Wednesday 16 February 2022

Boris 'Napoleon' Johnson faces his Waterloo!

 Me? I love a bit of history. Used to be obsessed with Sci Fi, but once I realised that 99% of the stories are simply a rehash of High Noon, with gadgets and different settings, I tired of the genre and got into history. It can inform all manner of decisions, however it is worth recalling what George Bernard Shaw once said, quoting Karl Marx

"History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce. If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must Man be of learning from experience."

I was reminded of this when I received a submission for a guest blog from a friend. I can't recall (it may have happened a couple of times, but I can't remember) ever rejecting a guest blog on the grounds that I just thought it was plain wrong, but  I simply couldn't publish the one I was sent. As my friend had put a lot of effort into it, I felt I had to give a proper response and not simply bin it. I share these with you as my friend stated that if I am going to reject guest blogs, I should be able to publicly justify my decision.  What his blog did do was to alert me to a parallel that I'd missed. I realised that there is more than a touch of the Napoleon about our Prime Minister, Boris Johnson and he is approaching his own Waterloo. 

Anyway, first things first. The guest blog was entitled "Boris 'Hitler' Johnson faces his Stalingrad".  My friend claimed that Boris was Hitler reincarneted. He made five charges, These were

1. Boris committed genocide. His argument was that by sending people with Covid back to care homes, his government was involved in a deliberate campaign of extermination of people who were expensive for the government to care for and who were not needed by UK PLC. Whilst I think that the policy amounted to criminal negligence, I do not think it was a deliberate organised program of genocide in the way Hitler organised the detah camps. It would be highly offensive to many to suggest it was. I simply couldn't put this on a blog unchallenged. Although I understand why he said it, you have to keep a sense of proportionality in any claims.

2, Boris is a racist as Hitler was. His argument was that Boris has a long history of racist comments, such as saying Muslim women look like letterboxes. Whilst it is clear that Johnson uses racist language, this is very different to heading a government that exterminated people on racial grounds. To devalue the brutal and disgusting racism in the core of the Nazi program by comparing it to injudicious throwaway lazy comments of the PM in his less guarded moments. The make up of his government, with ministers such as Rishi Sunak, Priti Patel and Kwasi Kwarteng show that this cannot really be levelled at the Boris regime.

3. Boris was like Hitler in that he treated women as chattels. Hitler had a very odd private life. At least two of his lovers committed suicide. There is no evidence that Hitler was particulary promiscuous though. Some historians have claimed he may have had homosexual tendencies, although publicly he was a rabid homophobe. Hitler only married shortly before he and Eva Braun committed suicide. There is no record of any children. Boris's private life is far more colourful and whereas Hitler was very against the idea of children, Boris seems to be more than happy to knock them out at the fastest rate possible. Whilst it is reasonable to claim that being married to Boris is likely to end in tears, the ending is far happer than the fate that met Hitlers lovers. 

4. Boris like Hitler, is a chancer and a gambler who dream of world domination. Boris famously stated as a child that he wanted to be "World King". Hitler started a war to achieve the ambition. There is no doubt that Boris is a chancer and a gambler, as his Brexit strategy showed, however it would be the height of stupidity to compare this with ow Hitler invaded Poland, attacked the USSR and declared war on the USA. It's like claiming someone who has a glass of wine with their dinner is a fully fledged alcoholic.

5. Boris, like Hitler has surrounded himself with yes men and is in his bunker denying that he's lost the war. Again, this is ridiculous. If you upset Boris, you get the sack and sell the story to the Daily Mirror. If you upset Hitler, you got a bullet in the head. I'm sure Boris knows exactly what jeopardy he's in. No one dared tell Hitler. 

All of these charges, were ones that simply couldn't be unchallenged. The final part of the blog was that the Council elections were going to be Stalingrad for Boris, where the Tories refusal to ditch him and get a competent leader would result in their utter destruction. This was the one part of the blog that did interest me. Stalingrad was the turning point in World War two, where the world realised that the Nazi's were going to lose. However, the parallel ends there. Hitler hung on for another couple of years, Stalingrad was a long, drawn out, attritional battle. The elections won't be. If the Tories get clobbered, Boris will be off. However, the blog got me thinking. If history repeats itself, what is a good analogy.

