Trump a liar? You don’t say, Mr Cohen

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, can this face lie?

As the House Oversight Committee listens to Michael Cohen’s testimony, I’m getting more and more puzzled.

Trump’s former attorney is about to start a three-year stint in prison for perjury. That, according to the ranking Republican Jim Jordan disqualifies his testimony.

“It’s the first time a convicted perjurer has been brought back to be a star witness in a hearing,” he said. “How can Congress even consider listening to the testimony of a man who has been convicted of, among other things, lying to Congress?”

One might think Mr Jordan can’t follow elementary logic.

First, no liar lies all the time – even the worst of them tell the truth sometimes. I’m sure that Mr Jordan, like George Washington, has never told a lie, but if such probity were an ironclad requirement for witnesses, we’d never have anyone testifying at trials.

Yes, when it’s a witness’s word against a defendant’s, the defence would be derelict in its duty if it didn’t draw attention to the witness’s person.

But Mr Jordan and his fellow Republicans seem to think that Cohen’s understated reputation for veracity makes this an open and shut case for the president’s innocence. It doesn’t, not by itself.

Cases should be decided not by mud slinging, but by hard evidence and credible witness testimony. I’d suggest that the evidence presented so far is rather soft, and some parts of Mr Cohen’s testimony are less credible than others.

Most of what he says proves that the president can’t readily be confused with a choir boy. Crikey. I’m sure this earth-shattering revelation will come as news to the 63 million Americans who voted for Trump.

You mean a big property developer building and operating Atlantic City casinos isn’t always above board? Who coulda thunk.

You mean an aggressive, high-powered billionaire running a travelling brothel called Miss Universe Contest has at some times acted less married than at some others? How out of character.

You mean he paid hush money to a few ladies of easy virtue threatening to blow the whistle on him? Incredible.

You mean he tried to appear wealthier to potential lenders than to the tax service? Unbelievable.

I’d venture a guess that not one of those voters would have changed his ballot even had he known all this in advance. And if the Democrats think that any of this constitutes an impeachable offence, I wonder about their frame of moral reference.

From what one hears, neither, say, John F. Kennedy nor Bill Clinton was exactly a eunuch. Moreover, the first came from a family widely believed to have organised crime links; the second was involved in questionable dealings while still governor of Arkansas.

Do let’s be fair. Either monasticism is expected from all presidents or it’s expected from none.

Incidentally, liar or not, Mr Cohen rings true on this issue. However, on the available evidence, this is a problem strictly for Mrs Trump.

As to the issue of hush money, I don’t quite get it.

On the one hand, Cohen has produced Trump’s personal $35,000 cheque made out to Cohen himself, who allegedly had been asked to pay off Trump’s porn star mistress out of his own accounts to divert suspicion from his client. This, he claims, was an instalment on the agreed sum of $130,000 supposed to make the blackmail go away.

On the other hand, he testified that: “I am giving the Committee today a copy of a $130,000 wire transfer from me to Ms Clifford’s attorney, [which sum] was demanded by Ms Clifford to maintain her silence about the affair with Mr Trump.”

So if the whole lump sum was paid by wire transfer, where does that $35,000 cheque come in? Until this confusion has been clarified, I’ll believe the president who says it was merely a retainer for Cohen’s services.

The whole thing is sleazy, but that’s not the same as illegal. However, Trump would get into hot water if the hush money had come out of his campaign, rather than personal, funds. That would have been illegal but, like all illegal things, it requires proof. So far we haven’t seen any.

What else? Cohen submitted documents showing that Mr Trump inflated his assets when trying to secure a loan from Deutsche Bank and deflated them to pay less tax.

That’s naughty, but the loan in question was secured in 2008, long before Trump’s presidential campaign. However, Deutsche Bank leads us to accusations that, if proved, could get Trump not only impeached but also convicted.

For that venerable institution boasts such heavy investments from the Russian mafia as to have no option but to do its bidding. (I use the term ‘mafia’ loosely, to describe history’s unique confluence of government, secret police and organised crime that’s otherwise known as the Russian state).

As widely suspected, in 2008, when Trump found himself bankrupt, the Russians transferred vast amounts into his coffers, using Deutsche Bank as the conduit. The books I’ve read on the subject, Russian Roulette by Isikoff and Corn and House of Trump, House of Putin by Craig Unger, claim this suspicion is amply documented.

One way or the other, Trump’s business dealings with Russian gangsters, such as Aras Agalarov, are indeed known through numerous documents complete with photographs. That’s where impeachable offences, if any, can be found.

I for one don’t believe it’s possible to lie with such dogs without catching fleas, but, I’m sad to admit, my belief doesn’t add up to proof.

Cohen claims that Trump was pursuing his megalomaniac project of building Europe’s tallest tower in Moscow well into his presidential campaign and possibly presidency. If proved, this claim would hurt the president for obvious reasons, with conflict of interests being the mildest possible charge.

Cohen also insists that Trump knew in advance, and was enthusiastic, about the imminent release of Hilary Clinton’s emails by Stone and Assange.

Now show me a politician who’d act differently on finding out that his rival’s campaign is about to be damaged, and I’ll show you someone who wouldn’t be elected proverbial dog catcher.

Judging such foreknowledge merely on moral grounds, I see nothing, or almost nothing, wrong with it.

However, if Trump had colluded with the Russians to procure and release such information, that would be not just wrong but criminal. Watergate would look like an innocent caper by comparison.

Cohen has offered no corroborative proof because the Committee told him to steer clear of the subject, at least within the media’s earshot. Then it’s also possible that no such proof exists.

Another allegation is that Trump is lying when he denies knowing about the meeting held by his son, son-in-law and another jailbird, Manafort, with a Putin emissary who had promised some dirt on Hilary.

Now I find it hard to believe that Trump’s closest confidants could have taken such a meeting without telling the boss first. However, such cases shouldn’t be decided on the balance of probability.

The reason the Committee chose not to explore the Russian theme with Cohen is that Special Counsel Mueller is due to submit his report in a few days. If it contains hard proof of Trump’s illegal links with Putin, that would be sufficient grounds for a charge of treason.

If not, Trump’s detractors should get off his back and let him get on with the job he was elected to do. For the dirt dished out by Cohen has so far soiled Trump only slightly.

Much of it is simply name-calling. “I know what Mr Trump is,” says Cohen. “He is a racist. He is a conman. He is a cheat.”

The last two epithets could have been replaced with one: international property developer. Few of Mr Trump’s colleagues couldn’t be tarred with the same brush.

The charge of racism is based on Trump supposedly having said: “Name one country run by a black man that isn’t a shithole”. The description is robust, but then the conversation, if it indeed happened, was private.

Cohen hasn’t divulged if he took the challenge on and actually named one such country that’s a lovely place to live. Instead he feigns indignation over the fact that Obama was president at the time. Surely he doesn’t expect anyone to believe the risible suggestion that Trump regarded the US as one such country?

As to Cohen’s insane suggestion that, if Trump loses in 2020, he may not allow “a peaceful transition of power”, it’s beneath a comment. How would he do that, out of interest? Declare the US Constitution null and void? Have Washington occupied by 82nd Airborne?

There’s little wheat in Cohen’s testimony, and much chaff. Perhaps Mueller’s report will have a higher content of the cereal. Let’s wait and see – something we’ve been saying for two years.

One good thing about Brexit mess

Brexit may die, but its lessons will live on

Every major political development, good, bad or indifferent, serves an educational end even if it serves no other.

