Why did Britain vote massively for a man who called Blacks “picaninnies” with “watermelon smiles”?

Nii Ntreh Dec 13, 2019 at 05:00pm

December 13, 2019 at 05:00 pm | News, Opinions & Features

Nii Ntreh

Nii Ntreh | Staff Writer

December 13, 2019 at 05:00 pm | News, Opinions & Features

As mayor of London, one of Johnson's trickiest moments was dealing with Black Britons during the London riots of 2011. Photo Credit: Boris Johnson

For the next five years, barring unavoidable hindrances, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson will be the UK’s prime minister.

In many ways, this was expected. Most polls in the run-up to the elections predicted a Conservative majority with Labour playing catch-up in some of the most crucially anticipated constituency battles.

Despite multiple celebrity endorsements and multiracial coalition campaigns, the numbers were not simply there for Labour.

Until Christmas and after, the punditry departments of political media in Britain and elsewhere will come up with the reasons Jeremy Corbyn could not rally his party into victory.

There are no prizes for suggesting what the diagnoses will reveal. Corbyn never quite escaped the sledgehammering which came in the forms of accusations of antisemitism, accusations of going too far left and accusations of overlooking the democratic legitimacy of the Brexit referendum.

Then there is the issue of a house divided against itself. Frankly, Labour has never been House Corbyn since 2015.

But he tried to make the 2019 elections about the issues he felt were pertinent: wealth inequality, child poverty, a slimming middle class and sickly National Health Service (NHS).

But not even appearing before the most hostile interviewers could save Corbyn. Johnson, on the other hand, skipped the interviews and debates he did not like.

Who can forget when the BBC’s Andrew Neil had to go live on TV to tell the UK Johnson had failed to show up for an interview. The show’s director eked out a fit-for-Oscar feat, making sure the uninhabited seat meant for Johnson came into the camera’s shot while Neil spoke.

It was a metaphor moment for a lot of things that Johnson failed to show up on.

But he and the Tories succeeded in making the elections a referendum on Brexit. Or perhaps, they had their stethoscopes closer to the nation’s pulse than Labour.

“Get Brexit Done” was a slogan in the qualitative neighbourhood of “Make America Great Again”. And for many people, both slogans communicated similar sentiments of looking back.

Nostalgia is a seductive pill. People choose to look back when the present is harsh and the future threatens to be harsher.

British nationalism, the pride of an empire and the iconic arrogance that said “to be born English is to win first prize in the lottery of life”, were on the line for many people.

Three and a half years after almost 52% of the UK’s electorate had voted to leave the European Union (EU), we have kept the debate going looking for why it happened, pretending it was all about bread and butter.

When we feel charitable, we call it a question of sovereignty. Brexit was the determination of a country to make its own rules and not succumb to globalists.

Scotland did not want Brexit then and if the elections of December 12 was some sort of Brexit Reloaded, Scotland maintained its position. The Republic of Ireland also is currently negotiating with the UK on how Eire will not be disturbed by their neighbour’s haughtiness.

It is a wonder why these polities are not moved by London’s supposed fears.

Any country’s immigration debate should be encouraged but to say Brexit was simply about immigration is also too narrow. Brexit was truly about the “others” who had soiled the Britain the “patriots” have always known.

The phenomenon of immigration does not envelope this fundamental. Immigration supervenes on it.

Before Brexit, when the British economy was in a much better place than now and thus attracted workers from the Middle East and Africa, 56% of people in a YouGov poll said “immigration and asylum” was the top issue the UK faced.

In October of 2018, two years after No. 10 Downing Street-ensured inertia on Brexit, the poll found that the figure had dwindled to 27%.

One could say the difference between the two points in time was the lack of constant reminders like anti-immigration campaigns and news items on the issue in 2018.

But that analysis is not potent enough to answer for one thing: If the people could be moved so sharply in that little time by what was always in the news, how come the impracticality of some of Theresa May’s hopes never really disenchanted Britain with regards to Brexit?

May, a victim of circumstance, failed miserably to the palpable delight of news media when she could not even get her own party to support her plans for Brexit.

Her failure was chronicled in molecular bits and astronomical sizes too, all day and every day. Yet the heuristics availability was not enough to dampen the spirits of the determined.

The people trusted Johnson to give them what they want.

The people chose Johnson, a man who has spoken and written more than his fair share of anti-black and anti-African racism, and only apologised when it seemed politically expedient.

Corbyn shared the populist mistrust of the rich and powerful and mounted a monotonous campaign centred on this very feeling. But he was too welcoming of the “others”.

Issues of bread and butter do matter to people. And you may not even say all who voted for Johnson or Brexit are bald-faced racists.

But to have voted for Johnson required the capacity to overlook his racism. And it is probably a quality which makes him the fittest one for the job of returning Britain to the halcyon days.

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