Perfect timing for Germany to lecture us on political rectitude

On 30 January, the 80th anniversary of Hitler’s ascent to power, the German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle published in The Times an article with the self-explanatory title Britain’s narrow view of the EU is wrong.

Far be it from my mind to tie the two momentous events together or to suggest even obliquely that Herr Westerwelle is in any sense a direct heir to Herr Hitler or, come to that, Westerwelle’s institutional predecessor Herr Ribbentrop. However, if there is one thing they have in common, it’s a propensity for brazen effrontery, and Westerwelle’s article establishes his credentials in this area beyond any dispute.

Personally, I don’t think the Federal Republic, for all her exemplary post-war record of benign government, has yet earned the right to lecture countries whose political virtue is of rather longer standing. But even if at a weak moment we feel generous enough to listen to Germany’s views on such matters, they ought not to be conveyed in a peremptory manner that, alas, does evoke Ribbentrop circa 1938.

In common with our home-grown champions of a single European state, such as Ken Clark who in his dotage claims that leaving the EU would spell the end of Britain, Guido is long on meaningless waffle and short on meaningful arguments.

He starts out by patting Dave on the back for some parts of his epochal speech, while issuing avuncular admonishments for some others. Specifically, he agrees with Dave that Europe must stay competitive in the face of a rapidly growing Chinese economy.

Of course, if Europe were to become a single state, this desideratum would have to be on the agenda. Conversely, for this desideratum to be on the agenda Europe would have to become a single state. Otherwise, sovereign states could rely on their own efforts to sort out their economic position vis-à-vis China or any other competitor. The German motor trade, for example, ought to be able to hold its own – one doesn’t see too many people driving a Leefan, a Geely or any other Chinese vehicle, and nor does one anticipate those cars ousting Audis and BMWs in any foreseeable future.

In other words, Guido commits the widespread rhetorical fallacy of using as an argument the proposition he’s trying to prove. A lesson in rhetoric, not just in manners, is clearly in ordnung.

He then magnanimously concedes that ‘the EU does not need to set down rules on everything – only on those issues that, say, Britain, France or Poland cannot resolve better on their own.’ The choice of those three countries as an example is timed as perfectly as the whole article: after all, Britain and France last went to war with Germany when the latter helped Poland to solve the problem of Danzig.

So which problems require German (or EU) assistance this time? ‘Brussels,’ explains Guido, ‘could do better to tackle money laundering and banking transparency.’ One wonders how such problems had been tackled before the EU. Cooperation between friendly police forces springs to mind, along with such cross-border setups as Interpol. I’d like to see some evidence that the situation with money laundering was any worse then than it is now – and no one at the time suggested that member countries had to abandon their national sovereignty.

As to ‘banking transparency’, Guido clearly has in mind an arrangement that existed in Germany back in the thirties, when banks were under state control in all but name. Except that then the purpose of such bullying was to provide unlimited financing for Germany’s planned war effort. The purpose today is to close every loophole enabling Europeans to shield a little of their money from oppressive, confiscatory taxation.

Then Guido comes to the meat of his message by making an earth-shattering pronouncement that ‘there are no rights without duties. There can be no cherry-picking. Saying “You either do what I want or I’ll leave!” is not an attitude that works.’ Bend over, Britain, and take your punishment.

Dave’s hints at a certain democratic deficit in the EU didn’t sit well with Guido either. Democracy, he says, ‘should also include the European parliament.’ The ghost of Enoch Powell appears before us, informing all the Hamlets in the audience that no European democracy can exist because no European demos exists. But discussing such ideas would take Guido so far out of his depth that it would constitute cruelty to animals. (Incidentally, I bet Guido supports animal rights – his kind always does. How does that tally with rights entailing duties?)

Guido is on safer grounds when displaying a trait that many associate (wrongly!!! I hasten to add before this becomes a police matter) with the German national character: stating the blindingly obvious. ‘One thing… is not negotiable from Germany’s point of view. For us the European Union is far more than just a single market…’

But we never thought it was negotiable, Guido. We have always felt that the EU is for Germany a single state she can run in ways that would expiate her past sins and light up the path to her future grandeur. Still, thanks for reminding us.

There, Dave, you’ve been told. There will be no ‘new settlement’ on which the British public will have its say in some unspecified referendum at some unspecified time. So what are you going to do about it? Extricate the thorny European dilemma out of the long grass into which you tried to kick it in your speech? Call an immediate referendum? Fat chance.

As to Guido, one wonders if his article was translated into English or was originally written in that language. If so, he shows an enviable command of the English idiom, exceeding even that of Joachim von Ribbentrop’s. Therefore he won’t have any trouble understanding this English expression: pull the other one. 

Knowledge as power

Dave’s worried about black and Asian voters. That is, he doesn’t really worry about them as blacks or Asians. It’s their being voters that gives him sleepless nights.

To be more precise, Dave is concerned that ethnic minorities don’t vote Tory. Just 16 percent of them did the honourable thing at the last election, which just won’t do.

Being a man of action, especially when his own political future hangs in the balance, Dave gathered his advisors together and told them to come up with a list of policies that would make those stubborn ethnics have a Damascene experience on the road to the voting booths. Anything will do, chaps, anything at all. Just let your imagination go.

I wouldn’t venture a guess on what those mandarins will think up. A promise to deport enough white Brits out of London to make their proportion drop from the current 45 percent to 10? Possibly. Bar whites from government jobs? Perhaps. Forbid two white people to marry unless they’re both the same sex? Maybe. Whatever the focus groups say may work.

But enough of those wild stabs in the dark. Let’s stick to the policy that has already been announced. Big companies will be ‘urged’ to publish the ethnic breakdown of their workforce in general and their management in particular.

Alok Sharma, the Tory vice-chairman spearheading this noble undertaking, explains how the trick will work. ‘Peer pressure’ will be exerted on FTSE 100 companies to come up with ‘some sort of voluntary code’ according to which they’d release into the public domain the ethnic breakdown of those in their employ.

