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UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has played his hand well

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has played his hand well

Posted: Sep 22, 2021 2:50 PM
Updated: Sep 22, 2021 2:50 PM

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was dealt a complex hand with Joe Biden. He has played it quite well.

The man known by the previous incumbent of the Oval Office as "Britain Trump" got his first White House visit on Tuesday — eight months into the new President's term. He was well behind his predecessor, Theresa May, who got there within a week of Donald Trump taking office. But with the British press ever alert for any slight to add to the list of special relationship snubs, it is noticeable Biden invited Johnson to Washington. They could have met in New York since both were at the United Nations for the last two days.

Johnson arrived in Washington by train, perhaps trying to earn an attaboy from "Amtrak Joe." Early in Biden's term, Johnson seemed to struggle for the new President's attention. Biden, whose blood runs green, made clear that he backed Dublin and the European Union over a Northern Ireland border dispute. And the UK can no longer serve as Washington's ears inside the European Union.

Britain's biggest goal -- a free-trade deal with the US that it needs to replace its European market access -- is still elusive, as Johnson admitted this week. In fact, you might say the UK has gone "to the back of the queue."

But the affinity between Johnson and Trump was always overdone. Aside from their improbably golden locks, populism and a distant acquaintance with the truth, Johnson may be ideologically closer to the 46th President than the 45th.

And he's worked out how to make himself useful to Biden. He got lucky as this year's rotating chair of the G7, so got to welcome Biden onto the world stage on his foreign trip. Even more fortuitously, Britain is hosting the UN climate summit in Glasgow in November, another Biden priority. And Johnson played matchmaker between Australia and the US over the submarine deal that came with the bonus of poking France in the eye. He bolstered Biden's biggest foreign policy goal, standing up to China in the Pacific and his own grandiose project of portraying post-Brexit Britain as a major world power. He will land back home having secured a lifting of the US pandemic travel ban on British and other nationals and a vow by Biden to spend more to help developing nations mitigate climate change.

Not bad for a week's work.

'You don't want us to talk about politics or elections'

Justin Trudeau just effectively proved you can win and lose an election at the same time.

The Canadian Prime Minister had called Monday's snap parliamentary vote in the belief that voters would reward him with a majority after getting a handle on the pandemic. But while securing a third consecutive term, his Liberals appear to have fallen short of the goal.

Final results are still being counted, but the Prime Minister is projected to again lead a minority government in Ottawa. That means that after five weeks of debates, campaigning and recriminations, Canada is pretty much back where it started. For the second straight election, Trudeau will also likely lose the popular vote to his Conservative rival -- hardly an endorsement of his leadership or Canada's political system.

The election exposed resentment over months of Covid-19 deprivations, and revived a critique that Trudeau is an entitled opportunist. His disappointing showing may have further damaged the goodwill he needs to navigate the pandemic end game and govern effectively, and will spark fresh speculation about his long-term future. But at the same time, there's no reason to think opposition parties that also failed to make a big impression want another election anytime soon.

While showing bravura in boasting about a "clear mandate" bestowed by the election, the Prime Minister obliquely seemed to admit he had misjudged the electorate.

"You don't want us to talk about politics or elections. You want us to focus on the job that we need to do for you," Trudeau said at his victory party in Montreal. "I hear you when you say that you just want to get back to the things you love, not worry about this pandemic or about the election."

His underperformance will serve as a warning to other Western politicians about the mood of electorates as the pandemic drags on. Covid-19 restrictions and consequences will feature strongly in congressional and gubernatorial elections in the United States and the presidential election in France next year, for example. Read more here.

The-CNN-Wire
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