Roll over, Dostoyevsky (next to Beethoven)

According to some research gushingly extolled by two articles in today’s Times, Dostoyevsky, Gogol and the rest of Russian literature “are surpassed in sadness by a surprising genre. It’s the lyrics of English-language pop songs.”

That conclusion “ought to prompt a reassessment by cultural critics of an art form that is often misguidedly thought of as lowbrow…,” adds the paper.

One doesn’t know where to begin. Perhaps as good a starting point as any would be to comment on an obvious logical inconsistency.

Sad and lowbrow are by no means antonyms. It’s possible to be both, as anyone who remembers the old song Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road will tell you. It’s also possible to be neither, as any listener of Mozart’s Turkish Rondo will agree.

The implication that sadness is ipso facto a sign of refinement is quite simply false (my wife has made me promise not to use stronger adjectives), but then one doesn’t expect proper sequential thought from hacks.

What one does expect from them these days is vulgarity at its most soaring, and in this respect the two articles in today’s Times reach new heights.

Comparing great works of art with pop, whatever they are compared on and whatever conclusion is reached, is vulgar by definition.

At least apples and oranges are both round fruit, meaning they belong in the same category. Real art and pop excretions don’t. They don’t even belong in the same order of humanity.

Pop lyrics can’t be analysed by the criteria of art, poetry or literature. As an object of research they can only function in the domain of anthropology, sociology, the study of shamanistic cults, psychiatry, commerce or even pharmacology (its amateur practice).

They aren’t so much lowbrow as infrabrow. Pop is designed to be perceived not by the organ behind the brow but by the one between the legs.

Admittedly, I’m not a keen student of various pop genres. That’s why I’m ready to work with the exhibits helpfully provided by The Times.

These are pop lyrics “at their finest” that have the advantage of being “more personal” (if possibly “less dramatic”) over “such great works of 20th-century music as Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring or Mahler’s Fifth Symphony”.

Exhibit One: Bob Dylan’s “Twenty years of schoolin’ / And they put you on the day shift.”

One can see how the poignancy of this heart-rending existential lament easily matches – nay, outdoes! – the musings of those Karamazov whingers. Now had the protagonist been put on the night shift after all those years of schoolin’, the personal drama would completely trivialise even Bach’s Passions.

Do you need me to comment? Didn’t think so.

Exhibit Two: Joni Mitchell’s lament on the destruction of the environment: “They took all the trees and put them in a tree museum / And they charged all the people a dollar and a half to see ‘em.”

What can possibly rival the sublime melancholy of this dirge? Mozart’s Requiem? Forgedaboudid.

Of course, a brief walk through London parks, to say nothing of the New Forest, would suggest that not ‘all the trees’ are now museum exhibits. Moreover, one could observe trees there free of charge, keeping the $1.50 in one’s pocket. But hey, true art is allowed poetic licence.

Exhibit 3: The Who’s “People try to put us down / Just because we get around.”

If words don’t rhyme, we can make them rhyme, can’t we? But one has to agree that one would be justified to feel rather sad about being put down without sufficient cause.

Then again, Mary was justified in lamenting Jesus being crucified without sufficient cause in St Matthew’s Passion. The latter lament may be more dramatic, but the former one is more personal.

Who’s to say which one is more melancholy? Certainly not The Times. In any case, they are supposedly comparable.

Exhibit 4: The Doors’ “It’s all over for the unknown soldier.”

It was also all over for Andrei Bolkonsky, his wife, Count Myshkin, Lensky, Anna Karenina, Stavrogin and other protagonists of Russian literature, so the parallel is unimpeachable.

As to The Doors’ indisputable observation, exactly what’s unknown here? The soldier’s name or that he indeed was a soldier? Clearly, the subtext of pop effluvia is as enigmatic as that of great literature.

Exhibit 5: Morrissey’s “Why do I smile at people I’d rather kick in the eye?”

Why indeed? It would be so much more angst-provoking, profound and interesting if Mr Morrissey did kick everyone he meets in the eye.

Of course, unless he holds a karate black belt, he’d have to knock those objectionable individuals down first, where their eyes would be within striking range of his feet – but we are none of us naturalists, are we?

Actually, one immediate answer to the question so provocatively posed would be that the law might take exception to such acts, but we aren’t after obvious answers here. We’re after plumbing emotional depths.

Raskolnikov and Bezuhov struggled with similar, albeit less personal, conundrums, but the sheer acuteness of Morrisey’s stark question reduces those characters to banality.

“These,” explains The Times, “are commentaries and explorations, not merely entertainments. They encapsulate the concerns of postwar generations.”

Here I have to pull my tongue out of my cheek and nod an unreserved agreement. These unmitigated vulgarities do encapsulate post-war generations – with their ignorance, anomie, tastelessness, materialism and absence of critical judgement.

One would hope that our formerly respectable newspapers would be scathing about this cultural and spiritual calamity, rather than dignifying it with sympathetic discussion.

Such a hope would be forlorn: the papers have to be sold and, even if the hacks knew what’s what, which they probably don’t, they wouldn’t be able to say it for fear of offending most of their readers.

The circle is complete, and boy is it ever vicious.



Church leaders meet in secret ecumenical conference – exclusive report

The other day the leaders of three apostolic confessions, Catholic, Russian Orthodox and Anglican, met at an undisclosed location to discuss the pressing issues of the day.

In true ecumenical spirit they invited a lapsed Lutheran, Frau Angela Merkel (hereinafter AM) to chair the conference.

I can’t in all conscience name the participant who has kindly let me have the transcript of the meeting, for such disclosure would be most unethical. But thank you, Angie, all the same.

So here it is.

In attendance: His Holiness, Pope Frances (PF), His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Russia (PK) and His Grace the Right Reverend Justin Welby (JW)

AM: Meine Damen und Herren… actually you are all Herren, aren’t you? So why on earth should we still use this old form of address if it no longer applies? Das ist verrückt. Also, Meine Herren

PK: Herr is obscene in Russian. We didn’t win the war for me to be called a bloody herr by a Kraut.

JW: She meant no offence, Kirill. Let’s all be friends, shall we? Compromise is what Christianity is all about, don’t you think, Frank?

PF: Who am I to judge?

AM: Quite. Now as we all know, an unfortunate situation has arisen in the Ukraine…

PK: There is no unfortunate situation. There’s only an unprovoked aggression on the part of the USA, the EU, Nato and the rest of the world. They are using those Judaeo-fascist, homo-loving Banderites to attack Mother Russia…

PF: What did you call my Mama, you hijo de puta? How would you like me to knock your teeth down your…

AM: Please Your Holiness, bitte. Kirill wasn’t talking about your mother. He said Mother Russia. It’s a figure of speech. Germany is a father figure, hence Vaterland. Russland is a mother to her people, hence Mother Russia. Verstehen Sie mich?

