Support Hyperallergic’s independent arts journalism. Become a member today »

Boris Johnson, the new British Prime Minister (via Wikimedia Commons)

Boris Johnson, Britain’s new prime minister, has been likened in style, character, and appearance to the United States President, Donald Trump. And indeed, the two have more than a few things in common: a background of privilege; a populist message; braggadocious showmanship; propensity to gaffes; and puzzling hair. Just a few days ago, Trump himself referred to Johnson as “Britain Trump” and hailed him as a “really good man.” In response, activists in London welcomed Johnson into his new position the same way they greeted Trump when he visited the country in 2018: they launched a “Boris Blimp.”

The nine-foot inflatable blimp was flown at London’s Parliament Square on Saturday, July 20, during an anti-Brexit march held under the slogan “No to Boris, yes to Europe.” The blimp, directly inspired by the bloated “Baby Trump” balloon, featured a representation of the “Brexit Bus” in which Johnson traveled to campaign for Britain’s departure from the European Union. The bus was emblazoned with a message claiming the £350 million (~$436 million) in funds to the EU could be directed instead to the UK’s National Health Service (NHS). Johnson’s critics claim the figure is false.

In the days before the protest, the group March for Change launched a crowdfunding campaign to fund the creation of the blimp. “We all know Boris Johnson’s infamous promise of £350 million a week for the NHS was just a load of hot air,” the campaign’s page says. “And yet he’s about to float into the most powerful position in the land, based on nothing more than his over-inflated ego.”

Johnson has close and personal relationships with people in the arts. His mother, Charlotte Wahl, is an Expressionist artist who recently had a retrospective at the Mall Galleries in London. Johnson’s first wife, Allegra Mostyn-Owen, who now works as an art teacher in east London, is the daughter of British art historian William Mostyn-Owen. According to the Art Newspaper, three of Johnson’s later relationships have been with women in the arts.

Yet with all his personal ties to art workers, artists in the UK are anxious about Johnson’s rise to power. First to react was Tom Yorke of Radiohead who posted a terse tweet saying “Fuck you ‘prime minister’.” The rapper Stormzy, who recently donned a Banksy-made vest during his performance at Glastonbury, retweeted a clip from his music video “Vossi Bop,” which includes the line, “Fuck the government and fuck Boris.” The British culture magazine MixMag wrote that thanks to Sormzy’s performance, “Fuck Boris” was the “defiant slogan” of the 2019 edition of Glastonbury.

Before floating the blimp, protesters marched through London’s Trafalgar Square and Hyde Park. Earlier today, Johnson confirmed that he appointed Tory Member of Parliament Nigel Adams as a culture minister. Adams is known as a Johnson loyalist and a supporter of Brexit.

Support Hyperallergic

As arts communities around the world experience a time of challenge and change, accessible, independent reporting on these developments is more important than ever. 

Please consider supporting our journalism, and help keep our independent reporting free and accessible to all.

Become a Member

Hakim Bishara

Hakim Bishara is a staff writer for Hyperallergic. He is also a co-director at Soloway Gallery, an artist-run space in Brooklyn. Bishara is a recipient of the 2019 Andy Warhol Foundation and Creative Capital...

2 replies on “London Activists Fly a “Boris Blimp” to Mock UK’s New Prime Minister”

    1. ~ Oh, I doubt he has an “Empty head” ~>its unfortunately just filled with CRAP and stuff that does HIM not A GOOD LEADER make. ~ We’ve seen nothing yet…fasten your seat belts UK, you’re going to be in for a rough ride. ~

Comments are closed.