There goes the neighbourhood

The Washington Post has published a survey by two Swedish economists bent on finding out which countries are more racist than others.

The survey asked respondents in more than 80 countries to identify kinds of people they wouldn’t want as neighbours. The Swedes then calculated the percentage of those choosing ‘people of a different race’ and drew earth-shattering conclusions.

Britain and her former white colonies, including the USA, along with Latin American countries, excepting Venezuela, are the most tolerant – they don’t seem to have any problems with piebald neighbourhoods.

By most lamentable contrast, 43.5 percent of Indians, 51.4 percent of Jordanians, 71.8 percent of Hong Kongers and 71.7 percent of Bangladeshis turned out to be inveterate NIMBYs – they didn’t want any diversity in their backyard.

European countries generally comply with EU guidelines on racial tolerance and multicultural diversity: most of them scored a commendably low 3-4 percent, with only the French covering themselves with eternal shame by polling an egregiously high 22.7 percent.

Clearly, Hollande’s government still has a lot of work to do. Its aim ought to be to increase the proportion of Muslims in the population from the current 10 percent to at least double that, and preferably triple. Then more Frenchmen will get to know and love Mohammedans – or else they’ll learn how dangerous it may be to give wrong answers to such questionnaires.

Now between us boys, completely off the record, with nary a diversity officer anywhere in sight and no results to be reported anonymously or otherwise – would you like to live in an area where so many ethnic groups are represented that your own is in a minority? If you answer yes to yourself, there’s a discreet and competent psychiatrist I can recommend.

For no sane person wants to live surrounded by cultural aliens, practising what to him would be odd and vaguely menacing rites, emanating smells of spices he considers unpleasant and babbling in tongues he doesn’t understand.

Different racial, ethnic, religious and class populations – even if they all speak the same language, which isn’t these days to be taken for granted – have their own behavioural codes they hold sacrosanct. They often treat any deviation from such codes as a grave insult, while avidly offending – wittingly or usually unwittingly – the codes of others.

Anyone is capable of learning one or two such codes. A keen ethnographer may be able to learn three or four. No one will ever learn dozens, and this is the task facing people in many European and American areas. This unavoidable ignorance makes life difficult, as if we didn’t have enough problems already.

It’s a natural human trait to seek the company of one’s own kind – and certainly to live among one’s own kind. That’s how families became clans, clans became villages, villages became cities and cities became nations. When the proportion of those who aren’t one’s own kind exceeds a certain critical mass, nations – and neighbourhoods – become Balkanised. In due course they’ll lose their identity and implode.

The whole thing about our maniacal drive for multi-culti diversity, indeed about modernity in general, is that governments seek to override natural human traits for the sake of political expediency. And their definition of political expediency is anything that advances their own power towards absolute.

To that end, the modern post-Enlightenment state pursues the objective of destroying every survival of what used to be called Christendom and what’s now more inaccurately called the West. ‘Racial tolerance’ for them isn’t the end; it’s the means. It’s their weapon against obdurate humanity.

There are other weapons as well: feminism, whose aim is to destroy family; same-sex marriage, designed to debauch our most fundamental institution; legal enforcement of political correctness, which amounts to policing language and thought; equality of education and medical care, which spells their demise. The arsenal is growing, and it’s deadly.

Anyone offering the most feeble resistance is being routinely accused of – and increasingly charged with – all sorts of phobias. Like a thief who runs away screaming ‘Stop thief!’ the haters of our very humanity accuse us of hating others.

We don’t. Opposition to feminism doesn’t mean hatred of women. Rejection of same-sex marriage doesn’t mean hatred of homosexuals. And the desire to live in a more or less homogeneous neighbourhood doesn’t mean ‘racial intolerance’. It just means sanity.

Bullied, browbeaten and marginalised by PC militancy, Americans and Europeans are no longer able to give honest answers to such questionnaires as the one undertaken by the two Swedes. In a world run by humanoids, they’re terrified of betraying themselves as normal human beings.

Such fear was prophetically described in Nabokov’s Invitation to a Beheading, whose protagonist was sentenced to death because his body was opaque in a society that insisted on everyone being transparent. Our life is now imitating Nabokov’s art.

The survey was fatally flawed. It proceeded from a wrong premise, asked a wrong question, sought the wrong answer – and got a meaningless result. But aren’t you glad only three percent of us are racists?









Tripartite negotiations kick off in grand style

More than half of his backbenchers have effectively told Dave his EU policy is rubbish, some in as many words. Add to this the growing threat of UKIP, now polling 50 percent higher than Dave’s coalition partners, and Dave must feel some drastic move is called for.

Nadine Dorries has come up with the bright idea of Tory candidates doing a deal to stand jointly with UKIP, but Dave rang up from his foreign junket to stand on principle: ‘We don’t do deals,’ he said. Except the deal he struck with the LibDems, he might have added but didn’t. Quite right too. It’s a man who’s in command of his principles, not vice versa.

At the same time, Dave arranged a conference call with Angela and François to start negotiating a better deal for Britain. Said negotiations, we’ve been told in no uncertain terms, will take at least four years but, as Dave’s fellow conservative once put it, ‘a journey of a thousand miles starts with a small step.’

Anyway, I’ve been fortunate enough to obtain the transcript of the ensuing conversation, which I’m only too happy to share with you.

D: Guten morgen, Angela. Bonjour, François.

