No group sex, please, we’re Chinese. Yes, please, we’re Olympians.

More than a hundred pictures of an orgy involving three men and two women have spread like a brushfire over the Chinese Internet.

What added piquancy to the sordid affair was that the men were the top Party bosses of Lujiang county in Anhui Province. In other words, depicted in flagrante delicto were three chaps who had dictatorial powers over 1,200,000 people.

The fun-seekers committed not just an indiscretion but a criminal offence, for group sex is against the law in China. So it’s understandable that the senior official involved immediately claimed the pictures were Photoshopped fakes.

His line of defence was the opposite of the one taken by the Patriarch Kiril, head of the Russian Orthodox Church. His Holiness caused a bit of a stir when he was photographed wearing a $30,000 watch, something deemed at odds with his monastic vows. Predictably, his PR people declared that the watch had been retouched onto the Patriarch’s wrist by atheists, Russophobes and Americans.

To prove their point, they released the same photograph with His Holiness’s left wrist pristinely unadorned. Alas, the glass top of the table in front of the prelate showed a clear reflection of the offending timepiece, immaculately conceived in all its $30,000 glory. The Patriarch should recruit his Photoshop artists in Germany – the Russians just don’t have enough attention to detail.

The reverse of that ecclesiastical trick could have worked for the Communist boss, had he not been shopped by another star of the show who owned up to everything. Moreover, one of the two nude ladies turned out to be married to another man featured in the photo session. Obviously the idea of sharing and sharing alike, so fundamental to the communist ethos, has penetrated China’s family life.

One wonders just how smart Chinese leaders are. After all, no hidden camera was involved. Many of the pictures are clearly posed, which means that either the sexy devils used a self-timer or else someone else was pressing the shutter. In either case, they ought to have realised that valour isn’t the only thing that discretion is the better part of. As it is, the party bosses have lost their jobs and may yet be charged with the crime of amorous collectivism.

Their little frolic has thus turned out to be costly, and it could cost even more if no contraception was used. In China, the state allows couples one child free of charge – every subsequent offspring carries a steep price tag, affordable only to the rich. I don’t know if party leaders fall into that category, but if not, let’s hope they either protected themselves or the ladies weren’t ovulating at the time.

No such worries for our saintly Olympic athletes, who had 150,000 condoms kindly provided by the organisers of the Games and, vicariously, by the British taxpayers. That amounted to 15 each, and some pundits who can’t do sums had their fun suggesting this isn’t too many considering that the Games lasted 17 days.

How wrong they are. Since most athletes were confined to the Olympic village, much of the sex involved Olympic athletes only. Now if an American swimmer hooks up with a Ukrainian sprinter, they bring a total of 30 condoms to the party. We’re now looking at an average of almost two person/couplings a day, which is beginning to look respectable, if falling short of Olympic standards.

But wait a minute, our calculations aren’t finished. Some female athletes, such as, hypothetically, those steroid-enhanced shot-putters, could have had the kind of sex that can’t for biological reasons result in pregnancy, if you catch my drift. Some of their male counterparts could have also eschewed protection if they indulged in a practice that minimises the risk of AIDS (details needn’t detain us here).

Add to these the athletes who stayed in the competition until the last days and therefore had to abstain from conflicting energy-sapping activities, and the average of daily safe couplings per person is beginning to creep into impressive figures. And by all accounts, our cherished Olympians took full advantage of the numerical possibilities.

According to variously pornographic reports, the Olympic village was turned into a den of iniquity, compared to which those Chinese shenanigans look like an infantile game of doctors and nurses. Athletes switching partners through the night, rolling on the grass between buildings, cutting a swathe through one national team after another – bed hopping and sexual gymnastics were truly the unofficial Olympic events.

Apparently, Ukrainian, American and Polish athletes led the field by a wide margin, while track, beach volleyball (surprise, surprise) and swimming were the sports most widely represented in these parallel games. Aren’t you proud that London provided the site for this festival of youthful exuberance? Boris is.

Wanna see some feelthy pictures? Sorry, you’ll have to do your own net search. With luck, you won’t even have to learn Chinese.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That the EU is undemocratic is the least of its problems

In a Daily Mail extract from his new book, Daniel Hannan, MEP, makes a case against the EU. Not yet having read the whole book, I don’t know every angle of attack Mr Hannan chooses, though I suspect he doesn’t limit himself to just one or two.

But in the extract his principal objection to this hideous Leviathan is that it’s undemocratic. Hannan states that, as no pan-European demos exists, no pan-European democracy is possible by definition. Yet, though true, this is barely relevant.

“The EU’s founding fathers had mixed feelings about democracy,” writes Hannan. “In their minds, too much democracy was associated with demagoguery and fascism.”

If that’s indeed what they thought, then I agree with them, as I do with the claim by  Jose Manuel Durao Barroso that “decisions taken by the most democratic institutions in the world are very often wrong.”

Barroso’s remark would be even more unassailable had he replaced ‘the most democratic institutions in the world’ by ‘every institution we’ve ever known.’ We aren’t in this world blessed by perfect institutions – errare humanum est, as Mr Hannan, with his multilingual erudition, would probably say. And he’d be right.

But then so are ‘the EU’s founding fathers’: too much democracy does lead to demagoguery and fascism, if we agree that state-enforced PC diktats are precisely the latter. In fact, too much of any form of government is a guarantee of tyranny, be that of one man, a small minority or, pace Tocqueville, the majority.

Moreover, this had been known for roughly 2,500 years before the world was blessed by the arrival of Messrs Schuman and Monnet. No less known was the only effective remedy against too much of anything: checks and balances, separation of power among various estates and branches of government.