PF: Si.

AM: And Kirill, you can’t call the Ukrainians ‘fascists’ all the time. We must use polite language, wouldn’t you say, Frank?

PF: Who am I to judge?

PK: Fine. As we say in Russian, you can call me a pot as long as you don’t put me into an oven.

JW: And in my mother tongue, we say ‘sticks and stones…’

PF: What did you call my Mama, you idiota? I’ll knock your cabeza off…

AM: Please, Frank, calm down. He wasn’t talking about your mother, Himmelherrgott!

JW: I most certainly wasn’t! And speaking on behalf of… well, whoever it is I speak on behalf of… I’d like to take this opportunity to apologise to Russia for the Crimean War…

PK: Which we won.

JW: Er… well, if you insist… And while at it, I’d also like to apologise to His Holiness for the Falklands…

PF: Malvinas, por favor. 

JW: But of course. Malvinas it is. And, since I’ve already apologised to our German friends for the beastly bombing of Dresden, now I’d like to apologise for, well, the German defeat in the Battle of the Bulge…

AM: Duly noted and accepted.

PK: Then accept this, you hubristic Hunnish whore: the Crimea is ours! For ever and ever, amen! Right, Frank?

PF: Who am I to judge?

JW: Of course it is, Kirill, of course it is. But where I come from, we are obsessed with legality, you know. So by what legal right…

PK: Let me explain something to you, Anglichanin. There’s only one law, that of God , as represented on earth by Comrade Putin. And God is on our side because Russia is holy.

AM: Full of holes?

PK: Full of God’s grace! St Vladimir the Baptist was himself baptised in the Crimea. So it’s the same to us as Mecca is to the bloody Chechens and Georgians!

PF: Who am I to judge, but I thought the Georgians were Christians.

PK: Let me explain something to you, Frank. Russia is the third Rome, and there will be no fourth. That means Christians are whoever I say are Christians. Get it?

AM: Justin, what’s the Anglican position here?

PK: Missionary, that’s all the Anglichane know…

JW: Well, the Russians seem to feel very strongly about this, which isn’t the Anglican way…

PF: Not my way either. Who am I to judge?

PK: Too bloody right we feel strongly about this. And, by the mercy of God, we can turn you lot into radioactive dust!

JW: Yes, well, look… I’m opposed to nuclear weapons with their indiscriminate destructive potential… The Anglican settlement is all about compromise, you know. The geopolitical shifts are such…

PK: Don’t you shift me any geopoliticals or geopolitical me any shifts! Anyway, St Vladimir was baptised in the Crimea, so the Crimea is ours. Russia was baptised in Kiev, so Kiev is ours. Moscow is the third Rome, so the two other Romes are ours too!

FM: Sorry, Kirill, who am I to judge and all that, but you can’t occupy Rome. That’s where I live! Take over Rome! And pigs will fly!

AM: Schweinen don’t fly.

JW: Indeed they don’t. Hence the English figure of speech. I do think, to avoid such misunderstandings, time has come for all European languages to be united into one, in the spirit of trust and cooperation…

PF: May I just say, and it may be off the subject, that I am feliz… happy that Angie has taken over Europe. I do believe that women’s role in government and in the church must be broad…

PK: They don’t call them broads for nothing.

JW: That’s American, which isn’t helpful. In my mother tongue, we say…

PF: What did you call my Mama?!?

Here ended the conference. According to the draft communiqué that my nameless source Angie has kindly forwarded to me, the meeting was “constructive, productive and positive”.

The C of E: leftists at prayer

Our established Church used to be called the Tory party at prayer. No more.

The prayer part of it has been debauched by female priesthood and, to crown it all, episcopate.

And as to the Tory bit, the Church is firmly positioning itself on the left of the political spectrum. (So is much of today’s Tory party, but this is beside the point.)

As far as I know, the bishops haven’t endorsed any party yet. They have, however, proposed the full gamut of loony left policies.

Their Graces have just released a document advising ‘Christian men and women’ how they should vote in the upcoming election. The advice outlines policies that are supposedly consonant with the Christian outlook on life.

One such policy is further European integration. To wit: there is “an enduring argument for continuing to build structures of trust and cooperation between the nations of Europe”.

Take out the words ‘structures of’, and the statement is unobjectionable, if ever so slightly banal. But the word ‘structures’ makes it crystal clear that it’s not just the Christian desiderata of trust and cooperation that are being preached here, but a single European state.

However, it just so happens that most Christians I know hate the EU and most atheists love it. There is a good reason for both extremes.

The traditional state of Christendom mirrored the subsidiarity of the Church, with power devolved to the lowest sensible level.

On the other hand, the atheist post-Enlightenment state is all about endless centralisation, with power radiating from the periphery to the capital.

The logical result of this process is the denationalisation of political power, which eventually begins to gravitate towards a greater nexus than any one country can provide.

Even Christians who aren’t well-versed in political theory sense intuitively that a single European state, which we already have de facto if not quite de jure, represents a subversive denial of the political tradition of Christendom.

The political watershed runs in parallel with the ecclesiastical one. The only airtight definition of a political conservative is a person who wishes to preserve the founding tenets of our civilisation and build on its multifarious heritage. Conversely, a leftie is someone craving the destruction of our civilisation, with all it entails.

That’s why, even without running a private poll, one can be absolutely certain that a greater number of conservatives will be found among Christians than among atheists. After all, one of the principal ecclesiastical functions is preserving both the revelation and its manifestations in quotidian life.

To sum up, by advocating a single European state, Their Graces adopt a political position that’s not only un-Christian but aggressively anti-Christian.

It is of course possible that they haven’t had time to think such matters through. Their waking hours can be more profitably spent on deciding whether female bishops’ skirts should be slit, and if so how high. Looking for a scriptural justification of homosexuality is also a time-consuming pastime.

Fair enough, not everyone can be a deep political thinker. But humility, that Christian virtue the opposite of which is a cardinal sin, ought to have suggested to the bishops that, when one doesn’t really understand the subject, the best thing to do is shut up.

Their other guidance concerns our nuclear deterrent, which Their Geopolitical Graces don’t think we should have.

“Shifts in the global strategic realities,” they write, “mean that the traditional arguments for nuclear deterrence need re-examining.”