Presumably, what he means by peer pressure isn’t cajoling by members of the upper house, but rather pressure coming from… whom exactly? After all, those companies are in the FTSE 100 precisely because they’re peerless, and they are unlikely to pressure themselves. One has to surmise that the pressure will come from Mr Sharma and those who’re pulling his strings, Dave specifically. So we’re talking not about peer pressure but about government coercion – obviously with the aim of introducing quotas.

Quotas? Perish the thought, says our friend Alok. ‘It’s about information.’

Silly me, and there I was, thinking it was yet another attempt to hamstring businesses by dictating idiotic policies to them, thereby increasing state power and harvesting a few more votes. Nothing can be further from the truth.

It’s all about a disinterested quest for pure knowledge, the kind of healthy inquisitiveness that moves progress along. It’s hard not to feel sympathy for those who pursue information as a purely academic exercise, with no intention whatsoever of finding a practical application for it.

‘All the companies I’ve talked to are incredibly keen on having diversity in the workforce,’ says Alok. Of course they are. I can just see, as if for real, those endless AGMs, with the CEO announcing that profits are 20 percent down on last year.

‘Bugger the profits, Dan,’ says the Chairman. ‘Tell us how we’re doing on diversity.’

‘Yes, but the shareholders are threatening a revolt…’ pleads the dejected CEO.

‘Bugger the shareholders too,’ insists the Chairman. ‘Are we up to 15 percent Asians and 10 percent blacks, is what we need to know.’ ‘Well, yes we are…’ ‘Thanks, Dan. Meeting adjourned.’

‘Yes, but the shareholders…’

[THE WHOLE BOARD IN CHORUS:] Bugger the shareholders!

Those readers who have been involved in any business activity will know how perfectly realistic this vision is. My own experience may be somewhat different, but hey, this is just one man’s experience.

I do remember, however, that every company I’ve ever worked for, including those I’ve served as director, would have staffed up with dachshunds if that could increase the profits. A chance of an extra 10 percent at year’s end would have encouraged them to make the staff all-white, all-black, all-brown or all polka dot – it really wouldn’t have made one bit of difference.

What did make a lot of difference was that we hired, and could afford to hire, the best people for the job. Their race, sex or age would have been neither a primary nor a secondary nor a tertiary consideration. It wouldn’t have come into the picture at all.

Now call me a cynic, but I don’t believe Mr Sharma’s assurances that the ethnic breakdown will be requested simply for him and his jolly friends to have a good laugh at a dinner table. ‘Look Dave, Widget & Widget have no Pakistanis on the board. How about that?’ ‘Funny that, isn’t it? But look, Kaxo-Schmaxo have nothing but Indians. Isn’t that a knee-slapper?’

It’s as clear as the day is long that they’ll soon try to introduce quotas, dictating to businesses whom they should and shouldn’t hire (or fire). Now, considering the non-education system created by our political class, finding qualified candidates for any decent job is becoming progressively harder. Introducing further restrictions will make it harder still, to put it mildly.

Effectively the government makes sanctimonious noises about competitiveness, while doing what it can to stifle it. All to the accompaniment of the bleating in the press that the Tories’ poor record with ethnic voters is all Enoch Powell’s fault.

“As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding; like the Roman, I seem to see ‘the River Tiber foaming with much blood’.” Powell was wrong to quote Virgil; he ought to have known that our ignorant leftie pundits would be dining on ‘rivers of blood’ for centuries. But he was right in predicting that unrestricted immigration would eventually lead to Britain not being Britain any longer. He also knew that social pressure would build up to a point where one day a fissure would occur.

What even he couldn’t anticipate was that 45 years later we’d be governed by people prepared to put a millstone around our businesses’ neck for the sake of a couple of percentage points in the polls. At least, Powell’s inept contemporaries were being subversive out of principle, however wrong.





Our army is big enough to meet even nonexistent challenges – and it’s growing

Just four days ago I bemoaned the fact that HMG in its wisdom is cutting the strength of our armed forces to a meagre 82,000. Now you may be worried that today’s title suggests an about-face so rapid it might cause a nosebleed.

Much as I appreciate your concern for my physical, and possibly also mental, health, I hasten to allay your fears. I’m reasonably healthy and, as far as I can judge, sane. That, however, is more than I can say for our country.

For the army I’m to talk about isn’t the kind that’ll leave bodies in the field, defending God, Queen and country against attacks. My subject is the burgeoning army that not only doesn’t repel attacks on our liberties but in fact itself constitutes such an attack.

No more suspense: the army in question is that of social workers. Of these there are 87,442 currently registered with the General Social Care Council – 5,000 more than in the army that can make the difference between the nation’s life and death.

In addition to those on active duty, the real army has a certain number of reservists, but these will only be called up in case of dire emergency. Not to be outdone, the army of social workers also has reserves: 84,754 freeloaders who are currently in training and will be seeking council jobs by 2016 – with no emergency anywhere in sight.

In addition to its raison d’être, the real army performs valuable social services. It takes young men and women, typically those with bleak employment prospects, and trains them in skills that can then stand them in good stead in civilian life. 

Even more critical, the army teaches them discipline, decisiveness, the importance of mental and physical strength. A soldier also learns to be both self-reliant and unselfish, ready to help others at a great cost to himself. And, if the old adage about there being no atheists in the foxholes is true, a soldier who survives army life will learn to thank God – as useful a skill as any, if only to remind one of the existence of an entity infinitely greater than oneself.

All such qualities are as vital in civilian life as they are exceedingly rare. And one reason they are so rare is the sterling job done by the phoney army, that of social workers. This new model army is growing at a time when the real army is shrinking – a process not dissimilar to cancer, with malignant cells multiplying at the expense of the healthy ones.

Unlike the armed forces, social services don’t train youngsters to pick themselves up by the bootstraps. Quite the contrary, the lesson they teach is how to sink in the morass of idleness, dependency, moral and intellectual torpor. The whole welfare culture is busting a hole in the walls protecting the country’s ethos, and the social forces are the battering ram.

It has been amply demonstrated that neither Britain nor any other Western country can any longer afford the giant leech of a welfare state, sucking the nations’ blood with the help of social workers acting in the capacity of proboscis, jaws and teeth.

