Bonnie Greer: Time to name the REAL trolls

PUBLISHED: 19:00 31 August 2017

Rumpelstiltskin from the fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm. Illustration by George Cruikshank in 1968.

Rumpelstiltskin from the fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm. Illustration by George Cruikshank in 1968.

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Long before the internet was invented, the troll held our imaginations and encompassed our fears.

Here is one tale: A poor miller, in an attempt to make himself look big, lies to the king by telling him that his rather boring daughter can spin straw into gold. The king loves the idea and shuts her in a room with a spinning wheel, some straw, and tells her to get busy. Or else. When she is just about to give up, a troll appears. This creature, straw-coloured hair long and askew, quickly spins the straw into gold.

But he wants her nice necklace in return. The king is all in by now, and wants the gold trick repeated. The troll shows up to help the daughter and gold happens again.

The troll goes on to make bigger and bigger demands on her in exchange for his help when finally he asks for the big one: her first born. She begs and pleads with him and he finally gives her a break. It is this: if she can guess his name, she can keep her baby.

The daughter, now queen, wanders around in despair and panic until she comes upon the troll. He is dancing around a campfire, and boasting about himself. While singing his own name. She nails him and keeps her child. He stamps his foot so hard in rage that he kicks a hole in the earth. It swallows him up. And he’s gone.

This, of course, is the classic Grimm fairy tale: the story of Rumpelstiltskin, who finally gets taken down because his victim says his name. But when will the centre right, here and in the US, finally say the name of their two troublemakers: Boris Johnson and Donald Trump. They of the troll-hair.

One of the ways to judge how much the right-of-centre press dominates public discourse is to observe the amount of obfuscation going on in covering up the real story: trouble on the right. But, gradually, the right wing mainstream press are discovering: something is wrong with Brexit.

Soon the BBC, its hostage and victim, will sound the alarm. But not before the troll of the right is named: Johnson. Theresa May has gone on record to say that she has “complete confidence” in the Foreign Secretary. This is, without doubt, the prelude to offering him the metaphorical pistol, a glass of whisky and access to the back garden.

He is being offered the opportunity to go before he is pushed. Staying in his place is costing her authority, and the governing party its credibility, but she cannot move against him. Right now, the right is facing its troll. And is trapped.

That Johnson has close to zero credibility in the foreign halls of power can be gauged from an alleged assessment from, of all places, the Trump State Department, given to the Times: “(The Americans) don’t want to go anywhere near Boris because they think he’s a joke... It’s worse in Europe. There is not a single foreign minister there who takes him seriously.”

Boris is AWOL on the world stages at a time of great danger and change. On the big issues and conflicts of the day he is - in effect - nowhere to be found.

Where is he in relation to Syria, a conflagration in which Britain could provide both literal and moral leadership? The UK sells arms to Saudi Arabia in vast quantities. The positive influence that Her Majesty’s Government could wield - or try to wield - on that country’s horrible war in Yemen could be immense. Iraq, Turkey, Russia... the list is long and tragic. And the UK... largely not there.

Then there is the matter of Trump: Troll of the Republican Party. He came for their first born: the White House... and got it. He plays on resentment, anger and fear. The perfect Grimm fairy tale.

Both men hold right-of-centre opinion in thrall. No one dare oppose them. The reason: any opponent could, like the king and the daughter/queen in Rumpelstiltskin, lose the gold. The fact that both Trump and Boris have found their respective parties a kind of retail opportunity for their brand, makes them the Rumpelstiltskins that must now be defeated. As with the Conservatives, the Republican Party is trapped by their troll.

Finally admitting to themselves in some quarters (what everyone else has known for the last two years) that Trump waged and won nothing less than a hostile takeover of their party, they are now faced with the question of how he can continue.

The right - now differentiated in the US between the ‘Dirty Right’, as exemplified by Charlottesville, and the ‘Clean Right’, as exemplified by the US Secretary of State, who said that “Trump speaks for himself” - has to now face a cold fact: Trump is not one of us.

Here in the UK, it is rapidly becoming apparent that the Theatre of The Absurd being played out in Brussels (creator of surrealism itself) is largely a result of an internal right-of-centre battle. Brexit is not the “rising tide that lifts all boats” as Leavers hope and state. It is becoming the exact opposite.

The euro is taking centre stage as - wait for it - a haven currency. It is rising above the almighty dollar and could be sinking the pound as the straw-haired trolls of the right continue their mayhem.

This uncertainty gives Labour an opportunity. If ideology (centrist vs. Corbynista; Blue Labour vs Momentum; Blairites vs. the entire Labour Party) can take a back seat for five minutes, the party just might win the next General Election. Corbyn can see the prize. Labour can bring down the government over Brexit and cause another election.

By allowing Keir Starmer, Labour’s Shadow Brexit Secretary, to announce the party’s new strategy over the Bank Holiday weekend, Corbyn has played a blinder. He has left Theresa May up the proverbial creek without a paddle.

The Prime Minister now faces possible defeat on her various Brexit Bills, if some Tory Remainers put country before party. And the Labour Party has rejected what the right-of-centre commentariat now call an example of Henry Kissinger’s doctrine of “constructive ambiguity”. In doing so Labour will spare us the truly horrible sight of Corbyn and Johnson walking through the same lobby at voting time in the House Of Commons.

In the US, Troll Trump wastes no opportunity to call the leaders of the House and the Senate “fools”. On the surface they appear to be flummoxed and silenced in the face of this onslaught.

But they are politicians. And Trump is not. We all may think that we detest politicians. But what’s going on both here and in America is politico porn: the kind of stuff they love. It is the hunting and taking down of The Big Beast.

As Troll Trump feeds red meat to his dwindling base, the Republicans and Washington itself could imprison him in the Oval Office - until Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating Russian links, gets close to his door. Then the Republicans could turn to ‘One Of Us’ - Mike Pence.

Here the mainstream press are signalling to the PM that Johnson has not only lost their patronage: he is endangering, by his absurdity, the supreme project: Brexit.

Labour now has become a coalition ranging from Soft Brexit to Remain. They’re riding the wave. The right, as in the US, has been captured by the troll. Until they can say his name, that is.

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