Naked truth

Yuja Wang, retraining for a future glittering career in pole dancing

Reading the review of a TV programme about botched plastic surgery, one paragraph caught my eye:

“An elegant American pianist described how she had arrived for auditions, and the ‘fat’ on her upper arms had grossed out her producers.” She got a plastic operation, but: “It went wrong, and she has difficulty playing the piano.”

Just a few words, but they tell the whole story of a cultural catastrophe. For playing classical music is an art distinctly different from pole dancing, nude or semi-nude modelling, striptease and porn films.

One can see how having a tasty body would be a job requirement for a woman trying to excel in those genres. There’s every inducement for those young ladies to submit to the scalpel in the hope of removing, reducing or rearranging any obstacles in the way of a successful career.

But a classical musician purveys an aural rather than visual art representing both the highest achievement of our culture and its most eloquent expression. Therefore its practitioners need a set of skills that require both more and less than what pole dancers need.

That a musician must have virtuoso technique goes without saying, and most professionals possess that. But that’s only a start. A performer must also have the sensitivity, intellect, emotional makeup and near-osmotic intuition to grasp and then communicate the sublime insights of some of history’s greatest men.

Performers boasting this combination of qualities are now practically nonexistent. But that’s no problem because also practically nonexistent are audiences that can appreciate musical performances on such terms.

That knocks out one leg of the tripod propping up a performance: the symbiosis of composer, performer and listener. With that leg gone, the structure collapses – but concert halls still need to be filled, with a new type of audience listening to a new type of musician.

The task of putting bums on seats has proved easy, what with the path to commercial success already signposted by popular arts, including those I’ve mentioned above and especially pop music.

Impresarios, concert organisers and record producers used to sell their wares on the basis of their charges’ musicianship. They knew that the greater the musician, the more he’ll be appreciated and the higher will be the commercial return.

However, since these days the public en masse can’t tell a proper musician from, say, Lang Lang, high talent no longer guarantees high profits.

Quite the opposite: a real musician works hard and he demands that his listeners do the same. And for the listeners to work hard, they should know how – they should have acquired the necessary tools. That takes a serious effort over a lifetime.

In addition to attending hundreds (thousands?) of concerts and listening to (tens of?) thousands of recordings, a real listener prepares himself by learning about the culture that produced the masterpieces, reading up on musical theory to acquire at least a general notion of structure and harmony, honing his aesthetic perception by studying other arts, learning the history of music, analysing the aesthetic, philosophical and religious aspects of the composers’ inspiration.

When such a listener finds himself in a concert hall, he’s not there to be entertained. He’s there to concentrate on every note almost as much as the performer does.

After the last note has sounded, the listener is left drained, engrossed in thought, repeating in his mind every poignant phrase. Some of those phrases stay with him for ever. The high pleasure of this experience requires a high effort – but then so does anything else worth having.

Today’s typical audiences are unwilling to make this effort, and they’ll shun a performance that demands it. They attend concerts to be entertained, and it’s to that need that concert organisers appeal. And, since to the average listener all performances sound the same, provided the musician can play all the right notes in the right sequence and at the required speed, other aspects come to the fore.

Performers are promoted all the way to stardom by extra-musical characteristics, physical appearance prime among them. Specifically female musicians are selected on the standards not fundamentally different from those applied to pole dancers. They should have sexy flesh and reveal as much of it as possible without being charged with public indecency.

Just look up on YouTube performances by, say, Yuja Wang, Khatia Buniatishvili, Joanna MacGregor, Nicola Bendetti, Alison Balsom (nicknamed ‘crumpet with a trumpet’, her promos more often suggest ‘a strumpet with a trumpet’ instead) et al.

You won’t hear any musical revelations, but you’ll see much bare flesh. While appreciating the differences between such playing and pole dancing, one can still feel that similarities are becoming more prominent.

Reviewers realise this better than anyone else, hence the content of their articles. Thus for instance runs a recent review of a piano recital at Queen Elizabeth Hall, one of London’s top venues:

“She is the most photogenic of players: young, pretty, bare-footed; and, with her long dark hair and exquisite strapless dress of dazzling white, not only seemed to imply that sexuality itself can make you a profound musician, but was a perfect visual complement to the sleek monochrome of a concert grand…”

I feel sorry for the “elegant American pianist”, who mutilated herself trying to satisfy today’s exacting requirements. Of course the simpler and less taxing solution to the problem of imperfect upper arms would have been to cover them with a proper concert dress. But that would have left the public feeling cheated.

One can’t help recalling some sublime women musicians of the past, such as Myra Hess, Maria Yudina, Clara Haskil, Marcelle Meyer, Marguerite Long. None of them would have won a Miss Hull beauty pageant. And what do you know, the public didn’t care.

P.S. On an unrelated subject, women’s curling strikes me as one of the few Winter Olympic sports that have a clear practical application. It develops a knack for a woman to get down on her hands and knees and scrub the floor. For that reason, and I won’t even mention other possible uses of this talent, curling ought to be boycotted by all those who, like me, resent such a utilitarian view of womankind.

Welby isn’t well

One would expect that Justin Welby, oil trader retrained as the Archbishop of Canterbury, would have a firm grasp of both the sacred and secular realms.

In fact, he struggles to come to terms with either.

The transition from the cutthroat end of private enterprise to Christian ministry must have been too abrupt for his mind to handle. Especially since his mind was already compromised by its leftward slant.

The Archbishop is concerned about the “schism” caused by the deadly combination of Brexit and austerity. That fire-spewing juggernaut is “crushing the weak, the sick and many others”.

As a stickler for rhetorical precision, I’m always worried about open-ended propositions. What kind of “many others”? How many of them? Is their number coextensive with the subscription rolls of The Guardian? The public deserves to know.

Wearing his businessman’s hat, His Grace ought to have checked his numbers. He would have realised that ‘austerity’, as used by Guardian subscribers and the key figures in the Labour party, doesn’t really convey its dictionary definition.

What they mean isn’t penny-pinching austerity, but a slower growth of economically suicidal profligacy. Public spending is still redlining, but not quite so fast.

Putting this in familiar terms, just imagine, Your Grace, that the price of crude grows at $10 a barrel every year until one year it only grows by $8. It has still grown, hasn’t it? Good. Glad we’ve sorted this out.

Now the need for ‘austerity’ arose mainly because aforementioned profligacy brought the country to the brink of disaster. The snowball was rolling to the precipice and, though it couldn’t be stopped, it had to be slowed down.