This isn’t ideally achievable either: humans, and therefore institutions, are fallible. But it was Britain in the 18th and 19th centuries that came closer to the ideal than any other country ever has. So much closer in fact that the notion of checks and balances entered the political DNA of most Anglophones as it did not, for instance, of the Francophones or the people of Mitteleuropa.

The British genetic slate is being rapidly wiped clean of such sagacity. We too are vindicating the worst fears of those who realised that too much democracy was at least as dangerous as too little.

In common with most Western politicians, regardless of their ideological hue, Hannan too is conditioned to worship at the altar of democracy. Yet, as if in spite of himself, he pinpoints the real problem: “The EU is run, extraordinarily, by a body that combines legislative and executive power. The European Commission is not only the EU’s ‘government’, it is also the only body that can propose legislation in most fields of policy.”

There’s nothing ‘extraordinary’ about this. Continental European countries are viscerally alien to separation of powers, even though most practise it after a fashion. Yet such separation is not at all synonymous with our present democracy run riot, whereby every barely post-pubescent citizen is deemed fit to play an active part in the political process by casting a vote. Those who win a plurality, no matter how infinitesimal, of such votes then claim the kind of mandate that no British politician could claim 150 years ago.

No wonder this, in reality unchecked, system leads to government by demagoguery that so vexed ‘the EU’s founding fathers.’ I refer to such government as spivocracy, the rule of self-serving bureaucrats whose only discernible skill lies in their ability to put blocs of votes together by lying about their plans.

A spivocracy rules not by equity and consent, which was the prescription of our deepest political thinker Edmund Burke, but by making false promises and effectively buying voters with handouts. Replace ‘voters’ with ‘countries’, and this is precisely how the same principle is extrapolated to the supranational government of the EU.

That’s why, in Hannan’s words, “we now have the tyranny of a self-perpetuating, self-serving elite, all wedded by self-interest to the European project.” But we have it not ‘in place of democracy’, as he suggests, but in place of well-balanced national institutions governing by true consent freely given by the people, rather than tricked out of them.

Hannan obviously thinks that these are one and the same. Yet the Western political history of modernity shows that they are more nearly antithetical. True equity and consent, as Burke knew but we’ve forgotten, are only achievable in a state where the power of the people, projected through their elected representatives, is counterbalanced by the hereditary power of aristocracy and the unelected power of the monarch.

Referring to such a state as a democracy may be terminologically concise and popularly appealing, but it’s fundamentally wrong. And reducing it to unchecked democracy, as the West has shown, does lead to all sorts of unsavoury consequences.

Arguing against the truly awful EU from such a premise lays someone who, like Mr Hannan, is correct in his anti-EU animus, open to the pseudo-Burkean arguments by spivocracts like Blair. Hannan quotes him as saying, “The British people are sensible enough to know that, even if they have a certain prejudice about Europe, they don’t expect their government necessarily to share it or act upon it.”

The government, wrote Burke, is supposed to act according to the people’s interests, not necessarily their wishes. Tony and his ilk act according to neither – they pursue their own interests only. The way to make them act in the people’s interests is to have in parallel two powerful branches of national government not beholden to any party-political interests.

Such a government is impossible within the pan-European abomination even in theory, just as democracy is impossible there in practice. ‘The EU’s founding fathers’ knew this and yet used every subterfuge to trick or bribe 27 European nations into acquiescence. It’s for this reason, and not because they had reservations about democracy, that they were wicked. As is the Leviathan they’ve extruded out of their intellectual bowels.

Anyone who argues against the EU, even if he doesn’t do so quite precisely, ought to be encouraged. That’s why I’m going to get Daniel Hannan’s book (A Doomed Marriage, Notting Hill Books). After all, to paraphrase a hugely compromised adage, pas d’ennemis a droite.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The show is over, the sideshow begins

The Paralympics is upon us, as if to prove that the heights of vulgarity scaled by the Olympics aren’t the highest peaks possible.

This sick spectacle is supposed to testify to the triumph of the unconquerable spirit over somewhat abbreviated flesh. In reality it testifies to something completely different.

The whole thing reminds one of Victorian county fairs, where people paid good money to look at bearded ladies or boys with two heads. Most of the time there were some tricks involved then: the beard was glued on, and the other head was made of papier-mâché. But the Paralympics is for real.

We’re supposed to cheer and applaud those poor deluded people who put themselves on show to cater to the PC idea that they are no different from those with a full complement of limbs. They are different though. These people have all suffered a terrible tragedy, and they deserve our sympathy and prayers. One of the prayers, perhaps the only one, would be that God grant them the strength to bear their misfortune with dignity.

Yet dignity is precisely what the Paralympics deprives them of, and it also diminishes the voyeurs whose bad taste is likely to be indulged by the sight of double amputees trying to outrun one another. Add to this the crass commercialism that inevitably accompanies sporting extravaganzas, the trumped-up enthusiasm of the TV presenters, the glued-on smiles of the sponsors, and the emetic effect becomes uncontainable.

It takes much strength of character to refuse to be kept down by physical deformity, whether of recent origin or innate. If these Paralympians did all the same things in private, one’s hat would be off to them – they’ve refused to wallow in self-pity, proving that the human spirit can triumph over physical incidentals.

But when they appear in a stadium to the accompaniment of a marching band, one’s hat remains firmly in place. Suddenly respect gives way to pity and discomfort – surely not the emotion these poor people expect to elicit.