The problem isn’t just economic – as with any other social malaise, it’s primarily moral. The West in general and Britain specifically can’t absorb the corrupting effect of a society in which half the people work in the sweat of their brow to support families in which three generations have never held a job.

Society’s poison is the modern state’s meat, for each scrounger – and for that matter each social worker or anyone else who depends on the state for his livelihood – increases its power. Traditionally, this toxic effect has benefited mostly the left of the political spectrum, but these days the parliamentary right and left are converging into one amorphous blob.

That’s why the two curves, those of the army’s and the social services’ numerical strength, will continue to diverge regardless of who inhabits that Georgian semi in Downing Street. This is the lesson taught by modernity.

Now an educational convention, these days falling by the wayside, is that every lesson must be followed by some homework. So here’s the question I’d like you to ponder at your leisure: how many UKIP voters (which is to say real conservatives) are there among our 172,196 current and aspiring social workers? Here’s the multiple choice: a) None, b) None, c) None, d) What are you on, mate?

Lest you might accuse me of being overly negative, I’d like to put forth a positive proposal: instead of risking the lives of our 350 soldiers to be sent to Mali, let’s send a few thousand social workers instead. They could either kill the fanatics with kindness, or else set up a ‘social’ for the muderers, thereby rendering them perpetually weak and useless.

Admittedly, some social workers may not return home. But there are plenty more where they come from.

As a former adman, I can help the government

The British Tourist Board and the British government advertise the country in diametrically opposite ways. This is easy to understand for they pursue diametrically opposite ends: the former wants to attract visitors, the latter seeks to repel immigrants.

The second goal is rather more urgent than the first, what with millions of Romanians and Bulgarians becoming entitled to come here in a year’s time. It can be confidently predicted that sizeable numbers will take advantage of this entitlement, what with average salaries in those countries being lower than the sums our ‘social’ routinely shells out.

Thus the government’s key campaign pledge, that of limiting immigration, will bite the dust. This will offend Dave’s and Theresa’s sense of balance, for they won’t have even a single kept promise to offset the numerous ones they’ve broken.

Hence the arrival of a Balkan flood must be nipped in the bud. This task wouldn’t be unduly hard if Britain remained a sovereign nation: a simple ‘sorry, old chaps, you can’t come here’ would suffice. But should we attempt to utter this phrase now, the EU would countermand it by saying ‘oh yes, they can’, and that would be that.

That option off limits, Albion has to rely on its much publicised perfidy to seek more subtle deterrents. One such is an advertising campaign, currently in development, aimed at discouraging Bulgarians and Romanians from coming to the UK. The strategy is based on depicting Britain as a horrible place to live, mainly because it’s cold and wet.

Now I have to own up to a blot on my copybook: for about 30 years I not only believed in the power of advertising, but indeed wielded it for a variety of clients on either side of the Atlantic. During much of that period I was in a position to judge other people’s work, telling them when it went wrong. Slipping back into that shed skin, I must tell HMG to go back to the drawing board.

Is that the best you can do? The weather? Can’t you find something more effective to say about Britain? Here are, off the top, 10 ideas for possible ads:

Britain isn’t all beer and skittles – no one plays skittles anymore. Visual: the centre of any city on a Saturday night, with crowds of youngsters fighting, tossing rubbish bins through shop windows and throwing up.

The Brits say ‘a little knowledge is a dangerous thing’. So your children will get none. The visual depicts schoolchildren beating up a teacher in the classroom.

NHS – it stands for No Hope of Survival.  Visual: at least 20 obviously abandoned men and women piled up together in a unisex hospital ward.

British medicine is the best in the world, you can buy drugs at every corner. Visual: King’s Cross at night.

Miss communism? Come to Britain. Visual: Ed Miliband.

British men are nice, they love one another. Visual: a Gay Day parade.

The Brits tolerate any religion, except Christianity. Visual: A street scene in Bradford.

Meet your future British neighbours. Visual: A heavily tattooed, facial-metalled woman with half a dozen children, all obviously by different fathers, against the background of a council estate. A variation on the same theme:

Are you dying to meet your future British neighbours? Visual: A street gang armed with baseball bats and flick knives.

Brits love dogs, but not always the other way around. Visual: close-up of a particularly ferocious rottweiler scowling at the camera.

Note to the creative team: these aren’t complete concepts, only possible avenues to explore. See what you can do, come back in a week.

Oh well, as we all know, you can’t enter the same river twice. I doubt HMG propagandists will beat a path to my door, seeking my advice on advertising. Especially since they already know that, with or without my help, they won’t be able to do anything that’ll work.











Law and ordure

Having admitted at his trial to the rape of a 13-year-old girl, Adil Rashid, 18, was facing four to seven years in prison.

Yet Judge Michael Stokes suspended the sentence, for reasons that make one doubt not just his sanity but also that of our whole society. In fact, this case could provide a valuable diagnostic tool in any psychiatric examination. However, lacking medical qualifications, I’ll have to approach the stated reasons behind such lenience from other angles.

Reason One: Since Rashid had gone to an Islamic faith school, he didn’t know that having sex with female children was wrong.

Now, Rashid was born, bred and educated in Birmingham, not in Dar-es-Salaam. Even if his environment could indeed ‘be described as a closed community’, as his defence attorney claimed, surely he must have ventured outside his school enough times to make such ignorance unlikely?

But even assuming for the sake of argument that he was indeed unaware of the difference between a child and a woman, or between a woman and a lollipop, as his lawyer also suggested, since when is that an extenuating circumstance? Certainly not since the Roman jurists first enunciated in no uncertain terms that ignorantia juris non excusat (ignorance of the law is no excuse).

Had Judge Stokes sent Rashid down for the full seven years, he would have therefore asserted a legal principle that operates in the law of every civilised country. More important, he would have sent an important message ‘to encourage the others’, in Voltaire’s phrase.

The message would have come across loud and clear: if your religion is in conflict with British laws, move somewhere where they don’t apply. Saudi Arabia or Sudan spring to mind. And if indeed Muslim faith schools encourage their pupils to ignore our laws, such schools must be censured first and shut down second.

The English common law reigns supreme in England (unless, as is often the case, it’s superseded by the EU law, but that’s a different story). This means it takes priority over any religious law whenever the two are in conflict.