People blessed with good political judgement can have it confirmed. People cursed with bad political judgement can have it dispelled. Those who predicted the development all along can have a smug smile on their faces.

The ungodly mess into which the political class has plunged Britain over the people’s desire to leave the EU works admirably in such didactic capacity – and not only for the British.

It was Edmund Burke who spelled out the proper role of an MP:

“To deliver an opinion, is the right of all men; that of constituents is a weighty and respectable opinion, which a representative ought always to rejoice to hear; and which he ought always most seriously to consider. But authoritative instructions; mandates issued, which the member is bound blindly and implicitly to obey, to vote, and to argue for, though contrary to the clearest conviction of his judgement and conscience, – these are things utterly unknown to the laws of this land, and which arise from a fundamental mistake of the whole order and tenor of our constitution.”

To put this into more up-to-date shorthand, an MP is his constituents’ representative but not their delegate. Once elected, he must act not according to the constituents’ wishes, but according to their interests – as he sees them.

These are vital distinctions, going to the heart of the constitution. Burke pointed out, and warned against, a potential dichotomy between delegates and representatives.

No such problems for today’s parliamentarians. They solve the dichotomy between delegates and representatives by being neither.

Most of them serve not bono publico, but their own bono – and that of their whole political class. This is made up of politicians, civil servants and journalists, and it’s entirely self-serving and self-contained.

By torpedoing Brexit this class has proved yet again that their own will trumps the will of the people with room to spare. If any divergence between the two exists, the people will simply be ignored.

Yes, but what about Burke’s prescription that MPs should act according to their own “judgement and conscience”? On the surface of it, that’s exactly what they’re doing.

The people expressed their desire to leave the EU; the political class consulted its own collective conscience and decided that wouldn’t be in the people’s interests. So it closed bipartisan ranks and came up with a whole raft of underhanded tricks to bypass the popular vote.

One can almost see the great Whig cheering from his grave, right? Eh, not quite.

Putting aside the blindingly obvious fact that most of our MPs are bereft in the area of “judgement and conscience”, Burke was talking specifically about the democracy he knew – the kind operating through institutions.

Referendum, plebiscite, opinion poll and other devices of direct democracy were alien to him. That’s why, much as we may venerate Burke’s political wisdom, this bit of it doesn’t apply to the issue of Brexit.

For, by calling a referendum, the political class abrogated its responsibility to make a decision of vast constitutional import. It asked the people to leapfrog the institutions of the state and decide the issue by a simple show of hands.

Though technically speaking the referendum wasn’t legally binding, the political class made it so by pledging to abide by the result. In other words, in this one instance, MPs agreed to act as people’s delegates, not just their representatives.

Their subsequent dishonest, perfidious chicanery aimed at subverting the will of the people should make any sensible person nauseated – and, paradoxically, grateful.

One should always thank teachers for a useful lesson, and few lessons are ever taught better than this one.

We’ve learned that there’s no bridge spanning the gulf between the political class and the people it’s supposed to represent. Neither people’s wishes nor their interests come into the political process at all.

On the contrary, the political class works tirelessly to widen and deepen the gulf, which explains its affection for the EU in the first place. Meek submission to that awful contrivance means that the people won’t be able to hold the political class to account.

If most of our laws are passed down from abroad, with the people’s representative acting at best only in a rubberstamping capacity, they represent no one but themselves. QED.

The term ‘political class’, as distinct from simply politicians, is useful. For, in addition to timeservers in various departments, this class is made up not only of politicians but also of journalists.

Witness how, in reshufflings reminiscent of the Soviet nomenklatura of my childhood, politicians effortlessly become journalists, and vice versa. The line of demarcation is very fluid indeed, with such dynasties as the Rees-Moggs, Mounts, Johnsons, Lawsons and Rifkinds, along with singletons like Gove, adorning both parts of the ruling class.

As a strong believer in hierarchies, I see nothing wrong with the principle of a ruling class – provided it coalesces and operates by constitutional means, and always acts in the public interest.

Today such a ruling class falls into the category of either an archaism or a pipe dream. Our lot are prepared to destroy the country’s constitution, social order and any chance for prosperity in pursuit of their own nefarious ends – for ends that can only be pursued by perfidious means are nefarious by definition.

Those who hadn’t realised this before the Brexit fiasco, surely must realise it now. That’s something to be thankful for, at least.

For once I agree with Muslims

Everything I’ve learned about life I owe to my school

Poor Andrew Moffat is in trouble – this, though he has been shortlisted for a $1,000,000 prize as one of the world’s 10 best teachers.

Mr Moffat is assistant head master at a Birmingham primary school, where 99 per cent of the pupils are Muslim. From this it logically follows that their parents are Muslim too.

Another logical inference from such demographics is that the parents demand that the school stop teaching their offspring “how to be gay”. One would think it’s better than teaching them how to be morose, but that’s not the kind of gaiety at issue.

You see, Mr Moffat, who is himself homosexual, is the creator, champion and, more to the point, practitioner of the No Outsiders programme that uses a whole library of books to teach children as young as four that there’s nothing perverse about perversion.

One of the compulsory textbooks, creatively entitled Mommy, Mama and Me, is devoted to a loving lesbian family. The spelling of ‘Mommy’, as opposed to ‘Mummy’, points at the American origin of this volume, but then true love knows no geographic bounds.

The sex of ‘Me’ isn’t clear from the title, but it’s relevant. For, if the Me is female, she can use her parents as a visual aid in her preparation for real life. Perhaps in due course some on the job training may also come in handy – and don’t you just hate unintended puns.

Other books in the programme include King and King (a Cinderella boy meeting his fair prince), And Tango Makes Three (about male penguins forming a family) and My Princess Boy (about a transvestite).

These are the only titles mentioned in the article I’ve read on the subject, but I hope there are others, expanding the boundaries of diversity.

How about Dad, Daddy and Dickey? Mummy, Mastiff and Me? Mummy Who Used to Be Daddy, Daddy Who Used to Be Mummy, and a Slightly Confused Me? Possibilities are endless, and it would be a shame for any of them to remain unrealised.

Actually, the educational standards at Mr Moffat’s school must be unusually high if four-year-olds are capable of perusing such material. Let’s hear it for universal literacy: if children can read, it doesn’t matter what they read.

Of course it’s also possible that Mr Moffat reads selected passages to them out loud, perhaps also drawing diagrams on the backboard. One has to be resourceful to be recognised as one of the world’s best teachers.

Obviously it’s not just Muslim schools that have such progressive curricula. But it appears that only Muslim parents have the guts to protest forcefully enough.

Others go no further than signing petitions – in fact, one objecting to the new D of E’s sex education guidelines boasts 100,000 signatories.

And in a rare show of unity with Muslims, dozens of rabbis have signed a letter protesting against this kind of mandatory indoctrination even in faith schools.

But Muslims don’t just protest: “I have had death threats and very nasty emails and phone calls,” complains Mr Moffat. Poor dear, I feel his pain.

Now I regard myself as a reasonably peaceful man, and I’m certainly not a Muslim, but if my child were exposed to that kind of subversive smut, I’d probably go beyond threats. It’s entirely possible that my trusted baseball bat would see the light of day.

(Incidentally, have you noticed that sports shops are doing brisk trade in baseball bats even though no one plays baseball?)