Which shifts exactly would they be, Your Graces? A neo-fascist Russia building up and modernising her strategic arsenal, while publicly threatening to turn her adversaries ‘to nuclear dust’? Russian proxy troops raping the Ukraine? Russian nuclear bombers flying a couple of miles off Bournemouth? A virulently anti-Western Iran about to acquire nuclear weapons? The Muslim threat growing in spread and intensity by the minute?

Evil, and I feel embarrassed having to point this out to prelates, is hierarchical. War in general and weapons of mass destruction in particular are evil, but they have to be tolerated if they prevent a greater evil.

That’s why St Augustine of Hippo and St Thomas Aquinas, among others, put forth and developed the doctrine of just war (jus bellum iustum).

If one side’s cause is just, the other side’s cause isn’t. Surely the Christian position must be that justice should prevail over injustice or, more broadly, virtue over evil?

If so, then any weapon, be it bow and arrow or a hydrogen bomb, is morally neutral because its morality is subsumed in the overriding morality of justice. If it helps a moral cause, it’s moral – and vice versa.

Their Graces rile about the Mutual Assured Destruction doctrine, which they call ‘deeply problematic’. They ought to remember that it’s only thanks to this doctrine that Soviet aggression around the world was checked.

Remember the Soviet Union, Your Graces? That political embodiment of the Antichrist, to use your terms? The state that murdered 40,000 priests in the first few years of its existence? Killed or imprisoned millions of believers? Razed tens of thousands of churches?

But for MAD, it would have triumphed. And should we abandon nuclear weapons today, we’d instantly succumb to Russia’s nuclear blackmail, if not direct aggression. Is that the kind of outcome that would pacify the raging consciences of our prelates?

The notion of just war seems to be lost not only on our episcopate collectively but also on the Arch Oil Trader individually. Thus the Right Reverend Justin Welby saw fit to apologise to the Germans for the bombing of Dresden.

No reciprocal apology for the murderous Luftwaffe raids on London, Coventry, Exeter and so on was proffered. Not even in the spirit of ‘trust and cooperation’.

His Grace clearly begrudges Sir Arthur Harris, head of the RAF Bomber Command, his evident inclination towards euroscepticism. And true enough, the devastation of Dresden was most unfortunate.

Yet it can only be properly assessed in the context of just war, which Britain was waging against the second-greatest evil in history. Hence the killing of a Londoner by a V-2 was evil, whereas the killing of a Dresdener by a Lancaster was justifiable, if lamentable.

Apologising for it retrospectively, which seems to be in vogue these days, isn’t only unintelligent but also immoral.

Anyway, why just Dresden? Why not also apologise to the French for the burning of Joan of Arc? Or perhaps to the Arabs for the Third Crusade, which was after all led by an English king?

Welby, Santamu, Chartres and their 40 episcopal accomplices ought to be ashamed of themselves.

Repeat after me, Your Graces: mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa… oops, sorry. Forgot you’re opposed not only to Latin but even to proper liturgical English.














Europaführer Angie triumphs again – twice

Two days ago I wrote a piece whose message was summed up in its title: “There will be no Grexit.”

At that time international economists were demonstrating, calculators in hand, that it was economically impossible for Greece to stay in the Eurozone definitely, and in the EU probably.

And Angie was saying Nein to any new deal with the unshakeable resolve of a virgin who really means Ja but doesn’t want to appear easy.

My counterargument was that the EU was a political project, not an economic one. Since Grexit would endanger it, the Europaführer Angie would be willing to let politics ride roughshod over economics yet again.

Now the words ‘I told you so’ are among the most irritating in the English language, which is why I generally refrain from using them. But this time the temptation is too strong.

Having played hard to get for a while, Angie finally put out yesterday. A compromise on Greece’s debt, she said, is possible after all.

Thank you, Angie, for confirming my bona fides. I knew I could count on you.

Yet even this triumph of statesmanship pales by comparison with Angie’s improbable architectural and geographical feat of turning Minsk into Munich.

What do you call a treaty in which Side A gets everything and Side B nothing? I call it the capitulation of Side B. The Europaführer’s and Putin’s sycophants call it a diplomatic triumph or at least a step towards one.

In reality the accord confers every benefit only on Putin and every obligation only on the Ukraine.

It could not have been otherwise, for Angie has de facto agreed to accept Putin’s cynical lie that Russia has nothing to do with the rape of the Crimea and eastern Ukraine.

Putin knows this is a lie, Angie knows it’s a lie, Putin knows that Angie knows, and Angie knows that Putin knows she knows.

Yet she pretends to believe Putin because not doing so would mean she, along with her European acolytes (including us, in case you’ve forgotten), would have to oppose Russia’s aggression with staunch resolve.

However, Europe, demoralised, demob-happy and gutless, has neither the appetite for such a show of courage nor increasingly even the military capabilities.

Replace ‘separatists’, ‘rebels’, ‘People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk’ and whatever other euphemisms are being bandied about with what they really mean, and Minsk Mk II will instantly look like what it is: Munich Mk II.

For example what does the removal of foreign troops and ‘illegal armed formations’ mean? As far as Putin is concerned, and as far as Angie pretends to accept, no such things exist. His proxy troops are supposed to be legitimate Ukrainians fighting for regional autonomy.

Their weapons were provided by God, with no human agency involved. Their leaders, such as the KGB officer Strelkov, may be Russian by birth and lifelong residence, but patriotic Ukrainians in their hearts.

Similarly, the ‘illegal armed formations’, which according to the agreement are to be disarmed, are meaningless. If the so-called People’s Republics are legal, then their bandits are legal.

And even if we accept that there is a teensy-weensy whiff of illegality about them, who is going to disarm them? Angie? She can’t. Putin? He won’t.

Anyway, by what authority would he do it even if he wanted to? They have nothing to do with him. In fact, Russia wasn’t even mentioned as a participant in the war.

All claims to the contrary notwithstanding, no meaningful demilitarised zone separating the two sides has been agreed upon. Yes, Putin agreed to withdraw heavy armaments to the demarcation line established by the previous Minsk accord, while the Ukraine will withdraw her equivalents to the line established yesterday.

The gap of 50-70 km between the two lines, however, isn’t a true DMZ because in reality only Putin’s proxy troops would be in a position to enforce it.

Hence the DMZ will only serve the purpose of allowing Putin’s bandits to catch their breath, regroup and start all over again.

In effect, the status of eastern Ukraine (forget about the Crimea; it didn’t even get a cursory mention) as Putin’s fiefdom has been confirmed.

The Ukraine will be granted control over her own borders, but only after constitutional changes codifying the results of elections in the areas controlled by Putin’s stormtroopers.

Since the elections will be supervised by the latter, the vote for autonomy is guaranteed. That means that Putin will get exactly what he wanted in the first place: direct influence on the Ukraine’s policies, both domestic and foreign.

