LONDON – Boris Johnson and Joseph R. Biden Jr. are hardly political companions. However, the British Prime Minister and the American presidential candidate have one thing in common: they both followed Franklin D. Roosevelt as a role model for leadership in an era of economic collapse and social change.
Mr. Johnson regrouping afterwards rocky three months has relied on Roosevelt’s name and legacy of the New Deal to promise that the UK government will step up plans for ambitious public works and other spending to recover from the outbreak.
“This is the moment for a Rooseveltian rapprochement with Britain,” Johnson said in an interview with Times Radio on Monday. “The country went through a deep shock. But in these moments you have the opportunity to change and do things better. “
Mr Biden, the alleged democratic candidate, has spoken about the need for federal FDR-style intervention to free the United States from the economic wreckage of the virus and to combat the racist injustice dramatized by the murder of black Americans.
Neither man is an obvious heir to the Roosevelt coat, although Mr. Biden is at least from the same party. Mr. Johnson is a conservative populist who ran on a platform to pull Britain out of the European Union and had previously focused on Roosevelt’s wartime allies, Winston Churchill.
Still, there are signs that Mr. Johnson’s flirtation with Roosevelt goes beyond deleting his name. One of his closest advisers, Michael Gove, recently submitted a government draft that relies heavily on the 32nd President to justify redesigning bureaucracy and a new government approach.
“Roosevelt recognized that a crisis that had shaken confidence in the government required not only a change in staff and rhetoric, but a change in structure, ambition, and organization,” said Gove in a lecture to the Ditchley Foundation, a nonprofit group that promotes Anglo-American relationships.
Mr. Gove recalled the reform-minded outsiders Roosevelt had used to shape the New Deal – Harry Hopkins, Harold Ickes and others – and complained about the lack of such figures in the British government.
Mr Johnson and his staff have argued that British civil service is hidden, risk-averse, and hostile to its pro-Brexit ideology. On Sunday, Mr. Johnson announced the departure of the country’s top official, Mark Sedwill, who was Cabinet Secretary and National Security Advisor.
His resignation follows that of top officials from the Interior Ministry and the Federal Foreign Office, as well as the British Ambassador to Washington, Kim Darroch. It is a victory for Dominic Cummings, Mr. Johnson’s most influential advisor, who sees many officials as part of what he calls a “blob” establishment that includes the BBC, parts of the judiciary, and universities. In a line that was repeated many times, he told the helpers that “heavy rain” is coming for the bureaucracy.
The government wants “to have a politically-oriented civil service that is not necessarily a politicized public service, but that it believes is responsive to the political direction,” said Simon Fraser, former head of the Federal Foreign Office. “You have to be careful if this leads to an attack on the impartiality of the civil service.”
On Tuesday, Mr. Johnson is expected to visit a city in an economically troubled region to outline plans for investment in infrastructure, education, and technology and to test his new deal strategy. He has promised to “balance” the places left behind by the British economy where wealth has gone disproportionately to London and the south east of England.
Fulfilling this promise is vital to Mr. Johnson’s long-term fate, as his political base is very different from that of the former Conservative Prime Minister. Mr. Johnson won with the support of working class voters in the Midlands and North, many of whom have historically voted for the Labor Party but who supported Brexit and are socially conservative on issues such as immigration.
“Boris Johnson won the election by developing a new formula that was oriented to the left of the economy and to the right of the culture and promised to implement Brexit and reform immigration,” said Matthew Goodwin, an expert on the right Page and a senior executive at Chatham House, a research institute in London.
“He’s talking about giving them trains, bridges, and schools,” said Goodwin. “But I suspect that this community wants more decision-making powers and more say in the national conversation.”
Reassuring these voters on social and cultural issues could be as important as providing them with economic benefits, which is why the Johnson government has maintained such a deep-seated strand of social conservatism. It likes to present itself as an enemy of the London-based political elite, who it says have no contact with much of the country. Mr. Johnson’s vitriolic defense against the Protesters who disfigured a Churchill statue is also part of this strategy.
As debates about racial injustice continue to linger in Britain – and Johnson is trying to keep his coalition coalition together – some analysts predict that he might sound more like President Trump than President Roosevelt.
Unlike Mr. Biden, for whom a win in November would allow a broader liberal agenda in the United States, Mr. Johnson rules as a conservative, although he is still considered more moderate than Mr. Trump.
Analysts note that Mr. Johnson is trying to turn Margaret Thatcher’s party, with its creed of low taxes, easier regulation and less government, into something that comes close to a European-style social democratic party, at least in economic matters. How he squares this circle is far from clear.
“A Rooseveltian New Deal strategy would go down well with a large section of voters, and even conservative voters,” said Tim Bale, a professor of politics at Queen Mary University. “The problem he has is that this is not what most of his Conservative MPs have joined.”
It is also not clear that Mr. Johnson will have the strength to go through a program that is as revolutionary as the New Deal. Critics note that he is not a politician driven by conviction. His political agenda is largely Mr. Cummings’ idea. While Mr. Johnson had the tactical skills to form a victorious coalition, some doubt that he has a vision of leading his country through significant changes.
“FDR was someone who had an extraordinarily intuitive sense of where the public was and what the mood of the country was like,” said Robert Dallek, an American historian of the President who published a biography of Roosevelt in 2017. “Has someone like Boris Johnson the? “