And, even if I chickened out at the last moment, I’d certainly take my child out of such a school, and I wouldn’t care what the consequences might be.

One can only wonder how people managed to sort out their amorous lives during the millennia that had passed before we were blessed with sex education, homo- or heterosexual.

I don’t think mankind had done too badly in that department, even when left to its own vices and devices. Still, there’s always room for improvement.

If persuasive evidence existed, showing that there’s a genuine problem with children learning about such matters not at primary school but as they go through life, and that sex education solved that problem, I’d be all for it.

Yet no such evidence exists, and neither is anyone out to gather it. For teaching little tots graphic facts about every perversion known to man isn’t pedagogic. It’s political and cultural.

Our governing elite feels a fanatical urge to drive the remaining few nails into the coffin of every certitude that has sustained our civilisation for millennia. Nothing is sinful or perverse any longer – other than saying that sin and perversion exist.

What we’re witnessing is a rapid escalation of a global war on the last dwindling pockets of Christendom, and the likes of Mr Moffat, MBE, are in the vanguard of the shock troops.

One thing I can say for him is that he isn’t driven by pecuniary motives. Should Mr Moffat win his million, he charitably plans to use the money to spread the No Outsiders programme around the world.

On balance, I’d rather he bought a nice, tastefully decorated house and retired to it. Since the prize on offer is in dollars, may I suggest Northern California?

Displays of happiness are vulgar

Calm yourselves, dears, it’s not the end of the world. Or maybe it is.

The other day Diego Simeone, Atletico Madrid manager, celebrated his team’s victory by grabbing his testicles, suggesting, ever so subtly, that it takes cojones to win a football match.

(Just think how embarrassed a Mr C.O. Jones would feel filling in a hotel register in Spain.)

An outcry ensued, but Mr Simeone defended himself by saying: “It came from the heart.”

Now there’s a man whose heart is in the right place, I thought and left it at that. But then I decided that my mixture of scorn and envy at the sight of any wild celebrations merits another look.

Alas, sadness and grief come to me more easily than joy and elation, but I’m capable of feeling happiness, even more so of feeling pleasure.

Yet never in my long life have I been even remotely tempted to express my emotions in the manner one observes so often these days.

Football managers jumping up in the air like demented kangaroos and running along the sidelines like cheetahs on meth when their team scores a goal.

Game show victors screaming, hopping and trying to snog everything that moves.

Mature lottery winners impersonating little children just told they’re going to Disneyland, and yes they can bring Teddy along.

All those people make me feel somehow envious and deprived. My seven decades on Earth haven’t delivered a single moment producing such a eudemonic display even in private, never mind in public.

Yet I’ve loved and been loved, I’ve understood a few things I always wanted to understand, and I’ve even had a measure of financial success, admittedly not denominated in a footballer’s millions, but as much as I’ve ever wanted.

However, my broad grin is all that the world has been treated to, not that the world ever gave a damn one way or the other. Not a yard of space was ever covered at a sprinter’s pace, not a particle of air was punched, not a single screaming decibel shattered a single glass.

There’s a distinct possibility this is another one of the things that are wrong with me. I may be emotionally repressed, congenitally dejected or even clinically depressed – this though people who know me often say I’m always upbeat (people who really know me don’t say that, to be fair).

Then again, I’m sufficiently egotistic to think that there’s something wrong not with me, but with Simeone et al. And, by extension, a lot wrong with the ethos that encourages such tasteless behaviour.

So bugger self-recriminations for a game of soldiers. Let’s revert to one of my perennial leitmotifs: the unspeakable vulgarity of modernity.

Very recent modernity, I may add. Since we’re on the subject of football, just look at the fans in old newsreels. Whenever the camera cuts to the stands, one sees well-dressed people, cheering for their team joyously and enthusiastically but with noble restraint.

There’s no soundtrack, but one gets the impression those suited and booted gentlemen (few women attended matches in those days), most of them working class, could express their happiness or chagrin in words other than those that at the time appeared only in unabridged dictionaries.

Most of them had fought in the war, others had lived through the Blitz. One would think they’d react strongly to every morsel of joy life threw their way – and so they did. But they didn’t impersonate cats on speed.

The footballers, most of whom would have travelled to the stadium on public transport, did celebrate their goals, but they neither turned cartwheels nor screamed scowling obscenities at the camera, à la Wayne Rooney.

Neither were they encouraged by senior members of the royal family to let it all hang out, as Prince William did a couple of weeks ago. (

Something must have happened in the intervening decades to make public hysteria an acceptable, evn desirable, response to success, to turn grown-up men and women into hyperactive children badly in need of six of the best.

One can think of only two reasons for their displays. Either they genuinely can’t contain their joy within decent limits, or they could do so, but don’t lest they might violate the unspoken etiquette of their time.

In the first case, they waste the advantage of being mature humans – and the benefit of millennia’s worth of civilisation.

The ability to control one’s emotions, neither wailing when distressed nor screaming when elated, is what separates adults from infants. Erasing this dividing line testifies to a general infantilisation of feeling and, inevitably, thought.

Moreover, a useful definition of civilisation is a process whereby people are brought up not always to do things that come naturally. If that process no longer operates, the civilisation is defunct.

The world must be run by grownups. Golding’s Lord of the Flies provides a vivid dystopic allegory of youngsters taking over: it’s children’s time, and there are no rules. People infantile of heart and mind are capable of worse things than overzealous celebrations – they’re capable of anything.

Yet the second possibility, that those frenetic celebrants simply adhere to Zeitgeist, is even worse. When perversion is the norm, when dignity becomes antiquated, and self-restraint is seen as a mental disorder, we know it’s the end of the world.

For vulgar conduct as a social sine qua non is never a single child. Its siblings are vulgar thought, vulgar emotions and – ultimately – vulgar, and therefore suicidal, society.

Anyway, well-done, Diego, for beating Juventus. Let’s make the next celebration a bit less testicular, shall we?

Corbyn and Labour are polls apart

“No need to panic. Worse come to worst, Venezuela can always use as as political consultants.”

If the general election were held today, say the polls, the Tories would win by a landslide. However, if Labour replaced Corbyn as their leader, they’d be the party in government.

These results have made the urge to say “I told you so” irresistible. For back in September, before the current scandals over Labour anti-Semitism reached fervour pitch, I wrote a piece entitled How Labour Can Win the Next Election.

There I outlined the strategy Labour could, and now probably will, follow to be in a position to destroy the country yet again. I also mentioned things the Tories could, but definitely won’t, do to preempt that ploy.

Repetition being the mother of all learning, here’s that piece again, newly relevant, slightly abbreviated and, I pray, not prophetic:

The Tories appear to be torn down the middle, with the factions on either side bickering like drunk housewives in the communal kitchen of my Moscow childhood.

A house divided against itself will not stand, said that great political analyst of the past. Looking at those internecine squabbles, Labour bigwigs are rubbing their hands. They sense that the next election is theirs to lose.

I think they’re too smug for their own good, and the popular consensus is wrong. Labour may very well lose the next election, but unfortunately they don’t have to.

They can guarantee a win by ditching Corbyn a month before the polling date and replacing him with, well, just about anybody.

Then they can win without changing one comma in Corbyn’s Trotskyist programme. For, while our voters see nothing wrong with Corbyn’s programme, they increasingly see something wrong with Corbyn.

Labour has always attracted voters by claiming a high moral ground. The Tories are the nasty party in popular lore; Labour are the nice one.