F: Zut alors, Daveed, stop pretending you’re un linguiste extraordinaire. Good morning to you too, and what do you want? Speak fast, Angie asn’t ad er morning wurst yet.

A: Oh shut up, Frank.

F: C’est François, not your sale boche de Frank! And don’t tell me to la fermer! Not in front of ze children!

D: Chaps, chaps, please. Actually the reason I’ve called is that…

F: Eez zat it’s up to us whether you lose your job or UKIP it. Get it? UKIP it? You like l’esprit français?

D: Er, the joke doesn’t quite work in English…

A: Ze joke is on you, my friend. You vant concessions form us, nicht wahr? Sehr gut. How about a McDonald’s one? Or vould you prefer KFC? 

D: Do let’s be serious, please. I need something from you, chaps, some sort of gag I can shove down the bastards’ throats…

F: Valérie me tells…

A: Oh shut up, Frank. No one cares vot your bit on ze side tells you. Dave here has a point. Vee don’t give him somesing, it’s auf wiedersehen, England, in ze near future.

D: Exactly. I can only keep the bastards at bay for so long. They’re already saying I’m a lame-duck party leader and a sitting-duck PM…

F: Duck, c’est votre Cockney rhyming slang, but no?

A: Oh shut up, Frank. Let’s give Dave his fish back, for example…

D: Er… that’s a good idea, Angie. But I was thinking more along the lines of going back to just a free-trade deal. You know, no Court of Human Rights, no political integration…

A: Das ist ausgeschlossen! Out of ze question! Unmöglich! Im-bloody-possible!

F: Ange has reason, Daveed. Eizer in or out. Oui like you, you’re a European true. So if you vant somesing fishy, like some of your fish back, we can talk dinde, turkey. Valérie me tells…

A: Oh shut up, Frank. But do pay achtung to ze tings Frank says, Dave. Vee can help, but vee don’t vant to make a mess of ze EU…

Here the transcript ends. According to my source, Dave turned off his tape recorder just as he began to explain to his European partners what’s what.

If I’m ousted as party leader, he said off the record, Britain will have an in-out referendum immediately, not in four years, not in five years, not when pigs will fly. Schweinen don’t fly, Angela is reported to have replied. François then seemed to have suggested that taking things literally is a national German trait, only to be told to shut up by Angela.

As Valérie says, objected François, we must learn to adapt to the situation as it changes. Ach nein, said Angela as quoted by my source, you can’t teach an old rottweiler new tricks, especially not after she’s done half of Paris.

After that the conversation degenerated to mutual insults, with Angela calling François der Frosch, and François countering that the word rhymes with boche. During that exchange Dave stayed on the sidelines, thinking that his estimate of four years for negotiations was, if anything, too optimistic.


The spy who came in with the gold

Call me a lowbrow ignoramus, but I like a good spy yarn – especially since the best purveyors of this genre can write rings around the pretentious stuff knocked off by our lionised literati like Hilary Mantel.

At their best John Le Carré or his American near-namesake Charles McCarry can match any contemporary novelist in verve, style, characterisation, psychological insight. They can also devise a complex yet utterly believable plot with the best of them (Mr Conan Doyle, ring your office).

However, even as the reality of politics can make the most vicious satirist sound benignly anodyne, real spy stories make the best made-up plots sound over-elaborate and too clever by half.

One hates to repeat the old saw of life being stranger than fiction, but no pot-boiler writer worth his salt would come up with such a silly and unrealistic storyline as the one played out in Moscow over the last couple of days.

Ryan C. Fogle, a low-level employee of the US embassy, was publicly busted for espionage in the very centre of Moscow. When FSB officers converged on him, the hapless spy was carrying the kind of kit Le Carré wouldn’t even consider putting into his protagonists’ hands.

As Fogle was pinned to the grimy Moscow asphalt, intrepid spy-catchers found in his possession two wigs, one blond one dark, several pairs of sun glasses, $130,000 dollars in cash, a knife, a street atlas of Moscow, a few batteries, a notepad, a mobile phone that was already obsolete 10 years ago, a compass and a Russian-language letter addressed (as ‘Dear Friend’) to the anti-terrorist officer Fogle was supposedly trying to recruit.

Let me tell you, at the CIA they don’t make spies like they used to. The only thing missing in Fogle’s gear was a legible T-shirt saying ‘Kiss me, I’m a spy’. Someone at Langley is going to be reprimanded for this oversight.

The recruitment letter, or rather the way it was commented upon in the Russian press, is particularly amusing. The gist of it is that the potential recruit was being offered $100,000 for a general chitchat and another $1,000,000 for some classified information.

What made me snigger was the text analysis one commentator undertook to prove that the whole affair sounds suspicious. First he cites two paragraphs from the letter, suggesting, correctly, that they’re written in awful Russian. Not only is the letter stylistically and grammatically illiterate, remarks the commentator, but it reads like a bad translation from English.

In other words, those Langley spymasters must have created a skeleton missive in English, to be translated and adapted as necessary to the situation at hand. To test this hypothesis, the journalist used an online translation service (PROMT to render the Russian text back into English.

And – Eureka! The back translation turned out to be what the commentator describes as a ‘stylistically reasonable, dispassionate letter’ – ‘this is how administrative services at the State Department and other American institutions are taught to write’.

