Theresa May is criminal

An instant disclaimer is in order: incompetent and lachrymose Mrs May isn’t a bog-standard criminal.

The public expressing doubts about the traditional Tory attributes

She hasn’t killed anyone, and I’m sure she has never stolen anything. She did play fast and loose with Brexit, but though despicable, that isn’t a crime in itself. In short, she has committed neither malum in se nor malum prohibitum.

These ancient legal categories describe, respectively, acts criminal in themselves (such as murder) and those criminal only because the law says so (such as snorting cocaine).

Yet I propose another term: malum effectum – an act that’s criminal neither in intent nor mode of execution, but because it produces disastrous effects. And, under some circumstances, incompetence can be malum effectum.

Think of a surgeon killing patients because of his ineptitude, a bad driver losing control and ploughing through a crowd, a cowboy builder whose house buries people under the rubble.

All these individuals would have a case to answer, a moral one definitely, a legal one probably, a criminal one possibly. But what about an incompetent prime minister causing untold damage to the realm?

It’s in that sense that Mrs May is a criminal, but she had plenty of accomplices, both before and during her tenure. It’s because of their collective efforts that the Tories are finished.   

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t think the party called Tory is finished. It may even still win the next general election and, considering the only realistic alternative, I hope it will.

It’s just that the party called Tory isn’t Tory. It hasn’t been that for half a century at least, but I only accepted that situation in 1991, when John Major succeeded Mrs Thatcher as party leader (and this is the only way John Major and ‘succeed’ can ever be used in the same sentence).

In his first speech as party leader, Major pledged commitment to ‘classless society’, which was inane on more levels than I can count. For no society can be classless, meaning without a vertical social structure.

People historically stratify themselves into groups, and these arrange themselves not only horizontally but also vertically. Had Major given the matter any thought, he would have discerned the difference between classlessness and social mobility.

He might have also wondered how a monarchy, even a constitutional one, can be classless – the very fact that our head of state is called Her Majesty the Queen precludes that possibility even if it existed otherwise.

But the statement didn’t come from his brain, such as it was. It came from his viscera, which is why he didn’t realise that what he was saying was tantamount to declaring that the Tories were committed to not being Tories.

John Major and the subsequent Tory prime ministers have lived up, or rather down, to that commitment. Nothing they’ve said or done has resembled Conservatism even remotely.

It’s not just because it rhymed that David ‘Dave’ Cameron described himself as ‘heir to Blair’, not, say, to Canning, Wellington or Disraeli (harrowing news: Dave is considering a comeback). At least he was being honest, for once in his life.

When the term was first used, the Tories were the party of aristocracy. They believed in a social order based on traditional hierarchy, Christian values and paternalism towards the lower classes, although not without a potential for social mobility.

The Whigs, aka Liberals, while also respectful of tradition, believed in laissez-faire economics at home and free trade abroad. They were opposed to protectionism, and their success in having the Corn Laws repealed spelled Britain’s economic growth.

At the same time Tory rearguard action was modestly successful in attenuating the shock waves of that growth and keeping the now threadbare social fabric from being torn to tatters too quickly.

Then in barged the twentieth century, heralded by the roar of howitzers. Out went the aristocracy, gassed in Flanders, taxed in Whitehall. And real Toryism went with it.

So what does the word ‘Conservative’ mean these days? Take aristocratic social order and Christian values out of it, and paternalism is all we have left. That, in today’s terms, means a gigantic welfare state, which is to say socialism.

The late Tory Alan Clark unwittingly confirmed this observation. “Almost lost to sight,” he wrote, “remain the… principal functions of the state: to ensure that its citizens are… gainfully employed, and that they are enlightened.

The first of these functions is another word for wholesale nationalisation (the only way for a state to ‘ensure’ total employment), the modern for socialism; the second,  another word for ‘free’ education, wherein the government makes us pay through the nose for the illiterate nonsense pumped into our children’s minds. That, too, is the modern for socialism.

The functions of the state can thus be reduced to one: being socialist.

Those who beg to differ have to acknowledge that the word ‘Conservatism’ is semantically inoperable, and add to it a typographic dimension by describing themselves as conservative with a lower-case ‘c’, thus renouncing knee-jerk loyalty to the upper-case Conservative party.

Most definitions of that small ‘c’ include some aspects of what in Britain is inaccurately called Thatcherism: limited government, laissez-faire economics at home and free trade abroad. In other words, things that circumscribe the traditional domain of Whiggish liberalism or the present one of economic libertarianism.

Indeed, Britain has followed America’s lead in identifying the right side of her political spectrum with libertarianism rather than conservatism. There used to be a seminal philosophical difference between the two political dispensations, but not any longer.