In effect, that means the country will be prevented from making any westward moves, be it in the direction of Nato or the EU. QED, smirks Putin.

In fact, Peter Hitchens’s idol bemoaned President Poroshenko’s refusal to negotiate with the People’s Republics directly. You don’t have to recognise them, he explained, to recognise reality. And reality must be recognised.

Meanwhile the Ukraine was obligated to resume funding the People’s Republics. Thanks to the spineless ‘leaders’ of Europe, with Angie in the van, Putin doesn’t even have to loosen his purse strings to get what he wants.

This invalidates all comparisons between the People’s Republics and Transnistria, the Russian client state carved out of Moldavia. Russia pays for Transnistria; she has made the Ukraine pay for the People’s Republics.

There is one good thing about the agreement: from midnight tomorrow the shooting is supposed to stop, and no more buses full of civilians will be diverted to heaven en route to a shopping centre. But for how long?

For as long as it suits Putin, is the answer to that. The agreement includes no provisions for guaranteeing or enforcing it.

The border will remain permeable enough for unlimited amounts of Russian weaponry to reach the bandits’ hands. Those Russian soldiers who choose to spend their holidays and furloughs in sunny Donetsk will be able to do so unimpeded, provided they remove Russian insignia from their uniforms.

Angie is chomping at the bit to lift the sanctions, and it’s conceivable that Putin will kerb his dogs of war until she does. After that, it’ll be back to the old scenario, with cohesion among Western allies further undermined.

“We have no illusions. No illusions,” said Angie hastily as she accepted congratulations on her triumph. That’s good. Nothing we like more than a leader with a firm grasp of reality.

And reality is simple: not only has the Ukraine been sold down the river, but a major European war has moved a step closer.



There will be no Grexit

The Greek defence minister has thrown his toys out of the pram. “Daddy!” he screamed, “if you don’t give me another chocolate, I’ll ask Mummy!”

For Daddy, read Angie, the sex-defying father figure of the EU.

For another chocolate, read the billions Greece owes but neither wants nor is able to repay. Daddy Angie, in his/her turn, puts on a stern face and refuses to proffer another sweet, meaning more lenient terms of non-repayment.

For Mummy, read the USA, Russia or China on which Greece is counting as an alternative source of chocolates, which in this case means money. Lots of it.

This strategy of playing both ends against the middle is familiar to all of us who still remember being children. “Daddy, but Mummy always lets me watch TV after midnight…”, “Mummy, Daddy said he would take me to the zoo if you don’t.”

And, if the parents are getting a divorce, “Mummy, if you don’t buy me an I-Phone, I’ll go live with Daddy.”

We all tried that sort of thing in our tender years, but it’s something we usually outgrow when we grow up. However, the whole thing about the EU is that all countries in it – or at least in the eurozone – are perpetually infantilised.

Daddy Angie is the only adult in the EU family. Being a clever parent, she sometimes lets the children have illusions about their status, but underneath it all both parties know the pecking order in the family.

Children sometimes threaten to leave home – I know I did when I was about five. They won’t even try though and, if they do, they’ll be pulled back in by the scruff of the neck.

Well, this simile has now been milked for all it’s worth. What the Greek defence minister actually said was that his country wants a deal. “But if there is no deal, and if we see that Germany remains rigid and wants to blow apart Europe, then we have the obligation to go to plan B.”

Well, you see, Germany doesn’t want to blow Europe apart. She wants to keep it glued together as her own fiefdom, a Fourth Reich, different from the Third in its reliance on the euro rather than panzers as the adhesive.

As the good minister knows this, his turn of phrase is merely another not-so-veiled threat: if you don’t forgive us our debts, we’ll leave the eurozone and possibly the EU.

Rather than being your adjuncts, we’ll become a vassal of the USA, Russia or China, whichever country opens her chequebook the fastest.

The threat is empty at every level.

It would be extremely powerful if the EU were an economic project. But it isn’t. It’s overwhelmingly, nay purely, political.

A sound economy is no more the aim of the Fourth Reich than a faster Tiger tank was the aim of the Third. Both are but a means to a political end.

Of course it makes no economic sense to keep Greece and a few other countries one could mention in the single currency or indeed the single European state. An army marches as fast as its slowest soldier, which is why some less civilised armies used to shoot stragglers out of hand.

The EU isn’t civilised either, but then neither is it an army. It’s a political organisation that can accept any deprivation, any social unrest, even any war, provided it isn’t too cataclysmic. What it can’t accept is disintegration.

That’s why, much as I hate to play Cassandra, I predict that Greece won’t go anywhere. Angie will talk tough for a while but in the end she’ll do what it takes to keep the aborted foetus of the EU on its life support.

Of the three saviours mentioned by the minister, none will be too eager to jump up and whip the trusted chequebook out.

America has pursued a staunch pro-EU policy since before that contrivance got its name. Why would it change now and abet the possible demise of ‘Europe’, especially since this will cost an awful lot of money?

China, for which the EU is a major trade partner, wouldn’t want to upset the applecart either. Her strategic interests wouldn’t come into play either, for China has none around the Mediterranean.

Russia would of course love to thumb its nose at the EU by harnessing a Trojan horse at its outskirts. Putin may just present this to the public as a counteroffensive in the war waged on his country by America and the EU. (That is how Putin’s propaganda treats his own aggression against the Ukraine.)

But the price of such a symbolic gesture would be too high. At the moment Russia can’t even afford to keep her minuscule client states, such as Transnistria, afloat.

The Russian economy is in dire straits, and the straits will become even direr if Putin doesn’t pull out of the Ukraine, which he won’t.

He could of course squeeze his housetrained ‘oligarchs’, such as London’s own Abramovich or Mandelson’s best friend Deripaska, for a few billion as a one-off subsidy. Those chaps won’t have an option but to cough up – if they forget that they only have a leasehold on their fortunes, Putin has enough polonium left to remind them.

But they know, and Putin certainly knows, that this would be a gift that’ll keep on giving. A quasi-communist Greece will become Russia’s long-term sponger state, much as Cuba was for more than 50 years.

Unless I miss my guess, that isn’t the kind of commitment Russia is prepared to accept at a time when the shelves of her supermarkets are developing huge gaps.

All in all, Greece isn’t going anywhere. Angie will find a way – she always does. The toys will go back into the pram, the baby will shut up, and Daddy will have to tighten his belt.

European politics is so much fun, don’t you agree? We must all be proud to belong to the EU.

Meanwhile, many observers, me included, are drawing obvious parallels between the current Angie-Vlad negotiations and Munich 1938. At times I wonder if Moscow 1939 would be a better analogy.

