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How much damage will Boris Johnson do to the U.K.?

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson back in the day. Photo: EU2017EE Estonian Presidency/Flickr

Is it likely Boris Johnson will accomplish something neither Napoleon nor Hitler could manage -- to wit, destruction of the United Kingdom?

Perhaps it's not likely. States like trees, even badly broken ones, possess a powerful life force. But it's definitely now within the bounds of possibility.

The Royal Navy, after all, might have been able to save the U.K. from France or Germany, as it saved England from Spain with a bit of help from the wind, but there's precious little it can do about Scotland, is there?

For their part, if the Scots decide they want out, they won't even need to build a wall. They'll only have to upgrade the one Emperor Hadrian (76-138) left them.

The freshly sworn-in Conservative prime minister -- chosen by about 0.2 per cent of the U.K.'s population, more than half of them over 55 and nearly 40 per cent of them over 66 -- may be a shrewd and clever politician.

Comparing and contrasting the new PM to U.S. President Donald Trump, veteran Irish journalist Patrick Cockburn describes Johnson's approach as "more dangerous than Trump's because it is more insidious." Or, as New York Times foreign editor Roger Cohen summarized the same comparison, "in Donald Trump, consuming vanity is coupled with consuming ignorance. Johnson is equally vain but not equally ignorant."

Still, it's unlikely he's the smartest politician on the island. That by many accounts would be Nicola Sturgeon, first minister of Scotland and leader of, as we would say here in Canada, the independantiste Scottish National Party.

Sturgeon, by the way, said Tuesday she has "profound concerns" about what Johnson may get up to as prime minister. What she didn't articulate as clearly is that she doubtless has profound hopes the kind of leadership Prime Minister Johnson seems determined to provide will make it possible for her to realize her dream for Scotland.

Remember that BoJo, as he is popularly known, was a leader of the successful 2016 Brexit campaign and campaigned to lead the imploding Conservative Party after Theresa May's resignation as train-wreck PM on the promise to the Tory faithful he will ensure a swift Brexit, with no deal with the European Union if necessary.

As for Scotland, it voted overwhelmingly to Remain in 2016 after more closely rejecting a referendum to separate from the U.K. in 2014. A key reason for the independence referendum's outcome was that Scottish voters were threatened with being left out of the EU if they didn't remain part of the U.K.

So short of a military occupation of Scotland -- always possible when a rapidly fading power's best nuclear submarine bases are at risk -- the planets would appear to be moving into alignment for Scottish independence at last.

BoJo, at this point, seems unlikely to do much to assuage the post-Brexit worries of the Scots, not to mention the population of Northern Ireland across the Strait of Moyle, who are in much the same fix vis-à-vis Brexit as Scotland.

Everyone who has followed the man's career seems to agree he is genially and pathologically dishonest. He "has lied, pandered and guffawed his dishevelled way to the highest office in the land, aping the bumbling buffoon and doing great damage," said Cohen. "Johnson's supporters say that one should not take too seriously his overheated and mendacious campaign rhetoric, implying that he will adopt a more moderate approach in office. I would not count on it," added Cockburn.

These are indeed strange times when the greatest source of optimism about the West's conservative leaders is their fundamental dishonesty -- giving faint hope they may guiltlessly switch course and do something sensible, for once.

Cohen asked: "Why not call a second referendum? After three years of inconclusive chaos, with all Johnson's lies in 2016 now exposed, Britons deserve a chance to say if they really want to leave."

Makes sense. One can only hope.

Meanwhile back in Alberta, now that Brexit has been exposed as a catastrophe, Conservative Premier Jason Kenney has been strangely silent about his enthusiastic support for the Brexiteers three years ago.

Not so back then, when the master dog whistler, channeling the fury of his own red-meat base here in Alberta, tweeted, "Congratulations to the British people on choosing hope over fear by embracing a confident, sovereign future, open to the world!"

If pressed, though, I expect Kenney would describe Johnson as the panacea to all the disasters that have led to Britain's present sorry state.

As of last night there was no press release on the Alberta.ca web page congratulating Johnson on his ascent to No. 10 Downing Street. Perhaps there will be something today.

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with The Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca

Photo: EU2017EE Estonian Presidency/Flickr

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