Are our lesser royals republicans at heart?

This question is facetious of course. A royal of any rank is about as likely to be a republican as a pious Muslim to be a pig farmer or, for that matter, a pig to be a pious Muslim.

But sometimes our HRHs act as if they wished to hasten the advent of an RGB (Republic of Great Britain). Why, I don’t know, but I could venture a few guesses.

Some of them aren’t very bright. Some are irresponsible. Some have got tipsy on the spirit of the time (Zeitgeist, in the dynasty’s original language). Some, especially if they are only royal by marriage, don’t really understand what it means. Some haven’t been taught properly.

The latest case in point is Princess Beatrice’s little holiday on Abramovich’s yacht. This has drawn some flak from pundits, who display laudable numeracy by adding up all the princess’s holidays this year and getting the sum of 17, which they suggest is too high for an unemployed person.

Personally, I don’t care if Bea’s whole life is one contiguous holiday, especially if she combines ‘chillaxing’ with the odd bit of service she owes to the nation.

But it is indeed scandalous that she should accept an invitation from a man who made his billions in criminal ways, and one who’s widely known to be Putin’s personal banker – at a time when the realm of Bea’s grandmother is having a tiff with the KGB colonel.

The princess enjoys a life of privilege few ever know. She’s entitled to it – as long as she realises that the people are also entitled to something: her service to the dynasty and its subjects. Part of it is her weighing her every step, making sure they all lead to the same destination: a thriving British monarchy.

Hence she ought to be fastidious in her choice of companions to cavort with, making sure she always conducts herself publicly in a decorous, irreproachable manner.

No easy task, that, for a young, bubbly woman not blessed with excessive intellectual gifts. But someone must explain to her in no uncertain terms that she isn’t just any young, bubbly woman. She’s a princess who has duties to perform – even at the expense of denying herself some of the pleasures in which other young, bubbly women indulge.

Specifically, those British figures who stand for something other than just themselves should steer clear of any personal association with so-called Russian businessmen.

One realises that this would be too much to expect from the likes of Lord Mandelson, whose financial shenanigans twice got him sacked from the last Labour government, and who is now friends with the Russian aluminium king Deripaska.

But one expects probity from members of the reigning dynasty that’s supposed to embody the historical virtue of the realm. Yet Beatrice isn’t the only one who frustrates such expectations.

Prince and Princess Michael of Kent also insist on hobnobbing with various Russians whose power and wealth by definition have a dubious provenance.

Such as Mikhail Kravchenko, another Russian Mafioso, who three years ago was shot dead in Moscow. Shortly before that the victim had shared a Venice hotel suite with Princess Michael, whose husband has extensive business relations with Russians – in spite of knowing that business on this scale is only transacted in Russia by organised crime.

But Prince Michael wasn’t in the picture when his wife was photographed walking through Venice hand in hand with a much younger Mr Kravchenko. Speculation was rife that the princess’s relationship with him went beyond the ‘close friendship’ to which she owned up.

I really don’t care one way or the other, though Venice isn’t Milan and one doesn’t go there on business. But let the gossip columns ponder this. For me a ‘close friendship’ was bad enough.

Then let’s not forget Beatrice’s mother and aunt, whose joint efforts dealt the monarchy many a severe blow. Both women clearly suffered from the same cognitive dissonance: neither realised that, by marrying the heir to the throne and his brother, they forfeited the right to be ‘me’.

Their lives no longer belonged to them – they belonged to the nation and her two millennia of history. Diana and Fergie were duty-bound to sacrifice some of their natural instincts for a higher purpose, which duty they both ignored.

Diana, the ‘People’s princess’ in Blair’s apt phrase, chose to act like a young woman on the make, insisting on being ‘me’. She spread her favours so liberally that all of London was abuzz with sordid gossip, most of it true.

And Bea’s mother was routinely photographed by tabloids in flagrante delicto with young, athletic Americans, some of them sucking her toes, and not for strictly podiatric purposes.

I’m sure that, if asked, all royals will claim allegiance to the House of Windsor and everything it stands for. It’s just that some of their actions not only speak louder than their words, but also say diametrically opposite things.







Putin’s war on food

Over the last few days Putin’s storm troopers… sorry, I mean law enforcement agencies, have destroyed almost 350 tonnes of food. Meat, fruit, poultry, cheese, vegetables were bulldozed into the ground, incinerated, dumped to fester outside.

These were the Western foods covered by Russia’s countersanctions, yet imported into the country illegally. And of course, Russia has a rich tradition of law abidance, a foundation on which the present KGB/FSB junta has built a temple to legality.

The temple doesn’t quite reach up to the sky, what with Russia’s rank in the rule-of-law category currently standing at Number 92 out of 97 countries rated. That’s one rung below Belarus and one above Nicaragua, but hey – no temple has ever been built in one go.

As a champion of legality myself, I’m all in favour of upholding the law. By all means, the Russians must confiscate the contraband and fine (imprison, shoot) the smugglers.

But why burn the food? Surely, once the unscrupulous importers have been punished, the food could have been distributed to those who need it? It’s not as if no such needy persons existed.

According to the junta itself, 22.9 million Russians are living below the poverty line. That’s 15.9 per cent of the population, higher than in such economic powerhouses as Albania, Mauritius, Sri Lanka and Tunisia.

The poverty line in Russia isn’t drawn in the same place as in the West. Russian agencies define poverty not by the low number of I-pads per family member, but by the ability to survive.