Imagine a concert pianist who loses both hands in a terrible accident. He then acquires prosthetic hands and, after years of persistent toil, learns to play simple tunes to the standard of a child just beginning to attend music school. The pianist deserves respect, admiration and applause from his family and friends. He’d deserve none of those if he then hired Wigmore Hall, had a PR company do a massive promotional campaign and played a recital to an audience of listeners who don’t really care about music but love a titillating oddity.

Similarly, people who watch a tennis match between two wheelchair-bound players aren’t there to admire the tennis. If asked why they’re attending, they’ll give you the usual mantra of bien-pensant jargon they’ve absorbed from ambient air. So it’s better not to ask, for you’ll never get the real answer: they are there to have their nerve endings tickled by what deep down they see as a freak show or, to be more charitable, a circus act.

Our whole way of life these days both encourages and rewards exhibitionism. Grown-up people don’t hesitate to reveal to a million-strong TV audience their innermost problems, of the kind that in the past they wouldn’t have divulged even to a best friend. Uncountable millions watch morons copulate and discharge bodily functions on camera. Youngsters scream for attention by disfiguring themselves with tattoos and facial metal. Fat old women wear miniskirts and tank tops, old men with varicose legs sport tight shorts and wraparound sunglasses. Men and women go to group therapy and let it all hang out: “I’m John, and I’m sleeping with my daughter…,” “I’m Jane, and I can’t stop sniffing glue…”

The Paralympics parade a different sort of exhibitionism, and yet not all that different. The competitors put their deformities on show, knowing that they’ll always find willing dupes eager to watch. Suddenly we realise that they’ve succeeded in their professed aim of showing they are no different from healthy athletes or indeed from most modern people. Suffering, which in the past could be counted upon to strengthen a person’s character and enable him to plumb greater spiritual depths, now has no such effect. Seeking to prove they’re as good as anybody, the Paralympians have wasted the chance to become better than others.

Suffering or no suffering, we’re all expected to function to exactly the same laws of vulgarity and rotten taste. Such laws will never be repealed. They are here to stay.    

Ever tried to argue the EU against the French? Don’t.

You can argue against a man’s opinions, judgments, logic, conclusions and you can even question his facts. But it’s no point arguing against his secular faith – this is something that’s held on the other side of reason.

Case in point: yesterday I had lunch with a truly formidable Frenchman. Formerly one of France’s top diplomats, he was an important figure in leading the country towards being a province in the EU. Now in his late 80s, yet still an intellectual force to be reckoned with, he publishes a book a year, along with numerous articles in some of France’s weightier journals. And he still uses first person singular when talking about the EU government.

Since this wasn’t the first time we’d locked horns on the EU, I had decided to stay off the subject, concentrating instead on our host’s excellent claret. But the old man wouldn’t let me remain neutral – he demanded to know how I’d vote in the unlikely event we got a referendum. Upon hearing my predictable reply, he attacked me with a vigour belying his age.

I couldn’t match his energy with my own, and every word I tried to get in edgewise was bounced back into my rapidly masticating face. When I did manage to take issue with a point, the heir to Talleyrand would simply backtrack and repeat exactly what he had said before. In the end, the combination of the wine and my natural bloody-mindedness led me to using words like ‘nonsense’, which I now regret – no matter how severely provoked, one ought not to be rude to one’s elders.

Some of our point-counterpoints are worth citing, if only because my venerable interlocutor’s arguments are exactly the same as those I’ve heard from every French advocate of European federalism, and from some of their British co-religionists. I wonder if there’s some finishing school where they are all trained in the art of verbal jousting with recalcitrant infidels.

“You’d suffer outside the EU.” In what way? 

“If you leave the EU, I won’t trade with you.” How would you go about it?

“I’ll introduce protectionist measures.” Protectionism begets protectionism. The EU has a positive trade balance with us, and therefore more to lose in a trade war.

“You’ll be in the same trading position in Europe as China and the USA.” They seem to be doing reasonably well.

“You won’t. I won’t let you remain a true trading nation.” England had been a trading nation even before the EU. For about a millennium.

“Not for much longer. You’ll need a visa to come here.” Even if so, this is a small price to pay for maintaining our national sovereignty.

“You’ve already surrendered your national sovereignty. To NATO.” NATO isn’t a federal state. It’s a military alliance. These have existed since the beginning of time.

“You’ve surrendered your sovereignty because you’ve accepted foreign command over your forces.” First, this only applies when our forces operate under the NATO flag. Second, someone has to lead, and it’s only natural that the supreme command should rest with the biggest contingent.

“You should be thankful to the EU for having kept peace in Europe since 1945.” The EU has existed only since 1993. It had been the EEC until then. An important distinction.

“I know this better than you do; I was there.” Fine. Then you must also know that what kept peace in Europe wasn’t the EU but NATO, in particular the American nuclear umbrella.

“The EU has kept Europe prosperous all these years.” And look how well it’s doing now.

A few more exchanges in the same vein, and the word ‘nonsense’ crossed my lips, after which the old ambassador stopped talking to me, and quite right too. I had committed two faux pas: first, I had forgotten my manners; second, I had tried to argue rationally against an irrational faith.

Monsieur l’Ambassadeur is an intelligent and accomplished man. The astounding thing, however, is that I’ve heard exactly the same ‘arguments’ from Frenchmen who are neither. One begins to think that the justification for the EU resides in the infra range way below intellect, or else in the ultra range above it. It’s as if the French have assigned transcendence to the EU, thereby filling the vacuum formed by their disastrous laïcité, the state-enforced secularisation of society.

Even devout Catholics, such as my interlocutor, seem to accept that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob needs help from a parallel deity, the EU demiurge. Alas, they are in for a letdown: people won’t pray to this God, they won’t worship it and they won’t die for it. However, they may – much as I hate to be a prophet of doom – die because of it.