Well, it isn’t. Government officials in any country are seldom among its most accomplished stylists but, however badly they express themselves, they do sound like native speakers. The translation cited doesn’t meet this basic requirement. But judge for yourself:

‘It is advance payment from the one who is very impressed with your professionalism and who would highly appreciate your cooperation with us in the future. For us your safety and therefore to contact you, we chose this way has paramount value. And we will continue to take steps for preservation of safety and privacy of our correspondence.’ The Russian text was bad, but at least it was native. This isn’t.

Now there’s no shame in a Russian journalist not knowing enough English to realise this is a clumsy caricature. There is, however, considerable shame in putting on all-knowing airs for the benefit of his obviously credulous readers. And here I was, thinking only our journalists pretend to be a Mr Know-All when they’re indeed closer to a Mr Know-Sod-All. Apparently the contagion has spread internationally.

The scribe then does a Sherlock Holmes and explains what it all means. You see, Fogle got so fed up with Russia that he wanted to go back home by hook or by crook. So rather than simply asking for a transfer, he came up with this fiendish ploy to force the CIA’s hand.

This hypothesis is so full of holes it isn’t worthy of the name. The most gaping hole is the presence of the $130,000 in Fogle’s possession. If the money was his own, then he’s independently wealthy. If it isn’t his own, then he purloined it from CIA funds. In the first case Fogle could have just resigned his lowly position – a rich man like him doesn’t need all that aggro. In the second case he committed a felony, for which he’ll go to prison. Again, a transfer request or, barring that, resignation would have been a saner option.

I don’t know about you, but next time I say nasty things about our pundits I’ll choose milder words. Some people, specifically those poor Russians starved of serious journalism, are even worse off than we are. 







‘Vastness of size or extent’

Before running out onto the track, an athlete always stretches and warms up. Before going to his cello in the morning, Pablo Casals always played two preludes and fugues from Bach’s 48.

Devoid of either athletic or musical talent, I warm up for my daily exertions at the computer by playing a few mindless mind games. Polygons, codewords, crosswords, that sort of thing. This seldom shifts my mind into sixth gear, but at least it gets it out of first.

One clue in today’s crossword features the words in the title. Once I got all the letters in, there was only one possible answer: enormity. So I scribbled it in, but not before uttering a word that still only ever appears in unabridged dictionaries.

‘Enormity’ doesn’t mean that. It means ‘ghastliness’. True, the same root also does service in ‘enormous’, but travelling from the adjective to the noun it changed its meaning. This semantic shift is recognised by any prescriptive, as distinct from descriptive, dictionary, as it was by all educated speakers of English not so long ago.

These days, however, we’re supposed to despise any cultural prescription, to say nothing of proscription. Whoever tries to insist on proper usage is routinely accused of poncy pedantry (pedants, as I hope you realise, can only be poncy – rugged masculinity is reserved for chaps with learning difficulties).

‘Language changes,’ declare our indignant lexical levellers. ‘It’s just a means of communication,’  add others. The first claim is unassailable: language does change, as any reader of Beowulf, The Canterbury Tales or even Macbeth will doubtless confirm. But both the direction of the change and sometimes its final destination depend on the influences affecting it.

When English developed along the pathway signposted by Beowulf, The Canterbury Tales and Macbeth, it became the richest language in Europe. When Latin developed under the influence of illiterate Levantine and Venetian traders, it became an antiquated curiosity.

(The break-up of the Western Roman Empire admittedly had something to do with that as well, but an empire’s language can outlive the empire. Witness the fact that Australians and Americans still speak a reasonable approximation of English.)

While refraining from macabre predictions, one still ought to mention that English is currently being shaped mostly by people compared to whom those Levantine and Venetian traders were giants of refinement. It’s a truism that any language either develops or dies. However, it’s worth remembering that it can sometimes also develop and die.

The second claim, that language is just a means of communication, is almost correct – and it would be absolutely correct if we interpreted communication in the broadest possible sense. That, however, isn’t how our lexical levellers use the word. What they mean by communication is whatever is needed for negotiating the quotidian demands of practical life.

If that were the sole purpose of language, we would have had neither Beowulf nor The Canterbury Tales nor Macbeth. Yet even accepting the demotic arguments, one could still insist that the general spread of comprehensively educated illiteracy often defeats even such elementary communication.

For example, when a BBC commentator says that ‘David Cameron is aware of the enormity of the task he faces in getting the gay-marriage bill through the Lords’, does he mean that the task is huge or ghastly? Either meaning makes sense, especially the second, but one would like to be certain.

When Imogen Cooper delivers a performance described by the reviewer as ‘masterful’, is the reader supposed to guess whether he really means ‘masterly’? There exists a potential for confusion since a musical performance can be both or either or, in Imogen Cooper’s case, neither.

Words have a set meaning precisely for the purpose of enabling communication. Punctuation, including the now discarded hyphen, has exactly the same purpose. When I read about a ‘first class performance’, is the performance first-class, delivered by the first class or the first one delivered by this class?

Aristotle once remarked that in a democracy people will sooner or later assume that, because they’re equal in one respect, they’re equal in all respects. This gruesome outcome is not only upon us, but it is these days enforced institutionally – and increasingly often legally.

Even when it stays in the political domain, democracy produces the kind of ‘leaders’ who a century ago wouldn’t have been deemed qualified to run a furniture warehouse. When democracy strikes out into cultural areas, it wreaks havoc by making everyone equally educated, which is to say equally ignorant.

