Held “Hostage” by the Government: Boris Johnson’s Populist Rhetoric

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, made the commitment that either “do or die” by October 31st Britain would be leaving the EU. Though as that date comes closer, it is evident that that is not going to happen. Rather, after his return from Brussels with a new Brexit Plan, his plan to remain loyal to the October 31st date fell through in parliament. Today the EU has approved the extension of the the Brexit date to January 31st 2020. Johnson is facing backlash on all ends, from those in support of Brexit and those in opposition.

Johnson has proposed for an election to take place in December in the hopes that it will help his campaign and his plans to push his plan through parliament. He wants the votes in the hopes that he can secure a majority government which will in turn make passing his plan easier. It is evident that his concerns are not focused about leaving the EU with no deal, his “do or die” and a promise of a break soon do not leave room for a deal.

No one wants a no deal break.

The deal is what will make the transition out of the EU as successful for Britain as possible. Johnson is more focused on the break, rather than the success of the break, as seen in his “do or die” rhetoric. Regardless of being for or against Brexit, the deal provides the people of Britain with the opportunity to situate themselves in a Britain outside of the EU.

It is in the face of the Boris Johnson’s failure to live up to his “do or die” claim that Brexiteers have come to criticize Johnson who was supposed to be a pioneering figure for Brexit. As a Brexiteer himself, he had already faced opposition from the those who would like to remain in the EU.

Boris Johnson knows that he is losing momentum, he wants to fuel anger. He wants people to back him in the polls in December if the election takes place, as this would help in pushing his Brexit plans through parliament. Johnson is no stranger to utilizing populists concepts within his own rhetoric. Populism is the idea of “the people” against “the elite” and the elite making decisions for the people. Johnson is known to stand behind this ideal and has built a rhetoric around this ideal. Using the terms like the “surrender bill” and the government holding the country “hostage” he attempts to build up anger against the government in the hopes that it will call for an election, and that he will keep the support of the people if that election were to occur. Even through this rhetoric we can see that:

Boris Johnson is not a successful populist.

However, he is using populist rhetoric to persuade the country to continue backing him, regardless of their growing contempt for his failure to pass a deal within parliament. In the wake of his desire for an election, this rhetoric will not be successful. For one, he does not fully believe in it as he seems to be more concerned with leaving the EU than leaving with a deal. It is also difficult to unite the country against the government when the people themselves are not united. There is great division within the country, as illustrated in the protest orchestrated by the People’s Vote Campaign in London on October 19th; a campaign that fights for the voice of the people in decision making, pushing for a new referendum. The people’s voice is divided and everyone is frustrated with Johnson. His populist rhetoric approach is strengthening this division, rather than the division of the people and the government.

Johnson seems to believe that fear mongering with his populist rhetoric will help him gain the traction that he desires to end up with an election on December 12th. This is not the case. Johnson’s dance with populism has hindered his ability to maintain a backing that would urge for this election date. It is a last attempt at trying to show that he will “do or die” and get a deal passed to leave the EU. One will have to wait to see the success of this rhetoric when he proposes to amend the fixed terms act tomorrow, as he failed to get a majority of the government to an election on the 12th of December.

 

 

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