That’s why they eschew the relative term ‘poverty line’ in favour of an absolute and more honest ‘level of subsistence’. This is defined as monthly income of just under £100 a month per person.

Depending on where you are in Russia, the cost of living there is roughly 10-20 per cent on either side of ours. So do the sums and ask yourself if you’d be able to subsist at or below this level of subsistence.

And, one way or the other, wouldn’t you be happy to get some free food? A pork chop or a slab of cheese? Some apples or tomatoes? In a country where no food banks exist?

To any denizen of a civilised country, apart from those who have homoerotic longings for a ‘strong leader’, destroying food in a country where millions starve can only be described as monstrous.

But, thanks to their history, the Russians aren’t particularly impressionable. They know that, since 1917, the government has been using food as a political tool.

From the moment the Bolsheviks took over they began to create artificial famines either to punish any resistance or to make the people too weak to resist. This was done with malice aforethought documented in numerous decrees and letters, such as this 1922 one from Lenin:

“It is precisely now and only now, when in the starving regions people are eating human flesh, and hundreds if not thousands of corpses are littering the roads, that we can (and therefore must) carry out the confiscation of church valuables with the most savage and merciless energy…”

The Russians, much given to macabre humour, mocked the Bolsheviks’ Marxist cant. “Cannibalism,” they’d say, “is the transitional stage between capitalism and communism.”

This wasn’t a figure of speech: cannibalism was rife throughout the 1918-1922 Civil War and again in the early 30s, when another famine had to be created to educate the recalcitrant peasantry on the benefits of collective agriculture.

Mothers were eating their children, orphans and street urchins whose parents had already died were being eaten by passers-by, baby fingers were being found in meat pies… – all to the accompaniment of the Wellses, Webbs and Shaws of this world, bleating about the daring social experiment Britain should emulate.

In the less carnivorous times of Khrushchev, Brezhnev et al, most Russians went undernourished, but not so many starved to death or ate their offspring – that’s progress for you.

But the government retained its monopoly on food, again using it for political purposes. The more trusted comrades were given access to special shops and distributorships unavailable to hoi polloi, who had to subsist on stuff that would make our dog food taste like a delicacy.

Those privileged shops existed on several levels, each reflecting the man’s value to the state (my father was allowed to use the lowest level for a few years). Similarly, some areas were supplied with food better than others and, when the underprivileged protested, they were machine-gunned en masse – as in Novocherkassk, 1962.

Putin’s kleptofascist junta is at present tightening the screws, somewhat loosened during Yeltsyn’s tenure. This means, mutatis mutandis, reverting to the rich legacy of Bolshevism, including its food policy.

Putin’s response to the sanctions came in the shape of a call to ‘imports replacement’ (importozameshcheniye). Considering that Russia imports 80 per cent of her food, much of it from the countersanctioned countries, that’s an awful lot to replace – especially since central Russia shows no signs of agricultural activity.

In effect, the new policy is a leap towards re-establishing the state monopoly on food, which – as Russia’s history proves – will include famines as an inevitable constituent.

Even that, I’m sure, will have no effect on today’s useful idiots. When Lenin coined the term, he applied it to Western lefties. Alas, today’s idiots come mostly from the right.

Putin, they say, ‘looks after his people’. He is ‘the strong leader we should have’. Speak for yourself, idiots. I for one wouldn’t like to find a tiny finger in my Cornish pasty.


Criticise the NHS at your peril

An oncologist working at London’s Royal Marsden Hospital once told me that the NHS really stands for ‘Nasty Health Service’.

Proving the physician’s point, his co-worker Joseph Meirion Thomas, one of the world’s top cancer surgeons, has been pushed out for daring to criticise the NHS in print.

Professor Thomas’s expressed concerns about the scale of health tourism, and also complained that GPs don’t provide “even remotely personal service” because they hardly ever see the same patient more than once.

That, according to the Royal Marsden, brought the hospital into “disrepute”, making Mr Thomas’s continued employment there untenable. The action was triggered by the torrent of abuse from GPs, accusing Mr Thomas of lying.

Yet the real problem his detractors had with Mr Thomas wasn’t that he was lying. It was that he was telling the truth. 

However, their indignation gave the hospital administrators a pretext for claiming that Mr Thomas’s accusations weren’t “evidence-based”. Well, if it was evidence they sought they should have talked to any Londoner. I for one would have volunteered information with alacrity.

For many years my local practice was run by a superb GP, who at the beginning of our relationship (in the course of which he played a key role in saving my life) was an ideological champion of the NHS. Then, as his administrative load was getting heavier and the time he could devote to patients was getting shorter, his enthusiasm somewhat abated.

In the end he couldn’t take it any longer – red tape was throttling him. This excellent doctor had to retire at age 50 two years ago, when he could still do for hundreds of patients what he had done for me. Since then the practice has gone exactly the way Mr Thomas described – and, for those familiar with the notion of ‘postal-code healthcare’, my postal code is among the best.

Nevertheless it takes a fortnight to get a GP appointment now. Of course the patient doesn’t get charged for the privilege, which is heart-warming – unless, of course, he’s  bleeding too fast. 

And indeed, a patient hardly ever sees the same GP twice. As any doctor will tell you, this absence of on-going contact isn’t just cold-blooded emotionally. It’s also detrimental therapeutically, for regular observation of a patient may reveal some subtle changes that would be imperceptible from the case history on the computer screen.