The EU is a highly seismic area, made so by the blind, irrational and usually wicked superstitions of its denizens. And when pressure breaks through the fault lines, it’s not balm or myrrh that splashes out. If you don’t believe me, just look at Pompeii.

Can we now please have our sanity back?

The closing ceremony is upon us, and we can heave a sigh of relief. At last, we’ll stop being offended by alternately vulgar and deranged displays, including so many by those who normally don’t show symptoms of madness.

Here’s Dominic Sandbrook, writing in The Mail: ‘To see so many British athletes wiping away the tears as the National Anthem plays… has been a tremendously moving experience,’ especially as this came ‘so soon after the triumph of the Diamond Jubilee, which reaffirmed the deep bond between the British people and our Royal Family.’

The deep bond was reaffirmed yet again even before the Games, when Bradley Wiggins won the Tour de France and then responded to Her Majesty’s congratulatory letter by saying, ‘F*** the Queen.’ I few days later he was on the Olympic podium, courageously fighting tears to the sound of God Save the Queen.

May one be allowed to suggest that Bradley’s emotiveness was caused by something other than unbridled affection for our monarchy? And that he would have wept even harder had the band been playing one of his beloved pop tunes instead?

What he, along with the other gold medallists, heard in the deep recesses of his soul was the rustle of banknotes, millions of them, raining into his coffers. After all, the days when the Olympics highlighted sporting amateurism are long since gone. Youngsters who dedicate their every waking moment to pushing pedals or punching faces expect to be paid for it. A bit while they learn, a lot when they succeed.

Some of them, like those hideously tattooed American female boxers or our own gorgeous Victoria Pendleton don’t mind supplementing their income by posing nude. But even champions who usually keep their clothes on expect fat endorsement contracts. They’ll do anything it takes to get them.

According to the chap who’s serving time for flogging steroidal concoctions to such model Olympians as Dwight Chambers, 60 percent of them use illicit substances. That means just about everybody, since no more than that proportion can actually benefit from building up their muscle mass and stamina beyond a natural level. The smart ones stop in time to be able to pass the doping tests. The dumb ones, like Chambers or the American sprinter Ben Johnson, get caught. And even if the pusher exaggerates by half, what emerges is a pretty sordid picture.

To The Telegraph’s Charles Moore, ‘our Olympic success’ shows ‘where our genius lies, and how we could foster it better’. That’s right: we needed this vulgar spectacle to show where the British genius lies. Obviously this hadn’t been demonstrated convincingly enough by Shakespeare and Donne, Bede and Hooker, Newton and Maxwell, Nelson and Wellington. Those men can’t make enough of a point without being assisted by Nicola Adams punching the living daylight out of other girls.

Nicola will undoubtedly provide a shining example for other British girls, who now outfight men in pubs all over Britain. She shows what a woman can achieve when she dedicates her life to brawling. Nicola can also further advance the ideal of femininity that, it must be admitted, has changed somewhat from the time of Venus de Milo. In this undertaking she’ll be assisted by female discus throwers and shot putters. They’ll be well paid, but even their glorious achievement in throwing things is unlikely to increase their pulling power, at least not with men.

The hypocrisy of the Games was highlighted by the PC displays accompanying them. A German rower left London before her time because in the last election her boyfriend had stood for the National Democratic party, which he has since left. Though she herself has never uttered a remotely extremist statement, the rower was found guilty by association and thrown out.

There’s now talk that subsequent German Olympians will be made to swear an oath to democracy. Deutschland is no longer über alles; democracy is. Now that’s a brilliant idea, especially if extended to all teams. We can vow loyalty to constitutional monarchy, and the Chinese… well, perhaps this isn’t such a good idea after all.

Meanwhile a Greek triple jumper was kicked out for tweeting a comment on the epidemic of Nile fever. ‘We have so many Africans in Greece that the mosquitoes will have plenty of home food,’ she wrote, sealing her fate. And then a Swiss footballer got in trouble for twitting something uncomplimentary about his South Korean adversaries. No silly jokes will be allowed to besmirch this celebration of crass commercialism and vulgar tastes. 

The medals will be soon followed by gongs. ‘There are so many new heroes and heroines, how they are all going to be recognised without completely upsetting the system is going to be a challenge,’ commiserates Dave Cameron. You’ll find a way, Dave, I have all faith in you. Have the lot of them knighted – why are bikers any worse than pop stars? One wonders though how Wiggins will respond to ‘Arise, Sir Bradley’. If he’s true to form, he’ll say ‘f*** off, M’am.’ Go on, Bradley, I dare you.

Our brave leaders Dave and George were pushing each other out of the way to be photographed next to David Beckham, that walking exhibition of body art. Beckham, you see, is the Games’ mascot, even though he has never won anything representing either England or GB. Clearly such a photo opportunity was too good to be missed.

Dave and George, along with their hangers-on, ought to be congratulated for pushing the country down the path charted by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. Sports are now used as proof of the nation’s greatness, what with more tangible proofs being in short supply under Dave’s and George’s leadership.

We really do live in a virtual world, where trivial and meaningless achievement is celebrated more enthusiastically and rewarded more lavishly than real attainment. There’s only one consolation, or rather two: the next Games are four years away, and they won’t be held in England.

 

 

God save us from mistaking tribalism for patriotism

The other day I accused a pundit of confusing ‘patriotism with chauvinism, either of them with nationalism and all of them with tribalism’. This calls for elucidation, as nuances matter.

