One of the more surprising things about Wednesday’s first storming of the Capitol in Washington since August 14th1814 was how surprised and shocked the majority of the world’s politicians and media commentators purported to be. Trump had pre-emptively started to call the validity of the election, particularly of all postal votes, into question long before Election Day on November 3rd. For the previous five years, Trump’s Twitter followers, now numbering over 88million, had been encouraged to live in an alternate reality, regaled with a narrative that cast him in the role of the Swamp-Draining Super-hero who was on their side in the battle against the swamp-dwellers. With that narrative as the base, it was easy for him to build the grand delusion that the election had been fraudulently stolen from him and them; their votes had counted for nothing. Rather than countering the myth-making, every single one of the 62 failed lawsuits contesting the outcome of the election merely served as further proof to his followers that there was a grand conspiracy at play and that their votes had been stolen. The indistinguishably socialist/communist/Marxist swamp dwellers were in the process of illegitimately seizing power.
So when, after an inflammatory speech outside the White House, Trump said ‘After this, we’re going to walk down, and I’ll be there with you. We are going to be walk down to the Capitol…’ and continued with ‘… you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong’, his followers took him at his word and invaded and trashed the Capitol headquarters of the swamp-dwellers, at the cost of five lives. Trump had omitted to mention that, while he would be with them in spirit, he sure as hell wasn’t going to be with them in person: he had retreated to the safety of the White House. It is clear from interviews with their leaders in the Capitol that the motley gang of what Biden rightly called insurrectionists genuinely believed that in invading the Capitol they were reclaiming their democracy. The next day, Trump, having earlier tweeted to the rioters in telling them to go home that ‘We love you. You’re very special’, clearly awoke belatedly to the realisation that his immediate interests lay in disowning any responsibility for inciting the insurrection. So he promptly betrayed his followers by executing a U-turn worthy of Boris Johnson and declared: ‘Like all Americans I am outraged by the violence, lawlessness and mayhem.…To those who broke the law, you will pay.’
The comparison with Johnson, whom Trump once approvingly labeled ‘Britain Trump’, is not coincidental. When asked, Johnson condemned the invasion of the Capitol and Trump’s role in inciting it: “I unreservedly condemn encouraging people to behave in the disgraceful way that they did in the Capitol.” But, inadequate as ‘disgraceful’ was as a label for what went on, Johnson’s condemnation came across as the equivalent of Trump’s own volte-face from incitement to insurrection to ‘outrage’ at the insurrection he had incited. Johnson was Trump’s man and vice versa. As Foreign Secretary in 2017 Johnson is on record as saying that Trump was doing ‘fantastic stuff’ and ‘making America great again’; in 2018 Johnson bizarrely made the case for Trump to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Needless to say Trump agreed with him: “I’m going to get a Nobel Prize for a lot of things — if they gave it out fairly, which they don’t.” The admiration was mutual. Prior to Johnson’s election as Prime Minister by the Conservative Party, Trump told The Sun: “I actually have studied it very hard. I know the different players. But I think Boris would do a very good job. I think he would be excellent. I like him. I have always liked him.”
The mutual admiration is not a case of opposites attracting. Both men appear to be entirely lacking in either principles or scruples when it comes to getting what they want. Both men have been caught out lying countless times, are inveterate womanisers and seem compelled to handicap their effectiveness in government by surrounding themselves with sycophants of limited or no competence. Both men belong to a minority social elite, have a history of racist utterances, purport to be men of the people, and, somewhat surprisingly, seem to manage to convince a significant proportion of ‘the people’ that are just that. Both men foster grand delusions among their voters in order to achieve their political ambitions: Trump’s most recent one being the stealing of the election; Johnson’s being the delusion that Brexit can be of benefit to the UK. Johnson’s distancing of himself from Trump at this juncture will, as always, be a matter of expediency and opportunism, not principle: he needs now to try to cosy-up to Biden. The only question for me is whether in similar circumstances our wholly unprincipled Prime Minister would be prepared to incite an invasion of Parliament if he saw it as being in his interests to do so. He was very happy to prorogue Parliament illegally. He was entirely comfortable with introducing legislation in Parliament to renege on an international treaty he had himself signed less than a year previously. I’ll leave it to you to consider the extent to which scruples about democracy would get in the way of Johnson’s ever inciting his followers to violence if he saw it as being in his interests to do so.