The UK is barely hours into its general election campaign, but that hasn’t stopped Boris Johnson comparing his opposite number to a brutal dictator and mass murderer.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Johnson accused opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters of hating wealth and aspiration so much that they “point their fingers at individuals with a relish and a vindictiveness not seen since Stalin persecuted the kulaks.”
Corbyn tweeted a brief response to the article, saying “The nonsense the super-rich will come out with to avoid paying a bit more tax…”
Joseph Stalin is widely believed to have been responsible for the murder of roughly a million people during his purge of wealthy Russians (kulaks) and political opponents in 1936.
Corbyn has undoubtedly shifted the Labour Party to the left since taking over as leader in 2015. He backs higher taxes, nationalizing public infrastructure and has called Karl Marx a “great economist.”
He believes that in a “fair society there would be no billionaires and no one would live in poverty.” Tie these things together and it’s easy to arrive at a point where a Corbyn government would create a society where the wealthy paid more tax to fund the public services that everyone uses.
So, while Corbyn’s Britain would tax the wealthy more than the current government, it’s a huge leap to suggest that, like Stalin, he would starve them to death.
This election campaign was always going to be incredibly nasty and personal. The leadership of the governing Conservative party and Labour sincerely dislike one another in ways that are unusual in British politics.
The two parties come from different political traditions, but there is usually a level of personal respect that stops attacks on each other drifting into nastiness. But with so much at stake in this election, this kind of rhetoric was inevitable.
Johnson has bet the house on winning. He wants a majority so he can go down in history as the Prime Minister that finally delivered Brexit. As he wrote in the Telegraph, “With a new parliament and a sensible majority government, we can get that deal through a new Parliament in days. It is oven ready. Let’s get Brexit done, and take this country forward.”
If he fails, he could lose Brexit altogether. Worse, he might hand the keys of 10 Downing Street to a man he believes would be a threat to national security, ruin the economy and ultimately bring an end to the union of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It’s an opinion that most of his party shares.
Corbyn believes that the Conservatives want to impose a version of Brexit that puts jobs at risk and fires the starting gun on a race to the bottom on worker rights and the total privatization of the National Health Service.
His characterization of Johnson’s Conservatives as heartless and irresponsible was helped on Tuesday, when a member of the government said on radio that the victims of the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire tragedy lacked “common sense”.
Jacob Rees-Mogg said to radio station LBC: “I think if either of us were in a fire, whatever the fire brigade said, we would leave the burning building. It just seems the common sense thing to do.”
The comments caught the attention of the very popular grime artist Stormzy, who called Mogg a “piece of sh*t” and called for his resignation.
Johnson is also under fire for delaying the publication of a report into Russian interference in UK politics. It has led to accusations that the government is trying cover something up as the nation enters an election campaign.
In light of this, it’s no great surprise that Johnson went so nuclear on the day he launches his formal election campaign. In British politics, a popular technique often used is something called “dead cat strategy.” It essentially works like this: things aren’t going well for you, so you throw a dead cat on the table. Suddenly, everyone forgets about your problems and fixates on the dead cat.
And Johnson has suffered some pretty disastrous PR on the opening day of his election campaign on Wednesday. On top of the Grenfell and Russian interference rows, his Welsh secretary Alun Cairns has had to resign over allegations concerning his involvement in the sabotage of a rape trial.
It’s a toxic combination of stories to be fighting off, and when your party chairman doesn’t turn up to scheduled interviews with national broadcasters to answer important questions you know things are getting bad.
Comparing Corbyn to a dictator and murderer has certainly got the public’s attention. It might be a bit of a dead cat. But it also reveals the extent to which Johnson dislikes Corbyn – and how terrified he is at the prospect of losing to him.