Kenny MacAskill: Boris Johnson’s sinister ties to alt-right guru Steve Bannon

Johnson may cultivate an image of a carefree scamp full of jolly japes, but his embrace of far-right is sinister (Picture: Jonathan Brady/Getty)
Johnson may cultivate an image of a carefree scamp full of jolly japes, but his embrace of far-right is sinister (Picture: Jonathan Brady/Getty)
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Boris Johnson plays the jovial buffoon, whether descending on a zip line waving the union flag or pretending that comments made were only in jest. Billowing hair and protruding shirt tail, all designed to project an image of jolly japes from a carefree scamp.

But, he’s far from that. It’s over five years now since he was excoriated in a TV interview by Eddie Mair, and challenged about being “a nasty piece of work”. Then, as ever, he sought to portray himself as just some put-upon chap but was exposed as having made up quotes as a journalist, lied to his party and even offered someone’s address to an acquaintance who wanted to beat that person up. Hardly, light-hearted or innocent.

His subsequent tenure as Foreign Secretary was far from glorious. Endangering a UK citizen detained in Iran through, at best, slipshod comments and failing to recant or resolve thereafter. Then requiring the UK Ambassador to stop him in Myanmar from reciting a poem, redolent of a British Empire long gone, but far from forgotten there, and which would have caused great offence.

He’s pursued his path to power, firstly into Parliament, then as Mayor of London and now he has his eyes firmly set on the main prize of 10 Downing Street. Neither politics nor principles enter into it as he’s a total charlatan devoid of either.

His most recent incarnation as an ardent Brexiteer was hardly that. Prior to politically knifing David Cameron, just to position himself within the Tory party, his views on Europe had been almost indiscernible. He then resigned from Theresa May’s Cabinet over the Chequers agreement that he initially subscribed to until prevailing Tory winds blew otherwise. There appears to be no political issue that he’ll stick to or political colleague who he’ll stand by in his pursuit of power.

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Now, though he’s injected islamophobia into the UK political debate with his burka comments. They weren’t thrown away lines in a column but part of an agenda to appeal to his core support. Classic “dog whistle” politics taking an issue that’s minor but sensitive and pandering to prejudice amongst many, whilst engendering fear in a minority.

This time though, he’s not operating alone but in consort with others pursuing a wider agenda in Europe and the USA. For now, he’s fraternising with the alt-right and its leading guru Steve Bannon. Like Johnson, they operate with a wider plan in mind. They’ve done that in the USA and in Russia where right-wing think tanks pursue their agenda of lowering turnouts at elections and demonising minorities. In Russia, it was the black community or people from the Caucasus But, similar strategies have seen Trump win in the USA and despots empowered in other lands.

Now in Europe, it’s the Muslim community who sadly are being picked on and demonised. Bannon has form for such actions, having been founder and chairman of Breitbart News, which is noted for its inflammatory agenda rather than its accurate reporting. He also served as Trump’s White House Chief of Staff for many months and laid the seeds for many of the President’s odious tweets. He’s been networking around Europe and Boris Johnson is keeping bad company, but it’s doubtless part of his plan.

The circle that Bannon is creating includes the most odious of the new parties that have sprung up in Europe, from the revamped Front National in France, through alt-right parties in Hungary and Austria to the AfD in Germany and the entirely misnamed Swedish Democrats. In each country, there has been a surge to the political right, creating an atmosphere where intolerance is legitimised. No wonder we live in times where humanity is abandoned as ships in the Mediterranean steer clear of human suffering, tossing like flotsam and jetsam on the waves.

Islamophobia is on the rise and it’s being used as a political weapon by the likes of the AfD openly and by Johnson more surreptitiously. But, both have the intention of boosting support amongst a population fearful of terrorism and worried about immigration, pandering to falsehoods and ignoring reality.

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Johnson’s remarks took the wearing of the burka and made it front page news in classic Breitbart fashion. The overwhelming majority of Muslim women, in this country or around the world, do not wear it, and he well knows that. It’s even less representative of daily life than wearing the kilt is for a Scot. It’s alien to European culture but Johnson’s a scion of those “empire Brits” who wore pith helmets and disdained local couture, even if it was cooler and more sensible. It’s not a threat, yet it’s portrayed as one. Ironically, those who do wear it are often followers of the Wahhabi sect from Saudi Arabia, which Johnson also consorts with. They’ve just launched an airstrike on Muslims in Yemen killing 51 people, mostly children, and wounding 79. Maybe with weapons supplied by the UK during his time in government?

Western Europe and the USA have suffered grievously through terrorism, but not nearly as much as the Muslim community does worldwide on a far more regular basis. But, to listen to the likes of Bannon or to scrutinise the subtext of Johnson, the West’s under attack and liberalism is the cause of it. Consequently, the likes of Angela Merkel are to be undermined and Islamic countries to be pressurised.

Yet, they know that it isn’t so. It was the Crusaders who rampaged and brutalised more than the Saracens. And the Ottoman Empire was far more religiously tolerant than European states. Islam has been distorted by a depraved tiny minority when most adherents are peaceful and more often the victims than perpetrators. As is often said, it’s individuals, not communities, who wage terror.

But, why let the truth get in the way of pandering to prejudice? Bannon and his ilk work to an agenda that demonises minorities, whether black in the USA or Muslim in Europe. They distort fact and promote fake news; Johnson’s simply following suit though more circumspectly.

That’s why Johnson must be decried and Bannon’s agenda of prejudice vehemently opposed.