But then the NHS isn’t mainly about treating patients, which is its declared mission. Being a socialist enterprise, it increasingly operates to benefit those who run it, not those to whose wellbeing the service is supposedly dedicated.

Front-line medical staff are being routinely cut, along with the hospital beds they service, and the funds thus freed up go to pay the burgeoning throng of Directors of Diversity, Facilitators of Optimisation and Optimisers of Facilitation, all on six-digit salaries.

One gets the impression that patients get in the way of the NHS discharging its real function: increasing both the size of the state and its power over the people.

When doctors who are horrified by what’s going on try to protest, they are treated the way Mr Thomas was. “If the NHS can treat a senior cancer surgeon this way, what chance does a nurse or a junior doctor with grave concerns about the health service have?” he asks. A rhetorical question if I’ve ever heard one.

In Mr Thomas’s case too, it’s the patients who found themselves on the receiving end. He had to miss two vital operations on patients with diabolical cancers. And he can no longer be involved in a potentially life-saving clinical study on 90 people with deadly skin malignancies.

It’s a mistake to think that, as our government claims, the NHS would be perfect if run more efficiently. It wouldn’t be. The NHS is so hopeless not because it’s run by wrong people in a wrong way but because it’s based on a wrong ideology.

Its implicit object is to provide not excellent medical care but the same care for all, and the two desiderata are mutually exclusive. Both history and common sense tell us that it’s only ever possible to equalise down, not up.

In any case the equality provided by socialism is like that seen when looking down at a crowd from the roof of a skyscraper. Everyone in the crowd, dwarf and giant alike, looks the same height.

This metaphorical vantage point is in our lives occupied by the state, with us as the identical ant-sized creatures down below. As long as the state can keep the people in the street and therefore equal, with itself looking down at them from its great height, it won’t care about their lives.

That’s how Britain, supposedly a first-world country, has ended up with a third-world health service. And that’s why any public critic of the socialist NHS has to be silenced, so far only administratively.

Mr Thomas ought to be grateful he’s still at large. Oh well, give our government a few more years…

It’s socialism that makes the poor poorer

Britain will no longer “tolerate the gap between the rich and the poor”, says London’s Mayor Boris Johnson. I find it harder to tolerate Mayor Johnson.

Being a politician, he personifies the failings of the breed. One of them is seeing any problem as merely an opportunity for scoring cheap points off the opposition. In this case, Boris’s sole message is that the Conservative Party, especially if led by him, will reduce the offensive gap.

He suggests that increasing social mobility through better education will do the trick and he may well be right. Bad education is definitely a factor of poor upward mobility, though it’s not the only reason.

But why is our education so bad? And what does Boris propose to make it good enough to act as a social hoist? That’s where the problem with modern politicians lies: none of them has either the brains to identify the real problem or the courage to do something about it.

The problem in question can be summed up in one word: socialism. The more socialism, the wider the wealth gap – to this rule there are no known exceptions.

In the USA, where the millstone of socialism is somewhat lighter than in Britain, MIT and the Federal Reserve did research on a broad sample, producing interesting results. 

In the second half of the nineteenth century, when Marx’s dreaded capitalism was at its peak, the average ratio of income earned by US corporate directors and their employees was 28:1. Yet in 2005, when egalitarianism proudly reigned supreme, this ratio stood at 158:1.

This is less spectacular than the 700:1 Boris quotes for one FTSE 100 company, but good enough to make the same point: unfettered competitive activity creates numerous opportunities for economic advancement. It also produces competition for qualified labour, which leads to higher pay at the lower levels.

However, socialism, even in the relatively small doses administered in Western countries, is a poison reducing capitalism to corporatism.

Corporate executives running this quasi-socialist system come not from the entrepreneurial classes but from exactly the same gene pool as politicians. Hence they display the same characteristics: dishonesty, selfishness, powerlust, greed – qualities identical to those of which they accuse capitalists. Hence also the ease with which they float from corporate to government careers, and vice versa.

Fair enough, national education is also poisoned by socialism, to death. The system of selective grammar schools, destroyed in 1965, ensured that about 25 per cent of the people were well-educated, with the rest functionally competent enough to fend for themselves.

Conversely, the egalitarian system introduced after Anthony Crosland, Labour Education Secretary, vowed to destroy “every f***ing grammar school”, has predictably produced two generations of illiterates unable to support themselves.

Not to worry: the socialist welfare state steps in to take care of the barbarised and brutalised populace, with a two-fold destructive effect.

First, the welfare state is funded by strangulating the productive economy with inordinate taxation, running deficit budgets and increasing the national debt. This slows the economy down, reducing opportunities for advancement.

But much worse is the adverse moral effect of the welfare state on both its operators and its recipients. Both are corrupted equally, if in different ways. Our rulers don’t mind: the welfare state combined with comprehensive ‘education’ serves their needs perfectly.

By making many unable to pay their own way, the state creates a culture of dependency, increasing its own power. And keeping the population ignorant makes it more likely to vote for nonentities, the dominant type among today’s power seekers.

Thus the gap that vexes Boris so isn’t a mechanical problem but a systemic one. It can only be solved not by tweaking the mechanism here and there, but by redesigning the system. Once this is properly understood, specific steps will suggest themselves.

The welfare state must be eliminated, with the Exchequer taking care only of those too old or infirm to look after themselves.