It has always been taken for granted that not all speakers of English speak it the same way. English could be grammatical or ungrammatical, cultured or uncultured, correct or incorrect. As long as people knew the difference, no one got unduly excited about that – all part of the rich panoply of life, if you’ll pardon a cliché.

Moreover, people understood that if they all sounded like one another’s clones, life would be dull. Conversely, phonetic, grammatical and lexical divergences could be used for comic effect. Messrs Pickwick, Weller and Jingle all spoke differently, but Dickens’s readers all laughed the same way. Yet anyone suggesting at the time that Pickwick’s and Weller’s ways of speaking were equally correct would have been laughed out of Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese.

Democracy wages war against discrimination not only among races, which is commendable, but also among tastes and cultures, which is destructive. This encourages a downward, gravity-assisted slide of avalanche proprtions. Moving in the opposite direction is always harder and the universal, politicised presumption of equality may well make it impossible.

Nowadays isolated intrepid individuals doing battle to preserve what’s left of our culture are widely despised and generally marginalised. They are defeated by the sheer enormity of the task.

Beware of referendums bearing fruit

Tory backbenchers are swarming around Dave like sharks smelling blood. Dave was badly wounded by the burgeoning support for UKIP, and he has made the bleeding worse by his typical shilly-shallying.

One day he says he’ll give his cabinet ministers a free vote on the resolution criticising the Queen’s speech for omitting a commitment to an in-out EU referendum. The next day he tells them to abstain. The situation has a touch of otherworldly eeriness about it, considering that it was Dave and his ministers who drafted the speech in the first place.

Immediately thereafter two of his trusted lieutenants, Gove and Hammond, joined two of Margaret Thatcher’s retired colonels, Lawson and Portillo, by claiming that, given the chance, they’d vote for withdrawal from the EU.

They didn’t exactly go out on a limb since said chance is contingent upon a) Dave firming up his promise of a referendum, b) winning the next election, c) keeping the promise. I’ll let you decide which part is the least likely. Suffice it to say that the likelihood of all three coming together is similar to Samantha having her tattoo surgically removed and then declaring publicly that Herr Merkel is married to an ex-commie.

All sorts of referendums are swooshing through our chilly spring air. Apparently Tory backbenchers are now demanding one on same-sex marriage, which is silly beyond words. Quite apart from the distinct possibility that our thoroughly brainwashed and corrupted public will vote in favour, thus chiselling this abomination in stone, an affection for plebiscite betokens ignorance of the constitution.

Ours isn’t a direct democracy, and Dave’s Westminster shouldn’t be confused with Pericles’s Athens. In fact, ours isn’t quite a democracy at all but rather a constitutional monarchy, but let’s not quibble about such trivia.

It’s the function of Her Majesty’s government to govern the country on her behalf and in her subjects’ interests. The government is drawn from people’s representatives elected by secret ballot. Therefore they are accountable to their electorate – but not to the point of having to act as ventriloquists’ dummies.

It was Edmund Burke who drew the critical distinction between representatives and delegates. The latter do as they’re told. The former, once elected, act according to their understanding of the electorate’s interests. It’s self-evident that interests may not always coincide with wishes.

For example, an unemployed carpenter may wish that the government would first triple the jobseeker’s allowance and then invest heavily in residential construction. However, a sage government would be justified in maintaining that neither measure would be in the electorate’s, and ultimately the carpenter’s, best interests.

Any democracy of universal and unqualified suffrage is fraught with endless pitfalls regardless of how well it’s practised. As the great theoretician of democracy Alexis de Tocqueville wrote almost 200 years ago, ‘The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.’ Replace America with any country of your choice, and this points at the most obvious pitfall, one into which all Western democracies have already fallen so painfully.

If even the kind of democracy where the public’s wishes are mediated by institutions is demonstrably failing, one in which the public rules by direct mandate would be disastrous. This holds true both on general principle and with due consideration given to the nitty-gritty of any referendum.

For the public can be swindled with remarkable ease. If our consumers can actually believe that one brand of beer reaches the parts other beers can’t reach, then our voters can be made to believe anything. All it takes is a bit of expertise and a lot of money.

Observe the conjurer’s sleight of hand with which the public was cheated in the 1975 referendum on Britain’s continued membership in the EEC, as it was then fraudulently called. The cheaters knew that the ultimate goal pursued by that ghastly organisation was a single European state. Yet they successfully convinced the public that it was all about free trade and economic cooperation.

Any subsequent referendum on Europe, when and if it takes place, will be exactly the same. The government will unleash a massive propaganda offensive, paid partly by the taxpayer (you) and partly by the EU (ultimately you as well).

The general theme will be the misery we’ll suffer by getting out of the EU and the bliss we’ll experience by staying in. Considering the disastrous state of European economies, the task won’t be as straightforward as in 1975, but nothing our politicians won’t be able to handle.

As to the utterly risible referendum on gay (as opposed to morose?) marriage, the task will be even simpler, considering the public’s placid apathy. Dave has already hinted at the likely syllogistic blueprint: his marriage to Samantha is rapturously happy; happiness is good; ergo, denying the same brand of happiness to anyone is wicked. If you think our public can see through the logical holes in this syllogism, there’s a bridge over the Thames I’d like to sell you.

A demand for a referendum only ever arises when the government is too weak, politically, morally and intellectually, to make proper decisions. I’d suggest that the more logical solution would be to remove such a government and replace it with a better one.