You know, when Russia and Germany signed a pact dividing Europe between them and starting the bloodiest war in world history. This just may be on the cards, but I’ve made enough predictions for one day.






What do the French know that we don’t?

This morning I saw two muscular lads unloading a couple of cases of wine from a Bibendum van. The task wasn’t unduly arduous, and they chatted on the way from the van to the door.

When I came up closer, I realised they were French – if we discard the counterintuitive proposition that the wine-delivery trade attracts young Englishmen who can speak foreign languages to a native standard.

Actually, by the looks of it, this or any other trade doesn’t attract any young Englishmen at all, polyglot or other.

Why toil for the minimum wage when you can do better by staying at home and collecting welfare cheques? If Johnny (or in this case Jean) Foreigner wants to come here, let him do the hard slog.

Far be it from me to begrudge those two French lads their rather basic job. In fact, as a former immigrant myself, I congratulate them on finding their feet in a foreign land.

Nor am I going to rant against all those French refugees from Hollande who inundate London and specifically my neighbourhood.

Unlike some other immigrant groups that shall go nameless, the French have a civilising effect, if only gastronomically and sartorially.

When enough French people move into a neighbourhood, suddenly it becomes possible to buy decent bread and pastries. The local butchers and fishmongers start doing brisker business, as do the farmers’ markets. More people in the street wear nattily knotted scarves, rather than T-shirts saying ‘Two world wars, one world cup, so f*** off’.

These benefits aren’t counterweighed by excessive social costs, at least not direct ones. The French hardly ever mug anybody, their chosen route to sexual gratification lies through seduction rather than rape and, as the two chaps I saw this morning demonstrate, they pay their own way.

Still, there is something in me that says that, scraping the bottom of the barrel, we just might be able to find some native speakers of English to con a delivery van through the streets of London.

I realise that, unlike French schools, our comprehensives don’t teach philosophy, but it’s possible to drive a van without a parallel ability to ponder the ontological properties of being.

Neither do our comprehensives teach the three Rs, at least not properly. Nonetheless, the native talents of our youngsters are such that even in the absence of proper tutoring they can figure out that going to the social twice a month is more profitable than going to work every morning.

My own modest experience with welfare makes me wonder how young, able-bodied people qualify for this option.

Some 10 years ago I was rather seriously ill and unable to do my job (I was still a productive member of society then). That wasn’t a serious problem because my company activated a key-man disability insurance policy, paying 80 per cent of my salary.

However, one of the conditions of the policy was that I also had to apply for the state disability benefit, which I neither wanted nor needed.

Still, a deal is a deal, and I sent my papers to the Job Centre. Having received no reply for a fortnight, I gave them a ring, only to be told that they had ‘misplaced my papers’ and could I please resend them?

I did so, and a fortnight later the same thing happened. Being too weak to join the hostilities myself, I sent my wife over to give the bastards a piece of her mind, which I knew from experience was certain to put things right.

Sure enough, I collected my benefit and continued to receive it for a few months. After that I was told to go to one of the Job Centre’s housetrained doctors and get myself recertified.

That involved flogging across London, which was hard in my enfeebled state. I did manage to get to the surgery though, where the doctor asked me the kind of questions that were supposed to establish my eligibility for the benefits.

I only remember a few of the questions, such as “Can you walk up a flight of stairs?”, “Can you take a bath or go to the toilet [sic] unaided?” and “Can you make a cup of tea?”

Having answered all the inquiries in the affirmative, I was told I was perfectly able to go to work. Being a combative sort, I remarked that my job involved tougher tasks than merely making a cup of tea and then relieving myself all by myself.

The doctor nodded sympathetically and repeated what he had said before. So that was that.

Fair enough, I didn’t want the state’s largess. Still, I wondered if young people drawing their welfare cheques until they aren’t young any longer are ever asked all the same questions.

The sceptic in me refuses to believe that the millions-strong army of those sponging off the Exchequer is made up exclusively of weaklings who can’t walk up a flight of stairs, perform basic sanitary procedures or make a cup of tea.

So how do those who answer ‘yes’ to the kind of questions I was asked get away with it? The mind boggles, as they would say.

The simple solution to this moral and fiscal outrage is to derail the gravy train. Those who really can’t work must be helped. Those who can work must help themselves. C’est tout, as those Bibendum lads would say.

This would solve all sorts of problems, social, moral and of course financial. At a time when we can’t afford to spend money on defence of the realm, it’s morally decrepit to lavish funds on taking away people’s incentive to work.

Some 40 years ago, the American journalist Irving Kristol wrote: “In New York City today, as in many other large cities, welfare benefits not only compete with low wages; they outstrip them.”

Quite. And not just in American cities: in today’s Britain someone receiving the full range of benefits would need to gross £50,000 a year to match them. Since most welfare recipients lack the necessary qualifications to earn such an income, their incentive to seek employment is not altogether powerful.

Well, I’ve said my piece. I’ll now go and make myself a cup of tea.





Another nauseating encomium of Putin

Tony Brenton’s article The Putin I Know Isn’t Going to Take on Nato can only be properly understood with the benefit of the Russian proverb ‘No one lies like an eyewitness’.

In his former capacity of British ambassador, Mr Brenton met Putin a few times. Those encounters supposedly gave this typical public self-servant some deep insights into the current situation in the Ukraine.

These he generously shares with us in his article, where, to repeat what Mary McCarthy said about Lillian Hellman, every word is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘but’.

First Mr Brenton vents his boundless admiration for Putin’s ascent from being a street hooligan to “…admission to the Soviet Union’s elite organisation, the KGB. It was a bit like making it from Borstal to the Guards.”

Not a bit like that, actually. It was more like being admitted to a larger and more powerful version of an SS Einzatsgruppe.

The Guards, as far as I know, didn’t murder millions of their own people, which is precisely what the KGB did – and was doing, albeit at a slower pace, at the time Putin joined it.

Neither do I know many Englishmen who would refuse to shake the hand of a Guards officer, while I knew many Russians (actually was one myself) who wouldn’t extend the same courtesy to anyone even tangentially associated with the KGB, never mind a career officer.

Mr Brenton first met Putin in St Petersburg, where the colonel was known “as a young official with a reputation for getting things done.” This is factually true, but what makes it utterly mendacious is that there is no mention of exactly what kind of things Putin got done.

To correct this omission, let’s just say that he was known for corruption whose scale was remarkable even by Russian standards.

Just take a look at the dossier published by Marina Salye, who in 1992 headed the Petersburg Council commission investigating  Putin’s business machinations when he was still a lowly deputy mayor.

