They may be rabid right wingers, but Boris and Biden are pursuing peaceful disarmament and left wing rhetorics when it comes to big government intervention.
The UK has always prided itself on its special relationship with the United States. The two countries are bound by not only the same language, but fundamental common interests on the issues of economics and defence. The Thatcher-Reagan relationship, for example, was very much defined by this. They both believed in the free market, low taxes and a limited role for government along with a commitment to end the Cold War.
Thatcher’s free market economics, which was designed to create a growing middle class, was largely inspired by Reaganomics. It was Reagan’s words that said “money trickles down” and it very much was the case that money did trickle down during the Reagan-Thatcher years. Self-employed businessmen bogged down by government bureaucracy and regulation soared financially once the red tape was removed and their businesses could flourish.
The Blair-Bush relationship was defined far more by war-like foreign policy than it was economically. Blair came from the same genetic pool as Bush’s predecessor Bill Clinton- the same Third Way rhetoric that shot Barack Obama to power in 2008. But it was Bush and Blair who initiated the bloody invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan - the former that would define Blair’s career and have him branded a “war criminal”. The British press even went as far as to describe the British Prime Minister as “Bush’s poodle”.
Years later, commentators repeatedly describe Boris Johnson as “Britain’s Trump”. A not entirely un-apt comparison as, on the surface, both Johnson and Trump are right wing populists with strong anti-immigration rhetorics. That being said, Johnson condemned Trump over the 2021 Capitol attack.
There was a lot of scepticism about what a Biden White House would look like for Britain’s Trump. The two men have a generational age gap, different positions on the political spectrum (Johnson a populist, Biden a liberal conservative) and utterly different leadership styles. Dan Balz went on to describe them as “anything, but natural soulmates”.
And yet, at the 2021 G7 Summit, Johnson and Biden laid out plans for the new Atlantic Charter which commits countries to work together on cyber security, emerging technologies and climate change. The latter of which Trump had been a staunch sceptic of.
Johnson rebranded the special relationship as the “indestructible relationship” and it’s certainly a relationship that will be defined by the controversial withdrawal from Afghanistan and, oddly enough, left wing state interventionism.
Johnson’s Conservative party have traditionally favoured a small state, low taxes and deregulation and branded their left wing opponents as being like a “nanny state”. Yet the Tories themselves are now spending £407 billion, have set peacetime records for borrowing and raised the Corporation Tax by 25% (just 1% short of the tax rises proposed by Labour’s crypto-communist leader Jeremy Corbyn). These are the figures that arose from Budget 2021 which was a huge fistpump for left-wing state interventionism.
It’s not that Biden hasn’t engaged in state interventionism either. His Covid Stimulus Bill had $1.9 trillion pumped into the economy to help Americans hit hardest by the pandemic. The bill includes $1,400 payments, the extension of jobless benefits and a child tax credit that will lift millions out of poverty.
Even by UK standards, Biden is considered to the right wing of the Democrat Party as Johnson is considered to the Hard Right of the Tories. He is, of course, the man who backed Vote Leave. And yet, both their agendas since entering No.10 and the White House, have been unusually left-wing; increasing the size of the state and doing a lot of left wing nannying to bail the country out of bankruptcy.
It’s unquestionable that we live in exceptional times and circumstances and the Right have never been against increasing the size of the state when it is called for. They fundamentally believe the state should only step in when absolutely necessary and a global pandemic without question calls for big government and massive state intervention.
Then there’s the withdrawal from Afghanistan. It’s ironic that Blair and Bush’s relationship was defined by engaging their countries in bloody foreign conflicts. Now Biden and Boris receive criticism for pulling their countries out of such said conflicts. This is a world away from the Americas and Britains of the past which saw themselves as the police forces of the world. You could say Biden and Johnson are pursuing a discourse of peaceful disarmament. It’s a world away from the war-like foreign policy of previous Republican and Tory governments and more in line with the stop the war campaign rhetorics of the Hard Left which believe their countries shouldn’t have a role in the conflicts of others.
Johnson and Biden may be rabid right wingers, but their policies have been anything but. Is this a new brand of social democratic conservatism emerging? Perhaps this pandemic has made anything possible. The Right and the Left are becoming indistinguishable from one another.