Such a pecking order can in no way impinge on Judaeo-Christian legal principles because the law of the land is based upon them. Thus I’m not aware of any Judaeo-Christian commandment that might conceivably clash with our criminal code. For example, neither Testament urges believers to kill.  

With all deference and respect, the same isn’t the case with the Koran. That holy book commands Muslims to ‘slay them [unbelievers] wherever ye find them…’ (2:91). It also takes a dim view of apostates: ‘…If they turn renegades, seize them and slay them wherever ye find them…’ (4:89)

Suppose a classmate of Rashid’s were so devout, and so isolated from the non-Muslim world, that he didn’t realise that following such commandments just may be problematic under British law. What if he ventured outside his ‘closed community’ only to murder a Jew, a Christian or someone who has left Islam? The monster could then benefit from the precedent set by Judge Stokes: the poor lad was just as ignorant of our murder laws as Rashid was of injunctions against statutory rape.

In other words, Reason One is invalid, Judge Stokes must be disbarred, and the rest of us ought to contemplate what such encouragement of alien creeds does to our society in particular and the West in general. For we live at a time when, after decades of a trough, Islamic aggression is at its peak. Three-fourths of all current armed conflicts involve Islam, and its target is the West along with everything it stands for.

As the history of the last 1,400 years has shown beyond reasonable doubt, to use Judge Stokes’s language, the only way to calm Muslims down is to show courage and resolve. The judge, or more likely those who had instructed him, has shown general lassitude and specific cowardice, with a bit of PC idiocy thrown in for good measure. The results can be catastrophic, and the sooner we realise this, the better.

Reason Two evokes less all-embracing problems, but it’s objectionable none the less. According to Judge Stokes, Rashid was so ‘passive’ and ‘lacking assertiveness’ that sending him to jail might cause him ‘more damage than good’.

It seems to me that Rashid was far from ‘passive’ when he groomed the child on Facebook and lured her to a Nottingham hotel room. And he certainly was ‘assertive’ enough to rape her. Don’t our jurists realise how moronic they sound whenever they try to justify their own craven, weak-kneed liberalism?

The good judge should take a remedial course in law to learn what custodial punishment is for. As it is, he’s clearly confusing it with social services and self-improvement counselling. The purpose of jail, sir, isn’t to improve criminals. It’s to serve justice by punishing them. It’s also to pacify society, unsettled by a vile deed, by informing it that the law is still there to offer justice and protection.

A society in which judges, and indeed those who instruct them, need to be told such simple truths is chronically sick. A society that doesn’t send unequivocal messages to potential criminals will never again be heard. And a society that lacks the nerve to defend itself doesn’t deserve to survive.

Our standing army turned into sitting ducks

HMG’s decision to cut our army strength to 82,000, the lowest since William Pitt sat in Dave’s chair, dovetails neatly with its earlier commitment to cut policemen’s salaries. It also shows how little those who govern us understand the purpose of government.

One might suggest that the state has not one but many different purposes: extorting money from those who work and passing it on to those who don’t; making sure the word ‘marriage’ acquires a whole new meaning; rewriting the rules of succession; supporting alien religions at the expense of Christianity; keeping children from educated families away from university; maintaining a health service that turns hospitals into death traps; enforcing an immigration policy aimed at turning the Brits into a minority in Britain; and above all self-perpetuating.

True, all these are worthy goals that must be pursued with vigour and tenacity. But occasionally it’s worth remembering that, since the first time our hirsute ancestors appointed the strongest among them to fight off objectionable outlanders, protecting its citizens has been regarded as the state’s raison d’être.

To make this appeal to history even-handed, one has to acknowledge that the need for standing armies is of somewhat more recent provenance. This stands to reason: in the past, the two principal branches of service, cavalry and infantry, were made up of men who required little training.

The cavalrymen would have typically learned to ride roughly when they were old enough to walk up to a horse. The ability to wield a sword and a lance was acquired at only a slightly older age.

The infantrymen knew how to drive an arrow through a wild boar at 300 yards when they didn’t yet have to shave. The skill to finish the animal off with a knife was also easily transferable to combat.

Those in both groups were extremely fit, as they spent their time working or hunting outdoors, rather than playing computer games indoors. They also ate food ‘cooked from fresh’, in the parlance of today’s lot, rather than crisps and frozen pizzas.

When a need arose, it took longer to gather a fighting force than to train it. Officers simply told their men (women were supposed to be women in those days) to imagine that those French knights were actually wild boar, to be killed either with long bows or with lances. A shot of rum or a mug of ale then got the men in the right mood, and they couldn’t wait to hear ‘for God, king and country’ before letting fly with all they had.

Nowadays the situation is different. Our arrows and lances, launched from land, sea or air, are laser-guided and they take more than a blacksmith to make or an archer to operate. This means that a standing, preferably professional, army isn’t a luxury but a necessity, for without it the state would be remiss in its principal role, that of protecting its citizens.

How large should an army be? How long is a piece of string? The answer in either instance is the same: depends on the need. However, when it comes to the string, the need is much easier both to calculate and to anticipate.

By way of illustration, I’d like to remind of you of Ross Perot, the billionaire Texan businessmen who in 1978 did what the US government failed to do in 1979: he got hostages out of Iran.

Perot’s companies operated all over the world, including its less pleasant parts. Naturally, his recruits had to be promised that if they got in trouble Ross would get them out. That promise, along with premium salaries, kept Perot’s overseas offices fully staffed.

Ross is an old-fashioned chap and, though at times he has dabbled in politics, he isn’t a politician. Thus his word is his bond, and he doesn’t lie the way he breathes. So to make sure he could act on his promise, he kept on staff quite a few former marines and Green Berets, whose sole job was to keep themselves fighting fit, ready if a need for their services arose, which Ross hoped would be never.

However, the need did arise, and Perot’s private army went into action, augmented by Ross’s buddies from his army days. After years of doing nothing, they did everything they were asked to do: the hostages were sprung out of an Iranian prison and brought home safe.