Of course, the Left know only one cure for any disaster caused by socialist policies: more socialist policies. Hence their assault on ‘austerity’, with the Archbishop in the vanguard.

Wearing his clerical mitre, he should really focus on teaching his flock to concentrate on hard work, thrift and self-reliance – and that goes for the government too. Ministering to the poor is an essential part of the priestly remit, but that doesn’t mean shilling for policies proven to make more people poor.

As to Brexit, His Grace feels that it closely parallels the Second World War, supposedly with hundreds of thousands of Britons killed during Germany’s previous attempt to unite Europe.

One has to assume that the post-Brexit London the Archbishop sees in his mind’s eye will be reduced to smoking ruins, with hungry people digging the charred corpses of their loved ones out of the rubble.

Why, one London building has already suffered such a gruesome fate, and His Grace blames, both explicitly and implicitly, the Grenfell Tower fire on ‘austerity’ combined with Brexit.

The link to Brexit is just cloud cuckoo land, but even the role ‘austerity’ played isn’t immediately clear either. After all, the tower was financed by the public purse – they didn’t call it a council estate for nothing.

So blame the local council by all means, or perhaps the construction company presumably called Jerry Builders. Or even, at a lucid moment, the residents who might have been a bit lax in their fire safety. But what does HMG’s economic policy have to do with anything?

And particularly what does Brexit have to do with that towering inferno? Oh yes: “Brexit has divided the country – and now we need a new narrative… There is a danger that there is a schism in our society into which the most vulnerable are falling.” People can fall into a chasm, not schism, but let’s not quibble.

One can justifiably say that any election, and certainly any referendum, divides the country between those who vote one way and those who vote the other. This normal division has been blown up into a ‘schism’ by the Archbishop’s co-ideologues who despise the will of the people but worship the will of Brussels.

As to the implicit prognosis of the dire effect Brexit will have on ‘the most vulnerable’, here the Archbishop swaps his clerical mitre for his businessman’s hat – with results that bode badly for his mental health.

First, we don’t know what the effect will be on the most or least vulnerable. Let’s wait and see, shall we? And do let’s put a sock into the mouths of naysayers and try to make sure the country, including everyone with varying degrees of vulnerability, thrives after Brexit.

Second and most important, we’re still at least two years away from the actual exit. If Welby’s co-ideologues have their way, we may never get out. One way or another, what on earth, or for matter in heaven, does it have to do with the Grenfell Tower and the current plight of the “the weak, the sick and many others”?

But then Welby, in common with all Remainers, blames Brexit for everything. Perhaps I should become a Remainer too, so that I’ll be able to blame my forthcoming hip operation on that God-awful referendum.

The good Archbishop preaches that “we must be a warm, welcoming nation”, presumably to mitigate the effects of austerity and Brexit:

“Welcoming strangers to our own country and integrating them into our own culture is important. We must be generous and allow ourselves to change with the newcomers and create a deeper, richer way of life.”

Methinks, this is spitting on the graves of those Grenfell Tower victims. After all, had we had less immigration, they’d still be very much alive in their own countries.

But that little logical problem aside, I’m all for welcoming and integrating strangers. But let’s be more specific. How many should we welcome, and how do we integrate them?

Welby’s statement sounds like an open invitation irrespective of numbers. Now, it’s a safe assumption that at least a third of the world’s seven billion inhabitants would rather live in Britain than in their native lands. How many should we welcome? All of them?

May we please be allowed at least to limit the influx of those who stubbornly refuse to be integrated into “our own culture”? And are we sure that “changing with the newcomers” will actually “create a deeper, richer way of life”? Is our life being deepened and enriched by the presence of, say, 200,000 Somalis?

Possibly. But if so, a demonstration is in order, for without it such statements run the risk of sounding like typically asinine bien pensant waffle – the kind of stuff we expect from Blair or Clegg, not from prelates.

His Disgrace shouldn’t overload his brain with such matters – unless he plans to empty out even more Anglican churches. If times are as hard as he claims, then so much more do the people need the solace and eternal hope that only Christianity can provide.

The spectacle of an Archbishop of Canterbury mouthing faddish secular nonsense won’t bring them to the pews. It’ll bring them to cynicism at best, despair at worst.

Labour shortages, miraculously solved

Post-Brexit Britain, according to the CBI

Archimedes crying “Eureka!” in his bath, Paul’s Damascene experience, Mendeleyev seeing that Table in his sleep – sometimes it’s a flash of inspiration rather than sequential thought that produces great discoveries.

Far be it from me to compare myself with those giants. But I too have miraculously seen a solution to a seemingly unsolvable problem: labour shortages caused by declining EU immigration.

According to the Office for National Statistics, perhaps ‘problem’ is too gentle a word. Last year, and I have tears in my eyes just thinking about it, only 75,000 EU citizens graced these shores with their presence – compared to 165,000 the year before.

Since their overall presence still rose, the catastrophe is only impending, not already upon us. But, if the trend continues, the ceiling will fall in shortly.

At least that’s what the CBI director Neil Carberry thinks: “It is becoming more difficult to recruit the people that businesses need… Fewer EU workers coming to the UK is a significant factor in these shortages.”

In other words, before long Britain will screech to a halt. No smoke will be coming out of the few remaining smokestacks, no computers will be programmed, no shares will be flogged in the City.

Above all, sandwich shops and greasy spoons will shut down, leaving most Britons severely undernourished. That’s the impression one gets listening to the cries for help coming out of the British Sandwich and Food to Go Association, an organisation that has hitherto suffered from a low brand recognition among, well, me.

Let me put it in pictorial terms. Look up the old photographs of the Great Depression and multiply the misery by 10 – that’s the near future we’re facing should we get less than a full complement of post-Brexit Romanians.

You must agree that this insurmountable problem can’t be solved by any rational process. But, where ratio fails, divination succeeds – specifically, false modesty aside, my divination.

I was about to resign myself to the coming doom when the skies opened, lightning flashed, and a booming voice spoke to me from high above: “Why don’t we fill the shortages with British people currently on benefits?”

I fainted momentarily, but, when I came to, I looked up the relevant statistics. And what do you know, our native resources appear adequate to the task of offsetting the shortfall of Romanians.

An impressive 50.5 per cent of the UK population are net dependents on the state, meaning they receive more in benefits (including those in kind) than they pay in taxes. Now you may argue that many of those dependents are unable to support themselves fully even though they work hard.

