The monster is gone. The blithering, evil, lying, half baked, wibbling wobbling product of the Eton aristocracy, international-treaty-defying, pound shop Donald Trump finally got his comeuppance. Now, at long last, there shall be a return to normality, and perhaps even, that most dearly held dream, a return to the promised land of the European Union.
That is not an unfair summary of the reaction of the great and the good to the impending departure of Boris Johnson. They always hated him. They always will. And back to normal is what they all desire, above everything else.
That “normal”, though, is what millions of people voted against when they voted for Donald Trump and Boris Johnson and others, like Marine LePen in France or Viktor Orban in Hungary. That they voted as they did in the two most powerful English speaking nations, above all, is why those two men are reserved for the special hatred of Ireland and Europe’s guardians of normality.
The western world, at present, is locked in a titanic cultural and political struggle between two groups: Those who want to re-make it in a new progressive “normal”, and those, like this writer, for whom that new normal is an antisocial abomination.
There are, in our western democracies, increasingly ideas that cannot be questioned. One may not safely dispute, for example, the proposition that the the only rational response to a changing climate is to re-make the world in a new, green, image, replete with windmills and carbon taxes and measures to slowly reduce the population, and the mass eradication of cattle. To object to this is to be something worse than merely a political opponent: It is to be an enemy of progress itself, disbarred from respectable media, and placed on lists of potential threats to state security. A climate change denier, even if you accept that the climate is changing, and object only to the prescribed solution.
Then there is internationalism: The idea that the nation state itself must be abandoned as old fashioned, nationalist, and a cause of division, and that the world should be remade through a system of global institutions, like the European Union and the World Health Organization, which will lead us into a new age of expert-guided progress. Tax rates will be harmonised, international pandemic responses globalised, cultures of all kinds homogenised. In so doing, not only will wars be ended, but racial divisions will be abolished, as we progress into a new age of harmony and tolerance. This is the vision, and to oppose it is, self-evidently to its supporters, evidence that one prefers racism, wars, and disunity. Again, oppose it too frankly, and you may find yourself on a list.
Then there is the social element: We have moved into a new age of humanism: Men and Women themselves are outdated concepts, genders nothing more than clothes of convenience that we don to suit ourselves, human life itself a choice, and nothing more significant than an appendix. We are, at the same time, anything we want to be, and at the same time nothing more than insignificant resource users, drains on the natural world.
Boris Johnson and Donald Trump, in their respective ways, were loud mouthed troglodytes, yearning for the way things once were. That, indeed, was openly why they were hated. How many columns, for example, has Fintan O’Toole written arguing that “Johnson and the Brexiteers want a return to the days of Empire”? They both stood accused of rejecting the new faith, and harking back to the heresy of the old.
That neither is a perfect man should be obvious to the most casual observer: Johnson, at his worst, is a buffoon. Trump, at his best, can often only aspire to such praise. But that misses the point: The establishment does not like buffoons. It likes automatons: Nice Leos Varadkar and Justins Trudeau and Jacindas Ardern who look the same, sound the same, and despite representing distinct corners of the globe, say all the same things. Progress. Climate. Global leadership. Compassion. They have the nerve, at times, to call themselves centrists: They are centrists only in that they have borrowed the worst instincts of left, and right.
From the right, they have taken an unapologetic love of the big corporation: These leaders have no better or dearer friend than the global tech giant. They shared their horror at Brexit, for example, on the basis that it might “undermine growth” or “harm the city of London” as if growth and finance were the be-all and end-all of human society. They have committed to a model of unrestrained economic liberalism of the kind rejected even by Mrs. Thatcher, and Mr. Reagan, and they have built a world, finally, where the old left-wing fear is now a reality: We have super-corporations more powerful than many countries. In Ireland, more of our housing stock is owned by big companies than at any time in history.
From the left, they have adopted a deep hatred of tradition, and a hatred of freedom on any terms other than their own. Speech itself is now increasingly policed for signs of “hate”, freedom of movement increasingly derided as a threat to the planet, while traditions like the nuclear family, marriage, and home ownership are steadily and relentlessly attacked in the move towards “a European model” of social liberalism. You have unlimited freedom, of course, in the bedroom: Do what you want so long as you get the magic word that constitutes “consent”, but encouraging old fashioned things like marriage and children is passé.
Put it all together, and many of us, frankly, will take the buffoons. Because they, at least, know what made us great in the first place.
The European Union did not make Britain a great nation: To the extent that it ever deserved the title “great” Britain, it did so because of an unwavering commitment to science and nationalism and self-determination: A belief that it could, and would, stand against the world. Standing against the world, today, is about the worst thing you could ever do. No Irish person would ever dream of standing against the world. Great nations are those, throughout history, willing to tell the rest of the world when it was wrong. Good nations, today, do what they are told.
So, back we go, however temporarily, to a Britain of Keir Starmers and Ken Clarkes and Rory Stewarts and Michael Heseltines and Alastair Campbells and Emily Thornberrys. The grown ups are, for a time, back in charge, and their hated enemy in abeyance. Pat Kenny and Matt Cooper and all the rest of the liberal dads can, once again, broadcast in peace. They will change nothing, if they can avoid it. But they have also learned nothing from Boris, and Trump: They believe, as they ever have, that there is a “right side of history” and that the tide runs only in one direction.
In that, just like in almost everything else, they are wrong. Which is why the elation of July will be followed, in due course, by despair in November, after the mid-term elections in that awful country which gave us Trump.