Alas, there’s the rub, as Shakespeare would say under the circumstances. With only the Milibandits waiting in the wings, a better government isn’t on the cards. The words ‘rock’ and ‘hard place’ spring to mind – or Scylla and Charybdis, if you’d rather.

All our education problems solved

Class war rages on: Lord Adonis, the former Labour schools minister, thinks it’s ‘seriously disabling for pupils attending fee-paying schools that they see so little of society.’

It’s not only the poor rich tots who suffer. For this ‘segmentation of the professional classes, systematically, from the rest of society by means of education’ has been ‘debilitating for social cohesion and national, social and economic success’.

One is at a loss whether to single out the sheer effrontery of this statement or its stupidity. Professional classes are by definition ‘segmented’ from the rest of society by education. That’s why they are professional.

Actually, Lord Adonis, educated at a boarding school and Oxford, is living proof that private education has its failings. Had it been more successful in his case, he’d be able to figure out that it’s precisely the Labour-sponsored destruction of grammar schools that made expensive public schools the only way for parents to educate their children properly.

The comprehensive hellholes the lefties have created, while doubtless keeping pupils in touch with ‘society’, complete with drugs, violence and pornography, fail to teach them to read and write – never mind more involved disciplines.

In the old system, grammar and public schools made about 25 percent of the people well-educated and the rest competent. Moreover, public schools, facing as they did stiff competition from free grammars, kept their fees affordably low.

Aggressive educational subversion championed by Lord Adonis and his fellow lefties proceeded from the same egalitarian impulse that’s destroying not only our schools but also our medicine. The objective was not excellence but equality, and that aim has been gloriously achieved: practically the whole population is now equally, uniformly ignorant.

When some responsible parents, pinching at every turn, denying themselves not only luxuries but also necessities, manage to pay the king’s ransom demanded by public schools, there is Lord Adonis, accusing them of detachment from society.

Let me tell you, if I had a child of school age today, I’d do everything I could to make sure he’s far removed from the cesspit the likes of Lord Adonis have created. And as far as he’s concerned, the cesspit isn’t sufficiently full yet – he thinks public schools ought to be nationalised.

In fact, he probably thinks that everything should be nationalised – he is a Labour peer after all. Does Lord Adonis believe that Lord Adonis ought to be nationalised as well?

One almost wishes one could pinch one’s nostrils and stop inhaling long enough to vote for Dave, just to keep this lot out of power. Not much of a choice, that.

Lord Adonis’s lament is strong on subversive sentiment but weak on logic. He obviously defines society as an entity circumscribed by the lower classes. To add a personal note, and don’t call me a solipsist, neither I nor my friends then qualify as society members.

Let’s see. My wife is a pianist, I’m a writer, our friends include musicians, doctors, writers, doctor-writers, priests, academics, lawyers, bankers – not a member of Adonis-defined society in the lot.

Yet I bet that every day each one of us comes into contact with more ‘society members’ than they ever do with any of us. That means it’s they who are ‘segmented’, not us. Stands to reason, doesn’t it?

Lord Adonis advocates ‘a one-nation society’, which to him means a single-class one, with himself presumably soaring above it all. Well, since we’ve identified the true source of our lamentable disunity, I have a counter-proposal aimed at addressing this outrage.

Rather than nationalising all private schools, we should privatise all state ones. The nation will then come together, and the same pupils who currently can’t sign their name will be able to write learned essays on the Dorian mode and Fermat’s theorem. Sorted.

Before you toss a slipper at your computer screen, I hasten to say that I’m not being entirely serious. What’s deeply disturbing is that Lord Adonis thinks he is.

What does statesmanship have to do with the price of milk?

Not only does Nadine Dorries have the Tories over the barrel, but she also lights up the path many will probably tread.

Since UKIP’s success in the local elections, the Tories, especially those of a ‘so-called’ variety, see it as a serious threat. The threat would be upgraded from serious to deadly if UKIP could become a parliamentary party, and Dave is quaking in his trainers.

Should Nigel Farage have a few MPs and the LibDems form a coalition with Labour in 2015, the only way for Dave to stave off the lecture tour would be to form a coalition with UKIP. However, Farage, though not opposed to such an arrangement in principle, wouldn’t even consider it for as long as Dave leads the Tories.

The problem is that for UKIP to elect even a single MP in 2015 the party would have to get roughly the same quarter of the vote it polled in the council elections. Though the romantic in me says Godspeed to them, the realist has to regard such a development as unlikely.

Hence the best chance for UKIP to enter Parliament is for some Tory MPs to defect to the party. That scenario is as likely as it would be catastrophic for Dave. Enter the proverbial barrel over which Mrs Dorries has him.

Nadine had her Tory whip withdrawn for a perfectly legitimate reason: taking part in the disgusting TV show I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! without informing the party in advance. This is like an employee disappearing for a few weeks without telling his boss. Such a brazen chap would be sacked, which is what withdrawing the party whip means in the political context.

The sacking was widely welcomed by the party and also by Mrs Dorries’s constituency. Under normal circumstances, she would never again be a Tory MP. But current circumstances are far from normal. All Nadine had to do was drop a hint that she might defect to UKIP – and she was welcomed back with open arms, the fingers on both hands gnarled.

This is instructive not only from the standpoint of party politics, but also as an illustration of what’s wrong with British – and more broadly Western – society. For Nadine first incurred Dave’s ire by firing a shot in the class war.