Clearly some sort of matrix is required, juxtaposition of different sets of data. So here it is: 21.3 per cent of Britons between ages 16 and 64 are economically inactive, meaning they haven’t sought work in the past four weeks and won’t do so for the next two.

Translating relative into absolute numbers, that’s over 8,100,000 people ready to take in the Romanian slack. I’m generously prepared to accept that half of the economically inactive are unable to work for whatever reason. That still leaves some four million potential workers chomping at the bit.

How many of them haven’t sought work for years, not just in the past four weeks? How many have never sought it, and neither have their parents? I don’t know. The data may be available somewhere, but I’ve been unable to find them.

Let’s just say that many economically inactive Britons fall into the statistically elusive but substantively clear-cut category of Able-Bodied Lazy Gits (ABLGs). They won’t work and feel they don’t have to because they can do better on benefits.

Now what would happen if those benefits were to be removed? Not wholesale, God forbid. I wouldn’t even dream of dismantling the welfare state for fear that the next lightning will smite, not elucidate. No, I’m only talking about stopping benefits for those who won’t work, not those who can’t.

Now sociologists answer this question without having to resort to divine assistance. They identify two main inducements to working hard: one, the need for the basic necessities of life; two, the desire to improve one’s present condition.

Of the two, the first one is infinitely stronger. The need for food, shelter, clothes and PlayStations focuses the mind more powerfully than the desire to swap a Vauxhall for an Audi.

Hence the measure that came down to me from heaven will draw hundreds of thousands, probably millions, of ABLGs into employment. But will they be able to hold their own in the marketplace?

Possibly not at the high end. A Kent University professor complained yesterday that many of his first-year students can’t quite place the Duke of Wellington’s name and think that the assassination of JFK triggered the First World War.

If that’s the standard of university students, one can see why the British consistently rank close to Europe’s bottom in literacy and numeracy.

And one can understand why this happened. The same noble impulse towards equality, which is to say reducing everyone and everything to the lowest common denominator, that gave us the welfare state also gave us comprehensive education, which comprehensively doesn’t educate.

Hence I’m not sure how many of the ABLGs can become systems analysts or fund managers. But note that the loudest SOS came not from the City but from the British Sandwich and Food to Go Association.

One has to retain enough faith in British ingenuity to believe that even our comprehensive non-education may suffice for the task of flipping pizzas, serving BLTs and asking “Anything to drink?”.

Moreover, every house cleaner I know in London comes from Eastern Europe. Surely one doesn’t have to know the difference between JFK and Archduke Ferdinand to be able to operate a Hoover? And even scaffolding or plumbing may well be within the reach of those Britons who are willing to work – especially if they know they have to.

…I suppose the aforementioned bolt of lightning must have clouded my senses and I lost touch with reality.

Of course the welfare state is economically sound and morally elevating, our comprehensive education is the best in the world, and Britain will go to pot without Romanian charladies – even if they come packaged with Romanian pickpockets.

How silly of me.

Gerard Batten, how dare he?

The unrepentant culprit on the loose

UKIP’s interim leader Gerard Batten committed a crime a few years ago. And – are you ready for this? – he refused to repent. Instead he has committed the same crime again and again, which makes him a recidivist, a serial re-offender.

The law he has been breaking with monotonous consistency is rapidly growing in importance, with transgressors punished more surely, and often more severely, than burglars, muggers and car thieves.

Having no legal credentials, I can’t describe this vital law in terms of its accurate technical nomenclature. But it can be summed up colloquially as “You Can’t Say That!!!”

The boundaries of this law haven’t yet been signposted with the customary precision of British jurisprudence. However, everybody who’s anybody knows osmotically what those boundaries are, where the line is drawn – and that Mr Batten has overstepped it.

I shan’t keep you in suspense any longer – you’ve now been sufficiently primed not to faint on hearing the extent of Mr Batten’s criminality. He has described Islam… wait a second, let me catch my breath… as a “death cult” –  and then refused to be branded as an Islamophobe.

A phobia, argued Mr Batten infuriatingly, denotes irrational fear. Since the fear of Islam is perfectly rational, it doesn’t fall into that category.

Now describing a major Abrahamic religion as a “death cult” is just awful. Similarly, it would be awful of me to claim that Mr Batten steals cars in his spare time.

However, if it can be convincingly shown that Mr Batten indeed boosts cars, the accusation will stop being awful. It’ll become a statement of fact.

Conversely, if evidence proves that he only ever drives cars he buys or hires, then profuse apologies will be in order – accompanied by the hope that Mr Batten is too busy to file a libel suit.

Only by applying this basic common sense to the issue at hand can we decide whether fear of Islam is indeed a phobia or a legitimate concern. And the only way to decide this is to look at historical facts – and I mean recent historical facts, never mind the past 1,400 years.

Fair enough? Well, in that case the briefest of looks at some of the world’s flashpoints over the past 20 years will show that most of those have involved Muslims.

Specifically one could mention the conflicts between Bosnian Muslims and Christians; Côte d’Ivoire Muslims and Christians; Cyprus Muslims and Christians; East Timor Muslims and Christians; Indonesian Muslims and Christians in Ambon Island; Kashmir Muslims and Hindus; Kosovo Muslims and Christians; Macedonian Muslims and Christians; Nigeria Muslims and both Christians and Animists; Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims in Iraq, Syria and throughout the Islamic world; Muslims and Israelis; Muslims and Christians in the Philippines; Chechen Muslims and Russians; Azeri Muslims and Armenian Christians; Sri Lanka Tamils and Buddhists; Thailand’s Muslims and Buddhists in the Pattani province; Muslim Bengalis and Buddhists in Bangladesh; Muslims and Protestant, Chaldean Catholic and Assyrian Orthodox Christians in Kurdistan.

These are just wars or warlike conflicts. Alas, the situation with common or garden terrorism in Europe is just as bleak. Terrorist acts committed by Muslims have claimed 20,706 lives since 1970 and – a worryingly escalating trend – 11,093 of them since 2007.

In parallel with this the number of mosques in Europe has grown by orders of magnitude. For example, Britain had some 60 mosques in 1960 and has over 1,700 now. On that basis, Mr Batten advocates a ban on the building of any new mosques, although he’s at pains to stress that this is merely his personal opinion.

