Never mind obscure troll farms and byzantine cyber-hacking (we’re being ironic here), Russia needs to really raise its game for “interfering” in other nations’ politics. Like, how about President Vladimir Putin going on a national radio show in Britain and telling voters how to vote in the forthcoming election? Now that’s what you call real, in-your-face influence!
Three days after Boris Johnson’s Conservative government announced on October 28 that a snap parliamentary elections would be held on December 12, lo and behold American President Donald Trump gives a “world exclusive” interview to Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage on October 31.
Farage, who counts himself a personal friend of Trump, hosts a nationwide radio talk-show. For nearly 28 minutes, Trump fawned over Farage and repeatedly told listeners how he thought Farage and Boris Johnson were “two brilliant people”. Trump also described Johnson as “the right guy for the times.”
Don’t forget, these public and partisan endorsements of British politicians by the US president are being given while a general election in Britain is underway.
Three times during the interview, Trump urged Farage and Johnson to form an electoral pact in order to push through the long-delayed Brexit plan to leave the Europe Union.
“I’d like to see you and Boris get together cos you would really have some numbers [of votes]… I think it would be a great thing… an unstoppable force,” Trump opined to Farage’s radio listeners.
It was also an opportunity for the American president to explicitly tell the British people to not vote for Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.
“Corbyn would be so bad for your country,” said Trump menacingly. “He’d be so bad. He’d take you in such a bad way. He’d take you to such bad places.”
Prime Minister Johnson has previously rebuffed the idea of forming an alliance between the Conservatives and Farage’s Brexit Party, even though both are ardent advocates of Brexit and share a similar nationalistic, neoliberal capitalist view. The two parties are in competition for the same constituency of voters. But more centrist Conservatives tend to see Farage’s party as too rightwing and toxic.
For his part, arch Euro-skeptic Nigel Farage had vowed that his Brexit candidates would fight in every parliamentary constituency – nearly 600 – across Britain in order to push their “clean-break Brexit” agenda. Farage was highly critical of the Tories (Conservatives) under former premier Theresa May for selling-out the 2016 referendum vote to leave the EU. By standing in the forthcoming election, Farage said the Brexit Party would give voters the chance to voice their demand to get “Brexit done”.
This week saw a spectacular U-turn by Farage when he declared that the Brexit Party would not be standing in any areas – some 317 seats – held by Conservative parliamentarians. Tory leader Johnson welcomed that announcement as it would ensure no losses for his parliamentarians.
Farage, however, said his party will contest the 243 seats held by Labour. The objective is to try to steal votes from Labour supporters who are pro-Brexit and to keep the leftwing Corbyn out of power.
So, what we have here is a de facto electoral pact between the Conservatives and Brexit Party – just as President Trump had urged in the national broadcast nearly two weeks ago.
The intervention this week prompted Labour’s Corbyn to denounce what he said was a “Trump-Farage-Johnson alliance”. He also said such an alliance is designed to take British politics in a “hard-right nasty” direction of neoliberalism “on steroids” which will be bad news for workers’ rights, the National Health Service and other public services.
As if that American full-frontal interference in British democracy was not brazen enough, this week also saw Hillary Clinton plunging her oar into the electoral waters. The former Democratic presidential candidate who lost to Trump in 2016 was in Britain promoting a new book. She gave interviews to the BBC state-owned broadcaster and to the Guardian newspaper in which she peddled her nonsense about alleged Russian interference in US elections and Western democracies more generally. You could hardly make the irony of this up.
Clinton used both interviews to accuse Johnson’s government of covering up Russian interference in British politics. This contorted speculation was based on Downing Street delaying the publishing of a parliamentary report into allegations of Russian influence in the 2016 Brexit referendum and in the previous 2017 parliamentary elections. Johnson’s government has cited procedural issues for the delay and said the report will be released after the elections on December 12.
To the BBC, Clinton said it was “shameful” of the British government to not publish the report sooner. “Because there is no doubt – we know it in our country, we have seen it in Europe, we have seen it here – that Russia in particular is determined to try to shape the politics of Western democracies… I find it inexplicable that your government will not release a government report about Russian influence. Inexplicable and shameful.”
Thus, here we have Hillary Clinton pre-empting a secret report by telling Britons that Russia is interfering in their political sovereignty – unlike her or Donald Trump who has single-handedly shaped the electoral landscape of British parties with his proposed Johnson-Farage alliance.
By the way, the most likely explanation for why Johnson is not rushing to publish the said intelligence report is because there is no simply evidence that Russia did interfere in Britain’s politics. Sources close to the report have already told media there is “no smoking gun”. Which corroborates what Moscow has been saying all along; that it was not running any malicious influence campaigns in Britain (or the US and elsewhere in Europe.)
And let’s take the egregious US interference in foreign politics up yet another notch. How about Washington’s sponsorship of violent streets protests in Bolivia to foment a coup against the elected President Evo Morales which Trump this week called, with Orwellian double-think, a “great moment for democracy”?
The absurd hypocrisy of American politicians is only matched by the absurd hypocrisy of Western media which “report” naked and nefarious interference by Washington as if it is normal, benign and acceptable.