In common with most intuitive Tories, she dislikes Dave for all sorts of reasons, some of them legitimate. For example, she once attacked him for calling himself a social liberal, remarking correctly that not a single Tory councilman would describe himself that way. Personally, I would have complimented Dave for being uncharacteristically honest, but no one asked me.

But then about a year ago Nadine showed why she was ready to star on reality TV. ‘Unfortunately, I think that not only are Cameron and Osborne two posh boys who don’t know the price of milk,’ she said, ‘but they are two arrogant posh boys… – and that is their real crime.’

This remark is, not to cut too fine a point, stupid. The dynamic duo’s ‘real crime’ isn’t that they are ‘posh’, but that they’re unfit for the job. Even the degree of their poshness is doubtful – they certainly don’t have cultivated tastes. Dave even married a tattooed woman, something no posh man of my acquaintance would consider doing in his worst nightmares.

Yet these days, the word ‘posh’ carries the same negative (if less lethal) connotations as the word ‘Jew’ carried in Nazi Germany. It’s the reliable stigma to attach to anyone one dislikes – the man’s other attributes don’t matter. Thus our comedians have their audiences in stitches simply by mimicking a cultured accent. This is hilarious by itself, and never mind the rest of the joke.

Dave’s only intelligent response would have been to point out that class doesn’t matter. The mind, guts and moral fibre that go into the making of a statesman aren’t the prerogative of any social class – they can be found (or not) in someone who grew up in a large house, like Dave, or on a council estate, like Nadine.

Alas, proledom has emerged victorious everywhere in the West – not in the sense of more lower-class people coming up in the world (more power to them), but in the sense of lumpen values having been imposed on society at large. Someone who speaks with a cultured accent has become a figure of derision, and his only claim to redemption would be to adopt a prolier-than-thou attitude.

Hence, Dave’s chosen contraction of his Christian name, his pints down the pub, his affection for pop music, his vain attempts to flatten his vowels (Tony used to drop his aitches, but only when he remembered), his tattooed wife.

Hence also his inane retort to Nadine’s accusation: he knows how much a pint of milk costs (‘just under 50p’) because he does ‘a lot of the family shopping on a Friday or a Saturday’. That’s all right then. Never mind the policies, feel the shopping trolley.

Nadine’s own politics are halfway towards being conservative, which means more conservative than Dave’s by half. As a Christian, she has problems with abortion – but only when it’s administered late in the pregnancy. She opposes same-sex marriage – but wouldn’t if it weren’t imposed by the European Convention on Human Rights. She thinks girls should be taught to say ‘no’ – but only until they’re 16.

Halfway is better than no way, but it isn’t good enough. Perhaps now Nadine can declare truce in the class war and spend the time thus vacated on figuring out what conservatism really means, other than just not being Dave.

But she’s a trailblazer in another sense. Now all a Tory MP has to do is hint he just might switch to UKIP for Dave to support a Private Member’s Bill. Every MP counts; principles don’t – that much is clear. What’s unclear is how the government can operate that way.

The NHS goes Dutch

According to my Dutch friends, debates about medical services aren’t unique to Britain. Their system is different from ours, as the Dutch are still resisting the forward-looking, progressive idea of wholesale nationalisation. Obviously they, with their Germanic good sense, know what’s good for them, and it isn’t progress.

Yet the giant smelter otherwise known as the EU breeds uniformity. Hence the odd scandal in Amsterdam that looks as if it could just as easily have happened in Leeds.

What’s making the news now is the plight of a middle-aged man who suffered from prostate cancer. Upon much soul searching and extensive testing, his doctors decided that prostatectomy, the surgical removal of the prostate gland, was the best option.

In the good tradition of responsible medical practice, the patient was warned about the possible side effects. Reluctantly, he agreed to the operation nonetheless, wisely taking medical advice, as we all should.

The surgery was performed, and unfortunately the side effects proved to be as dire as the doctors warned. The patient became both impotent and incontinent, which is regrettably common with this type of invasive procedure. What was slightly out of the ordinary was that the operation had been performed on a wrong patient.

The poor man had the misfortune of being a namesake of the real patient, a coincidence that I’m sure both he and his wife now curse. What they should be cursing is modernity.

How such a mix-up could have occurred is a mystery to me. After all, a patient must be thoroughly investigated  before the decision to operate can be taken. Various scans and other tests are essential in any type of cancer, to establish its grade (degree of severity), nature and spread. So the records of the two patients must have been swapped not once, but several times, until the wrong man went under the knife. Surely proper attention to detail and duty of care must prevent such cock-ups not most of the time, but all the time.

Anyway, I told this story to an oncologist friend here in London and he was aghast. Not just with the criminal mix-up in Holland but also with the state of medicine closer to home. ‘They,’ he hissed, meaning the powers that be in the NHS and the Department of Health, ‘have just decreed that nursing must become a caring profession. What the hell else can it be? If something like this needs to be said, it means the whole ethos of my profession has been destroyed.’

It has indeed. In the past, when British hospitals were run by the Head Doctor and the matron, patients didn’t go into hospital fearing death from causes other than those from which they suffered. Wrong kidneys weren’t removed, wrong legs weren’t amputated and wrong patients weren’t operated on. Deadly hospital-acquired infections weren’t rife. Patients didn’t starve to death, nor died from thirst and general neglect. Nursing – and medicine in general – was indeed a caring profession.

