Politics comes in different-sized packages, big and small. In the larger package, you will find President Putin saying today that western liberalism is obsolete. In the small package, you will find Boris Johnson speaking cod Churchillian bollocks about “do or die”.
Johnson is filling the small package of British politics now, crowding out all good sense. As for that Brexit Halloween deadline he swears he will stick to, the quote is from the Tennyson poem The Charge of the Light Brigade and should be “do and die”.
Whether a poem written in honour of a famous British defeat in the Crimean War is quite the image Johnson was reaching for is debatable.
And pardon me for this, but our modern political echo of the Tennyson poem seems to be The Charge of the Shite Brigade, only with willy-waving rather than swords.
Boris Johnson is pictured on the front of The Times today, standing in front of the union flag, doing the double thumbs-up. The headline above that disturbingly inane gesture reads: “Stamp duty slashed in Johnson no-deal budget.”
Before looking in the bigger package, let’s consider that headline. It’s written in the past tense, suggesting this is something Johnson has done. Rather, it is another of the blathering promises, bribes and blandishments he dangles before the huddle of Tory members who get to pick our next prime minister.
It’s not happened, it’s a shifty aspiration – another sweetie in the goodie bag of magic money promises being passed round by Johnson and his opponent, Jeremy Hunt.
In that small package, overshadowed by everything else, you also will find Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn failing once again to get a grip on the antisemitism row damaging his party. An opinion poll is only ever a snapshot, but in YouGov’s latest poll Corbyn only wins the endorsement of 26% of those asked. Hardly encouraging when the Tory Party has abandoned governing at a time of crisis to indulge in a self-loving beauty parade.
The Russian leader is filling the larger package today, thanks to an interview in the Financial Times, ahead of the G20 summit in Japan. President Putin says that Liberals “cannot simply dictate anything to anyone just like they have been attempting to do over the recent decades. The liberal idea has become obsolete. It has come into conflict with the interests of the overwhelming majority of the population.”
That Putin is an illiberal, totalitarian leader shouldn’t surprise anyone. Neither should his dubious claim that having Donald Trump as US President signalled the death of liberal policies in the west.
The pally relationship between that pair is the world’s scariest bromance – next only to Trump’s no-off bro-fest with his North Korean mate Kim Jong-Un.
Trump likes to hang out with the totalitarian gang, jealous perhaps he isn’t yet the supreme leader of the US.
Putin cherry-picks his evidence for the death of liberalism, overlooking for instance Trump having the lowest popularity rating of any US president – evah, as the man himself might say. Doesn’t mean he can’t win again, sadly.
Donald Tusk, the European council president, is often portrayed as a bogeyman by our more Eurosceptic newspapers, but he speaks good sense today, dismissing the idea that liberalism is obsolete.
“Whoever claims that liberal democracy is obsolete, also claims that freedoms are obsolete, that the rule of law is obsolete and that human rights are obsolete,” Tusk said.
Liberal values remain “essential and vibrant” in Europe, he said, adding: “What I find really obsolete are: authoritarianism, personality cults, the rule of oligarchs. Even if sometimes they may seem effective.”
Yup, Tusk nails that one.