Among other choice bits, the documents shows that Putin signed deals to export $100 million worth of raw materials in exchange for food. The raw materials dutifully left Russia. No food came back in return – this at a time of rationing in Petersburg.

The dossier states that Putin’s “quest for personal enrichment and absence of any moral barriers became obvious at the very onset of his career.” But he did get things done, which is all that matters to his sycophant.

“Putin as president continues to display those same qualities which got him to the top,” continues Brenton, not realising that he is damning his idol with faint praise.

Which qualities would they be? Hooliganism? Sadism? Corruption? Exhibitionism? Pride in his criminal alma mater?

No, what impresses Mr Brenton is Putin’s “loyalty”, his being “impeccably turned out”, his “exuding aggressive fitness” and his “impressive command of the facts of whatever he is discussing.”

He then cites with approval Putin’s dismay at the West’s wishy-washy anti-terrorist policies. “We kill them,” Brenton reports Putin as saying to Western visitors.

Quite. Except that under Putin’s much vaunted guidance the terrorists are routinely killed with the hostages they hold.

Thus, for example, in 2004 Putin personally ordered a brutal and incompetent attack on a school taken over by Chechen separatists. Putin’s thugs used tanks, incendiary rockets and other heavy weapons to kill 385 hostages, half of them children. Most of the key terrorists got away.

Two tears earlier, terrorists took over a Moscow theatre, and that time they didn’t get away (“We kill them.”). Putin’s special forces resolved the hostage crisis by pumping some unidentified poison gas into the theatre, killing all 40 attackers – along with about 130 hostages.

I dare say this modus operandi is more evocative of Borstal than of the Guards, but then I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Col. Putin personally.

Having established Putin’s CV credentials, Mr Brenton then elucidates the current situation in the Ukraine and how it may develop.

“Putin,” he explains, “nailed his flag to the mast of protecting the East Ukrainian dissidents.” That’s a nice word to use in this context. I’ve heard ‘separatists’, ‘rebels’ and ‘insurgents’, but ‘dissidents’ is new to me.

So those chaps who fire rockets at public transport and AA missiles at airliners are dissidents, a bit like Solzhenitsyn, Brodsky, Sakharov and all those small fry Putin used to harass and arrest early in his career.

Perhaps Putin is driven by repentance: he used to torture one lot of dissidents, now he wishes to protect another. A perfectly Christian impulse, that, and we all know how pious Putin has recently become.

One problem though: there were no Eastern Ukrainian dissidents in need of protection until a year ago.

You know, until the time Putin put together gangs of murderous thugs from all over the ‘former’ Soviet Union, armed them to the teeth with modern weapons, fortified them with Russian regular troops and turned them loose on the Ukraine.

Thus the mast to which Putin nailed his flag is that of brutal aggression bringing not just the Ukraine but all of Europe to the brink of a major war.

Oh sorry, that’s not the case at all. We mustn’t get our knickers in a twist or, as Brenton puts it, “There is simply no evidence for the Western hysteria about a revanchist Russia.”

Actually, one doesn’t detect hysteria as much as fearful and amply justified concern. Especially when one recalls Putin’s spokesmen threatening to turn America “into nuclear dust” or the Colonel himself citing the number of days it would take his tanks to get to Kiev and Vilnius (not yet the Channel, thank God) or him again, describing the breakup of the Soviet Union as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century”. (Greater than the two world wars, in other words.)

Overlaying those on Putin’s warmongering in the Ukraine does make what Brenton calls ‘hysteria’ and I call ‘fearful concern’ amply justified. But then he has touched the sainted man’s vestments, so he knows what’s what.

I don’t know if Brenton is paid by Putin to utter this ignorant and mendacious gibberish. Possibly not. But one struggles to see how differently he would cover the situation if he were indeed on Putin’s payroll.

Oh yes, I forgot to mention that this piece of… journalism has appeared in The Daily Telegraph, our flagship conservative broadsheet. 










Munich Mk II is on the cards

For Angela Merkel, read Neville Chamberlain. For François Hollande, read Edouard Daladier. For Moscow 2015, read Munich 1938.

For the Munich Agreement, read… Well, there’s the snag.

So far Angie, today’s answer to Chamberlain, has no piece of paper to wave in the air. She and her liege-swain François spent five hours talking to Putin until the wee hours this morning – and nichts, rien, nichego. Nothing. A big fat zero.

All we can read for the Munich agreement is the official statement released by Putin’s poodle Dmitry Peskov. He described the negotiations conducted by the threesome as “constructive, meaningful and substantive.” For the English translation of this standard Russian formula, see the end of the previous paragraph.

That, however, doesn’t mean that no Munich-type surrender has taken place. Surely such busy people didn’t spend five hours talking about the weather and the latest football scores.

Yet no details have been released to the public. In the good spirit of both Russia and the EU we are deemed too lowly to be vouchsafed such information.

However, Angie did say a few things worth noting. The aim of the negotiations, she said, is to protect the European Friedenordnung, which is peace and order rolled into one composite word, as is the Germans’ wont.

Furthermore, she regards neither François nor herself as “neutral intermediaries”, she added. They represent “German, French, general European interests”.

That at least has a ring of honesty to it. This is the first time Angie publicly admitted that, as far as she is concerned, Europe is made up of Germany and France only. Das ist alles. No one else matters, and especially not those Britische Sweine. Gott strafe England, and all that.

Peskov didn’t limit himself to diplomatic platitudes either. He dropped a hint that an accord will soon be reached for implementing the Minsk ceasefire agreement of last September, something Russia wishes to build on.

But Putin has already built on that agreement – by equipping and encouraging his proxy troops to grab another 200 square miles of Ukrainian territory. Continuing implementation means he now wants his bandits to retrench at their new border, catch their breath and then resume their westward thrust.

At which point another agreement will be necessary, and so forth, until the Ukraine happily and voluntarily rejoins the ‘former’ Soviet Union.

The whole process is so densely enveloped in fog that no sense of reality is any longer possible. For example, Putin continues to deny that Russia has anything to do with the spontaneous uprising by ‘separatist rebels’. Arm them? Certainly not.

If Russia hasn’t armed the ‘rebels’, who has? They are armed, aren’t they? Considering that their arsenal includes multiple missile launchers, field artillery, tanks and other armour, AA batteries and SU-25 fighter-bombers, East Ukrainian hardware shops must boast rather peculiar product lines.

Such bold-faced lying alone should be sufficient grounds for refusing to talk to Putin at all, never mind conducting unauthorised, underhanded negotiations whose only possible outcome for the Ukraine will be the same as Munich was for Czechoslovakia.

