With support from the University of Richmond

History News Network

History News Network puts current events into historical perspective. Subscribe to our newsletter for new perspectives on the ways history continues to resonate in the present. Explore our archive of thousands of original op-eds and curated stories from around the web. Join us to learn more about the past, now.

A Surprising Role Model Emerges for Boris Johnson: F.D.R.

LONDON — Boris Johnson and Joseph R. Biden Jr. are hardly political bedfellows. But the British prime minister and the American presidential candidate have one thing in common: both have latched on to Franklin D. Roosevelt as a model for how to lead in an era of economic collapse and social upheaval.

Mr. Johnson, regrouping after a rocky three months of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, has invoked Roosevelt’s name and the legacy of the New Deal in promising that the British government will intensify its plans for ambitious public works projects and other spending to recover from the outbreak.

“This is the moment for a Rooseveltian approach to the U.K,” Mr. Johnson said in an interview with Times Radio on Monday. “The country has gone through a profound shock. But in those moments, you have the opportunity to change, and to do things better.”

Mr. Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, has talked about the need for an F.D.R.-style federal intervention to lift the United States out of the economic wreckage left by the virus and to address the racial injustice dramatized by the killing of black Americans at the hands of the police.

Neither man is an obvious heir to the mantle of Roosevelt, though Mr. Biden at least comes from the same party. Mr. Johnson is a Conservative populist who ran on a platform of pulling Britain out of the European Union and had, until now, modeled himself on Roosevelt’s wartime ally, Winston Churchill.

Still, there are signs that Mr. Johnson’s flirtation with Roosevelt goes beyond dropping his name. One of his closest advisers, Michael Gove, recently laid out a blueprint for the government that draws heavily on the 32nd president to justify a transformation of the bureaucracy and a new approach to governing.

Read entire article at The New York Times