The photo of Boris Johnson putting his foot on a coffee table during talks in Paris with French President Emmanuel Macron sparked controversy, even if the British prime minister did appear to be responding to a joke by his host.
Many British people took to social media to express their disapproval of Johnson’s behavior, calling it “rude” and “shameful.”
“Never shy to play the clown during his political career,” was how a Reuters report from Paris put it.
Reactions suggested that most observers have come to expect such antics from Johnson, and that they didn’t think that he meant his move as a joke.
“Unconventional” is the least offensive epithet one can attribute to the British leader, who many have labeled “Europe’s Trump.”
As a result of its multidimensional crisis and its pursuit of a fresh direction, Europe has in recent years been fertile ground for the rise of maverick politicians. Back when he was elected Greek prime minister on a campaign pledge to “change Europe,” Alexis Tsipras was also branded a “maverick” leader. Tsipras and his comrades chose to ditch their neckties and the dress code that applies to high-level international meetings and conferences. We all know how that turned out.
It has become evident in recent years that the European Union can no longer inspire its people. It does not have convincing answers to pressing questions about the future. An unconventional political plan is more necessary than ever if the EU project is to make that great leap forward. But what is needed is a meaningful plan, not vacuous fashion statements and bad manners.
The Brexit endeavor also started as a liberating process, a move forward aimed at breaking free from the bonds of Europe. However, what started as a vision to revive Britain’s long-lost imperial grandeur increasingly resembles a Pythonesque farce.