Don’t they want to share wealth evenly or at least equitably? Of course, they do. So there.

And don’t they want to make life better for the working men – and also for the non-working ones, provided they have no private pensions? Definitely.

Also look at how they promote equality for all, regardless of faith, race, country of origin or the number of criminal convictions.

Any way you look at it, Labour exudes goodness out of every orifice in its body politic.

Granted, when yet another Labour government turns Britain into a basket case, voters sense that perhaps goodness isn’t enough by itself. Some modicum of cold-blooded competence may come in handy too.

So they sigh and vote for the nasty party. But after the Tories have shovelled some of the Labour manure out of the Augean stables, it’s time for goodness again.

The upshot is that preserving the image of a nice party is as vital for Labour as appearing competent is for the Tories. Lose that image, and what does Labour have to offer that hasn’t been found wanting every time and everywhere?

It’s that wholesome image that Corbyn is damaging.

Belying his avuncular looks, he regularly stars in decidedly nasty headlines about his saying hateful things about Jews, cavorting with terrorists, extolling the Venezuelan nightmare, refusing to criticise Putin and so forth.

In short, he increasingly comes across as not just nasty, but evil. That’s an election loser for Labour.

The Tory press stays on Corbyn’s case, attacking everything he has ever said or done. As the election draws nearer, such attacks will intensify because Corbyn presents an easy target.

If I were a political consultant to Labour, I’d advise them to encourage personal attacks on Corbyn – and then replace him with anyone from whom Corbyn has drawn fire.

That would crystallise their message: “Look, that nasty Corbyn usurped power and caused your just anger. But now we’re the nice party again – and look at the mess the Tories are in.”

The trouble is that the Tory media are incapable of spelling out the real problem of Labour. It’s not that the party is led by an evil man. It’s that it flogs an evil ideology.

Hence, the personality of the leader doesn’t really matter. For socialists, the choice isn’t between good and evil. It’s among various degrees of evil.

Some good conservatives tend to romanticise the Old Labour of Ramsey McDonald, Ernest Bevin and, if you will, Frank Field, all supposedly misguided but full of good intentions.

I don’t buy that because the price is too high: suspension of reason and morality.

The essence of socialism, be it national, international, democratic, soft, mild, extreme or mainstream, is the urge to destroy everything that’s good in our civilisation.

To use Harry Jaffa’s phrase, our civilisation was baptised in the Jordan, not the fiery brook (a reference to the materialist philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach). Hence its belief in the primacy of every single individual over a faceless collective.

That’s why the watershed issue in Western politics is the balance of power between the individual and the state.

Conservatives, who by definition think along Christian lines even if they aren’t Christians, gravitate towards subsidiarity – devolving power to the lowest sensible level, thereby empowering the individual. A conservative is never statist; a socialist always is.

Socialism is all about an omnipotent state lording it over its flock, an amorphous collectivist mass.

Only such a state has the power to rob people of most of their income, impose false moral standards, dictate not only what people do but also what they say and think, enforce materialism along with political, social, educational and cultural egalitarianism, put a yoke on peoples’ talents and enterprise.

Socialists by definition think along anti-Christian lines even if they happen to be Christians. If they are, they can’t relate their religion to the realities of life.

The Labour Party is a broad coalition of the evil and the misguided, with the former dominating the latter. If the Tories are the nasty party, Labour is the evil one – and it has got precisely the leader it deserves.

The only thing socialists are good at is propaganda – reducing their vacuous and wicked messages to catchy, appealing slogans. Their task is easy because only such messages are so reducible.

That’s how Labour has concocted its reputation for kindliness, assisted in this endeavour by the dumbing-down educational system it has created and fostered.

And that’s how Labour can win the next election, by jettisoning Corbyn who contradicts that reputation.

Now, if I were a political consultant to the Tories, I’d advise them to shift the focus of their offensive from Corbyn to everything Labour stands for, every supposition from which it proceeds – the reality behind the slogans.

But then wiser heads would probably object that by now our socialist education has become so successful that we simply don’t have an electorate capable of thinking beyond slogans and personalities.

Well, now you know why I’m not a political consultant to the Conservative Party.

French literary tastes are different

Michel Houellebecq, in his younger days, before dissipation left a mark of degeneracy on his face

First a disclaimer to reassure my French friends: when I say ‘different’, I mean just that. Not better. Not worse. Just different.

Before violating the old ‘de gustibus’ injunction, I must outline my starting point for aesthetic judgement of a work of art in general and a novel in particular.

Music illustrates it perfectly by merging form and content so thoroughly that they’re not only inseparable but indeed indistinguishable. Form is content, content is form, and this is a useful model towards which all true art strives.

The form is a like a bottle: without wine it would be just a piece of glass. The content is the wine, but without a bottle it would be just a puddle.

When a work in any genre, be it a poem, a novel or a painting, achieves the musical unity of form and content, it achieves greatness or at least touches upon it.

However, the deepest and subtlest of contents will fall short if defeated by inadequate form. Conversely, the most virtuosic of forms won’t produce great art if the content clashes with it.

By content, I don’t mean a communication of ideas or, God forbid, ideology. Other genres exist that are more suitable for that than, say, a painting, a poem or even a novel.

The content of a novel is a lantern that elucidates the human condition, whatever facet of it catches the writer’s imagination at the moment. Typically, it does so by shining a light on the human character, both within, in itself, and without, as it interacts with other characters and the physical environment.

The form of a novel is its structure, the skeleton fleshed out by language. The language, like music, has its own cadences, its own rhythm and its own tempo that may remain steady throughout or vary in a sequence of rubatos.

To produce a great novel, all those elements of both form and content must be in perfect balance. Dissonances may be useful, but disharmony will always be deadly.

Two pairs of great novelists illustrate these points well.

When Flaubert read the first French translation of War and Peace, he exclaimed with horror: “Il se répète! Il philosophise!

The difference between Tolstoy and Flaubert was that the latter, though the lesser artist, was happy to remain what he was, a great novelist. His Madame Bovary achieves that symbiosis of form and content that characterises sublime art.

Tolstoy’s own artistry was unmatched by any other great novelist, which is exactly what he was. But, unlike Flaubert, he also wanted to be something he wasn’t qualified to be: philosopher, social reformer, teacher of mankind.

So he put prolix and mostly silly asides into his novels, which so offended Flaubert’s (and my own) aesthetic sense. Any writer untouched by genius would have been destroyed by that, but Tolstoy managed to pull it off, just.

Another pair is made up of Dostoyevsky and Nabokov. In his Lectures on Russian Literature and elsewhere, Nabokov explains why he considers Dostoyevsky to be a mediocre writer.

Essentially, he thought, rightly, that Dostoyevsky wasn’t much of a literary craftsman. Hence, however deep his ideas and penetrating his insights, he didn’t qualify for literary greatness, although he just might have managed some other kinds.

Nabokov’s own form  was of course nothing short of virtuosic, especially in English, but in some of his novels that was more or less all there was.

This takes me back to my French friends, specifically to the humbling experience I suffered at their hands a few years ago. Two experiences actually, both involving somewhat lesser literary figures than the four gentlemen I’ve mentioned.

They once sought my view on that American novelist of genius, James Salter. I had to admit mournfully that not only had I not read Salter, but to my eternal shame I hadn’t even heard the name.

Now I did start my working life by teaching English and American literature, so in my younger years I was reasonably, if not excessively, well-read.