This opinion would be valid only if it could be demonstrated that violence against infidels is an essential part of Islam’s religious dogma. If it is, then the mullahs and imams are duty-bound to preach violence or at least not to issue injunctions against it.

Since, unlike Christianity, Islam is strictly a religion of the Book, the Koran is the only authority to settle this issue. And the Koran contains some 300 verses along these lines:

“Slay them [unbelievers] wherever ye find them…” (2:91) “We shall cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve.” (3:151) “Take them [unbelievers] and kill them wherever ye find them…” (4:91) “The unbelievers are an open enemy to you.” (4:101) “Take not the Jews and the Christians for friends…” (5:51) “Slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them captive, and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush” (9:5) “Whoso fighteth in the way of Allah, be he slain or be he victorious, on him We shall bestow a vast reward.” (4:74) “…If they turn renegades, seize them and slay them wherever ye find them…” (4:89)

It’s true that only a minority of Muslims practise what such verses preach. But then every violent outburst in history has been initiated by a minority in a large population. A couple of hundred Bolsheviks, for example, managed to install a rather violent regime in 1917. And even in its heyday, say in the 1960s, less than 10 per cent of the population belonged to the Communist Party.

Even if truly pious Muslims, those who believe that infidels should be killed, make up a similar proportion of the British Islamic population, one can be excused for feeling the odd twinge of fear. After all, if I still remember my arithmetic, 10 per cent of 5,000,000 is a hell of a lot.

Such weight of evidence would exonerate Mr Batten if he were tried for breaking any other law. But the You-Can’t-Say-That!!! law knows no exoneration and no exculpation. Anyone accused of it is guilty as charged, and no legal representation is allowed.

As the founder, president and so far the only member of the Charles Martel Society for Multiculturalism, I’m institutionally obligated to welcome this.

So yes, fear that a Muslim may blow up your bus is groundless Islamophobia. There should be no restrictions on the number of mosques or on the content of the sermons therein – even if mullahs call for mass murder and recruit mass murderers. Anyone who suggests that perhaps importing millions of cultural aliens hell-bent on murder isn’t the best idea in the history of British polity is a criminal.

And as to Mr Batten – off with his head. He has let facts interfere with a good story.

Britain thrown under the bus

You wait ages for a bus… and then Brexit haters (otherwise known as sore losers) hire one, if rather belatedly.

A battle bus sporting anti-Brexit slogans is to tour Britain to the delight of those who like a good laugh. The Brexit boat has sailed, chaps, and no bus will catch up with it.

The double-decker was unveiled this morning outside the Houses of Parliament and then had to circle the square a few times due to road works. This proves that, in spite of being an EU member for 25 years, Britain has retained her idiosyncratic charm, which includes a profusion of traffic cones as an essential feature.

If that was only good for a wry smile, the slogan inscribed on the bus rates a hearty guffaw. It says: “Brexit to cost £2,000 million a week. Is it worth it?”

Chaps, take it from an old advertising hand: when you pull an arbitrary number out of your rectum, eschew too many zeroes at the end if you want to sound credible.

Round numbers make punters incredulous. You should have said something like £1,984 million, hoping that such meticulous precision would produce the desired effect.

This way, instead of nodding their assent, the cynical British are more likely to think: “Yeah, yeah, pull the other one, it’s got bells on.” Some may even wonder how this number was arrived at, and that spells Trouble with a capital T.

Also, driving the bus all over the place won’t deliver the largest target audience. Here’s a piece of free advice based on 30 years’ experience in dirty tricks.

Instead of circling Parliament Square and swearing at the road works, you should park the bus on a double yellow line outside, say, Charing Cross station. In an hour or two the vehicle will get clamped, which is exactly what you want.

Removing the clamp will cost you £200 in the evening, which is peanuts considering that meanwhile tens of thousands of punters will be exposed to your message in one of London’s busiest streets. Your bus will sit there for hours before anyone will be able to do anything.

Don’t thank me – this is the least I can do to emphasise the impeccable integrity of the Remain campaign.

But I do like the idea of attaching some price tag to our sovereignty. Ever since Napoleon’s famous description of the British, the idea of monetising a proposition touches a chord in British hearts – this, although the nation has become one of shoplifters more than shopkeepers.

Talking pounds and pence is much better than talking in terms of abstract concepts. I mean, a market trader doesn’t hold up a trinket and ask “What do you think about the existential value of this object?” He asks: “Ow much dja think it costs inna best shops and stores? 20 quid? 15? 10? Well, all I ask…”

So suppose the answer to the question on the bus is no. Can we make a counteroffer? “I’ll give you 150,000 million quid, take it or leave it.” The haggling has to start somewhere, doesn’t it? And what will they say in response? “Listen, mate, I’m giving you the same deal I’d give me own mother…”?

Another bit of advertising wisdom. Never ask a question in the headline unless only one answer is possible. Hence “Wouldn’t you love to buy this widget?” is a no-no. “Wouldn’t you rather have this widget than AIDS?” would work much better.

Let’s face it, the sum of £2,000 million a week is so vast, especially if multiplied by 52 to arrive at the annual outlay, that most punters can’t imagine it – it’s a meaningless abstraction. What if they reply: “Course it’s bloody well worth it. I don’t give a monkey’s how much it costs.” That would leave the bus in a cul-de-sac, wouldn’t it?

I’m sorry about our Remainer friends. Is this really the best they can do? We know they can’t think about such things at any kind of depth. Now it turns out they can’t even lie well.

Where does the sum come from, lads? What kind of seer used what kind of crystal ball to see the economic future with so much precision? Give me his number, I’ll ask him to handle my pension fund.

Don’t bother to answer. We already know the Remain campaign is full of holes so big you can drive a bus through.

Down with EU ad hominems

One of my recurrent themes is the intellectual disarmament of modernity, its steady decommissioning of even basic polemical weapons of mass deduction.

Passion has ousted thought; ideology, ideas; opinion, judgement. The problem with this is that, once lost, these things can’t be reclaimed.

Forget about death and taxes. Death can be followed by resurrection, and even tax collection by tax rebates. But, when a mind dies, it’s buried for ever in the tomb of fait accompli.

Yesterday’s inanities become today’s unarguable truths and tomorrow’s gospel. Before long it’s not just the truth that’s lost, but the very notion of truth, along with every proven method of arriving at it.

Sure enough, yesterday’s rhetorical fallacies have become today’s standard arrows in the quiver of debate. One such fallacy is argumentum ad hominem, and it’s upsetting to see how widely both sides of the Brexit debate use it.