Unlike the Americans’ belief that ‘all men are created equal’, the moral of the story is indeed self-evident: an army has to be strong enough to meet not only the present needs but also those likely to arise in the future. It ought to be clear that cutting the army down to half of the UK’s police force isn’t going to meet this objective – not by a long shot.

This means HMG is being penny-wise and pound-foolish – much in the manner of the Americans who first made a few million transferring military technology to build up the Soviet army, only then to spend billions trying to counteract it.

I don’t know what our military needs are going to be, say in the next decade. Neither for that matter does HMG. Yet it’s relatively easy to see that such needs will be considerable and global, for the Channel can’t protect the country against ICBMs and dirty bombs in terrorists’ suitcases as effectively as it did against the panzers and the SS.

What with Islam going through a particularly impassioned stage, the pressure building up in the EU boiler, and the Argentines making aggressive noises, it’s foreseeable that our armed forces will be called upon to act in faraway corners of the globe. And at this very time our army strength is being cut to the strength of four divisions plus auxiliary  services – far from enough even to protect itself, never mind the rest of us.

HMG is thus reneging on its mission, thereby losing its claim to its own legitimacy and our allegiance. Protectio trahit subjectionem, subjectio projectionem (protection entails allegiance, allegiance entails protection) has been the guiding principle of Western government since its business was first transacted in Latin.

Dave would be well-advised to remember this. But then of course he has other priorities (see the second paragraph above).





Thus spake Dave: the EU is/isn’t dead

The other day I suggested that Dave is a Cicero to Obama’s Demosthenes, and now he has delivered himself of a long-awaited oratory aimed at justifying such flattering parallels.

Even as Obama expanded his mandate beyond the boundaries of time by claiming obligations ‘to all posterity’, Dave has stretched his own remit in space, by insisting he wants ‘a better deal’ not only for Britain but ‘for Europe too’.

It’s good to see a man with a broad outlook on life. However, perhaps Dave ought to remember that he was elected by the British people, and then appointed by Her Majesty to lead her government in the interests of her subjects. If such interests coincide with Europe’s, fine. If they don’t, too bad. Methinks Dave is planning to give Tony a run for his money when the job of EU president next comes up for grabs.

And specifically, Prime Minister? How will you deliver the pan-European better deal?

Here’s Dave’s answer: ‘It is nonsense that people shopping online in some parts of Europe are unable to access the best deals because of where they live.’ From being vaguely broad the aspiration has narrowed to a needlepoint. Perhaps Dave is campaigning for the presidency of, rather than that of Europe.

No, that too is wrong. Dave is seeking neither job. He’s campaigning in the 2015 election. His speech isn’t an earth-shattering statement of intent. It’s his plea to be returned to 10 Downing Street.

How else would you explain the proposed timing of the epochal referendum to which he now is/isn’t firmly/contingently committed? ‘No later than 2017,’ suggests Dave, which is the political for ‘no earlier’. Since Labour is opposed to any referendum, for Dave to keep this promise the Tories must win the next election. QED.

This seems so unlikely as to empty the promise of any meaningful content. And even if Dave remains Prime Minister beyond 2015, perhaps by forming a new coalition with the BNP, the Communist Party, UKIP, the Greens, Respect Party and the Manchester United fan club, so what? Five years is a lot of water under Westminster Bridge. Dave has been known to go back on campaign promises of much more recent vintage. Can’t you just hear it now? ‘Our 2013 pledge was made in good faith, but now the circumstances have changed so drastically…’

The pledge is contingent not only on something unlikely, Dave’s re-election, but also on something impossible, ‘…a new settlement in which Britain can be comfortable and all our countries can thrive.’

‘And when the referendum comes,’ continues Dave, ‘let me say now that if we can negotiate such an arrangement, I will campaign for it with all my heart and soul.’ The operative word here is ‘if’, and this if isn’t just big but, to use Dave’s preferred locution, ginormous.

In fact, if a new settlement is the pre-condition for the referendum, there’s no need to wait five years. It’s clear to anyone with an IQ higher than Dave’s house number in Downing Street that the only way for the EU to delay the collapse of the euro is to accelerate ‘ever closer union’. Again volunteering my services as translator, that means a single European state. Not coincidentally, this necessity tallies with the EU’s declared purpose.

This means that Britain may get a few crumbs thrown her way off the EU table, and in fact Frau Merkel has hinted at such a possibility, but we’ll never get a piece of the meat. Dave’s professed craving for ‘flexible, willing cooperation [which] is a much stronger glue than compulsion from the centre’ shows he’s either a child waiting for the tooth fairy or a fool who doesn’t realise that no tooth fairy exists – or else a knave who claims it exists while knowing it doesn’t.

The 64,000-euro question asks itself: What if no new settlement is forthcoming? Now, unlike Dave’s ifs, this one is tiny. After all, every federast, from Angela to François, from Barroso to Rumpy-Pumpy, has stated in no uncertain terms that being an EU member is like being pregnant: you either are or you aren’t. No picking, no choosing, no flexibility, no willingness – read my lips, Dave: no new settlement.

In that case, do we go to a referendum straight away, without sitting on our thumbs for five years? If we do, will Dave still campaign for the yes vote, as he promises to do now? Or will he say in his inimitable manner that the pledge of a referendum has been invalidated by the EU’s intransigence?

Dave answers none of such questions. Instead he utters a mantra of platitudes, some false, others so self-evident as to be irrelevant.

Falling into the first category is Dave’s boast that ‘the first purpose of the European Union – to secure peace – has been achieved and we should pay tribute to all those in the EU, alongside NATO, who made that happen.’ Well, at least NATO gets a parenthetical mention. And here we were, thinking that it was the threat of Luxembourg’s counteroffensive that prevented those 50,000 Soviet tanks from rolling towards the Atlantic.

It’s because NATO, and specifically the American nuclear umbrella, secured peace that the retarded baby of an EU was able to crawl out of the Franco-German loins. And in any case, read my lips again, Dave: ‘the first purpose of the European Union’ isn’t ‘to secure peace’. It’s to create a single, tyrannical, unaccountable European state. Omit this understanding, and the speech becomes just meaningless waffle.