Admittedly, since then I’ve read mostly non-fiction, with only the odd novel here and there thrown in for variety’s sake. Still, I expected at least to have heard of any Anglophone literary genius, if not necessarily to have read him.

Suitably humbled, I got a couple of Salter’s novels and was instantly seduced by his stylistic virtuosity. Beautifully shaped sentences became stunning paragraphs, which in turn added up to brilliant pages.

Yet that seduction didn’t lead to consummation. Once, a hundred pages or so later, I got my breath back, I realised that I was looking at a gorgeous crystal decanter with no wine it.

The form was all there was. There was no content, at least none harmonised with the sumptuous style, all precisely shifted tempi and unexpected metaphors. There were, however, plenty of sex scenes erasing the line separating the graphic from the pornographic.

One got the impression that all that technical virtuosity was merely the author’s payment for the privilege of venting his sexual fantasies, or perhaps sharing his sexual experience.

My problem wasn’t with the eroticism, but with the gratuitous eroticism. No matter how beautifully written pornography is, it’s still pornography, meaning it’s not art. Put it into otherwise beautiful prose, and you’re served a glass of Meursault with a turd floating on the surface.

Suddenly Salter’s masterly prose began to look pretentious, a parody of art rather than art itself. I wish I had his artistic talent, but if the price of acquiring it is writing the way he did, I’d rather stick to my own modest devices.

Art is produced not for but by artists, and that floater made the Meursault of Salter’s prose unpalatable. I made a mental remark that French tastes must have changed dramatically since the nineteenth century, for Salter to have become the cult figure there that he never was at home.

Then my friends began to talk persistently and glowingly about Welbeck, making me wonder why they were so obsessed with Danny Welbeck, the English footballer.

My consternation betrayed my lowbrow essence. For they were in fact extolling Welbeck’s virtual homophone, the bestselling ‘serious’ novelist Michel Houellebecq.

Once burnt, I was twice shy to order the author’s books, putting it off until it was no longer possible or polite to do so. Finally, I succumbed and read two novels, written some ten years apart.

Then I made a startling discovery: James Salter came back as Michel Houellebecq. The same formal brilliance, the same perfect cadences, the same intricate yet plausible structures – and the same vacuity of content, with pornography its main constituent.

This, in spite of Houellebecq’s sharp intelligence, scathing wit and his insightful aesthetic judgement – at least when applied to other writers’ work. That same judgement not so much betrayed him in his own writing as killed it stone dead.

To illustrate both points, here are two lengthy passages, taken at random, that make it hard to believe they came from the same man. The first is a deliciously ironic, well constructed demolition of most university degrees in the humanities.

“The academic study of literature leads basically nowhere, as we all know, unless you happen to be an especially gifted student, in which case it prepares you for a career teaching the academic study of literature – it is, in other words, a rather farcical system that exists solely to replicate itself and yet manages to fail more than 95 per cent of the time. Still, it’s harmless, and even has a certain marginal value. A young woman applying for a job at Céline or Hermès should naturally attend to her appearance above all; but a degree in literature can constitute a secondary asset, since it guarantees the employer, in the absence of any useful skills, a certain intellectual agility that could lead to professional development – besides which, literature has always carried positive connotations in the world of luxury goods.”

But then comes another randomly picked passage, the likes of which densely populate Houellebecq’s narrative:

“He laid his head on her thigh and began to stroke her clitoris. Her labia menora began to swell… He fingered her clitoris faster as his tongue lapped her labia eagerly. Her belly began to redden and her breath came in short gasps… Bruno paused for a moment and then slipped a finger into her anus and another into her vagina as the tip of his tongue fluttered quickly over her clitoris. Her body shuddered and jolted as she came.”

This isn’t eroticism in the manner of Stendhal or Maupassant. In fact this sort of thing isn’t even erotic at all. It’s disgusting hardcore porn in the style of Screw magazine.

Being French, Houellebecq, unlike Salter, has to put this sort of stuff in the setting of ideas, mostly conveyed in dialogue. Many of them sound good and even conservative – unless one realises that collectively they don’t add up to much other than cold-blooded nihilism, a massacre of ideas, rather than their nurturing.

It’s all gratuitous ugliness of thought offset by the cleverness of prose. It’s that glass of Meursault again, but the French gulp it down with alacrity.

To be fair, it’s not just the French. Houellebecq has been translated into every conceivable language, and his novels become instant bestsellers everywhere. Nihilism plus pornography, gift-wrapped in pretty paper, equals sales.

Still, I can’t imagine a serious English novelist (we aren’t talking about Jilly Cooper types here) rising to fame by producing prose replete with pages upon pages along the lines of the second passage quoted above.

So what is it about the French, a nation who after all produced Stendahl, Flaubert and Baudelaire not so long ago, in historical terms?

The bigger they are, the harder they fall, goes the folksy saying. Could it be that French culture led the world for so long and scaled such great heights that, when it tumbled, it cracked its skull?

Could it be that Houellebecq is a natural and inevitable product of France’s laïcité? Of her constitution that states that France is “une République indivisible, laïque, démocratique et sociale”? But then which Western country these days isn’t secular and social democratic?

Or perhaps decadence, when shown off for decades so persistently as to become associated with the country, will eventually resolve into degeneracy with the certainty of natural forces?

Then again, I may be missing something. Wouldn’t be the first time.

Trouble with atheism

Dr Johnson, who doesn’t qualify as a rational person according to The Times

The real trouble with atheism is, well, atheism.

And I’m not talking about the posthumous destination of atheists’ souls, nor about the moral chaos predictably afflicting a predominantly secular society.

These could make for some lively discussion, but what interests me today is the brakes that atheism puts on the intellect. This isn’t to say that atheists are necessarily stupid in any everyday sense.

I know some exceptionally clever atheists who are capable, for example, of producing penetrating social commentary. But one can detect that they’re aware of their intellectual limitations.

That’s why they shy away from metaphysical subjects, allowing instead their intricate intellects to stay close to the ground. Nor does it ever occur to them to make a case for their atheism.

When one points out to them the gaping intellectual holes in the intellectual trousers of any atheist who tries to argue in favour of his atheism, they nod understandingly.

What do you expect? Of course someone like Richard Dawkins is a strident ignoramus who wouldn’t know a sound argument if it came up and bit him on the… well, you know.

An exceptionally clever atheist knows better than to broach metaphysical subjects. He knows that physics is impossible without metaphysics but, since he can only think on the low empirical level, he chooses to ignore it. We can’t possibly understand such things, he says, so it’s best to leave them alone.

The atheist realises that, by saying that, he dismisses not only theology but also any philosophy worthy of the name. But hey, life’s too short for everything.

When I suggest he read Jacques Maritain’s cogent explanation of why theology is a higher science than philosophy, and philosophy higher than any natural science, he smiles politely and says he might. We both know he won’t.

Fair enough, we can remain friends. It takes all sorts. Actually, having written that, I remembered my Texan friend who once said: “It doesn’t really take all sorts. We just have all sorts.”

True. And the sorts we have, alas, include few really clever atheists like a couple of my close friends.

Most atheists are incapable of putting together an argument that would pass muster even at the lowest intellectual level. But they do try, and the more they try, the more inane and ignorant they sound.

G.K. Chesterton once described Thomas Hardy as “the village atheist talking to the village idiot”. Things have moved on since then, and the two categories have neatly morphed into one.

