On this Sunday’s edition of “Last Week Tonight,” HBO political comedian John Oliver took a deep dive into the political history of Britain’s new prime minister, Boris Johnson — a staunch cheerleader of Brexit and a figure who is often described as the U.K. version of President Donald Trump.
“Given that Britain’s new leader is a clownish figure with silly hair and a passing relationship with the truth, you may already be thinking of the person you’re almost always thinking about anyway,” said Oliver. And indeed, like Trump, Johnson is a far-right populist ideologue with a history of “truly disgusting” racist and sexist comments — he has said Congolese people have “watermelon smiles,” called gay men “tank-topped bumboys,” and said that women in burqas look like “letterboxes” or “bank robbers.”
And yet, Oliver noted, there is a key difference between the two leaders’ styles: Unlike Trump, Johnson has the ability to laugh about his own irreverence and incompetence to the cameras, in a way that both charms the press and makes people suspect that his behavior is more savvy and calculated than it really is. Even his iconically tangled hair, Oliver said, is reportedly mussed up that way just before he goes on camera.
But while that might have ensured his political survival in Britain, Oliver warned, the moment of truth is now: “All of the skills that have helped Johnson to become prime minister will not paper over all the deficits that are going to make him terrible at that job.”
The problem is that Johnson wants to negotiate a better trade deal with the European Union before October’s Brexit deadline, but Europe has already said it is done negotiating and it will never agree to Johnson’s terms. Johnson seems to be incapable of even understanding how the current trade regime works, let alone how to negotiate a better one. And hitting the deadline with no transition plan is forecast to collapse Britain’s economy overnight, destabilizing global markets.
Watch Oliver’s full segment below: