Lesbos is known for perverse practices

FrancisLesbosA few days ago Pope Francis visited the island that gave its name to the ‘L’ in LGBT. His Holiness could have taken this opportunity to reaffirm the Church’s position on sexual morality.

That chance went missing though. Instead the pontiff picked 12 Muslim refugees out of the thousands huddled on Lesbos and took them home to the Vatican. The Holy See will pay for their upkeep until they get ‘a new life’, as the grateful migrants put it. The refugees hailed the Pope as ‘a saviour’, stopping short of calling him ‘the Saviour’, that term not being part of their religious lexicon.

This was supposed to be an act of Christian mercy, and so it could have been had any private individual done it. When done by a hugely influential public figure, this one-man salvation trick strikes me as an ill-advised publicity stunt.

“All refugees are children of God,” said the Pope, which is true. Yet currently over a million such children are cooped up in Europe, having arrived there illegally. Millions more will doubtless arrive soon.

Moreover, I’d suggest that at least two billion people in the world would like to settle in Europe, and a good proportion of those must be hatching plans for doing so. How many of them should we encourage? How many should Europe welcome? All of them?

According to our Chancellor’s calculations, three million will have arrived in Britain by 2030. Though he didn’t say so in as many words, probably most of them will be Muslims. Germany and France, those unwavering champions of the free movement of people, are likely each to receive a similar number.

And we aren’t even talking yet about the 75 million Turks brought into the Schengen Agreement as a bribe for not sending even more Muslims to Lesbos. How many of them will grace us with their arrival? I’d suggest six zeroes at least, more likely seven – this on top of the 40 million Muslims living in Europe already.

Does His Holiness think this is a good thing? Does he want Europe to be inundated with people who not only aren’t part of our civilisation but hate it cordially? Does he want Europe to become a caliphate, a goal to which many migrants are explicitly and doctrinally committed? Does he want more Europeans to fall victim to terrorist acts, which at least 10 per cent of the new arrivals are trained to perpetrate?

His gesture, admitted the Pope magnanimously, is only “a drop in the ocean”, but he hoped that as a result “the ocean will never be the same again”. His hope is my fear. The ocean may “never be the same again” because its waters will be poisoned.

When Jesus showed mercy, for example to the woman taken in adultery, it was partly to make a point. In that case, the point was that laws must be leavened with mercy because all of us are sinners who should never forget the difference between righteousness and self-righteousness.

What point was Pope Francis making? He is, after all, heir to the throne first occupied by one of Jesus’s most prominent disciples.

I’d humbly suggest that the Vatican’s first aim should be to guard, protect and spread Christianity. Therefore its first responsibility ought to be to protect the secular realm that historically fosters Christian faith.

Does His Holiness seriously think that either desideratum will be best served by implanting new Islamic saplings into the soil already contaminated by atheism?

If he does, then his action is laudable. But those of us who think differently fear that such stunts will further undermine the moral authority of the Church at a time when it could do with some bolstering.

Yesterday, for example, I put forth a completely secular argument against abortion because, I wrote, non-Christians wouldn’t accept one based on the moral authority of the Church. But then I wondered, why not?

When all is said and done, moral authority, as opposed to moral sense, must be outside us to have any value universally recognised and deferred to – to have any practical value, in other words. Now even atheists, provided they’re intelligent atheists, must realise that restoring the Church to her historical role of moral arbiter would have a resuscitating effect on society.

Whence else would a universal authority come? The Equalities Commission? LGBT publications? Environmental crusaders? The government, God forbid?

The first step in this mental process is to recognise the need for a universal, unifying moral authority. The second step is to realise that, in the West, only the Church can act in that capacity.

And the third step is to lament that, by performing perverse publicity tricks to indulge his leftward inclinations, the Vicar of Christ squanders even more of the moral capital accumulated by the Church since the time Francis’s job was done by Peter.






A few rational thoughts about abortion

PregnancyScanFor two Christians there’s nothing to argue about: abortion is wrong because the Church says so. Why waste time debating?

Yet Christianity is a rational religion. Hence reluctant as a Christian may be to waste breath discussing abortion, he could if he had to. And he’d have to when talking to an infidel. The Christian wouldn’t then be able to invoke the authority of the Church: his interlocutor simply wouldn’t accept it.

Therefore, if a rational Christian wanted to win the argument, he’d have to step outside religion. Or so he might think. Yet no Westerner, even a dyed-in-the-wool atheist, can help touching upon Christianity, if only tangentially.

For ultimately the pros and cons of abortion can be crystallised to a simple question: does the foetus possess a human life or is it merely a part of the mother’s body? Is it typologically close to you and me or, say, to the appendix?

If the answer is the former, then any moral person would have to be anti-abortion: a human life mustn’t be taken arbitrarily. But why not?

We’ve shut the door on Judaeo-Christian morality, but it has climbed in through the window. Because the answer is that our fundamental laws derive from the Decalogue, in this case from the commandment “Thou shalt not kill”.

Either this commandment is part of our congenital make-up, as Kant believed, or an acquired taste, but it’s so firmly ingrained that even atheists agree that yes, taking a human life arbitrarily is wrong.

If so, a logical pro-abortion debater has only two ways to go: he has to claim either that a foetus isn’t human at all or at least that it’s not yet human enough. The first option is illogical: a developing human life is still a human life.

