Letter from London: A lady warns Britain faces tougher challenges than Brexit angst

Special to WorldTribune.com

DonKirk3By Donald Kirk

LONDON ― Here in the eye of Typhoon Brexit, the hot air, internet and print media reverberate with the shockwaves of what is seen as the End of Britain as we know it or a tempest in a teapot.

The roar of the storm is such that it can only be compared to the ruckus of royal infidelities and rumors and rubbish that transfixed the British media in decades past.

If one thing is missing from all the statements and counter statements, charges and counter-charges, claims and lies heard over here, it is a whiff of royal scandal that would really rivet attention.

London Mayor Boris Johnson, left, and Theresa May in 2015.
London Mayor Boris Johnson, left, and Theresa May in 2015.

In the coffee shops and pubs of swinging London, the question of whether Britain “leaves” or “remains” in the European Union or tells Brussels and all the other exponents of Euro-trash to get stuffed has about as much traction and appeal as, oh, the North Korean nuclear issue at a typical Starbucks or Coffee Bean or Cafe Bene in Seoul. I mean, okay, the pols and papers and talk-show yakkers can rant and rave as they wish, but most people really have more important things to think about.

That blase judgment would quickly evaporate if only Prince so-and-so or Princess so-and-so would do everyone a favor and get it on, say, with a Brexit campaigner, for or against makes little difference, or just do something so certifiably awful as to mesmerize the nation. As it is, we’re left with a cast of politicians making statements that all the commentators and editorialists have fun parsing to death but leave most people bored or confused or both.

All that is really noteworthy and disappointing is that Boris Johnson, the former mayor of London and a pro-Brexit zealot, has dropped out of the campaign to succeed David Cameron as prime minister. The reason why this is so disappointing is that Johnson, like Donald Trump, is noted for a weird hairdo in which his peroxide blond hair explodes from his head in a singular style that really identifies him.

Johnson’s hairstyle isn’t exactly the same as that of Trump, who has somewhat less hair but does the best he can with the able assistance of a hair-dresser who makes sure his dyed-blond locks flow distinctively as his personal trademark. Were Boris still in the race and ultimately successful in his bid to become prime minister, and if Trump managed to win the U.S. presidential election, we would have the makings of an Anglo-American summit featuring two of the world’s most powerful national leaders joined together not only in ideology but in hairstyle.

The Brit might say, “Give Us Back our Country,” the Yank might say, “Make America Great Again,” all of which would sound as similar as the zeal with which they groomed their hair. In their private off-record moments, they would no doubt be exchanging tips on how to manage their lustrous locks.

Ah, but sadly, that’s not to be. Here as the political winds and waves roar around us, we have to recognize that a woman totally unknown in the U.S., and presumably everywhere else except in Britain, is now the front-runner for prime minister.

That would be Theresa May, the home secretary, who has said emphatically there can be no re-referendum on Brexit, that Britain has to get on with it and pull out of the EU as 52 percent of the voters decided. She has also upset a lot of people, including rivals in her own Conservative Party, by saying the fate of three million immigrants from eastern Europe who have come here legally is a matter up for negotiation, not a guaranteed right.

While Johnson faded fast, May is now a favorite of the Brexit crowd, as epitomized by the lavish support given her by the popular, populist middle-market tabloid the Daily Mail.

In a commentary for the paper, May ranted not about Brexit or immigration, the topic that accounts for Brexit’s popularity among voters who can’t stand “foreigners” overrunning their tight little island. Rather, she called on Britain to buck up its defenses against international terrorism, declaring, “The world has become a more dangerous place than it has been for many years.”

It was, said May, “vital for our national interest that we maintain what is the most significant security and military capability in Europe” and “project our power around the world.” That said, she rattled off challenges ranging from Russian President Vladimir Putin threatening “nuclear forces in Crimea” to North Korea continuing “to defy international law with its nuclear program,” and “its provocatively flaunting of its nuclear capabilities.”

Those are tough words, far tougher than Trump’s saying South Korea doesn’t need U.S. troops and he’d be glad to chat with Kim Jong-Un.

While the Brexiters are chanting, “Give us back our country,” she’s warning we may have to fight a real war to survive. That’s a message that resonates louder than the war of words over leaving the EU ― or even comparative analysis of the hairstyles of Johnson and Trump.

Donald Kirk has been covering war and peace in Asia for decades. He’s at kirkdon4343@gmail.com.