Thus Mrs May didn’t kill Toryism, as many are alleging. At worst, she drove the last nail into its coffin. What she might have killed with her Brexit shilly-shallying is any semblance of political tranquillity.

Brexit has acted as the catalyst of a deadly implosion, but not its cause. The cause is the tragic parting of ways between Britain’s political – I’d even say national – essence and her actual politics.

The British character gravitates towards pragmatism, moderation and distrust of ideologies, which used to be reflected in Tory politics. But, in the able hands of today’s politicians, pragmatism has become opportunism, moderation has turned into an absence of any principles, and distrust of ideologies has developed into a contempt for ideas.

The only thing now going for the Tories, whoever is at the helm, is that Corbyn is even worse. But because that’s the only thing, we’ll probably end up with the calamity of a Marxist government.

If making that likely isn’t a crime, I don’t know what is.

Neville Chamberlain has come back

Much to the chagrin of John Major, whose favourite PM Chamberlain characteristically is, old Neville hasn’t come back in the flesh. Yet the toxic spirit of appeasement associated with him is very much in the air.

President Trump meets President Putin to guarantee peace in our time

On 29 September, 1938, Chamberlain et al. primed a bomb under Europe. Less than a year later, the bomb went off.

Instead of delivering “peace in our time”, which Chamberlain promised the next day, waving a piece of paper in the air, the Munich agreement pushed a button for the most devastating war in history.

That ought to have taught people a useful lesson: though the words ‘peace’ and ‘appeasement’ are cognates in etymology, in real life they are mutually exclusive. Appeasement is a path to devastation, not to peace.

However, the lesson was never heeded, vindicating Paul Valéry’s aphorism: “History teaches precisely nothing.” For further vindication, consider the recent actions by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) and Donald Trump.

Both have taken the course of appeasing Putin’s kleptofascist regime, reversing their original opprobrium of Russia’s crimes. These are numerous and richly varied.

As John Kampfner writes in today’s Times, “For the past five years, the Kremlin has masterminded a campaign to undermine western democracy. It has been spectacularly successful, helping to boost the far right and far left (Putin is Catholic with his tastes) from France to Hungary, from Italy to Finland, from Germany to the UK. Fake news, the feeding of conspiracies, the denigration of institutions, the bullying of individuals. All of these are now the political norm.”

(If I knew John, I’d buy him a drink. None for his sub-editors though: it should be ‘in’, not ‘with’, his tastes, and in this context Putin’s tastes are catholic (meaning universal, and not Catholic, meaning beholden to the Vatican.)

And let’s not forget trying to affect elections in Western countries, committing acts of nuclear and biological terrorism, sending soldiers to prop up Maduro’s regime in Venezuela and so on, ad infinitum.

Yet quite apart from the overall criminality of the Putin regime, relevant to the appeasement theme are two items currently in the news.

The first one deals with PACE’s intention to readmit Russia into that august organisation from which she was expelled following the theft of the Crimea in 2014.

Since committing that crime, Putin’s regime has attacked the eastern Ukraine, killing 13,000 Ukrainians in the process; got involved in the Syrian war with murderous consequences; attempted to engineer a coup in Montenegro, complete with the murder of her PM; used a nerve gas on British subjects; interfered with elections in the US, UK and elsewhere; and, most recently, successfully bribed Austria’s vice-chancellor to plunge the country into a political crisis.

(Leaders of the Freedom party there are happy to canoodle not only with Putin but also with frankly odious figures, such as Dugin, the principle ideologist of Russian fascism; Malofeyev, its active practitioner; and Kadyrov, the Chechen chieftain taking care of some of Putin’s ‘wet work’. So much for freedom. A bit of a misnomer, isn’t it?)

Putin has been a busy boy, and he has done many things along those lines. However, one thing he hasn’t done is return the Crimea to its legal owner, the Ukraine.

In other words, he hasn’t eliminated the reason for which Russia lost her PACE vote five years ago. This, however, hasn’t prevented Heiko Maas, German foreign minister, from announcing that Russia is about to be readmitted.

That way, he explained with most refreshing cynicism, “millions of Russians will be able to appeal for protection to the European Court of Human Rights”. If Maas really believes what he said, either he’s monumentally stupid or thinks we are.

The real function of the ECHR isn’t to protect the legal rights of European citizens but to override the legal institutions of the EU members. In that role it’s succeeding famously, while any salvation acts, if they have occurred at all, are few and far in between.

That’s in reasonably free countries, whose legal institutions are more than just a rubber stamp in the leader’s hand. In Russia, an appeal to the ECHR would be as effective as one to Zeus.

What we’re witnessing here is the EU inhaling the spirit of Munich with both nostrils, as the ghost of Neville Chamberlain floats overhead in thin air, whispering “appeasement in our time”.