Hence the pro-abortion chap must insist that a foetus only has a potential for human life, not life as such. This moves abortion morally close to contraception: a life not so much destroyed as prevented. Here the pro chap curiously joins forces with the Church, although of course the Church believes that preventing life is wrong, and he doesn’t.

Since nobody denies that sooner or later a foetus will become fully human, even if it isn’t already, the argument can be further reduced to a simple question: at what point does a foetus become fully human?

Because abortion is always discussed in America more vigorously than elsewhere, especially at election time, this brings us to a landmark decision by the US Supreme Court: Roe v. Wade (1973).

The Court ruled that the right to privacy extends to a woman’s decision to have an abortion. However, the Court illogically ruled that this right must be balanced against “protecting the potentiality of human life”. In the third trimester this ‘potentiality’ reaches a point of no return.

Thereby the Court implicitly claimed it pinpointed exactly when life begins during pregnancy: six months plus one day. This is patently ridiculous, and in 1992 the third trimester was replaced with ‘foetal viability’, defined as “potentially able to live outside the mother’s womb, albeit with artificial aid.”

That point, according to the Justices, occurred at 23-24 weeks, or, depending on medical advances, even earlier. The UK Abortion Act reached the same conclusion in 1967, setting the legal limit at 24 weeks, with no potential medical advances mentioned.

Alas, any limit is so arbitrary that it holds no logical water whatsoever. So at 167 days no human life exists, only to appear miraculously a day later? Or, acknowledged the Supreme Court, it could even be 161 days but not a minute earlier, barring ‘medical advances.’

Well, the medical advances have been such that a foetus can be created and grown artificially, with no mother’s womb in sight. Conversely, if we disregard artificial methods, a foetus can no more survive on its own two months after birth than two months before. The difference between prenatal and postnatal abortion stops being immediately obvious.

When intelligent people can’t argue a case logically, there’s something wrong with the case. So there is, for conception is the only indisputable beginning of life. Any other moment is subject to doubt – and any doubt should swing the argument towards the anti end. If it’s at all possible that abortion represents an arbitrary destruction of a human life, it must be banned.

I once made this argument to a pragmatic thinker who then asked a practical question, as pragmatic thinkers will: “So, if abortion is unlawful, should the woman be prosecuted for murder?”

My reply was that, if an anti-abortion law exists, then the law-breaker must be punished, though I’d be more inclined to treat as the perpetrator not the woman, but the abortionist.

However, even the staunchest Catholic would admit that abortion isn’t identical with murder. For a doctor charged with performing an abortion may present a valid medical defence. The choice, he may plead, was between preserving either the mother’s life or the foetus’s, not an uncommon situation.

Abortion then moves morally closer to justifiable self-defence, which isn’t a crime. The conclusion is that, even as not every taking of a human life is prosecuted, neither should every abortion. But laws against killing still exist – and so, rationally speaking, must laws against abortion.

Oui, Minister, being another Jersey is a très bonne idée

St_Aubin_JerseyOur Chancellor George Osborne outlined the problem that’ll never arise. But, just in case it did arise, his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron offered a promising solution.

The problem according to George is that Brexit will cost every British family £4,300 per year for any foreseeable future. It has to be said that, though George is an accomplished liar, he still has a lot to learn.

When you lie verbally, George, you can say any old thing. You may, for example, suggest that Brexit will make every British man impotent and every British woman promiscuous. Or that continental policemen will be ordered to shoot on sight anyone with beer on his breath who calls them ‘mate’.

But if you lie numerically, avoid round numbers. The more precise the numbers you quote, the more believable they’ll be. So it was a mistake to say that we’d be £4,300 poorer every year: the two zeroes at the end bespeak slapdash calculations.

How much better it would have been had you used a more precise numeral, such as £4,297.63. The way you put it also sounds as if you made no allowances for the inflation rate. It’s negligible now, but it’s likely to go up sooner or later, isn’t it George?

So you should have specified that Brexit will cost each potentially despondent British family £4,297.63 as a down payment, which sum will then grow… no, let’s put it more officially, it will be subject to an annual incremental upward augmentation at 2.74 per cent over the inflation rate.

That would have worked a treat, George, and no one would even think to question the mental processes by which you arrived at £4,300. But the way you put it, even our innumerate victims of comprehensive education are beginning to smell a rat.

The rodent still isn’t as big as it would have been had you refrained from putting a number on the imminent disaster altogether. Had you said “Brexit will cost every family a whole lot of dosh”, the rat would be the size of an average golden retriever. This way it’s still manageable.

Anyway, not to worry. The referendum is still a couple of months away… no, 66 days away (precise numbers do carry more weight). You’ll be able to get your act together and lie with much greater credibility – or rather with a 26.8 per cent increase in credibility.

However, should George’s darker prediction turn out to be right in principle, if not in every detail, Manny (the name by which Finance Minister Emmanuel Macron likes to be known to his friends) has charted a straight thoroughfare to economic salvation.

Should Britain be insane enough to abandon the celestial economic benefits of EU membership, said Manny, she’ll end up like Jersey. As an erstwhile New York resident, I was tempted to ask ‘Which exit?’, but then I realised Manny was talking about the Channel island, not the American state.

As a current resident of France (under six months a year, Mr Taxman, in case you’re wondering), I was tempted to ask Manny to pinpoint the benefits more accurately, with the kind of precision I recommended to George.

For the economy over which Manny presides provides a less than convincing illustration. Not to cut too fine a point, it’s a basket case, with a soul-destroying unemployment rate (25 per cent for young people), negligible growth that only politesse prevents one from calling stagnation, the single currency suffocating exports, unsupportable social costs made catastrophic by uncontrollable migration (to get much worse, now Schengen has been extended to Turkey), constant strikes and riots – you name it.

As to Britain becoming like Jersey, is that a threat or a promise, Manny? You mean we, like Jersey, will have a maximum tax rate of 20 per cent, as opposed to 45 per cent we have now or 75 per cent in some countries that’ll remain nameless (restent anonymes)?

By injecting new energy into the economy, that measure alone will shave quite a few pounds off the putative (in reality nonexistent) cost of Brexit. Why, if taxes were just 20 per cent, tops, people would no longer annoy Dave by looking for offshore shelters. Here, Dave, have your 20 per cent and choke on it, would be the common reaction.

And would we, like Jersey, become an international tax haven, albeit on a vastly greater scale? That would elevate the City of London from its present position of global financial dominance to that of global financial monopoly.

A parallel raft of corporate tax breaks would act as a powerful magnet to foreign investment, which, according to both George and Manny, would disappear the second after we vote Leave. Manny didn’t mention this Jersey-like measure, but it was definitely in the back of his mind.

Also, are we going to have Jersey-like social tranquillity, unlike in some countries one could mention (Manny knows one very well)? Strict residence requirements? Negligible crime rate?

Anyway, I thank Manny from the bottom of my heart (je le remercie de tout coeur). What a lovely idea, being more like Jersey and less like, well, France.

People who live in glass houses shouldn’t call others morons

NiallFergusonThe title of Niall Ferguson’s article Brexit Happy Morons Don’t Give a Damn About the Costs of Living is so self-explanatory that I’m surprised he felt the need to write any text below it.

Yet write it he did, with every word shattering the American glass house in which Prof. Ferguson lives. The house already reduced to shards, he concludes the article by saying, “Perhaps, as the old poem says, I am the one who is the moron. But I do give a damn about this country’s economic future. And when I see the risks of Brexit being glossed over in ways that would disgrace an undergraduate essay, I feel anything but happy.”

While this devotion to the economy of the country in which he hasn’t lived for years may strike some as hypocritical, the ending does elucidate the thought in the title for those with learning difficulties. But the text in between only reinforces my conviction that writers should disclose their political beliefs.

I favour a rating symbol accompanying every piece. For example, mine would be ‘C’, standing for ‘conservative’ and not for the epithet flung by some of my detractors. Other ratings could be ‘LW’ for ‘left wing’, ‘or, say, ‘NF’ for ‘neo-fascist’ (and not ‘Nigel Farage’, although his detractors can’t tell the difference).

Ferguson’s rating should definitely be ‘NC’, for ‘neocon’. He’s one of those annoying Brits who’ve pledged loyalty to probably the most objectionable and definitely the most influential movement in American politics.

The neocons have discovered the knavish trick of combining conservative-sounding phraseology with Trotskyist cravings realised through appropriate policies. (I expand on this in my book Democracy as a Neocon Trick.)

The essence of Trotskyism is ‘permanent revolution’, non-stop aggression aimed at spreading a certain ideology around the globe, thereby unifying it under the aegis of a central authority.

In Trotsky’s case, that ideology was communism; in the neocons’ case, it’s democracy, American style. In neither case does the ideology matter.

Even as the real purpose of mass murder is to murder masses, the real purpose of aggressive internationalism is aggressive internationalism. This doesn’t change whatever colour flag the aggressors run up the pole.

The neocons’ innate internationalism makes them natural champions of European federalism. This dovetails with their American jingoism.

Perhaps they feel that the global US domination they crave will be easier to achieve if Europe presented a single target. Or else they think that American trade would benefit from Europe being a single customer.

Either way, this is the context in which Ferguson’s Sunday Times article must be read. Rather than analysing a complex problem, he’s but a dummy to his neocon ventriloquists.

This unenviable role makes Ferguson drop even below his normal intellectual standards, which fall somewhat short of dizzying heights under the best of circumstances.

For example, he first correctly castigates IMF predictions for being notoriously unreliable. Then, with the absence of logic lamentable in an academic, he gives unquestioning credence to their doomsday forecasts for Brexit.

Freguson’s rationale for such childish credulity is that “the IMF’s intrinsic optimism matters because if the organisation is pessimistic about something, it is very likely to be understating the problem.” Yet what matters about both the optimism and the pessimism is that this organisation tends to be wrong and borderline incompetent.

Then he laments that the pound is 12 per cent down on the euro since November. “Could it fall further? You bet,” forecasts Ferguson, taking his cue from the optimistic-pessimistic IMF.

Such concern for the value of our currency in someone whose income is denominated in dollars betokens laudable selflessness. As someone who pays for half his life in euros, not in pounds in which my income is denominated, I grieve with Ferguson.

However, I rejoice in the knowledge that a weaker pound spells good news for our exports. This may just protect them from being totally wiped out by Brexit, which is part of the party line mouthed by Ferguson.

In general, everything he says about economics, and his argument is wholly economic, betrays both his ignorance of the subject and his willingness to march in step with his neocon Parteigenossen.

Then again, Ferguson isn’t an economist. He is an historian, which makes it odd that he’d want to base his rant on a discipline about which he knows next to nothing, rather than on one about which he’s supposed to know next to everything.

While better and more credible organisations than IMF predict mostly trivial economic effects of Brexit, one way or the other, anyone with a modicum of historical knowledge knows that EU membership puts paid to a millennium of British constitutional tradition.

As Hugh Gaitskell once put it, joining the Common Market would be “the end of a thousand years of history.” What was true then is a thousand times truer now. But Gaitskell wasn’t a professional historian. Ferguson is, and I’d be interested to hear him comment on this line of thought. But he can’t. His party discipline won’t let him.

“Perhaps, as the old poem says, I am the one who is the moron,” he says self-effacingly. Relax, Niall, you aren’t, not exactly. You’re just an immoral party hack.

Prison, a gift from a grateful nation

PistolsAn SAS hero, who served his country with distinction for 22 years, has been properly thanked – with a 15-month prison sentence.

Since most burglars get off scot-free, or perhaps with a deferred slap on the wrist, one has to assume that Albert Patterson committed a worse crime than breaking into somebody’s house and stealing everything of any resale value.

He did. All these years, he has kept in his heart the memory of his 22 comrades who died next to him in the Falklands. And, in remembrance of them, he has kept in his house a trophy pistol he took off a captured Argentine officer.

The pistol was discovered by the police investigating a burglary in the 65-year-old’s house. Had the investigation resulted in the arrest of the burglar, and the arrest in a trial (both huge statistical improbabilities), the criminal would have received a suspended sentence. But he wasn’t caught. Instead the police arrested Mr Patterson.

The gun was neither loaded nor prominently displayed. It was hidden and locked away, but that didn’t matter. Back in 1998 the government introduced a handgun amnesty, which was a fancy word for confiscation. People were supposed to turn in their guns in exchange for a fraction of their value and a promise not to prosecute.

Once the amnesty expired, possessing a handgun became illegal. Serving his country abroad, as he did at the time, and then working for various NGOs in Iraq and Afghanistan, Mr Patterson might not even have known about this ridiculous legislation or, if he had, it might have slipped his mind.

Yes, fine, the law is the law, and ignorance is no excuse. But there’s one aspect of jurisprudence common to all Western countries and certainly in England: our legality can be traced back to the Bible.

It originates from the laws laid down in the Old Testament and then refined in the Gospels, where severity was leavened with mercy. For example, the letter of the law said that the woman taken in adultery should be stoned to death. Yet, having invited those who were without sin to cast the first stone, Jesus simply told the woman to sin no more and sent her on her way.

That’s not to deny that some seminal Western laws have pagan Roman antecedents, or that some marginal ones aren’t Biblical in nature. But, in the West, the principle of justice leavened with mercy is the foundation of them all.

The ill-advised ban on handguns surely was designed to guarantee that weapons wouldn’t fall into wrong hands. In fact, it guaranteed that wrong hands were the only kind into which guns can now possibly fall, and wrong hands can still get a weapon with embarrassing ease. Law-abiding subjects of Her Majesty, on the other hand, have to remain unarmed in the face of a sky-rocketing crime rate.

But leaving this asinine law aside, surely this was one case in which mercy was called for, nay demanded? Presiding Judge Plunkett felt so.

He also knew, or claimed, that his feelings didn’t matter one jot. He was privileged, the Judge said, to have examined Mr Patterson’s service record, highlighting the numerous times he risked his life protecting his country.

But the law, said His Honour, left him no choice in sentencing. And, come to think of it, “In the wrong hands these weapons could lead to the death of police officers or cause all sorts of mayhem. It’s the risk that Parliament is concerned about.”

In the wrong hands, rat poison, available at any DIY store, could poison the water supply of a large city. In the wrong hands, kitchen knives one can buy at any supermarket could slash dozens of bystanders before the police could bat an eyelid. In the wrong hands, electric drills and axes, sold by any hardware shop, could become weapons of torture and murder.

Is Parliament concerned about those? Not one bit. It’s guns that stick in its craw because, in the right hands, they may act as a natural restriction on arbitrary power, which is exceedingly becoming exactly the kind of power our government exercises.

People despise laws they regard as unjust, and they break laws they regard as ludicrous. And what can be more ludicrous than pronouncing that Mr Patterson’s hands, which for 22 years fired weapons in defence of his country, are now so wrong that they can’t be trusted with antiquated trophy pistols locked away in his cabinet?

Col. Richard Kemp, former commander of our forces in Afghanistan, put it in a nutshell, calling for the veteran’s ‘immediate’ release.

“This is another example,” he said, “of our troops being persecuted by a government and courts obsessed with political correctness.

“An SAS hero who risked his life to defend his country shouldn’t be treated like a South London drug dealer… The country should be grateful for what he did.”

It is. This is how today’s Britain shows its gratitude.




My heart bleeds for the Poles’ delicate sensibilities

AuschwitzThe Polish village of Jedwabne was almost all Jewish. It isn’t any longer. On 10 July, 1941, almost its entire Jewish population, 1,600 souls in all, were murdered.