I was reminded of this by James Marriott’s article We Need to Take the Arrogance Out of Atheism.

Mr Marriott’s photograph makes him look like a pre-teenager with learning difficulties. His prose then dispels the notion that appearances are deceptive.

The trouble starts with the title. One can no more take arrogance out of atheism than scrub the spots off a Dalmatian.

What can be more arrogant than refusing to submit one’s intellect to the absolute, supreme mind?

If faith is an act of self-sacrifice at God’s altar, then the mind is perhaps the greatest offering, especially for people with the greatest minds. But giving one’s mind to God doesn’t mean that the believer becomes mindless as a result.

Quite the contrary: God accepts the sacrifice and rewards the donor by giving him his mind back, having first cleansed it of everything extraneous, scoured it of everything dreary.

Thus purified, the mind acquires the freedom it never had before, because, just as no content is possible without its form, no freedom is possible without discipline. The greater the mind, and the more sincere its original sacrifice, the greater God’s reward, the higher the mind can soar.

In the absence of such a sacrifice, the mind remains for ever shackled to the earth with its mundane concerns – the mind itself remains mundane.

Thus prideful refusal to submit one’s reason to God’s is punished by a diminished power of the reason. For, when looking at the world, the mind can see so much more by rising above quotidian problems than by staying mired in their midst.

But that’s taking Marriott way out of his depth. What troubles him isn’t our all-pervasive atheism. It’s that its most vociferous mouthpieces are too strident.

And why is that a problem? After all, people should shout off the rooftops if they’ve found the truth.

Oh well, you see, “Troublingly, this aspect of new atheism would develop into an ugly Islamophobia. (Try this recent Dawkins tweet: “Listening to the lovely bells of Winchester, one of our great medieval cathedrals. So much nicer than the aggressive-sounding ‘Allahu akbar’.)”

And, “Dawkins’ provocative tweets about Islam have done nothing to advance his cause. Now a whole generation thinks of him as an angry racist from Twitter rather than the lucid thinker his early science books show him to be.”

If the new generation believes Dawkins ever was a lucid thinker, that generation is even dumber than I thought. And if Marriott believes Dawkins wrote “science books”, rather than anti-religious propaganda, he’s even dumber than the new generation.

I’ve never thought I’d come to Dawkins’s defence, but obviously some people can sink even lower than him.

What’s Islamophobic about what he wrote? It sounds like an accurate aesthetic judgement. Or does Marriott think that “Allahu akbar” is nicer than “the lovely bells of Winchester”? Perhaps he does at that.

Marriott laments the dwindling number of atheists in Britain. Mercifully, “the survey reported in The Times showed that while the number of people saying they believe in God remained steady, more people reported a belief in ‘some sort of spiritual power’. You can see this in the rise of millennial interest in astrology and tarot and the Canadian psychologist and speaker Jordan Peterson’s invocations of God and Judeo-Christian ethics”.

One has to be amused by this gibberish – and especially by the fact that its author is deputy literary editor of The Times. On this evidence, he isn’t qualified to edit the What’s New In Our Kindergarten bulletin.

First, he doesn’t realise that belief in “some sort of spiritual power” is perfectly consistent with atheism or, at any rate, is certainly not its antonym. What abstract spirituality is an antonym of is religious faith.

Second, he lumps Christianity together with astrology and tarot, which is akin to grouping Dante, Shakespeare and Dostoyevsky with obscene graffiti on the wall of a public lavatory. They’re all literature, innit?

Third, he equates those neurotic, puerile perversions with “God and Judaeo-Christian ethics”. Surely even he must have heard vague noises about the role those tarot equivalents have played in our civilisation? No? What a shame.

Fourth, he seems to think that the neuropsychologist Jordan Peterson is the only one who eccentrically dares to invoke such things.

I can believe that Dr Peterson, what with his huge presence in social media, is the only such daredevil Marriott has heard of.

But I don’t know of any serious thinkers, including, oxymoronic as it sounds, atheist ones, who eschew such “invocations”. It’s simply impossible to swipe them off the table if one wishes to sound cleverer than a pre-teenager with learning difficulties.

There I was, thinking we were taking arrogance out of atheism. Yet Marriott’s ignorance and inanity go beyond arrogance, entering the domain of offensive effrontery.

“All rational people should be disturbed when society drifts away from reason towards foggy superstition,” he continues, nudging the reader towards the conclusion that atheism is a sine qua non of rationality.

Arguing against this nonsense would be unsporting, like taking a full swing at a baby. Let’s just mention that the ranks of believers include such rather rational people as Newton, Maxwell, Mendel, Einstein, Planck – and, by the mournful admission of Lewis Wolpert, another propagandist of atheism, more than half of today’s scientists.

Now you know why I never sully my hands with a copy of The Guardian. If a staffer of a supposedly conservative paper operates on this level, one can imagine what leftie papers are advocating.

Human sacrifice? Necrophilia? Don’t tell me if you know.

Who’s British (French, American etc.)?

It giveth and it taketh away

The case of Shamima Begum raises interesting questions about citizenship in general, and its links with other aspects of nationality.

Home Secretary Javid has stripped Begum of her British citizenship, though I’m not solipsistic enough to claim he was following my recommendation.

I did argue in favour of this measure ( a week ago, but I shan’t insist on a causative relationship.

However, some good men disagree with Mr Javid’s decision and by inference with my recommendation. One such good man is Stephen Glover, who sums up all the arguments contra in today’s article.

Its title is so long and so clear that the subsequent text seems almost redundant: “The Jihad Bride Is a Monster, But She’s OUR Monster And Must Return Home to Face British Justice”.

What makes Begum OUR monster is the little booklet that enabled her to travel the ISIS way: the British passport, to which she was entitled by birth.

“She is as British as I am,” writes Mr Glover in his typically thoughtful piece. “Mr Javid can’t change that.”

In arguing against this respectable but in my view mistaken position I may belie my earlier repudiation of solipsism. For Mr Glover touches on issues that involve me personally.

Like Mr Glover and Miss Begum, I’m a British citizen (or rather subject, which is my preferred term). Unlike them, I wasn’t born in Britain, even though I’ve lived here more than twice as long as Miss Begum, if not quite as long as Mr Glover.

Yet I maintain, perhaps presumptuously, that I’m as British as Mr Glover. More to the point, I’m British and Miss Begum isn’t.

That gets us back to the title of this article, implicit in which is the belief that the issue isn’t quite as simple as all that.

Now I have first-hand knowledge of four countries that can be divided into two groups: Britain and Russia in one, the US and France in the other.

In the second group, there’s no semantic distinction between ethnicity and political allegiance; in the first group, there is.

In the case of Russia, this distinction doesn’t come across in English, but it exists in Russian. An ethnic Russian is called ruskiy, a Russian citizen is called rossiyanin. Both words are translated as ‘Russian’, but they mean different things.

One either is russkiy or not, that’s just an accident of birth. However, one can become a rossiyanin even if born, say, Scottish (although I can’t for the life of me imagine why any good Scot transplanted to Russia would want to be eternally mocked for wearing a ‘skirt’).

Similarly, one can’t become English – one either is or isn’t, and I’m not prepared to discuss every possible ethnic admixture an Englishman might have acquired over the millennia.

However, contrary to what Cecil Rhodes thought, one can become British and “win first prize in the lottery of life” even without being born in the British Isles.

