT) /

Without the slightest compunction

Johnson is an unscrupulous liar who will walk over dead bodies to get into power, Público stresses:

“If it's necessary Boris Johnson will even dangle from a zip wire with British flags coming out of his ears, just to get attention. ... If it's necessary to lie, to deceive, to cheat, to defend decisions he knows are damaging for the country but good for his rise to power, Boris Johnson will do it - and he already has - without even the slightest compunction.”

Vedomosti (RU) /

A tough nut for Moscow

Vedemosti, by contrast, sees Johnson's election as a positive development:

“He has plenty of political experience - London mayor and then minister - and he hasn't lost his freshness, quick-wittedness, excellent sense of humour, or tendency to take paradoxical steps on the way. ... He won't be an easy partner for Europe or the US, but for Russia he'll be twice and three times as unpleasant: Johnson was the fiercest critic of the Salisbury poisoning. And after serving as foreign secretary he said that all prime ministers and foreign secretaries of the last decade had always made a point of wanting to normalise and relaunch relations with Russia - but for him, this was certainly not a priority.”

Die Welt (DE) /

Johnson, the wonderful

In the daily Die Welt, editor-in-chief Ulf Poschardt defends Johnson against the accusation that he is an anti-liberal reactionary:

“Johnson is a citizen of the world, born in New York, with German and Turkish roots, a child of both pop and European high culture. He loves bicycles and as mayor of London built cycle lanes, he wrote columns about cars and made jokes on the cult TV show 'Top Gear'. He desires women and writes soft porn novels. He allows Donald Trump to applaud him and jokes around with the left-wing environmental editor of the 'Guardian'. ... The city [London] became more colourful, more cheeky and more self-confident under him. Now he just has to do the same thing for the United Kingdom. We Europeans should wish him luck and reach out to him. Johnson is - also! - wonderful.”

Novoye Vremya (UA) /

No chance of a Brexit compromise

Future Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will not be moving closer to each other on Brexit, predicts journalist Ivan Jakovyna in Novoye Vremya:

“Ursula von der Leyen has already made clear that she won't accept any new demands for changes to the Brexit deal. It will be interesting for us all to see which of the two wins. Will extrovert Boris be able to break down the wall of ice that surrounds the German countess, or will the great-grandson of vizier Osman Ali freeze in her embrace? I'm sure that one day someone will make a film about this - a film with a tragic ending. For I see no chance of a compromise between Brussels and London on Brexit.”

Dagens Nyheter (SE) /

God help us!

For Dagens Nyheter, Johnson's rise is symptomatic:

“As a special edition of The Economist recently put it, once responsible, state-supporting centre-right parties are faring badly in many places in the Western world. ... Fearful of populist, reactionary and irrational forces, both the US Republicans and the British Conservatives have allowed themselves to be taken over by two political opportunists who always act in their own interests first. By handing the top job to Johnson, the Tories are making the future more uncertain - not only for their party and for their country, but in the worst-case scenario for the whole world. ... If tensions in the Strait of Hormuz escalate further, we will have to put our faith in Donald Trump and Boris Johnson. God save the Queen? That's not enough. God help us all!”

The Irish Times (IE) /

Silver linings on Brexit

With an eye to Boris taking the helm The Irish Times sees two silver linings:

“First, Johnson's limitations could, counter-intuitively, make it easier to strike a workable deal that would avoid the disaster of a no-deal Brexit. It's not merely that his famous ill-preparedness, weakness on detail and lack of focus will make him a poor negotiator, though that is true. More importantly, this is a man of few discernible fixed views, little interest in consistency, and with an unending capacity for self-contradiction. ... Second, Johnson's mandate - and his popularity within his party - give him the freedom to betray the hard Brexiteers and know that he will survive.”