After the war a cenotaph was erected to the victims, with an inscription blaming the SS for the crime. But for once the SS wasn’t the culprit. The Jews were murdered by their Polish neighbours wielding knives, axes and clubs. The survivors were locked up in a barn and burned alive.

Such crimes were committed all over Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, the Ukraine, Byelorussia and Russia. The local populations rivalled, sometimes outdid, the Germans’ anti-Semitic atrocities.

Where the local support for the Holocaust was lower, so was the percentage of the Jews murdered. In France, regarded as Western Europe’s most anti-Semitic country, the survival rate was 75 per cent. In Poland it was 10 per cent, but then Poland isn’t in Western Europe.

It was no wonder that the Nazis sent Jews from all over Europe to the death camps built in Poland: Chelmno, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, Auschwitz-Birkenau and Majdanek. They knew the Poles were more likely than even the Germans to ignore the smoke billowing out of the chimneys, to shut their eyes on the crime.

Speaking of crimes, as far as the Polish government is concerned, the Princeton professor Jan Gross has committed one punishable by three years in prison.

Prof. Gross, who is himself of Polish descent, will stand trial in Katowice for writing that during the Nazi occupation the Poles inflicted heavier losses on Jews than on Germans. That, according to the prosecution, is tantamount to “publicly insulting the nation”.

Leaving aside the understated commitment to free speech, so lamentable in our EU partner, one would still like to get to the bottom of Prof. Gross’s allegations. Are they true?

The honest answer is, I don’t know. That is, I don’t know how many Germans the Polish underground, Armia Krajowa, killed. I do know Poland had 2.5 million Jews in the 1930s, while now there are only 10,000.

Given such a low number in a country of almost 40 million, it’s no wonder that 90 per cent of Poles say they’ve never seen a Jew. But absence doesn’t always make the heart grow fonder: 63 per cent believe that a global Jewish conspiracy exists, while 23 per cent believe that Jews use Christian blood in their rituals.

That would suggest that the Poles were less horrified than the Germans when the Holocaust made them look deep into their own hearts after the war. The Germans tried to atone for their sin as best they could; the Poles didn’t even acknowledge they had sinned.

This raises many interesting questions, among them that of collective guilt. Interestingly, those Poles who deny such a thing exists, don’t mind emphasising their nation’s collective heroism in confronting Nazism. Come on chaps, you can’t have it both ways. If you feel no collective guilt, you aren’t entitled to collective pride.

Yet there’s much to be proud about. Poland fought against the German aggression more heroically than any other European nation until the winter of 1941, when the Russians stopped surrendering in their millions and began to fight back.

In fact, once the Polish army got entrenched on the eastern side of the Vistula, the German juggernaut began to run out of steam, and the Poles only succumbed when knifed in the back by the Russians on 17 September, 1939.

During the war, Armia Krajowa mounted a real resistance from the first days of the occupation, as opposed to, say, France, where serious resistance only began when the outcome of the war was no longer in doubt.

Armia Krajowa, however, offered only a limited support to the uprising in the Warsaw Jewish ghetto in April-May, 1943. When Armia Krajowa staged its own Warsaw uprising in August, 1944, the Soviet army didn’t lift a finger to help – tempting one to think about poetic justice.

However, we shouldn’t forget that many pilots who won the Battle of Britain were Polish – or that, unlike Norway, Poland didn’t have a Quisling government and, unlike France, Holland, Belgium and the Ukraine, she didn’t form national SS divisions.

However, denying any possibility of collective guilt doesn’t come naturally to someone who, like me, believes in original sin. Of course, there were many Poles who, risking their own lives, saved Jews. Such heroes are of course exempt from any collective responsibility.

But that, however, doesn’t mean that no collective responsibility exists. God was willing to spare Sodom if he could find 10 righteous men there and only destroyed the city when the required number wasn’t reached. But he did spare the righteous man Lot and his daughters.

I’m not suggesting that Poland should be destroyed or that she deserved the suffering she received at the hands of the Germans and Russians during the war, or the Russians and her own communists after it.

However, our joy at having all those Polish plumbers should be tempered by the awareness of the cultural differences between Britain and Poland, or Eastern Europe in general. Although we’re all residually Christian, I’d suggest the differences outweigh the similarities.

A single European state, anyone?

Great reason for Brexit: Corbyn is against it

JeremyCorbynJeremy Corbyn kicked off his belated speech in favour of staying in the EU by claiming that the party he leads backs it “overwhelmingly”.

He didn’t cite any statistics to support this claim, expecting us to take it on faith.

Being a credulous sort, I’m prepared to do just that – even though this assertion somewhat bucks the historical trend.

For example, Hugh Gaitskell, the last sensible Labour leader (1955-1963) argued against Britain joining the EEC (as it then was) by correctly stating that this would mean “the end of a thousand years of history”.

He then died under mysterious circumstances, with both the ex-MI6 man Peter Wright and the Soviet defector Anatoly Golitsyn claiming foul play on the part of the KGB, eager to replace Gaitskell with its putative agent Harold Wilson.

More recently, in the 1970s and early 1980s, Labour was more Eurosceptic than the Tories, with more anti-EEC MPs and a more coherent European policy. And Labour’s patron saint Tony Benn made strong arguments against European federalism, as strong as anything Nigel Farage has come up with so far, which is saying a lot.

