What’s next for the British brand?
When a floppy-haired muppet is enlisted to represent our nation’s foreign affairs, it begs the question of where we go next. Are Boris Johnson’s bumbling press conferences and dinners the start of the end for brand Britain, or a carefully executed reimagining? This is, after all, a foreign secretary that previously likened the EU’s ambitions to those of the Nazis, promising no shortage of awkward dinner conversation and informal blustering.
It’s hard to believe that this is the future we wanted – one is which we shamelessly deride foreign intuitions, and jump the building at the first signs of fire with two middle fingers raised to our trapped counterparts. Not only have we left the EU, but we’re sending Farage to the EU council to rub their noses in the dirt, and Boris, through his natural graces, to befuddle the world as to whether we consider international politics a serious matter (a case easily made).
In a time of instability, it takes a deft hand to reassemble the pieces, many of which have become disjointed or simply lost in calamity’s wake. Theresa May might have a plan, shared only with a select few at the tippy-top, but all we can currently see is the shoddily assembled puppet, aptly performing the role of a Shakespearean fool.
A month ago our nation looked into the mirror and recoiled at the reflection (or at least half of it did). There was something broken in our stare, a once-steadfast defiance and spirit devolved into the shadows of apprehension and uncertainty, with a fate not entirely ours to control.
But this leaves one fundamental question. If there was something so abhorrent about a future grafted onto the mutating body of the EU, is there not something equally grotesque about a future defined by the leading voices of the Leave campaign. What face is preferable to a country that is at once so strung by its nationalistic self, and so desiring to appear open and inclusive (at least as far as economy and trade goes).
Like the legendary Batman Villain Two-Face, there are two halves to Britain’s new identity that are at desperate odds with each other. Younger generations grew up listening to the rhetoric describing Britain as a great, multi-cultural society. After the fall of communism in 1989, the 1990s saw an influx of Polish immigrants, in no small part owing to our need to rectify a labour shortage. Regardless of the motives, there was a light to this openness, styled as an international beauty with the world viewing Britain as a progressive and tolerant society.
It’s unfair to say that the likes of Boris are the sum of our less attractive side, but increasingly such individuals are positioned to pick at the scabs of Britain’s international branding, revealing the deeper rot that lies beneath.
Perhaps it’s all strategic. Boris is a bomb waiting to implode, and he alone carries the trigger. As a figurehead of the Leave campaign, raising Boris to the heights of his ambitions only to watch him fall has a Machiavellian beauty and deftness, shedding further international light onto Britain’s festering ugliness and through exposure, seek to eliminate. It’s impossible to believe that we’ve simply given up international esteem in favour for a comedy of politics with Boris as the leading man. We’re lost a bit of ourselves, sure, but rebranding must be carefully executed, and it could be that removing the corrosive materials is a necessary first step.