Is Boris Johnson the rowdy chieftain feudal Britain deserves?
If your wealth comes from work, most people quickly see that its production is a collective endeavor: something that is done together. And most workers consistently vote left – including Labor in the 2019 election, while wealthy voters are more likely to support right-wing causes – including Brexit – despite what most of the media have tried to convince you of the “left behind”.
If, on the other hand, your fortune comes from a random increase in the value of properties that you benefit from effortlessly, then you are more likely to view wealth as a treasure to be carefully protected and distributed through bonds of loyalty. . and the family.
In 2017, as the Democratic Unionist Party waded through a swamp of corruption allegations, I spent time wandering around a loyalist estate in Belfast, asking people what they thought. There were, of course, several points of view, but one perspective stuck in my mind.
A bald man, who appeared to be in his 50s, pointed to a nearby playground that boasted a new tank-shaped climbing frame, and claimed the DUP was good at bringing money to “the community”.
For him, the corruption allegations were not off-putting. Instead, he found them as proof that they were people capable of bringing treasure back to their clan. He and his family might be at the back of the queue for his distribution, but at least he was getting down their line.
Since then, I have found myself in essentially the same conversation over and over again in various countries. I have heard this point of view from supporters of the far right Fidesz party in Hungary (also widely seen as corrupt); voters of Andrej Babiš in the Czech Republic, who is both prime minister and second richest man in the country; and voters in Smer, Slovakia’s long-term ruling party, which was ousted last year.
Pirate Kings of Imperial Plunder
Often, this vision of corruption is mosaic with specific chapters of nationalist mythology: wealth and contracts are first distributed to the strongmen of the country, or to the heroes of a particular moment in history.
This applies as well in Britain, where the ruling class has secured its place in the national myth as the pirate kings of the imperial plunder, as in Hungary, where the images of the oligarchs are reflected with the Magyar warlords who came down from the steppe to found the country. .
If your family’s place in the race for the national treasure is determined by history, then a certain vision of history must be upheld at all costs – which is why it becomes a specific offense for damaging a statue you oppose in the UK, and why Hungarian historians have been taken to court for criticizing the medieval kings of the country.
For the Orbáns and Johnsons of the world, however, this strategy carries a risk. Over the past decade, Fidesz and conservatives have built political support on the thin skin of a real estate bubble. But the thing with bubbles is that they burst.
Although the pandemic has acceleration of the boom in the UK property market, in Hungary, the collapse of the buy-to-AirBnB market in Budapest put a pin in Orbán’s floating deckchair. In 2020, house prices decreased by 18%, and his support has collapsed in the polls, to the point that he may well lose the next election.
By contrast, the UK real estate market is inflated by a national obsession with interior design as well as oligarchs’ money laundering. COVID has not abated either.
And so Johnson continues to be king, riding his ever-growing bouncy castle – as the super rich get richer and the average working Briton gets poorer.