Patriotism may have been the last refuge of a scoundrel to Dr Johnson, and indeed many a scoundrel has used it as such. But there’s nothing wrong with loving one’s country, especially if it’s lovable. (‘For a country to be lovedit ought to be lovely’ was how Burke put it.)

However, patriotism elevated to the perch previously occupied by religion is always pernicious. Here it would be useful to consider its various levels as expressed through everyday phrases reflecting them. This is best imagined as a ladder, with degrees of patriotism forming descending rungs.

‘I love my country’ sits at the top. This is an unobjectionable, indeed laudable, statement. One’s country doesn’t have to be perfect any more than a woman has to be perfect to be loved. Whether or not it’s perceived as flawed, one’s own country offers the degree of intimacy, warmth and shared historical memory that’s keenly felt. Like two siblings sharing a knowledge inaccessible to a stranger, countrymen – regardless of their individual differences – are always united by a bond as strong as it may be invisible to outsiders.

Often this doesn’t need expressing in words: Two Englishmen visiting, for example, Italy may exchange knowing smiles at the sight of some local shenanigans, say a shop shut when it should be open, people using their hands when talking, or a woman dressed to the nines just to pop out for a loaf of bread.

Such semiotic exchanges would take several pages to explain on paper, but for the two countrymen there’s no need for words: they understand each other perfectly anyway. Their mutual understanding indeed comes close to the feelings of two siblings: in that sense, brotherly love and love of one’s country are similar.

Nor is there anything wrong with regarding one’s country as unlike any other. All countries are; if they weren’t, there wouldn’t be so many countries. This is so obvious (and empirically observable, this side of Scandinavia) that one would think it hardly needs saying. But of course what matters here isn’t the text but the subtext: when people insist that their country is exceptional, they don’t mean ‘different from’, they mean ‘better than’. They’re entitled even to that opinion, though tastes may differ.

Moving down a step, ‘I love my country, right or wrong’ begins to be problematic. However, the problem isn’t insurmountable: after all, though we like for something, we love in spite of everything. A son can’t always stop loving his mother just because she’s a compulsive shoplifter. Nor will a mother stop loving her son even if he boasts a string of juvenile convictions. So perhaps Burke’s aphorism ought to be ever so slightly qualified. A country has to be lovely to be liked – loving it is something else again.

Another step down, and we overhear the statement ‘I love my country because it’s always right.’ Between this step and the previous one, a line was crossed separating patriotism from jingoism.

No country is always right. Expressing such sentiments we begin to leave behind the rivers supposedly flowing with milk and honey and approach a swamp fuming with putrid emanations. Implicit in this statement is the tribalist, what pre-PC used to be called Hottentot, morality: if I steal his cow, that’s good; if he steals my cow, that’s bad. It took several millennia of civilisation to overcome tribalism, and by the looks of it the job isn’t yet finished.

Another step down, and the morass sucks us in waist-deep. Here one hears ‘My country is always right because it’s guided by God.’ Often heard in America, this has nothing to do with any true religious spirit – after all, Christ was unequivocal in stating that his kingdom was not of this world.

America or any other country is ‘under God’ because everything is – but only for that reason. At this level American ‘manifest destiny’ is joined by the ‘third Rome’ of Russia (replaced for a few decades by even worse messianism) and the ‘Gott mit uns’ of the SS. The underlying assumption is that our actions can’t be judged by outlanders, only by God, and he has given us an open-ended endorsement. Thus anything we do is justified simply because we do it.

The lowest rung is at the bottom of the swamp, where real creepy-crawlies take refuge. Here the sentiment is ‘Because our country is guided by God, it’s our duty to impose our ways on others, whether they want it or not. Others may be either seduced or coerced, doesn’t really matter which, as long as they join the fold.’ Since no real faith in God underlines this feeling, the explanatory clause at the beginning of the sentence may at some point be dropped for being superfluous.

This brings us to the chaps who drape their windows with Union Jacks during the Olympics. One suspects that building Jerusalem in England’s green and pleasant land isn’t their overriding objective. Their patriotism lacks the pseudo-religious fervour one often observes on the other side of Atlantic.

Yet it also differs from traditional English patriotism simply because their behaviour isn’t traditionally English. I’d go so far as to say that, by abandoning the time-honoured qualities of dignity, understatement and emotional reserve, they at best qualify as jingoists, not as true patriots. 

Hundreds of thousands have died to uphold the values symbolised by the Union Jack. Waving it at those who are clever enough to beat the doping tests, thereby qualifying for millions in endorsements, cheapens the flag – and everything it stands for. Confusing this with patriotism constitutes aiding and abetting – especially when such confusion is fostered by those who really ought to know better.  

Nobody doesn’t speak proper no more

Advocates of political correctness justify this abomination by its supposedly charitable motives. We’re supposed to mangle English because otherwise we run the risk of offending a member of one ‘community’ or another.

Well, my friends and I belong to a community too, although a tiny one. It’s made up of people who love the English language and hope it’ll retain its beauty and precision in the face of a worldwide onslaught. Now our sensibilities are offended not just every day, but practically every hour, nay every minute. Yet our ‘community’ isn’t protected by the razor wire of linguistic correctness. We’re supposed to grin and bear it.

The other day, for example, my wife sought an upgrade at a mobile-phone shop. Yet she wasted the trip due to a case of mixed identity. Her credit card identified her as Penelope Boot, but in her properly addressed bill she was Mrs Alexander Boot. The girl at the counter refused even to consider the remote possibility that the two women may be one and the same. She went so far as to point out that ‘Alexander’ was a man’s name and, as my wife was demonstrably a woman, she wasn’t entitled to it. Penelope was, in other words, a fraud.

