NYT Bashes Boris Johnson, 'Virtually Cultlike Certitude' of Brexit Embrace

July 11th, 2019 2:20 PM

The New York Times does not like British Conservative politician Boris Johnson, and certainly not his Brexit cause, and makes little attempt to hide it, even in its news coverage (and forget about the opinion section).

Reporter Stephen Castle’s coverage of the debate between conservatives Johnson and Jeremy Hunt over who would become the Conservative Party’s new leader (and in effect the next Prime Minister of Great Britain): “Hunt Asks Britain’s Conservatives to Ignore His Rival’s Theatrics.” The text box to Wednesday’s story was a pitch for Johnson’s more staid, and formerly anti-Brexit rival Hunt: “Running as a man of reason against a longtime showman.”

His shirt sleeves rolled up, Britain’s foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, bounded into the hall, ignored the lectern and headed straight to the front of the stage to make his pitch that he should lead the country out of its paralyzing Brexit maze.

But right from the start, Mr. Hunt was playing catch-up. He is one of two candidates to be Britain’s next prime minister, and his rival and predecessor as foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, had already won cheers from this audience with his crowd-pleasing, pro-Brexit bombast. And, earlier, Mr. Johnson had grabbed eye-catching headlines by claiming that he would beat Mr. Hunt in a naked mud-wrestling contest.


The two men are competing for the votes of about 160,000 Conservative Party members, who will choose a new leader, and prime minister, next month, as the Conservatives hold a working majority in Parliament. They faced off directly on Tuesday night, in a televised debate that the foreign secretary had pressed for to make his case.


After considerable deliberations, Mr. Johnson decided to campaign for Brexit in the 2016 referendum. That cause is embraced with virtually cultlike certitude by almost all Conservative members now, and Mr. Johnson has doubled down, promising to leave the European Union with or without a deal on Oct. 31. He says -- improbably, in the view of most analysts -- that by taking a tougher stand than Prime Minister Theresa May did, and by believing in the Brexit project, he will persuade a resolute European Union to offer concessions it has so far ruled out.

Given that Johnson is currently the favorite to emerge the electoral victor and British Prime Minister on July 23, perhaps the Times should rein in its anti-Johnson predictions, given its less than stellar history of forecasts. Reporter Sarah Lyall’s hostile 2016 prediction may not age well:

As he abandoned his campaign to be the Conservative Party leader -- and with it, probably, his chances of ever being prime minister -- he seemed almost relieved to be spared the burden of running the country he had done so much to destabilize.

Benjamin Mueller’s analysis on Sunday took the hostile liberal line, self-evident from the headline: “Older, Male, White: The 0.3% of Voters Who Will Pick Britain’s Leader.” Typical Brexit-bashing ensued:

.... Gathered here were three dozen of the 160,000 or so party members who will choose the next Conservative leader and, therefore, prime minister, giving them unparalleled power to determine their country’s fate as it careens through the Brexit crisis. This sliver of the population, just 0.3 percent of registered voters, is mostly white, aging and male....As the Brexit mess has unfolded, Conservatives have grown ever more impatient, ever more fixated on leaving the European Union, come what may. Most members said in recent polling by YouGov that leaving the bloc was worth enduring significant damage to the economy, secession by Scotland and Northern Ireland and even a shattering of the Conservative Party itself.....A no-deal Brexit, seen as the salvation of the party by some members, looks to others like its ruin. Economists warn it could drive up food prices, cost jobs, choke off the supply of medicines and badly disrupt British industry.

The Times is not alone in being appalled by Brexit. Just after the vote, in June of 2016, the networks exploded, demanding a “do-over” to “overturn” the decision.