It seemed to me that Napoleon Bonepart was a far better comparison. Napoleon was  a libertarian. British historian Andrew Roberts stated

The ideas that underpin our modern world—meritocracy, equality before the law, property rights, religious toleration, modern secular education, sound finances, and so on—were championed, consolidated, codified and geographically extended by Napoleon. 

Josephine (Source Wikipedia)

He liberalized property laws, ended seigneurial dues, abolished the guild of merchants and craftsmen to facilitate entrepreneurship, legalized divorce, closed the Jewish ghettos and made Jews equal to everyone else. To me this chimes with Boris, a free marketeer, with little respect for conventions and no interest in religious bigotry. Boris clearly inspires the Tories, in a way that even his enemies acknowledge. Napoleon had a similar effect, the Duke of Wellington said his presence on the battlefield was worth 40,000 soldiers, for he inspired confidence from privates to field marshals. In his private life, Napoleon had many illegitimate children and left a trail of lovers in his wake, which again sounds rather familiar. 

Where did Napoleon's as a leader end? The answer is at Waterloo, in the suburbs of Brussels. In many ways, this is where Boris will be done for. Like Napoleon, he inspired his troops and generals, promised the earth, but Brussels will be his downfall. Brexit was always a tough ask for anyone to deliver. The gung ho approach of Boris got the withdrawal over the line, but like Napoleon the harsh realities of Europe, in Napoleon's case the Prussians turning up on his flank, in Boris's case, everything being stuck in the ports, undid the air of invincibility. 

For Boris though, Waterloo looks like will be the council elections. It seems to me very much as if the Tories are fighting the campaign they fought in 2018, when Labour had Jeremy Corbyn, but this time without the ominous bogieman to scare the children with. No sane Tory would expect Sir Keir Starmer to give voters the colliwobbles in the way Corbyn would. Knowing the Labour Party, I have ultimate faith in their ability to throw away winning positions, but this time it is Boris, not Corbyn that is the problem. When it comes to it, the British have never been terribly fond of Napoleoneasque figures. 

I was speaking to a local Tory recently. I asked who they thought would replace Boris in the event of a wipe out in the local elections. Their response "Someone a bit more boring who gets things done in an efficient and businesslike manner". 

I was intrigued by what Napoleon wrote in his letter of surrender to the British regent following defeat at Waterloo.

Royal Highness, – Exposed to the factions which divide my country, and to the enmity of the great Powers of Europe, I have terminated my political career; and I come, like Themistocles, to throw myself upon the hospitality of the British people. I claim from your Royal Highness the protections of the laws, and throw myself upon the most powerful, the most constant, and the most generous of my enemies.

Try saying it with a Boris accent. It is an uncannily Boris turn of phrase.

To sum up. I'm intrigued what the history books will say of Boris in 200 years time. I have no doubt at all that no sensible historian will equate him with Hitler, that is just a jibe that 'the other side' always try and sling at a Leader who is a bit dodgy, if they can find the least reason. I doubt any will, with the benefit of distance, take my thesis that he's a bit of a Napoleon character. However, I suspect his legacy will outlast most and he'll be one of the most important characters. He was the man who lead us out of the EU. He is the man who lead us through Covid. I'm not sure whether Boris will be remembered as tragdey or farce, but as his Premiership trudges down the road to his Waterloo, the right leaning press are playing the role that Napoleon's own spin doctors used to rally the troops, ironically maybe, Wikipedia reports

"Napoleon spread false intelligence which suggested that Wellington's supply chain from the channel ports would be cut."

In Napoleon's case, he was setting false expectations that the British Army would run out of supplies, for Boris it is the opposite, mythical trade deals will see us awash with cheap goods, as prices surge ever higher. Tragedy and farce. 

Please feel free to submit Guest Blogs, I don't normally reject them and I've never published my reasons before, but as I was chellenged to, I felt it was the only right thing to do.

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