Incidentally it was then that the cub MP Jeremy Corbyn showed the good judgement of voting against joining the Common Market – an impression of solidity he then spoiled by having a fling with Diane Abbott, whose physique was never any more attractive than her personality or indeed her politics.

Those who foolishly expect consistent views from politicians on any subject other than their unquenchable power-lust will notice that old Jeremy had been opposed, if somewhat tepidly, to EU membership up until the moment his arm was twisted into making today’s speech. This he acknowledged, possibly without realising he was acknowledging it (Jeremy, in case you’re wondering, isn’t particularly bright).

After all, he explained, the Labour party and its paymasters, the trade unions, have decided to back EU membership “and that’s the party I lead and that’s the position I am putting forward.”

In other words, Jeremy’s personal principles and beliefs don’t really come into it. What comes into it is his determination to hang on to power at all costs, something that would be in peril if the union bosses got upset.

Fair enough, serious people would never expect anything different from a career politician, whatever the colour of the rosette he pins to his lapel. I mean, you don’t really think that Dave has a carefully thought-through political philosophy he is prepared to uphold at any cost to his political career, do you?

Jeremy made another unwitting admission one has to welcome – or applaud if it wasn’t really unwitting: “There is,” he said, “a strong socialist case for staying in the European Union.”

This is absolutely true, and it would be God’s own truth had he modified ‘a strong socialist case’ with the intensifier ‘only’. For European federalism has always been nothing but the nightmarish socialist dream of a single European, ideally world, government.

This is how this thought was expressed in The Communist Manifesto, the founding document that inspired both international and national socialism:

“The working men have no country… Since the proletariat must first of all acquire political supremacy, must constitute itself the nation, it is, so far, itself national… National differences and antagonisms between peoples are vanishing gradually from day to day, owing to the development of the bourgeoisie, to freedom of commerce, to the world market, to uniformity in the mode of production and in the conditions of life corresponding thereto. The supremacy of the proletariat will cause them to vanish still faster.”

Actually, working men tend to be more patriotic than chattering idlers. But never mind, European federalism flows as naturally out of this passage as Krug champagne out of the bottle at a Labour fund raiser. Since ‘supremacy of the proletariat’ is insane rubbish bearing no resemblance to any conceivable reality, it has always been interpreted as the supremacy of a supranational elite towering above national cultures, traditions and politics.

That is how the concept was understood both by the Bolsheviks and the Nazis. And this is how it was understood by the German and French bureaucrats who in the days of the Nazi occupation and Vichy discovered affinity for one another.

The Third Reich was committed to pan-Europeanism, and in fact the Nazis organised a conference on united Europe chaired by that great European Alfred Rosenberg. When it became clear after El Alamein and Stalingrad that the Third Reich would last rather less time than the promised thousand years, Nazi and Vichy bureaucrats banged their heads together and came up with a plan for post-war cooperation now going by the name of the EU.

I do hope the Leave campaign will make its case clear, explaining to hoi polloi the pernicious provenance of the EU and its profoundly anti-British, anti-historical and indeed anti-European aims.

But if I were a door-to-door Brexit campaigner, I’d reduce the whole argument to a simple message: Jeremy Corbyn wants us to stay in the EU. What better reason do you need for voting to leave?

Caravaggio, the awful painter for our awful time

CaravaggioNow that a Caravaggio painting worth zillions has been discovered in a Toulouse attic with a leaky roof, the painter is in the news again.

To be fair, he has never left the news, or at least art appreciation classes, for at least a century. So high is his status that it’s easy to forget that for roughly 400 years after his death art lovers hardly knew who Caravaggio was.

Until the 20 century, in which more people were killed than in all previous centuries combined, the world hadn’t been quite ready for Caravaggio because it hadn’t been quite ready for modernity.

Artists forgotten for four centuries seldom make a comeback – unless their old art tickles our new sensibilities. So what sensibilities are tickled by Caravaggio’s soulless, violent and perverse art?

The answer lies in the adjectives modifying the word ‘art’ in the previous sentence. This is what modernity sees when looking at itself in the mirror of Caravaggio’s paintings. This is what modernity likes.

A few years ago an Amsterdam museum made a terrible mistake. It put together a joint exhibition of Rembrandt and Caravaggio, two painters the curators thought were umbilically linked.

The link was purely formal, but then pure formalism is all that matters nowadays. Caravaggio turned chiaroscuro, widely used by others, into tenebrism. That’s essentially more of the same thing, with little transition between an exaggerated shadow and an equally exaggerated light.

Several 17th-century giants, such as Zurbarán and Rembrandt, also used the technique, which is supposed to make them Caravaggio’s disciples.

The write-up on the sublime Zurbarán’s painting of St Francis at the National Gallery says so in as many words: Zurbarán was influenced by Caravaggio. I’d be tempted to say that Zurbarán was influenced by St Francis or, to be more exact, by Jesus Christ.

When looking at a work of art, I first ask the hopelessly outdated question ‘what?’, rather than the fashionably upbeat ‘how?’ Technique is important only inasmuch as it’s adequate to the artist’s treatment of his subject.

Yet by the time the 20th century arrived, the soul of our civilisation had been ripped out. Hence paintings were no longer seen as vehicles carrying a divine, or any deep, meaning. They had become merely combinations of colours and shapes, with painting not stepping outside itself in search of meaning. Art became endogenous rather than exogenous.

