How Donald Trump and Boris Johnson threaten democracy
FT chief political commentator Philip Stephens says the US president and the Tory leadership favourite share a common politics that ignores truth
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"Muslim women who wear the niqab, the full veil, resemble nothing so much as letterboxes or bank robbers."
"Africans can be described as piccaninnies."
Those aren't the words of Donald Trump, who was visiting London this week for a state visit. No, instead, they were the words of Boris Johnson, the lead contender in the race for the Tory party leadership and quite possibly Britain's next prime minister.
- You think you're too divisive a character to be Tory leader?
As it happened, Mr Johnson was launching his campaign just as Mr Trump landed in Britain this week. And I think the juxtaposition illuminated, for lots of people, the similarities of these two politicians - the America First nationalist arriving to meet the Queen and the Britain first, England first nationalist who wants to be the next prime minister here.
So I know Boris. I like him. I've liked him for a long time. I think he'd do a very good job.
Mr Trump, of course, ignored all the diplomatic niceties about not interfering in the domestic affairs of other countries and promptly backed Mr Johnson as his favourite for the leadership and for the premiership and said, and if he gets it, he'll offer him a good trade deal.
Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you.
The two men focus a lot on national sovereignty. In Mr Trump's terms, it's pulling back from globalism. For Mr Johnson, sovereignty is about getting out completely from the European Union and getting out whatever the conditions or circumstances. He's pledged that if he's prime minister, Britain will leave the European Union by October the 31st, come what may. If need be, we will just simply crash out.
If I get in, we'll come out, deal or no-deal, on October the 31st.
- man, good man.
We'll do that.
Thank you very much.
Would that mean you come back and vote Conservative again?
That's the spirit.
Boris Johnson's politics, although he doesn't say this explicitly, are essentially those of the English nationalists. He pledges of course to get a better deal, a great deal for Britain. That's sheer fantasy. But fantasy's always played a significant part in Boris Johnson's politics. We saw that when he was foreign secretary for a couple of years. We've seen it in his promise that we can get a deal with the European Union in which we have our cake and eat it.
Mr Johnson do you accept that you just deliberately misled the public?
And Boris Johnson's attitudes to facts and to analysis and to truth is very much like that of Mr Trump's. He's not interested. He's interested in making his point. He's interested in advancing his own career. And he doesn't want truth or facts to get in the way of that. We saw that during the referendum campaign in 2016 when he was making claims that the NHS would be awash in money if only we left the EU. And if we didn't leave the EU, we'd be overrun by Turkish migrants, both of those things were palpably false.
Good afternoon, everybody. Good afternoon. Thank you very much. Thank you for coming. Can you hear me?
There's much that unites the political approach, the populism of Donald Trump and the approach of Boris Johnson and indeed some of the other Brexiteers like Nigel Farage. It's a politics which appeals to people's grievances, ignores truth and reality, brushes aside facts. And I think they reinforce each other. And I think they're a real danger to democracy, because our democracy depends, in the last resort, on everyone agreeing a certain framework of truth and decency and of standards. I think both these politicians have stepped outside that framework.