In a parallel development, she rang a computer technician for help. The ensuing surreal dialogue was utterly offensive not just to linguistic but social propriety. ‘Who am I speaking to?’ ‘This is Mrs Boot?’ ‘Eh, but what’s your name?’ ‘My name is Mrs Boot.’ ‘Yes, but what can I call you?’ ‘You can call me Mrs Boot.’

The technician was a perfectly polite and helpful young man. His was a deficit of education, not manners – he simply wasn’t aware that, unless invited not to, he ought to address formally anyone who’s not friend or family.

We cringe every time a restaurant hostess calls us  ‘you guys’. The word ‘guy’ may have entered common parlance courtesy of Guy Fawkes, but for the last two centuries at least it has been strictly American. And even in America it had until relatively recently been used to describe men only. Its unisex sub-American use in Britain isn’t just aesthetically offensive. It’s also unnecessary.

What’s wrong with ‘chap’, ‘man’, ‘lad’, ‘bloke’, ‘son’, ‘fellow’, ‘mate’? These cover the entire spectrum of class, age, regional variation, emotional colouring and colloquialism. What does ‘guy’ bring to the party, other than branding the speaker as an aurally and culturally retarded individual (there, I left ‘individual’ off my list)?

It pains me to sound derisory to our partner in the ‘special relationship’, but most such perversions come from America, more specifically from American TV shows that these days provide the principal source of enlightenment for our youngsters. Thus, when my friend, London-born and bred, rebuked his son for a minor transgression, the boy told him, ‘Don’t make a federal case out of it.’ We have no federal cases, fifth amendments or penitentiaries in this country. However, we do have them galore on TV.

Egalitarian familiarity and demotic usage convey a certain gestalt meaning in America – they spring not so much from ignorance as from ideology. Even an American who reads Virgil and Voltaire in the original will often insist on talking like someone who only ever reads text messages. By doing so he upholds the underlying mock egalitarianism of the American Idea. It is mock egalitarianism because class watersheds are as deep in America as in Britain, and much more jealously guarded.

But, in a country defined by civic, rather than ethnic or cultural, unity, people are brainwashed to convey even in their language that the towering equality of citizenship trumps the implicitly inconsequential inequalities of class, education or style. Thus schoolchildren address teachers by their Christian names, and even highly educated people slip deliberate grammatical errors into their speech.

To someone less imbued with innate egalitarianism this sort of thing jars for being at base phoney and patronising. But when the same linguistic perversions are transplanted into Britain, whose social and cultural instincts have been formed by a dramatically different history, it’s much worse. Epigones can never match up to the original.

In short, I’m offended, and so are my friends. But what recourse have we got? What are we supposed to do? Congratulate people with ‘kids’ on defying the genetic odds by having crossbred with a goat? Pretend we think ‘elevator’ means nothing but a grain storehouse? Refuse to understand ‘momentarily’, when used to mean ‘in a moment’ rather than ‘for a moment’? A fat lot of good that’s going to do us.

If you think that having a normative authority passing judgment on language may help, just look at the French Academy. Though it has been banging its head against the language wall for almost 400 years, French is now bursting with Americanisms, where they are even more incongruous.

No, the cause is well and truly lost. And, as all glorious but hopeless causes, it must therefore be supported by all worthy men. Call it Custer’s last stand… oops! I mean the charge of the Light Brigade.

 

 

Nick throws his toys out of the Coalition pram

Isn’t coalition politics fun? Nick is angry that those few genuine Tories still remaining in the Commons haven’t let him wreck the Lords more than it’s wrecked already. That was tat, and now comes Nick’s tit: he’ll whip his party into scuppering the Tory gerrymandering bill.

Actually, ‘gerrymandering’, with its negative connotations, is an unfair way of describing a perfectly sensible idea. As long as we’re committed to the counterintuitive notion of every vote being as weighty as any other, we must agree that every parliamentary seat should represent a constituency of roughly the same size.

That, alas, isn’t the case. At present, some of the constituencies are twice as large as some others, effectively making each vote cast in the larger groups weigh half as much. Considering Labour had its hand on the tiller for 13 years, the boundaries were drawn in such a way that Tories would need an 11-percent popular majority to win a national election, to Labour’s three percent.

The Tory bill aimed at redressing this balance is thus fair, just and constitutionally sound – which is more than one can say for most of their other recent ideas. The proposal is to reduce the number of seats from 650 to 600, each representing a similar-size electorate. Even the 600 number sounds excessive, considering that the lower chamber in the US Congress makes do with a mere 435, for a population five times the size of ours. But since, our foreign policy notwithstanding, we’re still separate from the USA, there isn’t much wrong with the boundaries bill.

This is so obvious that even Nick had to go along. In September, 2010, he thundered: “To the people we serve it is patently obvious that individuals’ votes should carry the same weight, and if that means reforming the rules for drawing boundaries, that is what we must do. That unfairness is deeply damaging to our democracy.” Spoken from the heart.

But that was two years ago, and that’s a lot of water under Westminster Bridge. Nick’s heart has changed, and what’s ‘patently obvious’ now is that he wants to blackmail his Coalition partners, and never mind the ensuing deep damage ‘to our democracy’. You see, Dave knows that without having the boundaries redrawn he’ll have to float from British to European politics or, perish the thought, private life sooner than he’d like. That makes him a soft touch for blackmail, and Nick knows it.

This whole thing raises many questions. Some of them would concern the personal qualities of our leaders, but, even if asked, such questions don’t really require answers. We all know what they would be.