In the US and France the semantic distinction doesn’t exist. The same word describes all Americans, whether native-born or naturalised, and this is the case in France too.

But connotations are just as important as denotations. The two words, ‘American’ and ‘français’ imply both political allegiance and cultural affinity, but that’s where the similarity ends because these nations put a different emphasis on the two components.

An American must hold not only an American passport but also American beliefs. The concept is thus defined mainly politically and ideologically, with culture a distant third and ethnicity even further down.

One often hears the phrase “Americanism isn’t a race; it’s an idea”. Therefore accepting that idea and pledging allegiance to its political embodiment make one an American even in the absence of any other qualifications.

Hence it’s possible to become an American and yet speak only rudimentary English, know next to nothing about American history or culture and prefer slow to fast food.

In fact, if memory serves, the US citizenship exam asks no questions at all about American culture. It’s all “How many states are there?”, “What are the three branches of government?” and “Who was the first president?”

By contrast, the French nationality test includes at least 60 questions on French culture and history. For the French, the linguistic and cultural aspects of their nationality are at least as important as the political one, perhaps even more so.

Thus, watching French TV one often hears described as français Francophones from, say, Senegal or Algeria who aren’t French citizens. However, one never hears a former British colonial, say a Nigerian citizen, described as British even if English is his mother tongue.

And a foreigner in America may sound like John Wayne, but, unless he’s a citizen, he won’t be regarded as American. The political component is much stronger in ‘American’ and ‘British’ than in ‘French’.

So let me reiterate that, while it’s impossible to become English, it’s possible to become British.

When that honour was bestowed on me by a magistrate who happened to be a friend, I pledged allegiance to the Crown and sang God Save the Queen in its entirety, including that egregiously reactionary verse (Oh Lord our God arise,// Scatter our enemies,// And make them fall// Confound their politics// Frustrate their knavish tricks,// On Thee our hopes we fix// Oh save us all.)

That was a deeply emotional experience, I’m man enough to admit, because I actually believed every word I sang, including the politically incorrect verse. I felt British, and I always will.

On that day I entered into a bilateral contract with Her Majesty’s realm, and so far both parties have followed its terms and conditions. Most of the other British subjects may enter into the same compact at birth, but they do enter into it.

Yet every contract includes, implicitly at least, cancellation terms providing for situations under which it could be declared null and void. Hence it stands to reason to suppose that, if British citizenship can be given, it can also be taken away.

In other words, there’s more to British citizenship than that little booklet – even if it’s not stated in so many words.

As I understand it, the implications go beyond political allegiance, which is a necessary but not sufficient condition. There’s also a raft of meaning hiding behind a simple personal pronoun: we.

Who’s the person’s ‘we’? Again speaking for myself, Britain is the third country whose citizenship I’ve held. Yet the British are the first people to whom I refer as ‘we’.

I won’t go into the numerous cultural, linguistic and family ties I have with Britain. Suffice it to say that I feel British – emotionally, intellectually culturally, linguistically. I pass the Tebbit test with flying colours.

Why, I’ll even go so far as to say that I’m as British as Mr Glover, if considerably less English than he is. And I’ll go even further and say that, while Mr Glover and I are British, Miss Begum isn’t – regardless of where she was born.

Would she include my wife Penelope, my friends Peter and Tony, or for that matter members of HMG into her ‘we’? No. Does she have any cultural affinity for Britain? No. Does she maintain political allegiance to Britain? No. Would she mourn the deaths of British soldiers more than the deaths of their enemies? No.

In Mr Glover’s eyes none of that matters. To him Miss Begum is British because she holds that little piece of paper. Sorry, but it takes more than that.

Thank goodness for anti-Semitism

Workers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your Jews!

Before you gasp with wrath, let me reassure you that anti-Semitism doesn’t figure on my list of virtues. Anti-Semitism in general, that is.

However, in particular, we have to be grateful for Labour anti-Semitism. It’s thanks to that charming bias deeply felt and avidly fostered by Corbyn and his entourage that we just may be spared the most evil government in British history.

Eight Labour MPs have left the party in disgust, and more will doubtless join the independent group they’ve formed. Even though three Tory MPs, all dripping wet and Remainers, have followed suit, Labour will probably suffer greater attrition.

Then, much to Tony Blair’s fear and my delight, Corbyn’s wicked party may well become unelectable for a generation.

Though I rejoice, I can’t add my voice to the dithyrambic chorus about the magnificent eight, with Daniel Finkelstein as both soloist and choir master.

First, their action had an element of jumping before being pushed – all those moderate MPs (moderate by Labour standards, that is) were about to be deselected anyway.

But that apart, I’m amazed that anti-Semitism seems to be the only thing they dislike about Corbyn’s party.

By inference, they don’t mind the class war the Corbynistas are trying to conflagrate. They are happy with their economic policies, which aren’t just likely but absolutely guaranteed to beggar the country in a matter of weeks. They have no objections to Corbyn hating all our friends and loving all our enemies (as a kind man, I shan’t give you the list of the latter so close to night-time).

They may be a bit unhappy about Corbyn’s dislike for the EU, but that by itself wouldn’t have made them leave the party and scupper its electoral chances. Only the virulent and burgeoning Labour anti-Semitism could do that – so thank goodness for Labour anti-Semitism.

Another thing I find astounding is that so many people are surprised at this little trait rearing its head within the ranks of a socialist party. They wouldn’t be so surprised if they understood the nature of both socialism and modern anti-Semitism – and how the two enjoy a symbiotic relationship.

The most immediate link comes from the socialists’ deeply held belief in the intrinsic injustice of capitalism. Since Jews manifestly succeed within that system better than just about any other group, they have to be seen – and hated – as transmitters and propagators of injustice.

Moreover, pushing that logic to its extreme, a success within an unjust system can only be achieved by unjust means. Hence the Jews do so well because they collude to trick everybody else, cheating them out of their birthright.

This is roughly what Marx, the patron saint of socialism, preached, and he did use the words ‘Jew’ and ‘capitalist’ interchangeably. Such is the most immediate impulse to Jew-hatred, which naturally flows out of the very essence of socialism.

(I’m specifically talking here about modern Jew-hatred, the most virulent form of anti-Semitism. Many other forms exist too, such as the petty snobbery often displayed by clubbable gentlemen, or the contempt exponents of other religions feel for infidels.)

Yet there are also deeper, less obvious impulses, those that explain why in modern times the worst anti-Semitic atrocities have been committed by socialists, of either a national or an international hue.

All such ideologies see mankind collectively, as an agglomerate of friendly or hostile groups. The key word there is neither ‘friendly’ nor ‘hostile’, but ‘groups’. International socialists define these by class; national ones by nation or sometimes race.

Both presume homogeneity within each group, or at least enough commonality to reduce any individual differences to trivial idiosyncrasies. Both swear by the good of a strong state, sometimes reduced to the personality of the leader.

Reduction, in this and many other cases, spells seduction. Ideologues of collectivism (or populism, which is its variant) use simple slogans to overcome the resistance of potential recruits.

For resistance can be fierce. Western civilisation lives and breathes an entirely different ethic, one based on the unique, sovereign value of each individual, no matter how meek and insignificant, or how rich and strong, or how foreign and alien.

Collectivists’ survival then depends on their ability to introduce a different ethic, which is impossible to do without consigning the other one to oblivion.

That other, formative ethic of our civilisation rightly goes by the name Judaeo-Christian. It was vouchsafed to Jews who then, after some essential Christian refinements, spread it all over the world.