Those who feel (never think: this lot don’t think in the traditional sense of the word) that Britain should remain in the EU routinely describe the Britons who voted to leave as stupid. Fine, let’s assume for the sake of argument that so they are – it’s possible, nay guaranteed, for a population of 65.6 million to have 17.4 million idiots.

What’s impossible is a heavy concentration of mental deficiency on one side of the argument. Since human qualities tend to be spread more or less evenly across a large statistical sample, it’s logical to suppose that the other side has its fair share of morons too.

What’s even more logical is to abandon ad hominems, accept that the stupid people on either side cancel each other out and, furthermore, their relative mental strength is irrelevant. What’s relevant is the relative intellectual strength of their arguments.

After all, even a stupid man is statistically likely to voice an intelligent opinion at times and, as anyone who has read Noam Chomsky will agree, even a clever man is capable of mouthing bilge.

Intellectually, the Brexit issue should be decided by dispassionate, sound debate, just as a simple show of hands has settled it politically.

That should start from the premise that dissolving British sovereignty in a pan-European melting pot represents the most sweeping constitutional change since the Glorious Revolution, or perhaps even the Conquest.

That doesn’t mean that such a sweeping change is ipso facto ill-advised, but it does mean that there must exist compelling reasons for making the change. Such compelling reasons ought to be based on a long list of questions to which the EU is the only or best answer.

Now, being a combative type, I frequently debate this issue with EU champions. My usual ploy is to beg them to produce not a long list of such questions but just one. One teensy-weensy question? Of a kind that stands up to elementary scrutiny? Please?

Er… how else can we trade with Europe? The same way we’ve done for centuries. The same way China, the US or Argentina trade with the EU without the privilege of being governed by it. This question is rejected. Next?

Hasn’t the EU kept peace in Europe since 1945? Even assuming that the EU, formed in 1992, is capable of working miracles retroactively, the answer is no. As the Yugoslavs can attest to, there have been wars since 1945 – and they’ll also tell you that the EU made them worse. As to preventing pan-European cataclysms, that honour belongs to Nato’s nuclear shield. Next?

How else can we travel to the continent? The same way we’ve always done, and what do you know? In those days Biarritz and Nice were more English than French. Next?

And so on. In the end, the only question to which the EU provides the only possible answer is: “How can a booze-addled former prime minister of Luxembourg become a world figure?” But this question can be dismissed for being frivolous.

When in a conciliatory mood, I’m prepared to accept for a split second the pseudo-prophetic assurance that Britain’s economic health will suffer outside the EU. But this has never been regarded as a sufficient reason to toss the constitution aside.

It’s possible, for example, that an early truce with the Nazis would have been economically preferable to Britain’s beggaring herself in defence of her constitution. It could also be argued that Britain could benefit economically from becoming one of the American states. Shall we apply for membership then?

This is a very modest intellectual chain, yet it’s possible that some or even most of the 17.4 million would be incapable of clasping all the links together. But that doesn’t make the chain any weaker.

Hence it’s pointless arguing pro or con the merits of the ad hominem. True or false, this argument is irrelevant for being rhetorically fallacious.

Neither do ad hominems work on the other side of the watershed. The other day, for example, nearly 40 prominent academics signed a petition in favour of Brexit. That commendable action is held up as proof that the desire to keep our constitution doesn’t necessarily presuppose stupidity.

But this argument is just as weak and, what’s worse, irrelevant.

First, anyone who believes that academic credentials are inseparable from intelligence has clearly never seen the inside of a university, or else was perpetually drunk when there.

Second, even assuming that these academics are intellectual giants, they may still hold unsound opinions, as anyone can agree who has read… well, I’ll spare you the long list that would include such undeniably intelligent British luminaries as Locke, Darwin and Russell.

Third, the other side could produce 10 academic Remainers for every academic Leaver, and I’m being conservative. This fact alone ought to dent faith in the dons’ universal brilliance, while reminding us that argumentum ad populum is just as fallacious.

Truth can only be true on merit, not because many people believe it to be true. That, incidentally, is my principal argument against plebiscites and, more generally, democracy of universal suffrage.

Yet even accepting that the numerical method is useful for arriving at a political settlement, it’s manifestly useless for arriving at an intellectual truth.

By all means, anyone is entitled to believe that all Leavers are stupid. But if that’s the crux or even part of the argument, then it’s whoever puts it forth who’s stupid. You see how this kind of exchange can sink to the level of so’s your mother?

At last, great news from Russia

Gen. Bastrykin’s hands firmly grasp the tiller of Russian culture

Lately Russia has made the news mostly for things like aggressive wars, annexation of other countries’ territories, political murders, electronic subversion and money laundering on an epic scale.

Positive developments have been in short supply, which is why I’m particularly pleased to report that things are beginning to look up.

This is thanks to a startling innovation achieved in that great land under the tutelage of its Strong Leader: music and law enforcement have joined forces to the noble end of steering culture the right way.

The news resonates with me for personal reasons. My wife and some of my best friends are musicians… sorry, I mean classical musicians. This is an essential qualifier because unqualified musicianship is now the domain of other genres, such as pop and rap.

Quite right too: way back when the Whigs identified vox populi as vox dei. Therefore, since vox populi votes for pop rather than ‘classical’, it’s God Almighty Himself who does a bit of E, smokes a spliff and rocks to the majestic sounds of the same three chords electronically amplified to produce pandemic deafness. But I digress.

As I can testify, the mental discipline classical musicians display when playing their instruments is sorely lacking in their everyday life. Those temperamental creatures hold whatever views appeal to them, go to bed at odd hours and get up late, eat whatever and whenever they feel like – and in general irritate the living bejeesus out of those of us who try to practise Strong Leadership at home.

I’ve been saying for years that it’s about time someone reined in this anarchy on wheels. Finally, someone has – and I’m proud to announce that this eagerly awaited initiative comes from the land of the Strong Leader.

The most astounding merger in history has just been announced between Moscow Conservatory and the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (IC).

The nature of the former institution is self-explanatory because its analogues exist in most other countries. But, since the IC is unique to Russia, you may not know much about it.

This paramilitary organisation is one of the ‘muscle’ agencies (siloviki in Russian). Its official function is similar to some of those of our Crown Prosecution Service, Special Branch and MI5 combined, but official means little in the land ruled by the Strong Leader.