More interesting are questions relating to the very nature of coalition politics. I’d suggest that coalitions in general run against the grain of first-past-the-post (FPP) elections. Just as proportional representation encourages numerous parties and therefore coalitions, FPP naturally gravitates towards elections contested by two or, at most, three main parties. In a way, by forming this coalition the two parties have put us on a slippery slope towards PR elections, so dear to every LibDem heart.

In the USA, where there are two major parties, a coalition is a self-evident theoretical impossibility, at least in peace time. In the UK, with our three major parties, it’s possible for two of them to gang up against one even under FPP. Yet in practice such a coalition can work only if the two parties are broadly similar in their fundamental principles at the grassroots.

I specify grassroots here for the leadership of all three parties manifestly have no fundamental principles other than craving for power. But for as long as we continue to play at democracy, party leaders have to pay lip service to their voters’ beliefs and sometimes, when they can’t help it, even act accordingly.

It’s reasonably clear that at least a third of the Tory parliamentary party don’t see Dave as a fellow Conservative and resent everything he stands for. They have to play ball most of the time, for they too are politicians and therefore can’t let principles get in the way of their careers. But occasionally they’ll rise in revolt, if only because they don’t want to upset their true-blue Tory constituencies enough to lose the next election.

These 100-odd MPs may feel, rightly or wrongly, that they can find common ground with most of the other Tory parliamentarians, for old times’ sake. But they haven’t got a single belief their share with Nick and his jolly friends. For them the coalition with the leftmost party in Parliament is a daily egregious insult, and they can take it only for so long.

In other words, the Coalition is unworkable. Or rather it would be if those who entered into it had been driven by anything other than the urge to form a government, any government. As it is, both parties will describe it as a marriage of convenience, even though they know it’s nearer a one-night stand.

I don’t know if the Tories can chuck the LibDems and limp to the next election as a minority government. They certainly wouldn’t be able to govern effectively. But those who think they do so now, raise your hands. No, Dave and George, you can’t vote for this one, put your hands down. So it’s unanimous: the nays have it.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trust the Olympics to bring out the worst in people

When the French lose at anything, be it sports or war, it’s never because their opponent was better. It’s because they’ve been betrayed – nous sommes trahis is how they put it, in the Gallic equivalent to our ‘we wus robbed’.

In that spirit, French commentators have to ascribe the thrashing their cyclists get at the hands of the British to some dastardly cheating, or else unsporting technology. Whatever the sport, when a Frenchman loses, French commentators describe it as a ‘tragedy’. They then go into a lengthy and totally irrelevant panegyric of the loser’s sterling human qualities. He’s a nice young man who lights up every room he’s in, who works his cul off in a perfectly disinterested way, who gives his very best for the cause. The poor man is known for the charitable way in which he treats the poor, the crippled and, presumably, his opponents, who then turn around and stab him in the back. Nous sommes trahis all over again.

In short, the French are sore losers, vindicating the American maxim ‘show me a good loser, and I’ll show you a loser.’ I’d paraphrase it to say ‘show me someone who wins or loses with equal grace, and I’ll show you a gentleman’, but this terribly outdated sentiment is neither French nor American. Nor is it really British any longer, come to think of that.

Anyway, this is all rather innocuous stuff. The nonsense perpetrated by columnists on either side of the Channel is much worse. For example, writing belatedly about the opening ceremony, the Figaro columnist Alexandre Adler first proved that there is such a thing as French conservatism, and then proved that there isn’t. (I’m talking about mainstream publications here. The French do have a conservative magazine called Nouvelles de France. Its editor is blessed with impeccable taste and deep understanding of conservatism, as witnessed by the fact that he put my grinning face on the cover of the current issue.)

According to Monsieur Adler, the opening ceremony was ‘testimony to British decadence’, a representation of the values of ‘organised proletariat’, or rather those of the ‘lower middle class entirely lacking in spirit’, complete with a ‘sub-Marxist vision of the Industrial Revolution’ and a ‘resuscitation of British communist views from the 1960s’. So far so good, all perfectly true.

But then Adler had to go and spoil it all by suggesting that instead we ought to have celebrated the ‘quiet heroism of the British aristocratic and proletarian volunteers in the Spanish Civil War.’ Those chaps, about 20,000 of them, tried, in their quietly heroic way, to deliver Spain to Stalin, which would have turned the country into a sort of Iberian Romania. A conservative would instead extol the dozen British volunteers for the other side, such as Peter Kemp, who joined the Carlists to keep Spain Spanish for the next 50 years. To make matters worse, Adler than cites Britain’s imperial past and its present of ‘turning its back on Europe’. If you don’t know the difference between Europe and the euro, Monsieur, you should look for a different line of work.

If you think this is bad, read what our Tory columnists are writing. Boris Johnson’s Telegraph column the other day showed that, Eton or no Eton, the Tories can do vulgar with the worst of them. Replete with exclamation points and laddish gasps, Boris’s article gives 20 reasons to be jubilant about this tawdry spectacle. The only convincing argument is the one he doesn’t enunciate, but rather demonstrates: politicians shouldn’t be columnists, and columnists shouldn’t be politicians. The conflict of interest is too blatant: there are too many things they can’t write for fear of letting their political side down and thereby jeopardising their cherished careers. One of the few columnists I respect once said to me that he sees his job as tossing bricks through windows. Boris has to see his as window dressing.

And he isn’t the only one. Writing for the same paper, Daniel Hannan, another pundit cum politician, says that Boris ‘is having an utterly splendid Olympics’. My impression was that Boris wasn’t competing in any of the events, but then of course this impression is wrong. Boris is competing in the race to be the next Tory leader, and I’d say he has made the semi-finals. Perhaps that’s what Mr Hannan, MEP, meant.