Hence zoological hostility to Judaeo-Christianity, especially the first part, is a collectivist’s quest for survival. He knows – or simply senses instinctively – that, for his ethic to live, the other ethic has to die.

That’s why when Jews become socialists, they have to renounce their Judaism. Marx’s anti-Semitism was thus nothing but logical, and he isn’t the only example.

During the Russian civil war, a delegation of Russian Jews begged Trotsky, as a Jew himself, to stop the pogroms being perpetrated by the Reds. “I’m not a Jew,” replied Trotsky, “I’m a Bolshevik”. He too was logical. One precluded the other.

This doesn’t mean that people who vote Labour or even belong to the party are all anti-Semites. Far from it. But it does mean that the inner logic of their ideology escapes them.

Most of them don’t think their politics through. They just respond to some vague signals emitted by Zeitgeist-shaping propaganda.

To their thoroughly scoured minds, socialism equates general share-care-be-aware goodness, a condensate of Christian virtue, mercifully minus Christ. They may be good people, but they’re bad socialists.

Of all schools of political thought, only conservatism, tightly defined and properly understood, is incompatible with anti-Semitism. Scratch an anti-Semite, and you’ll always find a collectivist.

For example, though I defer to no one in my admiration of Belloc and especially Chesterton, their anti-Semitism was directly linked to their politics of distributism, a sort of vulgar Christian socialism.

However, when the evil of anti-Semitism can stop the evil of Corbyn, one is perversely grateful. Small favours indeed, but favours nonetheless.

Shut up, Meghan

A fine catch. But is it a good match?

Members of the royal family should know better than to marry American women of an eventful past and objectionable politics.

Or, to be on the safe side, any American women full stop. It may be impossible for an American to fathom the ethos of an institution going back many centuries.

Some 80 years ago one such marriage caused a constitutional crisis and almost put paid to the British monarchy.

Given the choice between his country and lurv, Edward VIII chose the latter. He abdicated and married a twice-divorced American woman who tickled his naughty bits with a virtuosity honed in Chinese brothels.

To be fair, it wasn’t just sexual compatibility but also political commonality that lay at the foundation of that luv: both HRH and Wallis shared admiration for the wonderful things Hitler was doing in Germany.

Unlike Wallis, however, HRH had – or rather should have – imbibed with his mother’s milk a sense of royal duty. He should have known that kings’ lives aren’t entirely their own.

Realms no longer belong to their monarchs, but monarchs do belong to their realms. Their undivided loyalty is pledged to their country, their people and their dynasty.

Hence lurv shouldn’t be a primary consideration in their choice of bride, nor even a secondary one. The only criterion should be the extent to which the marriage would contribute to the duty of service.

Prince Harry’s marriage can’t be as potentially damaging to the monarchy as the Duke of Windsor’s was – for the simple reason that, barring some catastrophe, Harry will never be king.

But, regardless of how low he is in the succession pecking order (Harry is currently sixth), he’s still the Queen’s grandson – and his wife is Her Majesty’s granddaughter-in-law. Hence their marriage has far-reaching ramifications for the realm and its constitution.

Our constitution blended with custom limits the extent to which royal personages can vent their political views – to my occasional regret.

I’d dearly love to know, for example, how Her Majesty felt in 1992, when the Maastricht Treaty set her on a path at the end of which she was going to become Elizabeth Windsor, EU citizen. But she won’t tell us because she can’t.

Prince Charles is rather more loquacious, but he too limits his public self-expression to marginal matters, such as the horror of our architecture or the plight of our environment. He steers clear of hot political issues and, though one could guess what his politics are, one can’t know for sure.

With the Duchess of Sussex, there’s no doubt whatsoever. She’s an American actress who, in common with most of her colleagues, subscribes to every hare-brained ‘liberal’ fad – without realising how crushingly illiberal they all are.

And being a celebrity, particularly an American one, she feels entitled to share her views with a public still drooling over her steamy scenes in Suits.

Hence, when visiting City University of London, the freshly baked duchess felt duty-bound to suggest that its curricula be “decolonised”. Implicit in that suggestion is her disapproval of the British Empire.

She is of course entitled to her opinion – as a private person. But as a very public member of the family that presided over that empire, she should keep that view to herself.

But what exactly does she mean by decolonisation? Well, for one thing, she wants British universities to devote as much attention to black studies and some such as American universities do.

Universities, said Meghan, should “open a debate” to avoid “continuing with the daily rote” because “sometimes that approach can be really antiquated and needs an update.” By inference, she’s the one to update it.

Meghan, do you have a feeling you’re not in Hollywood anymore? Academic affirmative action, shoving down students’ throats subjects of dubious academic value, has wreaked havoc on American universities, devaluing most BA degrees to a status of, at best, high school diplomas of yesteryear.

The same trend is under way in Britain, if at a slightly slower pace. We have an ample supply of our own intellectual saboteurs, thank you very much.

Given her background, Meghan may not realise this, but our civilisation has been predominantly created by white men – at least they are the ones who have made visible contributions to it. Women and non-white races have had a role to play, but, to put it in Meghan’s language, those were mostly support roles and often walk-ons.

If someone wants to study, say, African culture, he should be able to do so, and I’m sure we can all learn quite a bit about the human condition that way. But such courses belong at the margins of academic curricula in a Western university.

The worst was still to come. When shown the demographic breakdown of British professors, Meghan gasped “Oh my God!”

That religious utterance came straight from puerile tweets and it reflected a puerile emotion. To her horror Meghan realised that only 8.5 per cent of British professors are black or minority ethnic (BME).

Considering that blacks make up about 3.5 per cent of the population, that proportion doesn’t strike me as particularly unjust, even though the overall BME proportion is higher. But that’s not the point.

For lying behind Meghan’s OMG are two notions that, out of chivalry and respect for the royal family, I’ll only call misconceived.

First, in the good tradition of her profession and her ideology, she clearly believes that the demographic makeup of any institution should faithfully reflect the demographic makeup of the population.

Second, in the same fine tradition, she also believes that any disparity has to be caused by discrimination, in this case of the racial kind. In other words, BME persons only occupy 8.5 per cent of academic positions because bigoted whites keep them out.

The picture she has in her mind’s eye is that of a brilliant black academic losing a job to a less qualified white because the university administrators are all honorary Ku Klux Klan members who hate blacks.

Now if Meghan thinks for a second that something like that can happen at a British (or for that matter American) university often enough to affect the statistics, she’s away with the fairies.

She should really study this at greater depth than that of a Hollywood sound bite. This endeavour would take some time and effort because the issue impinges on numerous disciplines, such as history, sociology, culture, philosophy, political theory etc.

Meghan could do worse than begin by reading the books by the American sociologist Thomas Sowell (himself incidentally black). Perhaps then she’ll learn that no institution in the world ever mirrors the overall population demographics – disparities are always present.

In today’s West these are hardly ever caused by bigotry and discrimination. On the contrary, employers bend over backwards trying to attract as many BME employees as possible.

But then, like all her co-ideologues, Meghan isn’t against discrimination as such. She’d be perfectly happy even if it could shown convincingly that the proportion of BME dons could only be increased by discrimination against better-qualified whites.

But even if she were to study the complex issues involved and then undergo a Damascene experience, she should still follow the advice in the title above.

She’s not a Hollywood starlet anymore. She’s a member of a vitally important institution and should act accordingly.