The IC’s sole job is transmitting and enacting the Strong Leader’s will by quasi-legal means, and it reports to no one but him personally. Therefore it sits in judgement not only of lawbreakers but also of all other siloviki, including the police, the army and, at the IC’s most daring, even the FSB.

The IC is led by Gen. Alexander Bastrykin, who’s uniquely qualified to oversee both justice and culture: he was the Strong Leader’s classmate at Leningrad University.

Since then the good general has made the Magnitsky List, barring officials implicated in murder from entry to the US and Britain. Alphabetically and institutionally, Gen. Bastrykin sits higher on the List than the nuclear terrorists Lugovoi and Kovtun.

A couple of years ago, this formidable gentleman fielded an awkward question at a press conference by threatening to take the offending scribe into a forest, shoot him personally and bury him there and then. And, he added with the subtle wit for which Russian legal minds are justly famous, “I’ll investigate the killing myself.”

Under the IC’s guidance and Gen. Bastrykin’s leadership Russian legality has made giant strides: in the rule of law category Russia currently ranks 92 out of 97 countries rated.

This puts her below Bangladesh, Cambodia and Burundi, which re-emphasises the anti-Russian collusion among rating agencies and the rest of the world. Under such conditions of unwarranted universal hostility, the need for the Strong Leader to put his foot down is ever greater – hence the ground-breaking initiative.

The Conservatory and the IC will “cooperate in educating the Russians spiritually, morally and culturally,” informs the press release. After all, “the legal profession has always been the elite, and its representatives are known for their refinement, culture and erudition.”

The naysayers among you may be tempted to recall that the Russian legal profession, especially but not exclusively over the past century, has also been known for a few other things of which its current bottom-of-the-list performance is but a weak reflection. But do let’s look on the bright side.

The initiative will “greatly advance the business of developing in the young generation a sense of beauty and love of the motherland”. Because, when all is said and done, “IC officers and artists are united in their ethical desiderata: kindness, mercy and quest for justice.” As embodied in Gen. Bastrykin and his Strong Leader, is the unspoken refrain.

Actually, this isn’t the first foray by the IC into the sphere of ineffable beauty. In 2016 the IC entered into a similar arrangement with the Writers’ Union. According to Gen. Bastrykin, the aim was then as it is now to join forces in the escalating “war for young minds”.

Since our friends on the hard right often express a longing for a Strong Leader just like Putin, perhaps we ought to import this initiative into Her Majesty’s realm.

God knows our young minds are in bad need of cultural refinement, mental discipline and even, it pains me to observe, “kindness, mercy and quest for justice”. “Love of the motherland” isn’t at its most fervent either.

To fill this void, Mrs May should demand that the Royal Academy, Writers’ Guild, CPO, Special Branch and MI5 create a joint task force – possibly led by Peter Hitchens or any other person longing for Strong Leadership.

The task force should have far-reaching powers to dictate how and what musicians should play and writers should write. This is the general concept, but some details still need working out.

For example, how would the task force ensure compliance? There aren’t many forests around London after all. Perhaps at a pinch Hyde Park could do as a possible burial ground.

It’s not just Corbyn

This revolting creature is very much in the news. A former spy claims that back in the ‘80s he ran our PM-to-be as an asset of the StB, the Czech branch of the KGB.

The only thing that surprises me in this utterly plausible story is that Corbyn is supposed to have taken money for his services. One would think he’d be happy to serve his ideology free of charge.

This awful word is often confused with other, good ones, such as convictions, religion or philosophy. That potentially damaging misapprehension must be straightened out before it’s too late.

Ideology is virtual faith without God, virtual rationalism without reason and virtual morality without morals. As such, it’s always pernicious, regardless of its declared aims, slogans or institutional symbols.

While always clear on what they hate, ideologues are often hazy on what they love – and hazier still on what they’ll do if their ideology emerges victorious. That is, after they’ve sorted out their enemies, destroyed the institutions they detest and ditched the policies they dislike.

An ideologue may be a fire-eating patriot. But in deed, rather than word, he’ll remain one for only as long as his country conforms to his ideology. If not, he’ll side with his co-ideologues even if they are his country’s enemies.

If accused of treason, he’ll be righteously indignant, as Corbyn is now. He, and only he, wants what’s best for his country. If a push from the country’s enemies is needed to get it on the right track, he’ll collaborate with the enemies while remaining a patriot in his own eyes.

In that spirit Corbyn has collaborated in various ways with just about everyone seeking to subvert Britain or, more broadly, the West: the IRA; Hamas; Hezbollah; obvious Soviet fronts, such as the World Peace Organisation or the CND; Chavez and his heirs.

Reclaiming Falklands was a “Tory plot”; the killing of bin Laden was “a tragedy”; Nato is “a threat to world peace”. Thus his acting as a communist asset looks natural. He himself was – and remains – a communist, loving everything other communists love and hating everything they hate.

There’s no past tense to ‘communist’. Espousing that evil ideology in one’s mature years takes a certain temperamental predisposition, which doesn’t change with age. Communism isn’t an opinion. It’s a character trait.

That’s why I’m always suspicious of ‘ex-communists’ who see the conservative light late in life. Changing one’s hat doesn’t change one’s head.

To Corbyn’s credit, he doesn’t even pretend to be anything other than what he is. Any member of the British Communist Party would happily sign his name to every policy Corbyn proposes and will act on in the tragic, and eminently possible, event he becomes prime minister.

Lest this might be construed as an attack specifically on communism, note what I said above: all ideologies are pernicious. If they aren’t, they’re not ideologies but something else.

That’s why it’s worrying to observe typological similarities between our hard left, as exemplified by Corbyn, and hard right, people who upset me by calling themselves conservatives.

British hard right overlap with Corbyn in his hatred of Nato. He hates it because Nato’s raison d’être was collective security in the face of Russia’s communist threat. They hate it because Nato’s raison d’être is collective security in the face of Putin’s kleptofascist threat.

Like Corbyn, the pseudo-conservative hard right are driven by an ideology. Hence they, like him, support Britain’s enemies, in their case Putin’s Russia.

Corbyn loved communist Russia because it was animated by hatred of the same things he hated. The hard right love Putin’s Russia because it seems to be animated by hatred of the same things they hate.

Blinded by their ideology, they don’t realise that, though Putin may hate all the same things, he hates them for a different reason, which makes all the difference in (and for) the world.

