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No need to look to the Middle East, we have a dictator in the making here in the UK

December 5, 2019 at 4:35 pm

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson makes a speech during the Conservative Party annual conference in Manchester, UK on 2 October 2019 [Ray Tang/Anadolu Agency]

In the midst of the 2011 uprising then newly appointed Vice President Omar Suleiman said that Egyptians were not ready for democracy.

Such comments were to be expected from a remnant of the ancien regime who had obvious vested interests in keeping the mechanisms of the deep state in place and self-government a distant reality.

When it comes to the UK, we are used to more covert behaviour when it comes to displaying our disdain for democracy, preaching about British values in public whilst filling our pockets with the proceeds of deals made with the world’s worst dictators, Egypt included.

Boris Johnson has changed all this. In September, five weeks away from the Brexit deadline, he suspended parliament for five weeks in an attempt to force through a no-deal Brexit. His opponents demanded he stop the coup, a word more regularly associated with Middle Eastern politics.

Johnson, who has been prime minister since the Tories voted him leader in August, not the public, has now threatened to put Channel 4’s public service licence under review. He was outraged that the programme replaced him with a melting ice sculpture after he refused to take part in a leadership debate on climate change.

READ: Trump upbeat on Johnson’s idea of new Iran deal

The Conservatives – and to a lesser extent Labour – have come under fire this week for using the London Bridge attack to score cheap political points. In a moving post the father of one of the victims, Jack Merritt, has described Boris Johnson’s calls for tougher sentencing “beyond disgusting”.

“Jack would be livid his death has been used to further an agenda of hate,” he wrote in the Guardian in what is widely considered a veiled attack on the Tory leader.

Repressive countries across the world, from China to Egypt, attack the critical press and use terrorism as a pretext to issue draconian laws that are then used to crackdown on one segment of society. In 2015 Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May pushed through a counter-terror bill which stipulated doctors and teachers must spy on their fellow Muslims.

A man holds a placard during a protest against Boris Johnson after his Islamaphobic article in London, UK on 9 August 2018 [Tayfun Salcı/Anadolu Agency]

A man holds a placard during a protest against Boris Johnson after his Islamaphobic article in London, UK on 9 August 2018 [Tayfun Salcı/Anadolu Agency]

We know that Johnson is a cynical leader, an opportunist and has an aversion to anyone who is not from the same class, sex or has the same skin colour as him. Yet he is still in charge of our multi-cultural, multi-racial, multi-religious country.

Johnson has said social housing could be an “enticement” for young women to have babies and has called the children of single mothers “ill-raised, ignorant, aggressive and illegitimate.” Black people are “flag-waving piccaninnies” with “watermelon smiles” and Britain should “axe large chunks of the anti-racism industry.”

He has said Britain’s colonial era was good for Africa – “the problem is not that we were once in charge, but that we are not in charge anymore.”

READ: Social media users mock Boris Johnson’s Middle East style coup

Other choice quotes include that Islamophobia is a “natural reaction” to Islam and that Sirte in Libya could be the next Dubai once the dead bodies are cleared away. No disciplinary measure has been brought against the prime minister, who should have been struck off months ago.

So, we have a racist, xenophobic and discriminatory prime minister, many people would agree on that – but have we produced Johnson or has he produced us?

Yes, the Tories’ membership has been dwindling for years and to compensate they have pandered to the recent surge in right-wing populism, but it is the British public that keep going for it, voting the Tories in three times in almost ten years.

In a country where institutional bias is so deep that black women are five times more likely to die during childbirth, nobody should be surprised by the rise of the far-right. Unless it’s to wonder why it didn’t happen sooner.

WATCH: How will the UK’s new PM Boris Johnson tackle the Middle East?

Rhetoric by Tory politicians reinforces dehumanisation and gives legitimacy to attacks. After Johnson’s letterbox comments attacked Muslim women, Islamophobic incidents rose by 375 per cent, yet there are people still seriously considering voting for him next week.

Meanwhile Johnson has compared Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has pledged to halt arms sales to Saudi Arabia which is relentlessly pummelling Yemen with British-made arms, to the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

The leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn in London, UK on 15 March 2019 [Tayfun Salcı/Anadolu Agency]

The leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn in London, UK on 15 March 2019 [Tayfun Salcı/Anadolu Agency]

If Johnson wins next week it is people like the far-right agitator and former Trump strategist Steve Bannon, who has close links with Johnson, who will be empowered.

Bannon has supported the Saudi-led boycott on Qatar and said it must be held to account for funding the Muslim Brotherhood and other radical Islamic terror groups. He has also advocated giving the West Bank to Jordan and Gaza to Egypt.

Suspending parliament to push through your own agenda, attacking the press, using terrorism to further an agenda of hate and lack of accountability are all key qualities we see in autocrat leaders, yet we are more comfortable pointing them out when they’re in the Middle East or Africa. We should look closer to home.

Dictators are what pulled thousands out onto the streets during the Arab Spring nearly ten years ago. We initially supported them, before ridiculing them for choosing the wrong people at the ballot box when it didn’t suit us. It’s no wonder so many say that in Britain it’s us that needs a revolution.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.