Boris Johnson in Australia

We [Australians and Britons] can talk to each other as we can with no one else, but you can’t revert to a world that’s now disappeared.

— Allan Gyngel, Sydney Morning Herald, August 1, 2017

To hear Boris Johnson, current Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom, is to be subjected to the capsuled calls of another kingdom.  That kingdom is often a past, where there was glory, and patriots could say they did it for England.  Reality is emptied before you, and soothingly, one can bathe in the luminescence of an optimistic, entertaining bumbler who will front, but will never be able to do.

His address at a packed Sydney Town Hall, organised by the Lowy Institute and chaired by Michael Fullilove, was delightful on a certain level. It furnished a reminder of how poor, in comparison, the Australian public speaker or political figure can be: dull, grasping for a humour packaged with canned laughter, lacking in curiosity and essentially staged.

But Johnson’s audience was there to be entertained.  He had top billing.  His past stint in the antipodes was reflected upon as a cultural baptism that lingered.  There were the conscious referents: “Stubbies daks – shorts of appalling brevity”; “bonzer, mate”, conveying a false familiarity from a person whose common ground with the egalitarian Australian “battler” is, in truth, non-existent.  He did, however, try to woo, to speak seductively, and familiarly.

Throughout his address, Johnson used the…

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