As that process gathered speed, the combinations of colours and shapes became too esoteric for anyone to understand without help from critics. Art again became exogenous, stepping outside itself – except that this time it looked for inspiration not in God or any of His creations but in literature, specifically the genre of art criticism.

Tom Wolfe wrote a brilliant essay about this, The Painted Word, but that was long before those Amsterdam curators decided it would be instructive to juxtapose Rembrandt and Caravaggio.

Actually, instructive it was, but not the way they meant it. They were hoping to show that the two painters were so closely related that they were practically twins. Instead the exhibition showed they weren’t even the same species.

Rembrandt loved human nature, understood it, and was able to convey it better than most artists in history. He didn’t portray his sitters’ features. He portrayed their souls.

That was an alien concept to Caravaggio. What functioned as his own soul was a combination of various perversions, social, sexual and psychological.

This is exactly what appeals to a modernity trained to appreciate form more than content, and the artist more than his art. Everything about Caravaggio fits.

His formal innovativeness trumps his empty soullessness. His sanguinary naturalism excites the public weaned on horror movies. And let’s not forget his life, so reminiscent, mutatis mutandis, of the lives of today’s pop celebrities.

When not busy painting or pursuing nubile boys, Caravaggio wandered around Rome drunk, his hand on the hilt of his sword, looking for someone to kill. Eventually he did murder a young man and had to flee Rome under a sentence of death – what’s there not to love for our desensitised, voyeuristic public?

Blood flows liberally in Caravaggio’s paintings, and he was obsessed with decapitation, both tendencies clearly springing from his own murderous past and the likely punishment for it.

The newly found painting, Judith Beheading Holofernes, is another such revelling in beheading. The expert who authenticated the work commented that “this isn’t the kind of painting you’d want to hang in your living room”.

True. I don’t see how anyone, other than the chaps who teach art appreciation, would even want to look at it in a museum. Most of us are never satisfied by technical mastery alone.

No doubt Caravaggio was technically proficient. But a walk through any major museum will be rewarded by demonstrations of technical mastery galore. I doubt one would find any incompetent works of art there.

But great artists offer so much more than just that. They have the ability to move us by reminding us of the sublime heights to which the human spirit can soar.

Caravaggio uses his skill to remind us, unwittingly, of the putrid depths to which the human spirit can sink. That does make him the ideal artist for modernity, rejoicing in the lower depths of the human spirit.


British Labour and German Nazism

Die Geste der rechten Hand ! Typische Rednergesten, bei welchen die Bewegung der rechten Hand den Höhepunkt in den Ausführungen des Redners unterstreicht. Der Führer der Nationalsozialisten Adolf Hitler in einer typischen Rednerpose.

Conservatives are intuitively opposed to big central government. After all, the bigger and more centralised the government, the more it’ll confer the kind of absolute power that, according to Lord Acton, corrupts absolutely.

That’s as true, if not to the same extent, of our so-called democracies as of openly totalitarian regimes. Hence conservatives favour transferring as much power as possible to small local government.

Such is the theory, and by and large it holds true. But then someone like Aysegul Gurbuz turns up, and a huge hole is punched right through the middle of the seemingly irrefutable theory.

Miss Gurbuz is a Labour councillor in Luton, which makes her a member of local government and supposedly an embodiment of a conservative ideal. However, she’s also a Muslim and merely 20 years old, with neither characteristic likely to appeal either to conservatives or to generally intelligent people.

Luton’s population being about 25 per cent Muslim, there can be no valid demographic objection to its council members espousing Islam. There are however, valid cultural and historical objections to any British city being 25 per cent Muslim.

After all, it’s far from certain that a devout Muslim can be trusted to uphold the founding principles of the realm, such as pluralism. Of course many Muslims are Muslim in name only, but, as you’ll see, Miss Gurbuz is a pious Muslim devoted to every tenet of her creed, including the less appealing ones.

Her age is another problem. It should be clear to anyone that a 20-year-old is too young to qualify for a government post. I’d also go so far as to suggest that 20-year-olds shouldn’t even vote, for the simple physiological reason that the human brain isn’t even wired properly until age 25 or so.

As a man who loves to see his prejudices confirmed, I’m grateful to Miss Gurbuz for validating both of my reservations about her suitability to be a councillor, even a Labour one, even in Luton.

As a pious Muslim, she’s a virulent, visceral anti-Semite who’s pining for another Holocaust. As a 20-year-old, she’s too stupid to conceal this.

On the contrary, she proudly tweets hatred urbi et orbi. “The Jews,” says one tweet, “are so powerful in the US, it’s disgusting.”

Miss Gurbuz is active in every pro-Palestinian cause under the sun, and her analysis of the situation in that volatile region reflects her slight partiality and a keen sense of history: “If it wasn’t for my man Hitler these Jews would’ve wiped Palestine years ago. Sorry but it’s a fact. Not hating on Jews btw.”

‘Not hating Jews’ would have made the last sentence more grammatical, if no more credible. It should also have been ‘wiped out’, not ‘wiped’, for surely the dastardly Jews want to destroy ‘Palestine’, not keep it clean (from what I’ve heard of the state of hygiene there, the former task would be easier to achieve).