Putin does loathe both Nato and the EU, but not because they may be internationalist threats to Britain’s national identity. He loathes them because they’re obstacles in the way of his kleptofascist ambitions, prime among which is the restoration of the Soviet empire in a different guise.

I’m astounded every time I hear hard right ideologues advocate leaving not only the EU but also Nato. The EU is a wicked, mendacious contrivance, and Britain should get out for any number of rational and moral, which is to say non-ideological, reasons.

But Nato is the only reason communist Russia didn’t overrun Europe, including Britain, in the post-war years. This doesn’t mean that Nato is pristine in every sense.

That Nato is also an instrument of American imperialism is beyond question. But then the help Britain gratefully received from America in the two world wars wasn’t offered for altruistic reasons either.

It’s just that the goals of US imperialism coincided with Britain’s interests then, as they do now. Surely those hard right ideologues don’t think Britain is now capable of defending herself on her own?

Or do they realistically think that any British government will ever be able or willing to increase the defence budget exponentially? The point is, they don’t think about anything realistically. They think about everything ideologically.

In the name of his ideology Corbyn is willing to excuse the hideous crimes committed by his co-ideologues. What’s a mountain of corpses if ‘social justice’ sits atop?

In the name of their ideology, the hard left are just as willing to excuse the hideous crimes committed in Putin’s Russia. What does it matter as long as he professes to hate all the same things they hate, be it the EU, Nato or the Muslims?

None so blind as those who won’t see. The British hard left denied the Soviet threat, and the British hard right deny Putin’s threat.

So what, they say, if Putin attacks Nato’s Baltic members. That only threatens us if we remain in Nato. If we’re out, we’re safe.

One eagerly awaits their referring to Putin’s geopolitical ambitions as “a quarrel in a far away country between people of whom we know nothing”. Paul Valéry was right: history teaches nothing.

Some of it is sheer ignorance. For example, though the hard left correctly identify the Islamisation of Europe as an existential threat, they incorrectly see Putin as an ally.

In fact, his most trusted and sinister lieutenant is Ramzan Kadyrov, appointed by Putin to run the Muslim Chechnya – and much of Moscow’s organised crime, spilling over into the West. Kadyrov is implicated not only in the 2015 murder of the opposition politician Nemtsov, but also in the 2013 attack on the Boston Marathon.

Yet ideologues are ignorant ideologically. They don’t know because they don’t want to know.

Hence they closed their eyes on the unspeakable crimes committed by Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao and Pol Pot. The information was available, but they didn’t want it lest it might compromise their ideology. Similarly, they either deny or claim ignorance of Putin’s crimes – the kind of ideology doesn’t matter.

They should all come together under the slogan “Ideologues of all kinds unite. You have nothing to lose but your minds.”

Tom Daley, perfect mother for our time

Or is it a perfect father? With homosexual couples it’s hard to tell, although the problem isn’t insurmountable.

Richard Littlejohn pointed out the problem in his article, but he didn’t offer a solution. Being a positive man, I’m happy to suggest one.

But first a historical detour showing that the notion of a child having two fathers isn’t new. At the end of the twelfth century, 16-year-old Börte, wife of a young Mongolian chieftain Temüjin, was kidnapped by a hostile tribe. When Temüjin, soon to become Genghis Khan, recovered Börte a year or so later, she was pregnant.

Yet, ignoring biological probability, Genghis declared her son Jochi his own and promised to impale anyone who disagreed. Nonetheless, Mongolian mauvaises langues slyly called Jochi “a son of two fathers” behind his, and wisely Genghis’s, back.

However, diver Daley and their [sic] spouse have added a new twist to this ancient story of two fathers to one child. “They,” as the press has announced, “are expecting a child.”

Diver Daley describes themself as their husband’s wife, which suggests that they has cast themself in the permanent role of mother. That betokens gender pigeonholing out of tune with our progressive times.

The whole point of homomarriage is freedom of choice, isn’t it? The previous 5,000 years of recorded history were troglodyte in their staunch denial of this basic human right.

However, after a campaign heroically led by that quintessential Tory Dave Cameron, homomarriage was finally legalised in 2013. Since then freedom of choice has made giant strides.

Now any person of any age can choose any sex – sorry, I mean gender – from the list of 11 options. And whatever choice they makes (I hope this is proper grammar, but one can never be sure), they is then entitled to marry any other person, whatever their choice of gender.

Diver Daley’s insistence on describing themself as a wife betokens a retreat into gender stereotyping, which is akin to admitting defeat. It also deprives both spouses of a chance to experience motherhood and fatherhood at the same time – and how many of you have had such an exciting opportunity?

So here’s a simple solution: diver Daley could be the child’s mother on the odd days of the week and their spouse on the even ones. And on Sunday the roles could be assigned by a coin toss.

The spouse whose turn it is to play mummy can wear a dress, lingerie and high heels, switching to man’s clothes the next day. (If you’ve heard the prison joke with the line “So do you want to be mummy or do you want to be daddy?”, I hope you’ll keep it to yourself. Nobody wants to hear such smut.)

The child may be slightly confused, but the upside will be their early exposure to true progress and the redemptive value of free choice. By the time they grows up, they may be in a position to choose not only their gender but also their species.

At this point one could abandon levity for gravity. One could talk about the perverse nature of modernity. One could even try to explain its roots, such as the abandonment of Judaeo-Christian morality and replacing it with the only possible alternative, in the West at any rate: no morality at all.

At a weak moment one could even talk about the essentially destructive desiderata of modernity, hell-bent on trying to knock out every cornerstone of Christendom, such as religion itself and its social expression, the family.

The possibilities are endless, and I’ve taken advantage of them on many occasions. But what strikes me now is the ghostly, phantom nature of modernity.

It’s as if in a few short years we’ve moved into a virtual world inhabited by virtual people and animated by virtual ideas.

In the past, ideas, good or bad, reflected life. At present, life is forced to reflect ideas, invariably bad. It’s as if virtual reality has been slapped together to conform to anything clever creatures think up, and stupid  creatures clamour for.

Now Littlejohn usually displays the kind of common sense that has become most uncommon. Here too he says “Please don’t pretend the two dads are the new normal” and insists that children are better off when raised by a man and a woman.

Yet at the same time he makes misguided concessions to virtual reality, belying his common or any other sense. In one sentence he preempts a charge of homophobia and commits a factual error:

“I supported civil partnerships long before it was fashionable and I’d rather children were fostered by loving gay couples than condemned to rot in state-run institutions, where they face a better-than-average chance of being abused.”

