Boris Johnson is not turning into Trump - recent events prove that
This article originally appeared on the Comment Central website.
If you were to open up your browser now and search 'Boris Johnson Donald Trump', you'd find search results with one clear, overriding theme. The collective argument churned up by the clever folk at Google is one that the centre left continues to make, and one the centre right is familiar with resisting: that the former President and current Prime Minister are almost entirely indistinguishable from one another.
This is of course part of a wider campaign to cast Boris as part of a broader, so-called right wing populist movement. It's an attempt to tar him with the same brush not just as Trump, but also as Le Pen, Farage, Orbán and the rest of their ilk.
While it may have gained some traction, this political tactic has always been nothing more than a cheap smear based on a whipped-up fiction. The UK's response to the Russian's utterly appalling attack on the Ukraine should really be the final nail in the coffin of this tired old culture war riff.
Whatever you think of the Prime Minister, it's impossible to deny that the UK has taken a robust and leading position when it comes to the international response to this invasion.
After all, the UK has been helping to train the Ukrainian armed forces for eight years – giving them the skills they need to mount the stunning defence they have given over recent days. In the last few weeks, we've toughened and expanded our sanctions legislation, been one of the first countries in Europe to ban Aeroflot and led the push to end Russian participation in SWIFT. We were leading the pack in calling for the end to Nord Stream 2 and have been uniquely robust in our sanctioning of Russian banks.
Of course, it's impossible to know how Trump would have reacted to events in Ukraine, but from his latest pronouncements, it's fair to conclude that his White House would have been far more sympathetic to the Russians than Downing Street. This is the man who has very recently described Putin as a "genius", "smart" and even a "peacekeeper".
Meanwhile, Mr Trump's number one fan, Nigel Farage, took a slightly different line. Rather than condemning Putin, Farage trotted out the familiar but flawed argument that unites the like of him and – ironically – Jeremy Corbyn and his hard left followers.
According to the deluded former UKIP leader, the blame for Russia's invasion lies squarely not with Putin, but with the "expansionist" EU, aided and abetted by NATO.
Whatever your view, drawing a parallel between the worldview, ideology and approach of the UK Government and the anti-Western, pro-Putin set is clearly for the birds. These divisions are really important to appreciate. They aren't somehow isolated or transitory; they stretch back decades and – in light of the invasion – are likely to define politics for years to come.
Debunking this fake parallel runs deeper than just the recent, tragic events in Ukraine. Take climate change. There are few more vociferous advocates of Net Zero than the Prime Minister – as evidenced by the Government's political and diplomatic investment in COP26. Contrast this to the often blatant climate change denial exhibited by the likes of Trump and Orbán.
Or let's look at trade. Trump loved to talk the talk on free trade, but his was essentially a protectionist presidency. He spent his time either ripping up lucrative trade arrangements like the Trans Pacific Partnership, failing to get new agreements over the line and sporadically imposing, or threatening to impose, damaging tariffs on a whole host of countries.
In comparison, the Johnson Government could barely be more enthusiastic about the merits of post-Brexit free trade, with Liz Truss and now Anne-Marie Trevelyan hopping around the globe with tiggerish levels of vigour and energy to get scores of new free trade deals in the bag. The UK's direction of travel is towards open markets and outward looking internationalism, not a retreat to the protectionism of the past.
The contrast is stark on immigration too. While the leaders Boris's opponents attempt to align him with have invariably tried to shut their borders to certain groups of people – think Trump's "Muslim ban" – the UK is rightly offering sanctuary to Afghan interpreters, Hong Kongers and Ukrainians fleeing war. All – it must be added – with the overwhelming support of the British people.
The truth is, today's Conservative Party remains anchored to its fine One Nation tradition, in the centre ground of British politics and aligned with our mainstream friends and partners across the world. The more you really examine any claims to the contrary, the flimsier they become. The UK's response to the Ukraine crisis – of which we should all be proud – should put these claims to bed for good.