Some punctuation would have helped too, if only to dispel the impression that Miss Gurbuz isn’t a native speaker of English or, if she is, a functionally illiterate one.

Anyway, since Muslims owe such a debt to ‘my man Hitler’, it stands to reason that in another tweet Miss Gurbuz describes her idol as “the greatest man in history”.

Labour is so sick of one anti-Semitic scandal after another, starting with the cordial friendship the party leader shares with Hamaz chieftains, that it reacted with unusual alacrity, suspending the precocious youngster from the party.

One can sympathise with Labour. First Oxford University Labour Club’s co-chairman had to resign because “a large proportion” of its members had “some kind of problem with Jews”.

Then the party twice had to suspend another functionary, Vicky Byrne, for tweeting anti-Semitic rants. Then Khadim Hussain, former Lord Mayor of Bradford, was suspended for lamenting the undue emphasis our education places on “Anne Frank and the six million Zionists that were killed by Hitler.” (For this lot ‘Zionist’ is synonymous with ‘Jew’.

And now this, a Muslim Nazi. Really, before long one could begin to doubt the socialists’ dedication to racial equality. Then one recalls that Hitler was a socialist too, and doubts become a certainty.



Avoidance vs evasion: Dave is hoist by his own semantic petard

CameronAlmost four years ago I wrote The Gospel According to Dave, in which I mocked Cameron’s sanctimonious pronouncements on tax avoidance:

“And Dave opened his mouth and taught them, saying, 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.”

This became a recurrent theme in Dave’s orations. Yes, tax evasion is illegal, while tax avoidance isn’t. But let’s not be sticklers for casuistry. At issue here is morality, not legal technicalities.

Now, when chaps who’d prostitute their underage daughters for better poll ratings start talking morality, warning bells should sound.

For it’s not the government’s job to preach morality. Its job is to protect the realm and uphold its constitutional principles. Whenever government officials start mouthing moral platitudes, we can be certain they’re remiss in their legitimate duties.

According to their gospel truths, our money isn’t really ours. By right it belongs to the state – even if the state can’t yet claim it all because of property rights and other archaic iniquities built into the law.

People get angry when deprived of their rightful property, and our spivs are no exception. Yes, the state extorts half of what the middle classes earn. But it’s the other half that’s so irksome to the spivs that they can’t contain their rage.

They sputter spittle whenever some money bypasses their coffers, ending up in the pockets of those who actually earn it. Offshore tax shelters stick in the craw, irrespective of their legality. Parents’ money gifts to children, ditto: there’s a chance the youngsters will thereby pay less inheritance tax.

It never occurs to the spivs, or to the people brainwashed by them, to question the morality of the inheritance tax in the first place. After all, the money bequeathed has already been taxed every which way. It’s unjust to tax it again, but justice doesn’t come into it.

That family money should stay in the family is a bugbear of socialists, regardless of what they call themselves. As far as they’re concerned, the state should confiscate all the money the deceased made during a lifetime of toil, and if that impoverishes his family, not to worry. The state will step in and look after the newly indigent, thereby gaining control over them.

The 40 per cent inheritance tax is a step in that direction. Hence the gift loophole is seen as a backward step on the road to the bright socialist future.

I like the gift rule. When an ageing British parent gives some money to a child, the gift only becomes tax-free if the parent lives another seven years. Hence this loophole indirectly fosters the good side of human nature: it stops greedy children from hoping the parent will die soon.

In general, it’s the moral duty of every person to avoid giving money to the state as much as legally possible. After all, most of the tax revenue will be wasted or, worse still, used for nefarious purposes, such as corrupting society by creating a vast class of dependent freeloaders, many of them coming from hostile cultures.

Hence Dave’s sermons are mendacious. Now it turns out they’re also hypocritical.

For Dave’s father had an offshore fund, from which Dave profited to the tune of £30,000. Cameron père also gave the apple of his eye £300,000 as a gift, and Mrs Cameron aggravated matters by giving him another £200,000.

Now, these amounts are trivial compared to those earned by Russian cellists or indeed to the value of just about any London flat, never mind a house, bequeathed to the grateful offspring. But numbers don’t affect the principle, and Dave seems to be saying to his flock “Don’t do as I do, do as I say”.

What has followed is clamour for Dave’s resignation as a minimum. As a maximum, Ken Livingston, the hard-left thug whose links with the Soviet Union were never properly investigated, has called for Dave to be imprisoned.

Ken forgets that Britain is still different from the socialist paradise of his dreams in that one has to break the law to be sent down, and Dave hasn’t done that.

I’m sympathetic to the idea of the likes of Dave being kicked out of government, but not for this non-reason. And I do think he belongs in jail, for his treasonous efforts to undermine Britain’s constitution by dissolving her sovereignty. But this a different matter.

Any honest man would state publicly that he has done nothing illegal, meaning that his financial affairs are none of anyone else’s business. Either produce evidence of illegality or shut up, would be the message.

But, forgetting that he lives in a glass house, Dave has been throwing stones for the last four years at least. Now he has had to go through the pathetically humiliating and grovelling exercise of revealing his tax returns for public scrutiny.

This has intensified the class war in which there’s never any truce. To our public, corrupted by socialist propaganda, being wealthy is borderline criminal in itself. One wishes this were the only crime our spivs commit.