The first part of the sentence evokes the image of a textbook anti-Semite claiming “Some of my best friends are Jewish”. Fine, Richard, you’ve established your progressive credentials – while forgetting that actions have consequences.

One inevitable consequence of legalising what until the past few decades was considered a mortal sin is an entry ticket into virtual reality. That, irrespective of the form such legalisation takes. Recognising civil homopartnerships removes a logical objection to recognising homomarriages – just as recognising female priests defangs any subsequent objections to female bishops.

The second part of Littlejohn’s sentence defies many things, including facts. First, one may disagree that “loving gay couples” are better for children than state-run institutions where they may be abused.

That’s certainly a possibility, but does Littlejohn preclude abuse by “loving gay couples”? Moreover, one can argue that being raised by two homosexuals ipso facto constitutes abuse, whose psychological damage hasn’t yet had the time to be properly assessed.

Be that as it may, this situation doesn’t apply to this particular loving couple. Even accepting Littlejohn’s assertion on faith, it would only matter if diver Daley’s child were adopted. But it’s not.

As the ultrasound images of the foetus prove, the proud future parents commissioned a surrogate mother, to be impregnated by some natural or unnatural method. Without this, the baby wouldn’t exist and thus wouldn’t run the risk of falling into the clutches of “state-run institutions”.

Anyway, congratulations to the happy parents, with commiserations to their future baby – and bitter tears shed for actual, sane reality now lost.

Can someone make sense on Brexit? Please?

One distinguishing feature of today’s politics is its puerile intellectual content.

If you wish to contest this observation, consider how the Brexit debates are conducted on both sides. Or if you wish to narrow the sample down, look at Boris Johnson’s speech.

Mr Johnson set out to reconcile the irreconcilable: leaving and remaining. The two aren’t just semantic opposites – they’re mutually exclusive existentially.

Just imagine a woman telling her husband at a party that she didn’t really want to come in the first place because his friends are all drunken louts and their wives are all sluts, and now that everyone is well and truly pissed it’s time to go home before somebody pukes on her dress.

At this point they either leave or, if the husband puts his foot down, stay. What they can’t do is find an accommodation between the two options. It’s an either… or proposition, not both… and.

Yet Mr Johnson, with his supposedly gigantic intellect, tried to put forth an argument that defied Euclid and vindicated Lobachevsky. Parallel lines can converge. It’s possible to get out and still stay in.

Typical of politicians, including those blessed with a gigantic intellect, he said many things that go without saying and didn’t say things that must be said.

Falling in the former category is Mr Johnson’s Solomonic assurance that we don’t need to be so bolshie as to renounce all EU regulations wholesale. If some of them benefit us post-Brexit, he explained, we can keep them – provided it’s our decision and not the EU’s.

Does this mean that, if the EU mandates that one must have an umbrella when going out on a rainy day, we’ll comply because it’s a jolly good idea? We won’t get drenched just to spite the EU? Good to know.

Thanks, Boris, for making this clear: some of our regulations will inevitably coincide with the EU’s. And, if a political body issues thousands of regulations, dozens of them will make sense on statistical probability. Now tell us something we don’t know.

Then he spun out the economic argument in favour of leaving, which always gets my dander up. We won’t become more insular as a result of Brexit, promised Mr Johnson. Quite the opposite: Britain will “go global”.

Considering the retaliatory measures threatened by the EU, which amount to trade war, we’ll pretty much have to, won’t we? Otherwise we’ll have no one to trade with.

The EU mendaciously describes itself as a free-trade zone, whereas in fact it’s a protectionist bloc. It’s as if we’d slap tariffs on all foreign trade, while having none on trade between Somerset and Gloucestershire, and then boast that this proves our commitment to free trade.

Are we going to be better off by reducing our trade with the EU while acquiring greater liberty to pursue it elsewhere? Possibly. Possibly not. I don’t really know and neither does anybody else, including our pundit cum foreign secretary.

The difference between him and me is that I don’t really care. Or rather I do, but not in the context of this discussion.

The moment this debate is dragged into economics, it stops being intelligent and becomes ideological. Because no one can really predict the economic consequences of Brexit, the door is open wide enough to drive an ideological juggernaut through.

I remember the pathetic arguments in the run-up to the referendum, with one side arguing that Brexit would cost each family £457 a year, with the other side countering that, contrary to those malicious miscalculations, every family would be £429 better off.

The precise numerals were supposed to add weight to the argument, succeeding only in derailing the train of sound thought. Irrelevant if true, would have been the proper response. Go on crunching numbers if such is your wont, as long as we understand that this has nothing to do with the issue at hand.

What Mr Johnson should have said, but didn’t, is that Brexit isn’t a cheese that can be either hard or soft. At issue isn’t relative wealth and poverty but absolute sovereignty.

On this there can be no compromise and no reconciliation. Either Britain regains her sovereignty or she becomes a province in a single European state bossed by the likes of my friend Junk (as Jean-Claude Juncker insists I call him).

The other day Junk had one too many, as he does every day, and denied any intention to create such a state. Nothing is further from our mind, declared Junk, blurring his words ever so slightly.

He has to be right on that. Single European state? Perish the thought. All Junk and his jolly friends want is a single currency, single set of laws, single army, single foreign and economic policy, single immigration rules and – above all – a single president. But a single state? Never.

The only thing that emerges with crystal clarity out of this exchange is that Boris wants to be a future Prime Minister of Britain and Junk doesn’t want to be just a former Prime Minister of Luxembourg. Worthy ambitions, both, but again neither has anything to do with anything.

What Mr Johnson should have said, but didn’t, is that of course we care about the economic well-being of the British people. But 17 million Britons didn’t vote for Brexit because they wanted to become rich. They did so because they wanted to become free.

So by all means, let’s talk about trade, free or otherwise or anything in between, but only after the only relevant aspect of Brexit has been settled: sovereignty.

This, according to the will of the British people, must be regained, and the only way to do so is to leave the EU effective immediately. Not in two years. Not even in a year. Now.

That done, do let’s have friendly and, one hopes, productive talks about trade, regulations, immigration or the relative merits of Manchester United, Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain. But first things first.

One tell-tale sign of an intellect, especially a gigantic one, is the ability to strip a seemingly complex issue down to its core and express this in clear terms. The ability to spin out waffle that obfuscates without elucidating doesn’t quite qualify.