Moya Lothian-McLean | Boris Johnson’s Repressive Legislation Reveals Who He Really Is – The New York Times

Ms. Lothian-McLean is a British journalist who has reported widely on politics, policing and civil rights.

“LONDON — Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain, bruised by scandal and faced with an alarming rise in coronavirus cases, is refusing to change course. “We have a chance,” he bullishly proclaimed on Jan. 4, “to ride out this Omicron wave without shutting down our country once again.”

Public health experts may disagree. Yet Mr. Johnson is at least being consistent — not only with his conduct throughout the pandemic, where lockdowns were a last resort and restrictions were to be shelved as soon as possible, but also with the political platform that elevated him to the highest office. After all, this is the man who rose to power — bringing about Brexit in the process — on the promise to restore “freedom” and “take back control.”

Undeterred by the pandemic, Mr. Johnson has been quietly pursuing that agenda. But instead of reforming the country’s creaking democracy and shoring up Britons’ rights, he and his lieutenants are doing the opposite: seizing control for themselves and stripping away the freedoms of others. A raft of bills likely to pass this year will set Britain, self-professed beacon of democracy, on the road to autocracy. Once in place, the legislation will be very hard to shift. For Mr. Johnson, it amounts to a concerted power grab.”

Opinion | Boris Johnson, How Does It Feel? – By Susan McKay – The New York Times

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Ms. McKay is a writer in Ireland.

CreditCreditPhil Noble/Reuters

“DUBLIN — When Boris Johnson visited Ireland’s prime minister, Leo Varadkar, in Dublin last month as part of a last-minute scramble to reach some sort Brexit deal, the two leaders began their day with a media briefing on the steps of one of Dublin’s grandest buildings. In the Edwardian Baroque style, it was built by the British authorities while the Irish were intensifying their struggle for independence. “Fortuitously,” the Heritage Ireland website snarkily notes, “the complex was completed in 1922 and was available immediately to be occupied by the new Irish Free State government.” Rarely has the word “fortuitously” elided so much.

Mr. Johnson, shirt askew, hair a mess, shambled like a drugged bear to the podium and gripped it. Mr. Varadkar looked on, gym fit and poised in a sharp suit. The contrast was more than superficial. Britain has long since lost its empire — and this prime minister looks set to break up the United Kingdom itself. He had come to Dublin for talks about the vexed issue of the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is still a part of the United Kingdom. Mr. Johnson needed either to bully Ireland into abandoning the so-called backstop, which protects the Good Friday Agreement and the European Union’s single market, or to make Ireland look so intransigent that it could be blamed for pushing Britain into a no-deal Brexit.

Mr. Varadkar delivered a telling speech. He compared the tasks facing Mr. Johnson, who must negotiate the future of a Britain outside of the European Union, with the labors of Hercules. Ireland wished to be Britain’s “friend and ally, your Athena,” Mr. Varadkar said.

It was an elegantly delivered kick in the arse. Hercules’s labors were penitential — prone to fits of madness and having killed his family, he was about to continue on a murderous rampage when Athena, goddess of wisdom, saved him from his own folly by knocking him unconscious.”