The system of multi-tier education must be reintroduced. As Boris himself said a few years ago, before he realised he could become prime minister if he played his cards right, “some people are too stupid to get ahead”. Possibly, but only total imbeciles can’t acquire basic literacy and practical skills.

Children with brains and get-up-and-go, about a quarter of all, won’t have to depend on having parents rich enough to put them through private schooling – and neither will they be held back by standards pitched at the least capable.

The latter group won’t be cast in the role of perennial underachievers. They’ll learn less in the way of the humanities and more in the way of practical skills – just as they did in the secondary moderns of yesteryear.

That way they’ll be able to survive handsomely – and, as sociologists know, survival is a much stronger inducement to hard work than the desire to increase one’s comfort.

To sum up, only by abandoning socialism can we close the wealth gap. So is this what Boris is proposing?

Not at all. He isn’t proposing anything radical, or indeed anything at all. He just mouths generalities and party slogans, proving he’s perfect prime-ministerial material.


A parallel universe exists – we’re living in it

According to quantum freaks, there exists a parallel, timeless, self-multiplying universe into which all dead people move to live on in perpetuity.

Epileptics, they say, are envoys from that universe, which is why they supposedly can see the future as clearly as the rest of us see the present.

One may ask why, if so, they never win the lottery, and this is just one way in which that madcap theory can be mocked. Yet reading the news makes one take just about any madness seriously – so-called reality outpaces them all, carrying us into a parallel universe.

For example, saying that there just may be something wrong with homomarriage will soon become a criminal offence under the government’s new Extremism Disruption Orders.

Ostensibly the Orders are being introduced to curb the propaganda of Muslim terrorism in mosques and Islamic schools. Now who, other than aspiring suicide bombers, could argue against this?

Nobody. We all feel the urge to prostrate ourselves before Dave and thank him for doing this for us. But the urge subsides when we remind ourselves that, by doing a lot for the people, a modern government will inevitably do a lot to them as well.

Just look at the victors in the last big war and ask yourself which of them became freer as a result of their triumph. Russia? America? Britain?

None, is the answer to that one. Forgetting Stalin’s Russia as an irredeemably evil place, even the supposedly virtuous governments of the UK and the USA, while ensuring victory against Nazism, also scored one against their people’s liberties. For a modern state a war or any other extreme situation isn’t just a cause but also a pretext – to increase its own power at its citizens’ expense.

Another all-out world war hasn’t quite arrived yet, but in its absence terrorism will do nicely. In that sense all modern governments are alike. They all act according to the inner imperative to increase state power at any cost, and the personalities of specific leaders don’t matter.

Margaret Thatcher, for example, was made of much sterner moral fibre than any subsequent PM, yet she didn’t hesitate to knock out one of the cornerstones of Englishness: the right not to give self-incriminating evidence. Her stated reason was an upsurge in IRA terrorism, but in its absence she or some other PM would have found another pretext.

Then in 2005, when IRA murderers had been elevated to the rank of statesmen, the government of the ghastly Tony Blair abandoned another lapidary law, that of double jeopardy. That time it used not terrorism but newly fashionable sex crimes as a pretext, but anything else could have done just as well.

Our self-admitted ‘heir to Blair’ spied with his little eye the green light turned on by his predecessors and floored the accelerator. 

First he shattered the very institution of wedlock by shoving homomarriage down the throats of a thoroughly brainwashed and dumbed-down public. Now, under the pretext of combating terrorist indoctrination, he’s equating any opposition to homomarriage with ‘hate speech’.

And hate speech is one of the tautological ‘hate crimes’ (I’ve never heard of a ‘love crime’, have you?). The concept is based on secular ‘equality’, that evil Enlightenment simulacrum of equality before God.

In the past – in England, a very distant past of 800 years ago – this was extended into equality before the law. A little sleight of hand, and the concept has been larcenously shifted to mean the equality of everything: vice and virtue, normality and perversion, good and bad, right and wrong, beautiful and ugly.

Right and wrong are deemed to be relative – that is, relative to whatever the state is saying at the moment. No absolutes based on our religious, moral or political history, or even on good old common sense, shall be allowed.

Codify this subversive idiocy into law, and suddenly anyone who observes that, say, one ethnic group is more prone to criminality than another, or that Christianity has more to do with England than Islam, which is why Christian education isn’t the same as Islamic propaganda, is thereby breaking the law.

By the same token, to the state – our state, ladies and gentlemen! – a suggestion that a marriage can only be a union of a man and a woman is as criminal as propaganda of mass murder and inducement to terrorism.

Both are classified as hate crimes to be punished, and ‘equality’ demands, or will soon demand, that both be punished with the same severity.

Tastes differ but, if the fight against terrorism is being used this way, I’d prefer not to fight it at all. Terrorists can only kill a few people, while the modern state can use anti-terrorism to kill England and Englishness.

Can we please leave the phantom of parallel universes and go back to reality? We used to be so comfortable there. 







Imprisoning Blair is a good idea, but Corbyn isn’t

Regardless of their party affiliation, politicians say little but talk a lot. And the more they talk, the greater the statistical likelihood that they’ll say something that makes sense.

The odds of that happening improve en route to the right end of the political spectrum, but even a left-wing demagogue may surprise you by sounding reasonable for a second or so.

That’s how long it took Jeremy Corbyn, the likely future leader of the Labour Party, to suggest that Tony Blair’s 2003 foray into Iraq ought to get him tried for war crimes.