But then progress arrived. In our country, medicine became a socialised institution pursuing roughly the same ends as all socialised institutions. Equality, diversity, multiculturalism, levelling – the usual set. Caring for health is being increasingly marginalised in our healthcare. It’s not about caring any longer – it’s about ‘caring and sharing’.

So what if many NHS doctors and nurses can neither speak nor understand English properly? The NHS is an equal-opportunity employer, and this is all that matters. That’s why our hospitals are running out of really good nurses, but there’s no dearth of Directors of Diversity. Someone has to look after the really important stuff, and it isn’t patients.

Most of this depravity is mandated by European employment directives, ably supported by the European Court of Human Rights. The Dutch are in the same boat, so I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it turned out that the consultant who recommended the operation couldn’t even read the clinical case history in Dutch.

At least the poor man, crippled for life, could take satisfaction in his country’s compliance with the progressive principles we all hold so dear. One doubts, however, that the weighing of pros and cons would in his mind produce a positive balance.     

What took you so long, Oskar?

It’s fitting that Oskar Lafontaine should have been one of the principal instigators of the single currency.

A German with a French surname, he’s a personal embodiment of European federalism, which, when all is said and done, is a Franco-German alliance with a few irrelevant extras. These include all those marginal countries, like Britain, there to act as bridesmaids at the Franco-German love-in Oskar carries in his own person.

He’s also a communist in all but name, which is a useful, if not necessary, qualification for a eurocrat. The whole project is designed as a more prosperous version of the Soviet Union, sort of a Third Reich before the genocide, and it takes an insider to know how to put all the nuts and bolts together.

For that reason Oskar ascended to the post of Germany’s finance minister at the time when the rouble… sorry, the euro was adopted as the currency to end all currencies, at least the European ones. Yet now the poor chap is having second thoughts.

Whatever make him change his mind? Surely it couldn’t be the demonstrable fact that the eurozone is on the verge of bankruptcy? Or that over half of young people in the Catholic part of it are out of work? Or that eurozone economies are no longer competitive – if one discounts the competitive ardour they display in begging for Germany’s largesse?

No, it can’t be any of those. As a true communist, Comrade Lafontaine must welcome such developments. They, as his spiritual father Lenin taught, create ‘a revolutionary situation’, wherein the uppers can’t, and the lowers won’t, live the old way.

Of course there’s always the possibility that he is reviewing his Marxist convictions, but it’s a minuscule one. Once a Leftie, always a Leftie – any shift isn’t so much a change of heart as a change of phraseology (with all due deference to Melanie Phillips who claims her heart did change – if so, she’s a rare exception).

I bet what scares Oskar is the distinct possibility that the revolution brewing in Europe may not be the one he and his mates will be able to control. In the same spirit, Stalin ordered German communists not to form a bloc with the Social Democrats – this in the knowledge that the only possible outcome would be Hitler coming to power.

The left edge of the putative EU monolith wants neither the anarchists to perpetrate a revolution in southern Europe nor Angela Merkel then to suppress it. The resulting order would either be completely disorderly if the anarchists win, or completely Merkelian if Angela carries the day. The comrades are uncomfortable with either scenario.

The most recent anti-Hollande manif in Paris was conducted not under the fleur de lys, the only possible symbol of a virtuous counterrevolution, but under the red banners of Leftie anarchism. Amazingly, some Catholics came along, to voice their opposition to the debauchment of marriage. Joining forces with the people who are institutionally and emotionally committed to murdering Christians and destroying churches seems odd to me, but European politics is nothing if not topsy-turvy these days.

But one can understand Lafontaine’s unease – should either faction emerge victorious, the likes of Oskar won’t get even a sniff of power. That’s why he seems ready to perform a post-natal abortion on his own brainchild, the euro.

Don’t be surprised if Angela doesn’t follow suit. She understands as well as Oskar that the euro isn’t so much an economic as a political construct. Her predecessors used tanks to pursue their political ends; Angela relies on the euro. The single currency is her Guderian’s panzers.

But even as Guderian’s tanks were eventually set alight by superior and more numerous tanks, so will the euro be blown apart by aggressive markets. One can only hope that this is as far as the analogy will go: one would hate to see millions die for the fallacy that Oskar no longer espouses but Angela still does.

Our own, admittedly more benign, answer to Lafontaine is Nigel Lawson, who is now calling for withdrawal from the EU. Said withdrawal should be effective immediately after the British vote for it (which they may not) in a referendum (which they may not get) promised by Dave should he be re-elected (which he most probably won’t be).

Better late than never, I suppose, but being a vindictive sort I find it hard to forget that, when he was Chancellor, Lawson put forth the disastrous policy of shadowing the deutschmark and eventually joining the ERM, the precursor of the euro. One tangible result of that debacle, apart from an immediate loss of billions, was sending the economy into a tailspin it still hasn’t reversed.

As a corollary, Margaret Thatcher was ousted and replaced by the pathetic John Major who succeeded in making the Tories unelectable for at least a generation (unless you believe that Dave was elected as a Tory, which I don’t).

Anyone even remotely familiar with economics knew all along that unifying European currencies, or for that matter states, would lead to a catastrophe. Where were all those Oskars and Nigels then? Doing what they always do – seeking power for themselves and their ilk.

Lafontaine and Lawson have different friends, but not different aspirations. Hence their belated recovery of sight. Nigel did beat Oskar to it by a couple of years, but then his political career has been dead for yonks. Political execution is like the normal kind: it focuses the mind.