The second category, that of needless truisms, includes Dave’s admittedly accurate enumeration of EU failings, ‘undemocratic’, ‘unaccountable’, ‘crisis of competitiveness’ and so on. Thank God for small mercies, for no British PM since Mrs Thatcher has dared to suggest there’s something wrong with the EU. But then they didn’t come under such pressure from their own party and UKIP. Dave has, hence his speech.

In the process he uses, naturally without attribution, Enoch Powell’s astute comment that there’s no such thing as a European demos (and therefore there can be no European democracy, but Dave skips this part). That’s a masterstroke of cynical but effective politicking: those who don’t know the provenance of the phrase will think Dave is clever; those who do will think he hints at his Eurosceptic lineage.

In fact, the whole speech is just that: effective politicking, shame about meaningful content. Dave tugs at every imaginable heart string, while showing yet again that his own ganglion of conviction is nonexistent.

Amazingly, conservative pundits were impressed by Dave’s Pauline attempt to be all things to all men, or rather by his technical mastery of political infighting. One can understand how they feel: we all like the aroma of freshly baked bread, even if we know we won’t get the loaf.

In one short speech Dave managed to score all sorts of political points:

·      He defanged a previously threatening UKIP, now seemingly deprived of their central plank.

·      He confirmed his pro-EU credentials by decrying British isolationism – no little-Englander, he.

·      He also established his anti-EU credentials by stating with (un)equivocal firmness that at some unspecified time, given an unspecified confluence of events, Britain will consider the theoretical possibility of leaving the EU, much as Dave personally thinks that would be a disaster of Biblical proportions.

·      He postponed making any serious decisions until his second term, while giving voters a semblance of a reason to give it to him.

·      He made Labour come down from its Eurofence.

·      He got an or-else bargaining chip for the next time he goes to Brussels with an outstretched hand.

All good stuff, that. But political virtuosity can’t mask a deficit of substance. After all, the art of politics isn’t practised for its own sake, but rather for the sake of the country. How Dave’s impersonation of Cicero will serve Britain is anyone’s guess. My guess is it won’t. 









The Sessions: perfect script, perfect acting, perfectly amoral

The film is based on the true story of Mark O’Brien, a poet and journalist rendered immobile by childhood polio. The only parts of his body he can move are his head and, well, that part.

Having been commissioned in 1994 to write an article about disabled sex, Mark decides to do research by experiencing the activity under scrutiny, something he hasn’t done in his first 38 years. To that end he engages the services of a sex surrogate cum sex therapist Cheryl Cohen-Greene (whose article provides a source for the script).

But first Mark, a pious Catholic, seeks the blessing of his priest, who has initial qualms about endorsing fornication. However, after some soul searching and a few glances at the icons of Jesus and the Virgin, the priest exclaims ‘Go for it!’, which Mark does.

Enter Cheryl, who is at pains to explain the difference between herself and a prostitute: ‘They want your repeat business, and I don’t.’ What she wants is exactly sex sessions, during which she gradually, competently and in due course lovingly coaxes first Mark and then herself to orgasm.

Mark’s spirits are lifted no end, and he makes a successful pass at the hospital volunteer Susan Fernbach, whose account also contributed to the script. He dies in 1999, much later and happier than, the film implies, he would have done without his foray into carnal love.

Judging by the bits of his verse cited in the film, O’Brien isn’t much of a poet. He is, however, something more important: an honourable man who bears his desperate condition with humour, dignity and fortitude. Never once in 95 minutes does he wallow in self-pity, demanding lachrymose sympathy from those around him. Instead Mark shows his generosity of spirit by joking about his condition which, he knows, makes life hard not only for him but also for his minders.

Cheryl and the others treat him without the cloying sentimentality into which the film could so easily have lapsed. They all trade variously funny and light-hearted lines with Mark, obviously trying to mask the underlying tragedy, but never quite succeeding in doing so.

Even though the sex scenes are rather graphic, with female nudity throughout, the film isn’t at all salacious – yet another pitfall it avoids. Cheryl at first imbues the proceedings with a certain clinical efficiency to be expected from the medical professional she thinks she is. From there she proceeds to emotional involvement, skipping eroticism unencumbered by sentiment.

Director Ben Lewin employs extremely restrained angles, laconic camera movements and miserly cutting volume. His taste is impeccable, and he senses that a film like this lives or dies by the acting performances.

In this instance it lives, and gloriously so. John Hawkes’s Mark is superb: one believes every word and every facial expression, the only means he has at his disposal. It takes a true artist to do so much with so little, and without a single false note.

Helen Hunt’s Cheryl is equally impressive. The Oscar-winning actress has never done frontal nudity before, and, for a 49-year-old it takes courage to do so for the first time. Hunt’s subtlety makes us believe Cheryl’s transition, unlikely for someone in her line of work, from detached professional expertise to genuine feeling. She manages to make even the red-blooded males in the audience forget they’re looking at a beautiful naked woman. Her humanity takes over, drawing attention to her face, eyes, smile and away from her body.

William H. Macy’s performance as the priest is as compelling as one would expect from the Coen brothers’ favourite actor. And every supporting role is impeccably cast and acted, delivering just the right mixture of gravity and levity.

The film refrains from moralising, which is always commendable. But in displaying such restraint it regrettably leaves some essential moral questions not only unanswered but indeed unasked.

These involve neither Mark nor his priest. Only a heartless puritan would begrudge a little happiness to a man who spends his life inside an iron lung and who’s clearly not long for this world. And I submit that a priest anathematising fornication under such circumstances would uphold the letter of Christianity at the expense of its spirit.

The problem starts with Cheryl and her trade. For all her meticulous compiling of medical notes, she is indeed closer to a hooker than to a doctor or a therapist.

Sex with patients isn’t what medical people do. If amorous problems arise from plumbing malfunctions, patients go to urologists. If the problem is psychological, they go to a psychiatrist. If it’s caused by an underlying disease, they go to a physician. If cured, they may seek professional sex, but it’s a fallacy to regard it as just another branch of medicine.

Like hookers, surrogates reduce sex to an impersonal interface between parts, not humans – which the film proves by finally making Cheryl act, on her terms, unprofessionally. The sex between Cheryl and Mark only succeeds when they become attached to each other, emphasising the advantage of being human, rather than, say, simian.