For those of you who are as unfamiliar with Corbyn as I had been until a couple of weeks ago, he’s our leftmost MP whose political views place him somewhere between Harold Wilson and Kim Jong-un.

Corby is a bit like Gorby in other words. By comparison, Ed Miliband comes across like Attila the Hun’s military advisor, but Ed is no longer the party leader.

The party is in the throes of a leadership contest, and Comrade Corbyn (he addresses his audiences as ‘Comrades!’) has appeared out of nowhere to find himself so far ahead of other contestants that his appointment is practically a cinch.

The Tories are jubilant: Corbyn, they say, will move his party so far left that it’ll stay out of power for the next century and eventually disintegrate. Some intrepid Tories are even tricking their way into voting for Corbyn in the Labour contest, to make sure he gets to lead Labour to perdition.

That, to me, looks like a total misreading of the situation, for Corbyn is at least as likely to destroy the Tories. He has clearly united every strand of the hard left by enunciating views they all share but for the last 20 years have been afraid to make public.

That one of Britain’s two main parties is about to be led by a rank communist is a national problem, not a Labour one. This development suggests that the whole political spectrum in the country is shifting leftwards, and it takes rather lamentable naivety to believe that the Tories will benefit.

It’s a political truism that it takes the ownership of the middle ground to win a national election. Yes, but the site of the middle ground isn’t fixed – it’s constantly shifting.

For example, the middle ground Margaret Thatcher claimed in 1979 would these days look like extreme right, while Attlee’s all-out welfarism would today place him left of the middle.

If history is anything to go by, Dave’s focus groups will confirm the tectonic leftward shift, and he’ll respond the only way he knows how: pushing his party in the same direction, although one hesitates to see what more he could do to achieve that goal.

Possibly completing Britain’s unilateral disarmament could do the trick, or perhaps legalising interspecies marriage, post-natal abortions and enforced euthanasia would send the right, or rather sufficiently left, signals.

Meanwhile, by attacking Labour’s most successful election-winner ever, Corbyn has made clear that Labour no longer has to pretend being Tory in disguise.

“We went to war,” he said, “that was illegal, that cost us money, that lost a lot of lives, and the consequences are still played out with… refugees all over the region.”

All true, while Tony’s defence makes no sense at all: “Saddam Hussein,” he says, “wasn’t exactly a force for stability, peace and prosperity for his country.”

No doubt. But neither are the leaders of at least 100 other countries. Does this constitute casus belli, as far as Tony is concerned? Should we attack them all even if such belligerence goes against our national interests?

The Hague clearly beckons, though my personal preference would be to try Blair not for war crimes, and not in international courts, but at the Old Bailey for treason.

In evidence I’d submit Lord Mandelson’s frank admission that Blair’s government deliberately imported hundreds of thousands of Muslims to skew elections the Labour way. That subverted the electoral process and, much worse, dealt a blow to our social fabric from which it may never recover.

Iraq and Afghanistan, where 633 British soldiers died and many more were wounded, could be latched on to the indictment to guarantee a long custodial sentence. But I’d prefer the charge of manslaughter, rather than war crimes. Let’s wash our dirty linen at home, shall we?

However, that Corbyn said one thing that’s both intellectually sound and aesthetically gratifying shouldn’t obscure the fact that his ascent creates the danger of Britain falling in the hands of the hard left.

As PM, Corbyn would destroy every traditional institution, from the monarchy to the House of Lords, from free trade to the rule of law. And make no mistake about it – if the cookie crumbles a certain way in five years’ time, he may well find himself at 10 Downing Street.

All it may take is a timely collapse of our phoney prosperity created by exactly the same methods as those that culminated in the 2008 crisis. Combined with at least half the population already resenting Tory ‘austerity’ (which is also phoney, but most voters don’t realise this), this may well create a wave on whose crest Corbyn will surf to power.

By all means, let’s shout ‘Hear, hear’ when the possibility of sending Tony down is mooted. But let’s pray at the same time that we’ll be spared a hard left state run by Corbyn. To avoid that I’d even agree to see Tony at large, much as it pains me.
















A £385,000 watch isn’t just a watch – it’s evidence

At his wedding last week Putin’s spokesman Dmitri Peskov was photographed wearing a Richard Mille wristwatch, one of 30 ever made.

This has drawn a torrent of comments, some irate, some sympathetic, some of the ‘so what?’ variety. However, no one displayed intimate familiarity with the genre of the detective story, with its reliance on a tiny piece of evidence as the clue to solving a heinous crime.

For this £385,000 timepiece tells you everything you need to know about Russia’s kleptofascist regime. Start with this one detail, and nothing will remain unravelled.

You’ll probably agree that no Western politician would be seen in public wearing such an item even if he could afford it. Such ostentation would send wrong signals to a population whose average annual income is, say, £26,000, as it is in Britain.

Yet in Putin’s Russia, where the average annual income is under £4,000, Vlad’s mouthpiece doesn’t mind showing off bling worth almost 100 times as much. What does this tell you?

First, that neither Peskov nor his boss cares about the signals this sends for the simple reason that the population doesn’t matter. It’s so thoroughly brainwashed that few will see something wrong in a government official indulging in a vulgar display costing four times his annual salary.

Second, since Putin’s gang are all upstart Mafiosi, it’s predictable that they should display the kind of taste that’s traditionally associated with that group. The salient principle is that cornerstone of bad taste: if you’ve got it, flaunt it.