He then came up with a proposition that ought to earn him an honorary gold medal in verbal gymnastics. All those Union flags adorning so many windows are to him proof that ‘the Olympics are a victory for patriotism and common British values.’ These values are very common indeed. Mr Hannan in general tends to confuse patriotism with chauvinism, either of them with nationalism and all of them with tribalism. London 2012 has brought this confusion into focus: what he’s extolling has nothing to do with true patriotism. It’s nearer the sentiment displayed by a football lout wearing Union Jack shorts, a T-shirt saying ‘two World Wars, one World Cup, so f*** off’, and screaming ‘if it wasn’t for Ingerland, you’d all be krauts’ at the visiting fans.

Boris, according to Daniel, is playing a blinder because he declared that ‘kids around the country are seeing that the more you put in, the more you get out — which is a wonderful Conservative lesson in life.’ A better Conservative lesson would be to eschew ‘kids’ in favour of ‘children’. As to the ‘kids’ needing the Olympics to realise that it takes a lot of training to run fast, this may suggest that they’re retarded to begin with, and therefore unlikely to benefit from this lesson. Nor is it conservative to devote one’s life to achieving something as useless and trivial as sporting success.

Down, boys, down, would be my advice to our politico-pundits. Save your effusive enthusiasm for worthier causes.

 

 

 

Good-bye and good riddance to Louise Mensch

Tory MP Louise Mensch has resigned her parliamentary seat for family reasons. She wishes to spend more time with her second husband and her three children by the first one.

“I have been struggling for some time to find the best outcome for my family life,” she wrote in her letter of resignation, displaying the command of style we now expect from our rulers. ‘The best outcome’ is to be found in New York where her present husband manages some of the nastier rock bands.

Far be it from me to offer avuncular advice on bringing up children, or ‘kids’ as we’re now supposed to call them. Actually I always thought that in order to have a kid one had to have sex with a goat, but apparently not: Mrs Mensch’s offspring are undoubtedly human. Therefore, on general principle, perhaps the drug-sodden rock world isn’t the best backdrop for rearing them.

I’m not suggesting that Mr Mensch is anything other than an upstanding role model (or ‘stand-up guy’, in the patois his wife will soon have to master), but his chosen field of endeavour brings him, and vicariously his family, in close daily contact with what one has to describe as the scum of the earth. Even if neither he nor his wife takes drugs, his stepchildren will be growing up deafened by the kind of cacophony that can only be produced by acid heads, some of whom will be frequent guests in the Mensch household.

Mrs Mensch’s personal experience with drugs would have been in the past regarded as atypical for Tory MPs. In her 20s she self-admittedly was a heavy user of Class A substances, a fact she now professes to regret: “I messed with my brain… It’s had long-term mental health effects on me.”

She doesn’t specify which Class A drugs she took, and neither does she admit to having been a heavy and prolonged user. But one has to be that to suffer long-term cerebral effects, as Mrs Mensch describes them. Now she’s naturally reformed: “Drugs are incredibly addictive, they destroy lives”.

The second half of the statement is undoubtedly true; the first, only with reservations. The only two drugs known to cause serious physiological addiction are barbiturates and alcohol. Neither cocaine nor opiates produce this sort of addiction, though both can create a craving for the pleasurable sensation. Nor are withdrawal symptoms as horrific as they are described by those who lack the willpower to give up.

I wonder whether the ‘long-term mental health effects’ affected Mrs Mensch’s subsequent career, first as an author of bestselling trash novels and then as a highly opportunistic politician. One suspicious telltale sign is that in 1996 she switched to the Labour Party, because she believed Tony Blair to be ‘socially liberal but an economic Tory.’ He was in fact neither, as anyone whose brain hadn’t been ‘messed with’ would have known. Another dubious sign is that the next year she came back into the Tory fold – surely Tony couldn’t have done anything in the intervening months that he hadn’t done many times before.

Such firm convictions and sterling credentials, coupled, it must be said, with highly photogenic looks, had to put the future Mrs Mensch on the short track to Westminster. The new Conservative party was acquiring what’s now called a social conscience, but what could be more accurately described as a cynical and irresponsible urge to win elections by promoting candidates chosen strictly for demographic reasons.

Elective politics in Britain, and everywhere else, has become nothing but a power game. Any major political party in the West, and certainly in Westminster, would field nothing but convicted murderers if such a line-up could guarantee votes. Compared to such an extreme scenario, making a parliamentary party reflect faithfully the nation’s demographic makeup is child’s play.

Hence the candidate’s moral and intellectual suitability for office first stopped being the sole requirement for selection, and then faded out as a requirement at all. What matters now is solely the ability to seduce the electorate into casting votes. If people who never studied anything much at school feel we must have a certain percentage of women in parliament, then so be it. No other criteria will apply.

No sane person would mind a 100-percent female parliament if all 650 women were the most qualified candidates for the job. Conversely, no such hypothetical individual ought to object if such an uncompromising approach would produce a men-only House of Commons, or any imaginable mix of men and women.

Louise Mensch has bravely shown by her own example what happens when a political party selects candidates for silly reasons: it gets silly candidates. Moreover, it gets spivs who enter the Commons to serve themselves, not their constituency, and certainly not their country. When self-service comes in conflict with the job, they just up and leave for the greener pastures, such as New York’s world of hard rock.

One only wishes we were spared spurious and self-righteous explanations. Just tell it like it is, Louise: you think you’ll be better off out of Parliament than in it. That would be honest and also kind, for such a frank admission would let us nod and say that we’ll be better off too.