By treating Mrs Cohen’s profession as a legitimate medical service, the film displays worrying amorality – it imbues the action with an emotional content, while ignoring the moral one.

Cheryl acts, speaks and dresses like a normal middleclass housewife, which of course she is. After work she goes home to her husband, who lives off the proceeds of her occupation. He only becomes uncomfortable when he realises that Cheryl has feelings for Mark – her screwing strangers full time doesn’t bother him at all.

We don’t find out how Cheryl got to do what she’s doing, nor why her husband seems so nonchalant about it, and these omissions leave a gap. After all, neither I nor anyone I know would welcome our wives pursuing such career ambitions. That doesn’t mean that everyone should be as boringly normal but, if some men aren’t, an explanation wouldn’t go amiss in a complete work of art.

I’m not suggesting that the moral questions to be raised could receive a quick and unequivocal answer – only that not having asked them betrays somewhat the otherwise unimpeachable integrity of the film.

Interestingly, the Observer reviewer has a different problem: he mildly castigates the film for being ‘perhaps somewhat judgmental about prostitutes when Mark comes to making rigid distinctions between [them and] Cheryl.’

Of course being judgmental about anything offends against The Observer’s moral code, which has become predominant in our time. In fact, it’s the only sin that can’t be swept under the carpet of their editorial office. I’d suggest that a lack of moral judgment pushes us down to a level where human beings used not to be routinely found, but where Observer columnists seem to dwell en masse.



Caught between two speeches, feeling like a fool…

One can’t help feeling like a Mediterranean denizen alive during the centuries separating the two greatest orators of antiquity. But in our fast-moving world the interval is shorter: Demosthenes (aka Obama) spoke yesterday; Cicero (aka Dave) will speak tomorrow.

Thanks to numerous leaks, tomorrow’s speech is yesterday’s news: we all know what Dave will say. We’re also aware that, in common with all other spivocrats (sorry, today’s world leaders), he’ll proceed from the assumption that his audience comprises exclusively pimpled children with special needs.

Dave will demand that the leopard (aka the EU) change its spots and allow him to dictate his terms – or else. In this context ‘or else’ means that at some unspecified point, but definitely after the next election, Dave will call an unspecified referendum. This is like me promising you that, should I win big in the lottery, for which I never buy tickets, I’ll split my millions with you.

Still, let’s not jump the gun, as President Lincoln could have said. We must wait until Cicero has actually spoken. Meanwhile let’s enjoy the sight of Tory columnists trying to find something nice to say about Dave in anticipation of his epoch-making oratory.

Benedict Brogan, for example, is capable of lean, thoughtful writing. But he’s on a losing wicket here, something he knows but, being in denial, refuses to acknowledge.

Hence he declares that Dave’s ‘administration has chalked up an enviable record of achievement’, while forgetting to tell us what it is precisely that we’re supposed to envy. Oh yes, Dave personifies all the historical goodness of the Tory party:

‘His capacity to embody tradition yet accept the demands of modernity is the quality that successful British institutions have always shown, from the Army to Oxbridge colleges.’

Quite. Except that it’s hard not to notice that these very institutions are being destroyed by Dave’s administration. Under his true-blue tutelage the Army has dwindled to a strength just below that boasted by Wessex way back when.

And Oxbridge has been turned into a laboratory for social engineering, forced to come up with class-based admission standards last favoured by the Bolsheviks in the early years of their regime. Then higher education was off-limits for children of educated families, an ideal towards which Dave’s policies are edging bit by sure bit.

Party loyalty is a bugger, isn’t it, Ben? But enough about Cicero. Instead let’s talk about Demosthenes, who has already delivered himself of his speech-writers’ salient points:

‘A decade of war is now ending.’ Yes, but there are two ways of ending a war: winning and losing.

Americans, with us in tow, have destabilised the Middle East by their frankly idiotic attempts to push it towards democratic virtue. They then ushered in the Arab Spring, much beloved of Dave, Nick et al.

As a result, militant Islamist regimes have been installed all over the region and, as the Algeria carnage shows, terrorism is expanding geographically. After American withdrawal, hastened by Obama, Islamism will be stronger and blood-thirstier than ever – is that the end Barack Hussein has in mind?

‘We will support democracy from Asia to Africa; from the Americas to the Middle East, because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom.’ How are we going to support it, now the war is over? By starting another one? By employing a few more speech writers? US policy so far has favoured not ‘those who long for freedom’ but those who long for female castration.

‘An economic recovery has begun.’ Has it indeed? What about the $16-trillion-plus debt? Unemployment? The probability of losing the AAA rating? Social trust funds on the verge of depletion? Never mind, we fools aren’t supposed to ask such questions.

‘We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are… to all posterity.’ Personally I haven’t met many Americans who share this belief – certainly not at a time of national crisis.

‘We will respond to the threat of climate change…’ But you’re already responding to this mythical threat, Mr President, by pumping funds you don’t have into tree-hugging. This embrace will soon go beyond the foreplay stage, jeopardising technological progress, the only kind modernity can deliver.

‘The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult…’ The problem is energy, not pie-in-the-sky sustainable energy. That problem is being solved by the hydrocarbon industry, bending under the weight of extortionist taxation and suffocating regulations.

Fighting off Barack Hussein’s ideological assault, this industry has come up with economically feasible ways of producing shale gas, putting the country on the path that’s really worth travelling, the one to energy self-sufficiency. 

‘That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God…’ …in whom by all accounts Barack Hussein doesn’t believe, but he does believe in courting the Bible-belt vote. As a general observation, show me someone who says ‘our planet’ and I’ll show you a tasteless knee-jerk leftie.

‘We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit.’ That’s why Obama is pushing for nationalised medicine, which is bound to increase the cost of health care, reduce its efficacy, and as to the deficit… ‘nuff said.

‘The commitments we make to each other – through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security – these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us.’ How? Morally? They certainly neither strengthen the economy nor reduce the deficit.

‘Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.’ Are they unequal under the law now? First I’ve heard of it.