What the ‘it’ stands for is immaterial. It could be diamond and ruby rings on every finger. Or £10,000 suits worn badly. Or inordinately long fingernails, designed to show that their possessor doesn’t stoop to physical labour. Or indeed a grossly vulgar watch.

Whatever it is, the item falls into the same category as prison tattoos and underworld slang. Its role is to communicate belonging to an elect group, an elite perceived as such by its members. The overall message is “I’m the alpha male who’s above any law that doesn’t originate within the group.”

That bling worth £385,000 can’t be legally afforded by any public official is part of the message. According to Russian law, an official can’t even accept it as a present, for any gift worth more than £30 pounds must be declared, which Peskov hasn’t done.

Hence he, acting as dummy to Putin’s ventriloquist, is effectively saying “I’ve broken the law and I don’t care. What are you going to do about it, you worm?”

Then again, wristwatches occupy a particular place in the Russian psyche. Because before the war most Russians had never seen, never mind owned, such a luxury, it held endless fascination for them.

When war fortunes took millions of Russians into Germany and hence to an orgy of rape and pillage, watches, most of them Swiss, were looted first. This was actively encouraged by the high command and, because there was no shame attached to it, even otherwise decent people helped themselves.

Fascination with watches must have been coded into the Russian DNA, for even today’s Russians spend much of their wealth, ill-gotten or otherwise, on their wrist decorations.

Hence the criminal powers that be, and all power in today’s Russia is criminal, proudly flaunt their wealth by letting their shirt cuffs ride up.

Putin himself owns a £500,000 collection of watches, and that’s just those we know about. And even the ecclesiastical branch of the mob isn’t far behind. Of course the hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church have to be monks, which is why their wrist wealth is modest. That is, it’s modest comparatively but not absolutely.

Thus Patriarch Kiril, previously known as Vladimir Gundiayev in the lay world and as ‘Agent Mikhailov’ in KGB files, once caused a bit of a stir when photographed sporting a £19,000 Breguet under his cassock sleeve.

Since many felt that such ostentation contravened the time-honoured principles of monasticism, the same picture was hastily re-released with the offensive item airbrushed out. However, what was left intact was the reflection of the watch on the polished table in front of His KGB Holiness.

Such laxity betokened chronic Russian negligence in paying attention to detail and, more important, the height from which Russian rulers, ecclesiastical or secular, spit on the ruled.

I have an intentional pun for them: watch out. When the Russians master the investigative techniques popularised by Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie, they’ll eventually piece the case together.

Then they’ll throw this vile gang out – without, if history is anything to go by, displaying boundless mercy in the process. That will be a sight to behold, though I for one tremble to think what they’ll come up with next. 














Danny ‘Boy’ Barenboim strikes again: music is “social engineering”

For those of you who don’t follow such things closely, Daniel Barenboim is a musician who’s much better at tooting his own horn than playing the piano or conducting.

Having failed to develop his natural gifts into serious musicianship, he has instead devoted all his inexhaustible energy to developing his unrivalled talent for self-promotion, that sole guarantor of success in the modern musical world.

As a result, rather than becoming the great musician he could have been, Danny has become something much more lucrative: a musical celebrity. And nowadays celebrity of any kind demands expansion into adjacent, or not so adjacent, areas.

Hence Danny Boy has been pretending for quite some time that he could single-handedly put an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is basically the Palestinians trying to kill all Israelis, with the latter trying to prevent such an outcome.

To emphasise that he carries Middle Eastern peace in his own breast, Danny has taken out dual citizenship in Israel and Palestine, which is an amazing achievement considering that, though Israel is a state, Palestine isn’t. It’s more or less a combination of eternal refugee camp and terrorist base.

But Danny vowed to change this lamentable situation by founding the Divan, a so-so orchestra featuring Israeli and Palestinian musicians. “Once young Israelis and Arabs agree on how to play just one note together,” explained Danny Boy, “they will not be able to look at each other in the same way again.”

By ‘they’ he didn’t just mean the musicians themselves, who tend not to be particularly bellicose anyway – he meant that the anodyne sounds produced by his orchestra would force Palestinians to stop killing Israelis, and Israelis killing Palestinians in self-defence.

This would be idiotic if accepted at face value. But Danny Boy didn’t mean it literally. The purpose of the exercise was to promote not peace but Danny, and in that it has been a success, having failed miserably to achieve its declared goal.

But Danny isn’t the type to be deterred easily. “My point,” he persisted, “is that when Israelis and Palestinians play the same music… in the end we don’t give a damn whether we are enemies or not. But will that bring a solution to this conflict? No.”

I’m confused. I thought solving the conflict was the whole purpose. If that isn’t, what is? Surely the world has enough second-rate orchestras already.

Then Danny proceeded to utter the kind of drivel one doesn’t expect even from him: “I still think the idea of combining social engineering with music is wonderful. It gives music a real place in society.”

English isn’t Danny’s first language, and probably not even his second, but he knows it well enough to realise that ‘social engineering’ is a pejorative term.

First introduced at the very end of the 19th century, it refers to refashioning traditional society and forming ‘the new man’, one divested of any traces of our Judaeo-Christian civilisation.

Predictably social engineering is the ideal pursued by all totalitarian regimes of modernity. The assumption is that, since mankind is a machine, its working can be influenced by elect mechanics, specialists endowed with the ability and authority to tweak the mechanism as they see fit.