As to Donald Trump, I’m not going to comment on his possible collusion with Putin, other than saying that so far no corroborative evidence to take to court has surfaced. But this doesn’t mean there’s no evidence, full stop.

The president has had his arm twisted by Congress to introduce sanctions and other punitive measures against Russia. But he has always done his level best to sabotage such measures, taking particular care never to utter a single derogatory word about Putin (America’s NATO allies don’t rate a similar courtesy).

Yet in November 2018, Trump cancelled a meeting with Putin following an act of piracy committed by the Russian navy in the Strait of Kerch, where it seized three Ukrainian naval vessels and imprisoned 24 sailors.

That was the only reason for the cancellation, explained Trump, adding he’d be happy to meet Putin when this little problem has been solved. One could infer that, until it has been solved, no meetings would take place.

Half a year later the situation hasn’t changed. Those sailors and their ships are still in Russian captivity, and yet Trump is now ready to talk to Putin face to face. The ghost of Chamberlain is looking on, whispering “That’s my boy”.

We’ll never die, and neither will vulgarity

You must have heard anti-Semites say “some of my best friends are Jewish?”, hoping to exonerate themselves from a charge of bigotry.

Public house philosophy is still going strong

Well, I use a similar stratagem to claim I’m tolerant of intellectual dissent. Some of my close friends are atheists, some – even worse – are agnostics, others – still worse – are empiricists.

However, none of them is vulgar. If they were, they wouldn’t be my friends because I agree with Oscar Wilde that “all vulgarity is a crime”. Breaking bread with an atheist is one thing, doing so with a vulgarian is another.

This explains why I read papers like The Times, even though their opinion pages hardly ever feature valid opinions. However, though most of their columnists write rubbish, at least they tend not to impersonate a voice speaking out of the burning bush.

And it also explains why I never sully my hands with either The Guardian or The Times Literary Supplement, and it’s not because they are left-wing. It’s just that the former is produced by smug pseuds with ill-founded cultural pretensions, and the latter, by smug pseuds who have turned their ill-founded cultural pretensions into a cult. Both are irredeemably vulgar.

If I all of a sudden began to waver in this assessment, the TLS article The Last Mortals by Regina Rini would instantly get me back on track. The article came to me courtesy of a friend, and I read it as a courtesy to the friend.

Miss Rini is identified in the heading as a philosopher. Not just that, but she actually won the 2018 Marc Sanders Award in Public Philosophy.

Now each time I hear the term ‘public philosophy’, I wonder what it means. Is it distinct from private philosophy? I’m grateful to Miss Rini for elucidating the point, albeit unwittingly.

Judging by her long article, ‘public philosophy’ is short for ‘public house philosophy’. It’s the kind of fanciful twaddle one overhears in a pub where a couple of chaps are on their tenth pints.

Every writer tends to address some target readership. The readers Miss Rini evidently sees in her mind’s eye are intellectually challenged individuals who read mostly science fiction and who are in the thrall of parallel universes, UFOs, green aliens with feelers on their heads, and J. R. R. Tolkien.

She sets her stall by saying that regular advances in medical science are such that in some near future the problem of death will be solved. Life expectancy is steadily growing, and we now live twice as long as the contemporaries of Byron and Shelley.

Give it another few decades, and no one will ever die. Why, a recent study “detected a strong correlation between unusual human longevity and a genotype called FOXO3A. The pieces seem to be there; perhaps it is only a matter of time before we learn how to fit them together.”

And, “if you are currently under the age of forty, then you can plan to meet young people who will live to see 2157,” while by that time the only people who’ll ever die will be those who’ll want to, or else victims of accidents or global warming.

Now if Miss Rini were an expert in biology, rather than philosophy, all this popular science for the masses would be moderately interesting to Tolkien buffs, among whom I proudly don’t count myself.

But being a philosopher, she needs to philosophise, and that’s where the roof caves in. Her piece outlines in broad strokes the plight of the last mortals who will overlap with the immortals, the way Neanderthals overlapped with Cro-Magnons.

Imagine you’re a decrepit 130-year-old knowing you’ll soon peg it. Yet all around you are sprightly 110-year-old youngsters who are immortal beneficiaries of the scientific advances that came just a tad too late for you. Wouldn’t you be upset?

“It’s better never to have a crack at immortality than knowingly to miss it by the tiniest margin,” she writes, establishing the philosophical premise and forging on from there. 

First, from the height of the dizzying progress philosophy has made over centuries, Miss Rini disagrees with Seneca and Diogenes that death is no big deal. Life is wonderful, hence the more of it, the better.