And what’s worth talking about isn’t love (Matthew 5-7 told us everything we need to know), but the legitimacy of some modes of expressing it. Otherwise one runs the risk of sounding even more demagogic than God originally made one.

‘Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants.’ How many more of them? Thousands? Millions? Billions? As to a better way, I can suggest one: make them ineligible for welfare. You’d be amazed how quickly immigration will find a reasonable level.

And so forth, drivel ad nauseum. The intellectual bar has been set, let’s wait to see if Dave can jump over it. Incidentally, I know a place where you can get some earplugs for next to nothing.

Why I won’t go to see Lincoln

It’s silly to expect historical accuracy from a history drama. Even historians get things wrong, so demanding scholarly rigour from a film would be both unrealistic and beside the point. Films are there to entertain, not to educate.

Having said that, neither does one want to be exposed to irritating ideological bias. Bending history for dramatic effect, à la The Tudors, is perfectly acceptable. Bending it to score mendacious political points, à la Oliver Stone or Costa-Gavros, makes one rush out of the cinema in a huff after the first 15 minutes.

In the case of Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, I won’t even give it that long. The trailer told me everything I needed to know.

The most obvious, if extraneous, point is that it ought to be clear to anyone other than the groupies responsible for Oscars that Daniel Day-Lewis is miscast in the title role. I realise he has won all sorts of accolades from US critics, but those chaps ought to have their eyes peeled and their ears unplugged.

Day-Lewis isn’t everyone’s cup of bourbon under the best of circumstances. I for one find him much too histrionic for words, although, like that proverbial curate’s egg, he’s good in parts. The circumstances in which Lincoln thrusts him, however, are far from the best.

Day-Lewis looks funny in Lincoln makeup, and I don’t think he was expected to play the role for laughs. The beard in particular looks pasted on, even if it isn’t. And in the short trailer his accent crisscrossed the Atlantic several times, alternately sounding Irish, scouse and New England (Lincoln was a Midwesterner). But that’s by the bye.

What’s really off-putting is that the film, as can be reliably judged even from the trailer, represents yet another prong in the leftist propaganda assault, using history to score present-day points. Actually ‘leftist propaganda’ is a tautology for propaganda is always leftwing. Just try to say ‘conservative propaganda’. Doesn’t quite ring possible, does it?

In this instance the film tackles, however indirectly, the Civil War, in which America suffered greater casualties than in all her other conflicts combined, including the two world wars. Anyone who has seen Confederate flags flown all over the South will know that the war continues to divide the nation even now, and not just along the Mason-Dixon line.

In broad strokes and with some exceptions, conservatives believe that the wrong side won, whereas those on the left, including the neocons, don’t. Consequently, the second group tends to treat the 1860s Civil War as the precursor of the 1960s civil rights movement, which the conservatives, who tend to eschew ideological mendacity for intellectual honesty, know it wasn’t.

There’s no question that slavery was deplorable, but no war was necessary to get rid of it. That institution was moribund anyway, which was proved by Russia, a country not then, or for that matter now, noted for its commitment to human liberties. Yet Russian serfs were freed a year before the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, and with nary a shot fired in anger.

Interestingly, many Northern generals were themselves slave-owners, while many Southern commanders weren’t. And Lincoln’s own attitude to blacks wasn’t impeccably consonant with the demands of our PC times.

Abolition of slavery wasn’t the reason for the war; it was its slogan. To understand the real reasons one has to delve under the surface, something those of the leftish persuasion, like Steven Spielberg, are neither inclined nor typically equipped to do.

Nor was the real casus belli exactly the conflict between those who desired practically unchecked central power and those in favour of greater state rights, although by claiming this we’d be getting warmer. However, the war was brought about by something more fundamental than that: modernity’s craving to wipe out every vestige of the traditional order.

In fact, this was the first war in which modernity directly assaulted holdouts from Christendom. That explains the inordinate bloodshed, the Southerners’ readiness to stand to the last man and the Northerners’ unrestrained ‘scorched earth’ savagery throughout. For in such a war there can be no compromise.

It was to the South that Christendom holdouts had drifted. Perhaps they were attracted by an economy that revolved around agriculture. They also may have realised that materialistic modernity would reign supreme in the mercantile North. The odds, however, were stacked against the South, and the dying breath of fresh air was eventually drowned by the smoky stench of victorious modernity.

Preference for local rather than central government is the essential difference between traditional and modern politics. Unlike the ethos of Hellenic antiquity, Christianity imbued its adherents with inward, rather than outward, aspirations. That made them innately suspicious of politics, especially as practised by strangers in the faraway capital.

Translated to the American context of the time, that meant a preference not for federal but local governance, which was then described as state rights. Modernity, on the other hand, sought to destroy not only Christianity as the spiritual, social and moral focus of society, but also its every extension into other areas, especially politics.

This provides the necessary background to the cult of Abraham Lincoln that started in America, was then exported worldwide and will now be perpetuated by Spielberg’s film. This isn’t to deny that Lincoln had remarkable qualities, as most successful wartime leaders tend to possess. However, it was his intransigence that was largely responsible for the war, which takes some shine off Lincoln’s accomplishments.

Yes, his leadership of the Northern cause was firm and inspired, but this isn’t exactly praiseworthy for someone who doesn’t believe the cause was just. And unlike Spielberg, Lincoln himself knew that the war had little to do with slavery. ‘If that would preserve the Union, I’d agree not to liberate a single slave,’ he once said. Not exactly the Martin Luther King of his time then.

In the process of preserving the Union, Lincoln acted in ways that belie his iconic status. For example, he closed down 300 pro-Southern newspapers (and had their presses smashed), suppressed the writ of habeas corpus and, according to the Commissary General of Prisoners, had 13,535 Northern citizens accused of pro-Southern sympathies imprisoned without trial between February 1862 and April 1865.

Comparing his record with that of the hideous Mussolini, who only managed 1,624 political convictions in 20 years and yet is universally and justly reviled, one begins to see modern hagiography in a different light.

As I said earlier, one doesn’t necessarily expect a film to stroke one’s intellectual sensibilities. But then neither does one want them to be grossly offended. So I’ll steer clear of Lincoln. Give me a decent Western any day.