This is fascism at its purest, whatever the theoreticians and practitioners of social engineering call themselves, and their chosen monikers run towards ‘progressive’, ‘socialist’ or ‘humanist’.

It’s also staggering to hear from someone who fancies himself a musical guru that, unless music is used for the purpose of social engineering, it has no “real place in society.”

Such a utilitarian view of music would have appalled Bach, Mozart or Beethoven, though it would have been welcomed by Lenin, Hitler or Stalin.

Music’s real place in society is to express the highest spiritual and aesthetic reaches of our civilisation – not to act as the battering ram of modernity. By music, in case Danny misunderstands, I mean Messrs Bach, Mozart et al, not the Internationale or the Horst-Wessel-Lied so beloved of Danny’s fellow social engineers.

I was about to sign off by suggesting that Danny stick to what he does best, but then it occurred to me that talking such self-serving gibberish is exactly what he does best. And people listen!    




Calais’s burning – and so is our sanity

Following the news these days makes one feel not so much like a viewer or reader as a psychiatrist, trying to come to grips with a pandemic of madness.

What’s going on in Calais proves that, while paradise on earth is unachievable, hell on earth isn’t. All it takes is British home and foreign policy to come together with French labour relations, and there you have it – a creditable reproduction of hell, complete with clouds of black smoke.

The smoke comes from the tyre fires started by disgruntled French union members, but people from all sorts of downmarket countries also do their best to enhance the image. They throw themselves into and under lorries and cars, attach themselves to a train’s undercarriage and get crushed to death, charge into clouds of tear gas.

When they deign to speak to journalistic vultures circling around Calais, they prove they’re ready to become modern Brits. They may not quite walk the walk, but they certainly talk the talk.

“We know our rights!” they scream, and among those rights is the one involving residency in Britain. I hate to disappoint our African friends, but no such right exists.

What does exist is the modern tendency, going back to the pernicious American and French revolutions, to confuse wishes with rights. To be fair, this fallacy is strictly of Western provenance, but the Africans seem to have absorbed it thoroughly, doubtless in preparation for their exodus.

Forgetting about bogus rights for a second, the numbers don’t add up either. It’s fair to assume that at least half of the world’s seven billion inhabitants would rather live in Britain than in their own native hellholes.

Even if we round the number down to three billion, it’s clear that our small island can’t accommodate them all. There has to be a limit, even though Ed Miliband didn’t think so when asked just before the general election.

Both the limit and the criteria for admission have to be set by HMG, which still retains this prerogative in relation to Africans – even though it has criminally relinquished it in relation to Europeans.

Our government has not only the right but indeed the duty to turn back in any numbers those it doesn’t wish to admit. How it does so is irrelevant. There’s only one requirement for any method of expulsion: that it works.

Instead even those who break through our flimsy cordon illegally are treated as welcomed guests. They are put up at hotels, given three meals a day and some walking-around cash – all at the taxpayer’s expense.

Perhaps, and it’s a very remote possibility, HMG spivs are feeling pangs of conscience, for their own policy is responsible for much of this blazing inferno.

A dozen years ago, immediately after Tony ‘Yo’ Blair joined the foolhardy American foray into the Middle East, I was trying to explain how ill-advised that was to one of Britain’s leading neoconservatives.

“We feel,” he said, his ‘we’ referring mostly to American neocons to whom he was tied by a tighter bond than to any properly British group, “that it’s still a good idea to poke the hornet’s nest.”

Well, the nest has been poked and the hornets are flying all over Calais and Kent, threatening to sting Britain out of existence. Our social fabric, already threadbare thanks to decades of inept spivocracy, provides a highly insecure protective net.

I hope my neocon friend, who has since our conversation embarked on a glittering journalistic career, is happy. Judging by his current output, he isn’t, but then neither does he feel any remorse. Neocons on either side of the ocean seem to be impervious to such humble feelings.

The Calais hell is but one symptom of the madness pandemic. Another is the public response to two major tragedies: the alliterative deaths of Cecil and Cilla.

My understanding is that Cilla Black was some kind of entertainer, who, according to Sky TV, “deeply touched us all”. Well, she didn’t touch me, deeply or otherwise, for the simple reason that, though I had heard the name, I didn’t have a precise idea of who she was.

Since I’ve only lived in England for less than 30 years, I’m keenly aware of my limitations in the knowledge of the lore. Hence I asked my wife, English born and bred, whether she could fill the gaps in my ethnographic education. She couldn’t. “Some sort of entertainer,” she explained, but then I already knew that.

Don’t get me wrong: unlike Cecil, Cilla was human, which is why her death at a statistically premature age of 72 is no doubt a tragedy to her family, friends and fans. But it falls far short of being the international disaster and irreplaceable loss to mankind it’s depicted to be in the media.

Then of course she was that cultural fulcrum of modernity, a Celebrity (capitalisation always implied). Being human isn’t an ironclad requirement for this status, as proved by Cecil the Lion, shot dead by some trigger-happy American dentist.

I’ve seen a picture on the net of Cecil tearing an antelope apart limb from limb. The picture shocked me: there I was, thinking that Cecil was a cuddly, thoroughly anthropomorphised kitten, the best pet a man could wish for. Turns out he was a savage beast devoid of the free will it takes to live down his DNA.

Apparently Cecil was shot illegally, which sort of thing ought to be punished and discouraged. But making him one of the top news items for a week is as reliable a symptom of collective mental illness as one can think of.

