For the sake of liberal democracy, Conservative leader Boris Johnson must turn away from the dangerous path of ‘populism’.
If Boris Johnson was hoping to demonstrate he is not “Britain Trump” – as the US President once claimed people call him – then the Nato leaders’ meeting could hardly have gone better.
The Prime Minister may have dismissed claims he did not take Trump seriously when asked about video footage appearing to show him included in and enjoying a conversation with France’s Emmanuel Macron and Canada’s Justin Trudeau in which the latter seemed to mock Trump, but it would have been undiplomatic to do anything else.
Trump’s angry reaction – calling Trudeau “two-faced” and leaving early – suggests he saw the same thing that most people did: world leaders laughing at him.
However, this President really is not a laughing matter. Macron was right when he warned Nato was in trouble, partly because of Trump, telling the Economist that Europe could no longer rely on the US to defend its allies.
The French President warned “we are currently experiencing... the brain death of Nato” and questioned whether Article 5 of the Nato treaty – the “all for one and one for all” clause – was still effective.
So, it was heartening that Johnson stressed the importance of Nato solidarity “in defence of our values of freedom and democracy, the basic idea of all for one and one for all encapsulated in Article 5 of the North Atlantic treaty that we come to each other’s mutual defence”.
He also spoke of how Nato “guarantees the peace and prosperity of a billion people” in 29 countries, noting that this was soon to be 30 with North Macedonia due to join, words that supporters of the EU – another alliance credited with keeping the peace in Europe – may have found somewhat ironic.
By shamefully using faked video footage and creating a bogus social media ‘fact checker’, the Conservative campaign has shown signs of adopting the populist playbook of blatant lies and deception.
Anyone who believes those in public life should uphold basic standards of truth, decency and honour must condemn politicians guilty of this type of behaviour and keep doing so until they get the message that it is completely unacceptable.
But as the divide grows between countries committed to the idea of liberal democracy and those in thrall to the hateful ideology of ‘populism’, we should be thankful that Johnson appears to have been at least tolerated by the former and not among those being mocked.