In any case, a treaty, whatever its terms, must be based on trust. The parties to the agreement must believe that they both will abide by its terms. Exactly what in the record of communist or post-communist Russia inspires such confidence?

Russia, whether led by the Party, as it was under the Soviets, or by the KGB, as it is under Putin, has unfailingly used every treaty it has ever signed as a way of pulling a fast one on the West.

Hence the SALT treaties of the 1970s resulted in an unprecedented build-up of Soviet armed forces and their invasion of Afghanistan. Going back a little further, towards the end of the Second World War, the Soviets undertook not to impose their rule on Eastern Europe by force of arms, which they promptly proceeded to do.

Putin’s cynical disregard for the terms of the Minsk Agreement (not to mention the Budapest Memorandum – no one does any longer) shows that he upholds this fine tradition, along with all others he inherited from the Soviets and especially his idol Stalin.

Even US Vice President Joe Biden realises this. “[Putin] absolutely ignores every agreement that his country has signed,” he said, and this is one line Joe didn’t steal from Neil Kinnock.

The only language the Russians (I mean those who determine policy) understand is that of force. Angie and François know this of course, but confronting evil with force calls for the kind of qualities they lack, courage being the primary one.

The Americans at least are trying to make some tentative moves in that direction, by intending (or rather saying they intend) to arm the Ukrainian army to a point of parity with the bandits Putin lies he doesn’t arm.

That’s where Angie draws the line. She is opposed to supplying the Ukrainians with “lethal weapons” because, in the words of her spokesman, “there are already too many weapons in the region”. Yes, and most of them are in the hands of Putin’s bandits.

The term ‘lethal weapons’ sounds odd. Since few weapons one is aware of fall into the non-lethal category, the adjective is clearly used here merely for dramatic and emotional effect.

‘Lethal’ means capable of killing. Can’t have that. Who has ever heard of people trying to kill one another in a war?

Actually, inasmuch as it’s possible to distinguish between offensive and defensive weapons, those the Americans are talking about clearly belong to the second type.

Anti-armour missiles, reconnaissance drones, armoured Humvees and radars designed to spot the location of enemy rocket and artillery fire are all systems mainly used to repel rather than launch aggression. And this happens to be the Ukrainian shopping list the Americans are planning to fill, but only after Angie does her negotiations bit.

If Europe were led by statesmen rather than spivs, no negotiations with Putin would be conducted until he stopped his bandits in their tracks and withdrew his regular and proxy troops from the Ukraine and the Crimea. Failure to do so would put a whole raft of measures into effect.

These would include every manner of assistance to the Ukraine; expansion of economic sanctions, escalating to a blanket boycott of Russian goods; impounding of all Russian assets in the West; expulsion of Russia from every international organisation. In short, turning Putin’s Russia into the pariah state it richly deserves to be.

In the process the West would embark on a massive rearmament programme, similar to that America enacted in the 1980s to counteract the Soviet post-SALT build-up. Except that this time Europe would pull its weight.

The Asperger sufferer is expanding an aggressive war in Europe, and Europe’s response must be resolute and full-blooded.

What we are getting instead is a rehash of Munich, 1938. Appeasement, feigned trust in the dictator’s good intentions, a show of weakness.

The only thing missing is Angie, piece of paper in hand, descending an airplane gangplank and shouting “Peace in our time!” After that… well, you know what has to happen after that.








The plot is sickening

Here’s your starter for ten: what’s the biggest problem with our education?

Could it be that a fifth of all Brits struggle to read a medicine label or use a chequebook? No, of course not.

Then what about the almost £100 billion a year that this illiteracy costs the UK economy in lost tax revenue and higher welfare spending? Don’t be silly.

Well then, is it the fact that Britain ranks 22nd in literacy and 21st in numeracy among the top 24 developed countries? Wrong again.

The biggest – nay, just about the only – problem with our schools is homophobic bullying in primary school.

Hence, announces Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt, should his party win this year’s election, it’ll introduce compulsory sex education in primary schools.

Tots as young as five will be taught that sex between two men or two women is as normal as, well, normal sex.

Elevated by that epiphanic knowledge the children will then refrain from poking fun at the effeminate boys and boyish girls among their schoolmates, thereby not inflicting lifelong trauma.

Mr Hunt explained that the use of homophobic language “is damaging the life chances of so many young people.” I couldn’t agree more.

Had the past generations of five-year-olds been properly educated in the delights of homosexuality, God only knows what heights would have been scaled by the likes of Cecil Rhodes, Laurence Olivier, Field Marshal Montgomery, Michael Redgrave, General Kitchener, Alec Guinness, Lytton Strachey, Denholm Elliott, John Gielgud, Virginia Woolf, John Maynard Keynes, Lawrence of Arabia, Noël Coward, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Francis Bacon and – very much in the news – Alan Turing.

As it was, they all had to settle for their modest attainment, no doubt thinking how much more they could have achieved if the benefits of sodomy had been responsibly taught in their kindergartens.

Predictably, these plans have caused much impotent rage among those who fail to comprehend the true role of education in modern British society.

Those fossils still harbour nostalgic illusions that the purpose of education is to educate. This voluminous word, the way the reactionaries use it, covers not only teaching pupils such basic skills as reading, writing and adding up – this used to go without saying – but also easing them into our civilisation.

This process should involve providing the key facts of history, philosophy, theology, literature, science, mathematics etc., explaining their significance, and how they all fit together.

This used to be regarded as essential to preparing youngsters for grown-up life. ‘Used to be’ are the key words here.

For that civilisation has fallen by the wayside, to be replaced by strident anomic neo-barbarism, with its attendant ethos. Hence the purpose of education is no longer to educate – it is to indoctrinate.

The new ethos couldn’t even find an original slogan to kick itself off. Instead, it had to borrow the Masonic motto of liberty, equality and fraternity.

Extrapolating from the articles of a secret and subversive club to society at large, the centre piece of the triad, equality, is bound to destroy the other two desiderata.

So it has proved. All modern countries founded on Enlightenment principles, which is to say all modern countries, have become tyrannies whose aim is to cut every person to the stencil of the new ethos.

This is what all modern societies have in common, and they differ only in the tools they favour. The toolbox offers a rich variety of implements, whose functions fall into two broad categories: brainwashing and coercion.

The difference among various totalitarian, authoritarian or democratic countries of modernity lies only in their preference for some tools over others.

Brainwashing is widely used by all, though ‘democracies’ tend to be more subtle and patient in enforcing it. They also differ from their totalitarian cousins in the ferocity and scale of violence they unleash to correct failures of indoctrination.

