K.V. Turley is the Register’s U.K. correspondent. He writes from London.
During last year’s British general election Boris Johnson campaigned on a slogan of “Get Brexit Done!”
After three years of interminable debate and delay about how to execute the result of the 2016 referendum on the United Kingdom’s continued membership of the European Union, that slogan worked at the ballot box for Johnson and the Conservative party. At 11:00 p.m. this evening, the U.K. will leave the EU. But, this is only the end of the beginning. The real process of Brexit must now commence — namely, the negotiated settlement of how the U.K. leaves and what sort of future relationship it will have with the EU.
The man at the center of this monumental change is the first baptized Catholic to be prime minister of the United Kingdom. Boris Johnson was duly baptized into his mother’s religion. But by all accounts that is where Boris’ Catholicism ended. While at Eton College, Johnson was confirmed in the Anglican Communion. Since then, by his own admission, he would not describe himself as in any way a practicing Christian.
Despite a gift for communication and the many platforms on which he has held forth, Johnson has spoken little of his religious beliefs. His voting record while a member of parliament showed no obvious Christian influences. Johnson is pro-abortion, and vocal in his support for same-sex “marriage.” He has advocated changes to the law to allow euthanasia. He describes himself as a “liberal conservative” but his detractors say his whole political philosophy has been charted according one star only – his own.
And yet, here he stands, at this pivotal moment in the history of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Johnson is the man tasked by his party and the British electorate to steer the national ship through the choppy seas ahead as the U.K. makes the most far-reaching change in direction for a generation.
To all observing the current political situation it seems clear that Johnson will need all the help, both natural and supernatural, he can get. He has a huge task ahead. It is not just a question of leaving the EU today but of getting Brexit “done” — in other words, of achieving the best political and economic terms on which to establish the U.K.’s new relationship with the EU.
Curiously, important dates in Johnson’s rise to power have also been those of saints and intercessors on whom he would do well to call at this time.
St. Bridget of Sweden
Johnson was elected Conservative leader and Prime Minister on July 23, 2019. That date happens to be the feast of St. Bridget of Sweden, patroness of Europe. Given that the chief preoccupation of the country was then, as it is now, the U.K.’s relationship with the EU, this patron saint might be entrusted with the need for a negotiated Brexit. To some extent, it could be argued that politically things did begin to move forward once Johnson had taken up the leadership of the Conservative Party. The logjam of Brexit, both at Westminster and Brussels, slowly began to ease.
Our Lady of Guadalupe
An election was called. This was held on Dec. 12 — the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas (where Johnson was born) and patroness of the unborn. Johnson, as previously said, is not pro-life but he and his Conservative party are not as rabidly in favor of the decriminalization of the last vestiges of protection for the U.K.’s unborn children as all the other major parties appear to be. In the end Johnson won a stunning victory in the 2019 British general election that meant Brexit was now definitely going ahead.
One of the most shameful things that Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, did during her ill-fated term as prime minister was to refuse asylum to Asia Bibi, the Christian woman prosecuted for blasphemy in Pakistan. Shortly after becoming Prime Minister, Boris Johnson used his Christmas message to speak out for persecuted Christians around the world.
“Christmas Day,” he said, “is, first and foremost, a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. It is a day of inestimable importance to billions of Christians, the world over. Today of all days, I want us to remember those Christians around the world who are facing persecution.”
He continued, “For them, Christmas Day will be marked in private, in secret, perhaps even in a prison cell. As Prime Minister, that’s something I want to change. We stand with Christians everywhere, in solidarity, and we will defend your right to practice your faith.”
St. Boris of Bulgaria
The greatest political challenge for Boris Johnson, prior to his becoming prime minister, was when he ran for mayor of London in 2008. The mayoral election was held in on May 1. By late the next evening (May 2) as the vote counting concluded, it was clear that Johnson had pulled off a major coup in what for many was seen as too liberal a city for a conservative ever to win.
In the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, May 2 is the feast day of the former ruler of Bulgaria, Boris I, whose death occurred in 907.
St. Boris of Russia
But, there is yet another St. Boris, a Russian prince. His feast day is July 24. That is also the day when Boris Johnson actually took office as leader of the Conservative Party and as prime minister of the United Kingdom. Maybe that saint’s day is not such a good omen for Johnson, however, as it was on that day in 1015 when this St. Boris received the crown of martyrdom.
While the first to admit that he is no saint, 2020 will tell whether, like the two previous incumbents of No. 10, Boris Johnson ends up being “martyred” in the seemingly never-ending national drama that is Brexit. One thing is for sure, however — given the history of that saga to date, he is going to need all the prayers he can get.