Boris Johnson has written a book; Donald Trump has never read one

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL December 15, 2019

Donald Trump meets then British foreign secretary Boris Johnson at the UN General Assembly in October 2017. Official White House Photo by D. Myles Cullen). Creative Commons

There are many supposed similarities between Boris Johnson and Donald Trump, but let’s start with this joke about their basic difference: Mr Johnson has written a book; Mr Trump has never read one.

I share the general scepticism about the British prime minister ­– newly empowered by a massive mandate – and the doubt about his intentions, and his sense of truth and falsehood. That said, it’s worthwhile to consider Mr Johnson’s instincts as well:

  • He’s the usual kind of overgrown English schoolboy with an instinct for japes, and a politically incorrect turn of phrase (remember when he called Jeremy Corbyn from the despatch box “a big girl’s blouse”?)
  • He’s not against Islam, just doesn’t know about it. Mr Johnson’s column on Muslim women wearing burqas was, as I have written before over and over, NOT Islamophobic. In fact, it acknowledged their right to wear burqas, albeit musing on the unattractiveness of the garment.
  • He’s enormously egotistical. As Max Hastings, Mr Johnson’s editor at The Telegraph once wrote, “Boris is a gold medal egomaniac”. That in itself, may be an insurance policy of sorts, for those who fear that Mr Johnson will preside over the break-up of the United Kingdom. Few seriously believe that his sense of being a Churchill would allow Mr Johnson to go down in history as the man who lost the UK. Not much point being a “one-nation Conservative”, in Mr Johnson’s phrase, if there’s just one nation in it!

In the spirit of fairness, I must also relay to you the fact that Ivan Rogers, Britain’s former man in Brussels, has said it’s a “nonsense” for journalists to continually speculate about Mr Johnson using his large parliamentary majority to change course and become more politically inclusive. In fact, Mr Rogers says, “I keep hearing commentariat pundits suggesting that the scale of the majority enables Johnson to pivot to a softer Brexit and a longer period during which to negotiate it.”

Make of that what you will.