Niall Ferguson, meet John Maynard Keynes

Scottish pop historian Niall was tropistically drawn to America, home of the neoconservative politics he favours. Admittedly there was also the small matter of about $5,000,000 he makes every year teaching at Harvard, writing books and speaking at conferences.

It was one of the latter that got him into a spot of trouble the other day. Ferguson was asked to comment on Keynes’s astute observation ‘in the long run we are all dead’, and one would think nothing could be easier.

One possible answer could have been that Keynesian economics, centred as they are on an activist state running up huge debts, saddles all subsequent generations with a ruinous burden. In support one could be tempted to mention that the current federal debt in the States equals about $100,000 for every American – and growing every day. Moreover, the funds feeding Social Security and Medicare are hopelessly bankrupt. This admirable tendency is bearing much poisonous fruit now, but the toxic seeds were planted by Roosevelt’s New Deal, largely inspired by Keynes.

If one so wished, one could also make a snide comment about the militant leftist atheism of the Bloomsbury set, of which Keynes was a paid-up member. Attendant to that is inevitable solipsism: not only is there no afterlife for an individual but, as far as he is concerned, all life stops, or might as well stop, after his death. Generations to come? No one cares about those. It was a Bloomsbury article of faith.

Actually, one could also think of many other perfectly reasonable responses to that query. The one Ferguson chose was weak. Keynes, he explained, was a childless homosexual. Therefore he neither had nor could have children, which influenced his economic ideas. He simply had no sense of posterity.

This response was indeed weak. But it wasn’t indefensible – and the subsequent outcry made some sort of defence necessary. Niall couldn’t just ignore his prissy critics; he has that $5,000,000 a year to protect. One possible reply could be quoting the great Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter who tended to refer to Keynesian economics as ‘childless vision’. Schumpeter, however, didn’t mention the ‘h’ word – he was specifically prophesying the kind of problems we have now, those adumbrated by Keynes.

However, whenever the ‘h’ word is nowadays used in any other than a laudatory context, the wrathful god of PC rescinds any right to self-defence. Nothing short of a snivelling apology will be accepted, and that’s what Ferguson proffered with emetic alacrity.

He apologised ‘unreservedly’ for his ‘stupid and tactless remarks’. ‘It is simply false to suggest, as I did, that his approach to economic policy was inspired by any aspect of his personal life.’ ‘First, it is obvious that people who do not have children also care about future generations. Second,’ grovelled Ferguson, ‘I had forgotten that Keynes’s wife Lydia miscarried.’’

I actually don’t think that Ferguson’s original remarks, though not particularly clever, were as stupid and tactless as all that. His apology, however, is both idiotic and cowardly.

Of course people who have no children for whatever reason, be it their sexual proclivity, medical problems or personal choice, may still care about future generations. But this would be simply an academic construct devoid of any visceral, physiological involvement. By the same token, a chap who rents a flat and one who owns a house may both defend the idea of private property. However it’s hard not to think that the house owner just may be a bit more fervent in mounting his defence.

True enough, Keynes had a Russian wife. He acquired her at a time when the GPU, as the KGB/FSB then was, was assigning whores as wives, mistresses but in fact watchers to Western left-leaning intellectuals. Incidentally, one of such ladies was Baroness Budberg, Nick Clegg’s Russian ancestor of whom he’s self-admittedly proud. H.G. Wells, Louis Aragon, Romain Rolland, Bruce Lockhart were among many lucky recipients of such sexual overseers, with GPU compliments.

Keynes too drew the long straw in the athletic shape of the ballerina Lydia Lopokova. Now how irrelevant is that?

Niall is a big boy, so surely he must realise that Lydia could have been impregnated by a man other than her husband. Also it’s entirely possible for partners in a ‘lavender marriage’ to go against their instincts and actually produce a child by the traditional method. James I, for one, begat Charles I while sending pornographic love letters to the Duke of Buckingham.

This happens even in our blasé time, and back in the 1920s, when homosexuality was still regarded as a perversion, it happened routinely for respectability’s sake. For example, Keynes’s Bloomsbury friends Harold Nicholson and Vita Sackville-West, both homosexual, had two children. That didn’t prevent Vita from having an affair with Virginia Woolf any more than Lydia prevented Keynes from having one with Lytton Strachey.

‘My disagreements with Keynes’s economic philosophy,’ pleads Ferguson, ‘have never had anything to do with his sexual orientation.’ This part of the apology is even more disingenuous than the rest, though it may appear straightforward to the uninitiated.

You see, neocons, such as Ferguson, have a complex relationship with Keynesian economics. On the one hand, the ‘conservative’ part of their self-description demands that they make anti-Keynesian noises. On the other hand, their Trotskyist temperament makes them advocate non-stop quasi-colonial aggression. This can only be waged by an extremely powerful state, and Keynesian economics does empower the state at the expense of the individual.

That’s why leading neocons, and these days they are considerably less bright than they used to be, are perfectly capable of extolling in the same sentence the virtues of the welfare state and free markets. Even Irving Kristol, who was cleverer than today’s lot, saw nothing incongruous in ‘the conservative welfare state.’

Such intellectual, and at base moral, muddle is typical of neocon writers. That’s what Ferguson should really be apologising for, not for his inane but harmless remarks. But hey, the lad has two families to support.