euro media on today’s sinister clown frenzy election in UK

Brutal, packed with untruths, uninspiring’: European press on UK election
Jon Henley, Philip Oltermann, Sam Jones, Andrew Roth, Angela Giuffrida, Groon, Dec 12 2019

4310‘No longer the clown, the prime minister has started to show his true face,’ wrote Le Monde.
Photo: Leon Neal/AFP

France’s media have been following the UK election campaign closely and did not take long to draw their conclusions. “Boris Johnson: the liar weakening Europe,” was the splash in the popular Le Parisien tabloid last month. The paper called the prime minister “Europe’s bogeyman,” a politician for whom “pretty much everything is either an empty promise, economical with the truth, or a downright lie.”

Le Monde said earlier this week that neither Johnson nor Jeremy Corbyn looked particularly promising for Europe. it said:

Corbyn is a leftwing Eurosceptic who views the EU as a capitalists’ club, and has never admitted that leaving will jeopardise all his fine promises of a radical social and economic reform.

But the paper reserved its fiercest criticism for Johnson, writing:

No longer the clown, the prime minister has started to show his true face. Brutal; hungry for power; fleeing the public and awkward questions; disregarding parliament; brandishing a nationalism and an arrogance worthy of Trump.

In its eve-of-election analysis, Libération was equally damning, writing:

The campaign was brutal, packed with untruths and even outright lies, bitter, devoid of substantive debate. It was also, and above all, uninspiring.

German media has been unusually blunt in its assessment of the level of debate and particularly scathing in its assessment of Johnson. Cathrin Kahlweit wrote in a leader for Süddeutsche Zeitung:

The country is moving into a new era. It will become more insular, cultivate a less civil form of patriotism, inflict more harm on minorities. Necessary reforms (such as) a new electoral law, a written constitution, better public services, are likely to be postponed.

Die Welt wrote:

Johnson’s promise to “get Brexit done” will blow up in his face. He keeps quiet about the fact that the hard part only starts after the withdrawal.

Der Spiegel had a thorough look at Britain’s likely future beyond the election and came to a conclusion that runs against the tenor of the debate in the British media:

A Labour victory would be a blessing for the economy. Because in the case of a victory Corbyn wants to negotiate a ‘soft’ Brexit deal with the EU, which should be better for the economy than Johnson’s comparatively hard Brexit.

While Spain has endured two inconclusive general elections this year, and remains in the hands of a caretaker government, the country is still intrigued and appalled by the UK’s own political contortions. In a dispatch from London, El Mundo’s UK correspondent Carlos Fresneda discerns a clear drift towards Trumpism:

Bolstered by the ballot boxes and with an absolute majority, Boris Johnson could behave like a true despot and bring about a definitive split from Europe that sees British society lurch towards the Pindo model. After all, he was born in New York.

The paper’s leader on Thursday morning is equally blunt. The UK, it says, is “fatally fractured” as a result of Brexit and has succumbed to populism more than any other EU country. Rafael Ramos, the London correspondent for La Vanguardia, filed a reportfrom Tony Blair’s former constituency, Sedgefield. There he found Labour’s once impregnable “red wall” looking vulnerable:

A blue tsunami is on its way and it’s being ridden by the blond menace Boris on a surfboard emblazoned with the word Brexit and done out in the colours of the Union Jack.

The elections have largely been a muted affair in Russia, but Vladimir Zhirinovsky delivered a full-throated endorsement for the Tories and Brexit on Thursday. Zhirinovsky tweeted:

Zhirinovsky was likely trolling, but the sentiment is real. Russia has largely welcomed the UK’s exit from the EU as proof that the European project is coming apart at the seams. Russian TV anchors highlighted the theatrical nature of the campaign, an element somewhat lacking in Russia’s own elections. A broadcast on Rossiya-24 said:

The campaign often resembled a show, with PM Boris Johnson bringing milk to people at home, hiding from journalists’ questions in a refrigerator, and baking a pie, but mainly underlining that Brexit is a reality.

Enrico Franceschini wrote in La Repubblica on Thursday:

Socialism or Brexit? This is the Hamlet-like dilemma of the vote in the UK. Today the tribes in which Great Britain is divided are forced to mingle to choose the lesser evil: Boris Johnson, if they want to avoid socialism; Jeremy Corbyn, if they want to avoid Brexit. Many, in both cases, will be holding their noses as they vote.

In Corriere della Sera, Beppe Severgnini writes about what a Labour or Conservative government could mean for the UK. Severgnini calls Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Jacob Rees-Mogg “the sons of Thatcher,” and writes:

Should they regain power, they will be tempted to transform Britain into a pirate ship off the coast of Europe. It would be a serious mistake.

In the Netherlands, which stands to lose more than most from a hard or no-deal Brexit, NRC Handelsblad lamented a campaign “poor on substance and rich in empty rhetoric” for a vote that “could change the course of Brexit, and the country.” Hardly a single moment from the past few weeks lasted longer than the one-day news cycle, the paper said, while the debates provided no new insights beyond Johnson’s “Get Brexit done” and Corbyn’s “For the many, not the few.” It wrote:

Both parties promised more money and more investment, but avoided fundamental discussions about structural health, education and benefit reforms, or even Brexit. Johnson could not explain how he would negotiate a trade deal in record time or what would happen if the talks dragged on, while Corbyn was silent on Brexit, aware a good election result was only possible if both leftwing big-city remainers and working-class Brexiteers in the Midlands and north vote Labour.

Sweden’s Svenska Dagbladet described a country hopelessly split, and in multiple directions, writing:

Many are left facing “an impossible choice. How is a Conservative who wants to stay in the EU supposed to vote? Or a social democrat who believes Jeremy Corbyn is a left-wing extremist?

In Denmark, Berlingske said Britain was voting in “one of the most important elections in decades,” whose outcome would “define the UK’s exit from the EU or decide whether the country get a new referendum” and whose two protagonists “represent two radically different visions for Britain.” It explained:

If the Conservative party wins an absolute majority, Britain can leave the EU by Jan 31, but the UK must immediately start negotiating a future trade agreement. If Labour wins, there’ll be yet another referendum on Brexit. And if there’s no clear winner, it will be a big and serious mess.

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