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Pomp and Populism

Queen Elizabeth II sustained the monarchy’s legitimacy for seven decades by adhering to old-fashioned virtues: hard work, devotion to duty, fortitude, discretion, and consistency. Those are qualities that someone like former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and those surrounding him barely understand, let alone embody.

MOSCOW – One of Queen Elizabeth II’s final acts was to accept the resignation of disgraced Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the most mendacious and incompetent of the 15 prime ministers who led the United Kingdom during her 70-year reign. No one could highlight, at least by contrast, the Queen’s strengths better than Britain’s unprincipled populist.

Johnson was the only prime minister ever to draw the Queen directly – even deliberately – into scandal. In 2019, he asked her to prorogue (suspend) Parliament so that he could avoid resistance – or, indeed, any form of political scrutiny – as he pushed through Britain’s exit from the European Union. The UK’s Supreme Court quickly countermanded that action, ruling unanimously that Johnson’s request was illegal. And this was hardly the only scandal that plagued Johnson’s premiership; on the contrary, it was a steady stream of misconduct that forced him out.

The day after she accepted Johnson’s resignation, Elizabeth welcomed his successor, Liz Truss, the third woman to hold the post. Judging by her own populist record, Truss may turn out to be little better than Johnson. In any case, upholding the British constitution by overseeing this transfer of power was a fitting final act for a figure who represented a source of legitimacy rooted in a thousand years of British history.

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