A Trump-Boris Axis?
Downing Street and downtown Washington hope to ink a free trade deal-- and to refresh an age-old alliance.
It’s high spirits this holiday season for most proponents of the “new nationalism.”
Boris Johnson’s savage performance against his socialist opponent, Jeremy Corbyn, has populist-nationalists on both sides of the Atlantic licking their chops. Perhaps, it truly is a new age of “one nation conservatism.” Johnson’s romp, the thinking goes, will presage a consecration of the Trump movement in America with the president’s re-election next year.
In the meantime, both sides hope to work together—and borrow from each others’ playbooks. A central facet of Johnson’s victorious strategy was to emphasize Mr. Corbyn’s record of purported anti-Semitism. In his first prime minister’s questions as Conservative leader, Johnson castigated Corbyn for media associations with the mullahs in Iran. Johnson, in a Hanukkah message to his nation this week, intoned: “Anti-Semites, in alarming numbers, have been emboldened to crawl out from under their rocks.”
Similarly, Trump, his campaign and his de facto leading political strategist, son-in-law Jared Kushner, hope to run hard on the administration’s Israel record next year: an embassy in Jerusalem, an Iran nuclear deal nullified and Washingtonian underwriting of a “new Middle East.” A political movement that has struggled with accusations of prejudice hopes to present itself anew as a vanguard for the chosen people.
But the common ground is more expansive than cold political calculation. The British, post-Brexit, intend to position themselves as both the banker of Eurasia and the marrow-deep partner of America. A new trade deal is in the offing. Trump, a skeptic of multilateral arrangements, is nonetheless poised to sign a bilateral agreement with Johnson, a posh pol whose favor he is keen to curry.
Privately, the assiduously well-read Johnson is known to shirk comparisons with his fellow golden-domed gadfly. But publicly, the surface dynamic is increasingly great politics, as Johnson hopes to steer Britain from exit disaster.
After the duo conferred by phone last week, a Downing Street spokesman said: “The Prime Minister spoke with President Trump, who congratulated him on the result of the General Election … They discussed the huge importance of the relationship between the UK and US, and looked forward to continued close cooperation on issues such as security and trade, including the negotiation of an ambitious free trade agreement.”
Trump wants Johnson on hand for a “victory tour” in the US. Johnson, bumbling but beguiling, is loathe to accept but careful to avoid offending his necessary friend. Look for a canny delay—until Trump secures acquittal in the Senate by spring. In the new year, I urge our readers to watch the conservatives east of the Channel closely.