While the differences are mainly tactical, the similarities are all strategic, reflecting the universally shared and keenly felt need to bend individual personalities to the collective ethos.

Should human nature or millennia of tradition interfere with this strategy, the former has to be suppressed and the latter ridiculed.

Assorted socialist parties, either of the national or international variety, are in the vanguard of this onslaught, but none of the mainstream parties is ever far behind. Again, they only ever differ in their view of how rapidly and violently should the new ethos be hammered into people’s heads – not in their general attitude to the ethos.

From this it follows that the old system of education has to be destroyed. The state simply can’t afford to teach pupils the essentials of the civilisation the state wishes to destroy.

That in the process our schools disgorge millions of corrupted, sociopathic, brutalised illiterates is of no consequence whatsoever. It’s more important to cut away everything that sticks out of the stencil of modernity.

The strongest competition the state can possibly face comes from the traditional family, which is started with normal sex and undermined with the abnormal kind. Logically then, children have to be brainwashed to believe that there is no such thing as normal or abnormal sexuality.

Never mind that the biggest study of its kind has found that only 1.4 per cent of our population are homosexual. Numbers don’t affect the principle, and the remaining 98.6 per cent must accept – on pain of punishment! – that a deviation must have exactly the same social, legal and cultural status as the norm.

This explains the reaction to the Labour plans, both in the pro and con camps. The supporters of this monstrous idea rejoice, and the opponents fume. But neither evince any surprise – both realise that this is all par for the course.

Alas, even in our progressive times some five-year-olds may not fully understand what homosexuality means, in practical terms. Hence they won’t know which group they aren’t supposed to disparage, making a damp squib of this Labour initiative.

As a former teacher, I feel qualified to offer pedagogic advice: you can’t overestimate the importance of visual aids. DVDs of homosexual pornography would work a treat for the little ones, and a live demonstration would work even better.

Perhaps Stephen Fry and his new wife/husband would take upon themselves the charitable task of travelling the country to provide appropriately inventive illustrations – assisted by the staff of PinkNews and cheered on by the Labour front bench.  


Perhaps His Grace would be happier flogging oil again

Justin Welby has set out to prove that female bishops aren’t the sole source of trouble in the C of E. Male archbishops are making a telling contribution too.

First he came out in defence of Stephen Fry, who got a bit of criticism for describing God, among other choice epithets, as ‘utterly evil, mean-minded, stupid and utterly monstrous’.

In defending Mr Fry, the prelate took a firm stand on some of the liberal cornerstones of just society, namely freedom of conscience and speech:

“It is… the right of Stephen Fry to say what he said and not to be abused by Christians who are affronted.”

Stoutly spoken, and we should all kneel and give thanks for this pastoral guidance.

Verily I say unto you, if England’s ultimate spiritual authority will not uphold the moral principles of our legality, then who will? Well, one possible answer to this question is, someone with a firmer grasp of elementary logic.

That basic faculty would enable such a chap to see that freedom of speech so cherished by the prelate cuts both ways. Mr Fry’s right to say whatever he pleases about God presupposes his critics’ right to use all the same adjectives to describe Mr Fry.

Or does His Grace think that fundamental liberties should only be enjoyed by strident atheist mediocrities? That only their delicate sensibilities merit protection, while Christians are fair game for vile public rants?

If so, that view isn’t exactly orthodox Christian, but then His Grace is on record as not minding the odd heterodoxy as long as it’s of recent secular provenance. Hence tolerance, which Jesus forgetfully left out of his Sermon on the Mount, now supersedes everything he did mention.

In the Gospel According to Justin, we must display benign tolerance towards everybody, except conservative Christians, and, to quote the equally tolerant Pope Frances, who am I to argue? Specifically, we must regard any shifts in secular fads as binding on church doctrine.

As we now know, every change represents progress. Imbued with this freshly minted truth, we must rejoice how far His Grace has advanced the virtue of tolerance since the time of St Paul.

That offensively intolerant vagabond once wrote to Timothy about two men named Hymenaeus and Alexander, “whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme”.

If Paul were alive today, he would no doubt deliver Stephen Fry to the same address. But then, so what?

St Paul is no longer the authority on such matters in the Church of England; the jumped-up oil trader is. If he says that Christians don’t have the same rights as that Fry creature, then so be it.

Having given episcopal blessing to blasphemy, His Grace then anathemised tax havens and sanctified the state’s right to impose confiscatory taxes. Jesus, he explained, taught the importance of “paying what is due”.

I’d like to steal a peak into His Grace’s version of Matthew. It must contain a verse in which Jesus says “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit tax evasion: But I say unto you that whosoever committeth avoidance hath committed evasion already in his heart; his is hell fire.”

The hopelessly antiquated version I have within reach has left this verse out. But then His Grace leans not just on scriptural support, but also historical tradition: “There has always been the principle that you pay tax where you earn the money.”

Good to see that the top Anglican prelate is not just a theologian of some attainment, but also a keen student of history. However, he should display more rigour in both disciplines – and especially in adapting them to the practical issues at hand.

Getting back to the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus did answer a provocative question about paying tributes to Caesar by saying “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.”

However, it takes a hypocritical Pharisee, reminiscent of the agent provocateur who asked the question in the first place, to interpret that injunction literally, as a carte blanche for the state to extort as much of our income as it wishes.

The theologically challenged prelate ought to learn that Matthew 22:21 isn’t an Inland Revenue guideline on tax policy. Interpreting it as such is sheer vulgarity, unpardonable even in an average Christian, never mind an archbishop.

Christ’s reply was affirming both the existence and the hierarchy of two realms, that of God and that of man. Even though he held up a coin with Caesar’s profile on it, Jesus wasn’t just talking about taxation.

Yes, Caesar, aka the Exchequer, must be paid ‘what is due’. But how much is due? What proportion of our income? Fifty per cent? Seventy-five? A hundred? Jesus didn’t bother himself with such mundane details, and neither should a Christian prelate.

There is no justification, moral, scriptural or historical, for the state to confiscate 50 per cent of our income, which is close to what the middle classes are paying when you add everything up.

If taxes were in the region of 10 to 20 per cent, the tax-haven industry wouldn’t exist. Only a hardened Scrooge would begrudge the state its just due. It’s only when taxation is unjust that people scamper about trying to keep a few pennies out of the state’s grubby hands.

Unlike a tax evasion scheme, a tax haven is a legal way of doing so. It in no way contravenes Christian doctrine, history or basic morality, and by suggesting that it might His Grace only demonstrated his weak understanding of both realms.

One wonders if he was a better oil trader than he is an Archbishop of Canterbury. If so, a career about-face is in order, methinks.