One gets the impression that we live in a lunatic asylum that isn’t run by anybody, not even by its inmates. It’s sheer deranged anarchy, with normal life going up in the black smoke of Calais.







Putin: “I was a common Petersburg thug”

One must compliment Vlad for making no attempt to embellish his impressionable youth. And his grown-up life makes it hard to doubt the veracity of this particular recollection.

The ongoing inquiry into the murder of Alexander Litvinenko has already established Putin’s complicity, and the in camera part is still to come.

Speaking for the victim’s family, Ben Emmerson, QC, called Putin an “increasingly isolated tinpot despot” and a “morally deranged authoritarian”, who, “beyond reasonable doubt”, ordered the murder.

Mr Emmerson added that Putin and his cronies are “directly implicated in organised crime”, and it was for his investigation of those activities that Litvinenko was ‘whacked’, to use the term Vlad favours.

In response, the Kremlin called the investigation “biased and politicised”.

Well, if there was a certain bias it could have been put straight by the testimony of Lugovoi and Kovtun, Vlad’s two KGB colleagues who dropped polonium 200 into Litvinenko’s tea.

Neither gentleman, however, took advantage of this glorious opportunity to clear their names and that of their paymaster. Kovtun originally agreed to testify via a video link, but then he, or rather Vlad, thought better of it.

As to the inquest being politicised, it pains me to admit that this is exactly what it is. What’s politicised about it isn’t its findings but its timing.

The findings are hardly earth-shattering. Everyone has known from the word tea that the two KGB thugs ‘whacked’ Litvinenko. The esoteric weapon they used, the old cui bono principle and the knowledge that such a high-level action in the middle of London had to be ordered by Putin left little doubt as to the culprit.

The use of polonium, in the first act of nuclear terrorism against the West, is particularly telling. Had Messrs Lugovoi and Kovtun ‘whacked’ Litvinenko with their service Makarovs, doubts would have been possible.

But radioactive isotopes aren’t as easily available as Soviet-issue automatics. The polonium had to come from a state laboratory, and even in Russia such materials are kept under lock and key. Thus Putin had deliberately telegraphed the murder – pour encourager les autres.

However, the murder took place in 2006 and every fact mentioned in the inquest has been known since then. Why then has it taken nine years to point an accusing finger at Putin?

The truth has been suppressed until now because our powers that be didn’t want to upset Vlad. Justice has been held hostage to political expediency.

It’s only when Putin attempted to do to the Ukraine what he had done to Litvinenko, threatening the West with nuclear weapons in passing, that the nature of political expediency changed. And there I was, thinking Britain is ruled by law, rather than by spivs playing their little political games with the truth.

Now, one hopes, Western governments will release the information on Putin and his gang siphoning hundreds of billions into Western banks, information that’s already in the possession of the FT and The Wall Street Journal.

Speaking of the Ukraine, last week my friend Vlad made a valuable contribution to jurisprudence. He created the precedent of a criminal vetoing the investigation of his crime.

The UN Security Council gathered to establish an international tribunal to prosecute those responsible for the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17.

The plane carrying 283 passengers and 15 crew was shot down over the Ukraine a year ago. The AA missile was evidently fired from a Russian BUK launcher either by Russian soldiers or by their proxies, the so-called Ukrainian separatists.

In the manner of a thief screaming ‘Stop thief!’ the Kremlin came up with an alternative and manifestly mendacious version of the airliner having been downed by a Ukrainian missile – or even possibly a Ukrainian fighter plane.

Hence the need for an independent tribunal, an international body authorised to identify and prosecute the guilty party. Vlad, however, has been saying all along that convening such a tribunal would be ‘untimely’ and ‘counterproductive’.

The Security Council put the matter to a vote, receiving 11 affirmative votes, three abstentions (Angola, China and Venezuela) – and one decisive and predictable veto cast by Russia’s representative Vitaly Churkin.

Mr Churkin was a perfect man for the job for he had form. In 1983, in his capacity as Press Secretary to the USSR embassy in Washington, the young KGB diplomat Comrade Churkin (as he then was) solemnly declared that the Soviets had had nothing to do with a similar accident befalling Korean Airlines Flight 007.

The airliner carrying 267 people, explained my new friend Vitaly, had committed suicide by veering off course and plunging into the Sea of Japan west of Sakhalin.

A few days later the Soviets admitted that an SU-15 interceptor had lent the Koreans a helping hand – and Churkin’s career was launched to culminate in his present ministerial post.

Amazingly, over half of the Russian population disagree with the veto that to any halfway intelligent person is tantamount to an admission of guilt.

On the contrary, they want a tribunal to take place because they’re certain that Russia will be exonerated. The tribunal, they believe, will establish the guilt of either the Ukraine or – are you ready for this? – the USA.

One has to congratulate Vlad yet again: his propaganda is more effective than anything the Soviets could muster. In 1983, even before the Soviets admitted responsibility, not a single Russian had doubted their guilt.

Some welcomed the action, some didn’t, most were indifferent – but not a single Russian in command of his faculties doubted the Soviets had done it.

Soviet propaganda made Russians cynical; Putin’s propaganda makes them idiotic, which is a much greater achievement.

One can only wonder why Vlad’s approval ratings still languish at a mere 86 per cent. Then again, Nicolae Ceauşescu’s last rating stood at 95 per cent. Three days after the poll he was shot like a mad dog in a gutter – and overjoyed crowds danced in the streets.