Anyway, the type of immortality she has in mind “is not a magical one where death is strictly impossible. But it is the practical removal of death’s certainty. Biological immortals would no longer expect to die within any relevant time frame.”

Unless, of course they’ll want to die, “what with growing climate catastrophes and rampant overpopulation by the long-lived.” But not to worry: “they could always choose to end their lives when there is nothing new left to them.”

I’m sure that within the time-frame Miss Rini envisages, a visit to Dignitas will no longer be necessary. Your friendly local pharmacy will by then carry pre-loaded DIY syringes guaranteeing a painless passage into oblivion, a development I’d guess she’d welcome.

Indeed: “To have the option of living healthily a very long time, possibly for as long as one could want (but no longer), seems like an unmitigated blessing.”

Being a philosopher, Miss Rini co-opts support from other great thinkers, not just Seneca and Diogenes, but also Epicurus, Freud, Borges, Simone de Beauvoir and Bill Murray who starred in the film Groundhog Day – and these are just those I’ve heard of.

Yet being a young and, more important, modern philosopher, she managed to write several thousand words on immortality without once as much as mentioning Christianity. For a Western philosopher, that takes some doing.

I’m not suggesting, God forbid, that young modern philosophers should all be Christians. That’s like suggesting that British trains should run on time – a sheer impossibility in other words.

But surely any philosopher ought to be at least aware of the critical, life-giving role the Christian concept of immortality played in the founding of our civilisation? No, perhaps that would be too much to expect from modern vulgarians.

Yet everything that happened between the Incarnation, which established an eternal link between God and man, and the Resurrection, which showed that life everlasting is implicit in that link, was the birth cry of Western civilisation, the nourishment without which it would never have been born.

I realise that this sort of thing would take Miss Rini out of her depth – why, it would probably take those who taught her philosophy out of their depth too. Nor, as I’ve mentioned, can anyone expect her to believe something she hasn’t read in a popular science magazine.

This objection would be invalid if she stayed within the boundaries of the sort of stuff such magazines are made of. She could even hold my attention for the minute or two it would take to bore me rigid.

But she’s described as a philosopher, and an award-winning one to boot. I started to tear out what’s left of my hair, but then I remembered she’s really a public house philosopher and calmed down.

I’ll have another one, landlord, and make it a double. Less ice this time please.

Would you rather watch Hegerberg or Messi?

Watch them play football is what I mean, and wipe that lascivious leer off your face. What, you don’t even know what I’m on about?

Lionel Messi

Fair enough. Though most people, even those who don’t follow football, have heard of Lionel Messi, few have heard of Ada Hegerberg.

Yet they have much in common. Both are professional footballers. Both are strikers. Messi is the world’s best player among men, Hegerberg among women.

Then of course there are also some differences. Hegerberg is a Norwegian playing in France, Messi is an Argentine playing in Spain. Messi is my height, which is short, Hegerberg is three inches taller, which is tall for a woman and about average for a Norwegian one. Messi is heavily tattooed, Hegerberg isn’t, at least not where one can see.

And here comes one salient difference: Hegerberg is paid £343,000 a year; Messi, about £112 million all in, roughly half of it in salary.

Miss Hegerberg thinks this disparity is grossly unfair. That’s why she’ll boycott the Women’s World Cup this summer, so rankling is what she calls a “lack of respect” for female players.

We all know that respect means nothing unless a high monetary value is attached to it. Hence, say, Mozart, who could barely make both ends meet, isn’t really worthy of respect as much as, say, Elton John who rakes in tens of millions.

That much is clear. Then again, since  English isn’t Miss Hegerberg’s first language, perhaps she doesn’t really mean respect. Perhaps she simply means that male and female players should be paid the same amounts of money. 

“Football is my biggest passion in life and I’ve worked really hard to get here,” explains Miss Hegerberg. I’m sure this is true. Yet I know many people who are passionate about their jobs and work really hard without earning anywhere near £343,000 a year.

Football, continues Miss Hegerberg, “is so important to me that I can’t sit and watch things not go in the right direction.” The right direction then is towards equal pay for her and Lionel Messi.

“It’s impossible to be in football and not fight for equality,” she explains…The more people give attention to equal pay, the easier it gets”.

She’s both wrong and right. For it’s possible for a footballer not to talk about equality. Thousands of players, male and female, manage to desist successfully.

But it’s true that screaming appeals to the God of Equality do work – just look at women tennis players. All major tournaments now award equal prizes to men and women, even though the latter spend half the time on court (and, by the looks of them, in training), have nothing like the men’s technique and attract nothing like the men’s following.

However, I can see certain problems specific to football. For, unlike tennis players, footballers aren’t paid by tournament organisers. They are under contract to their privately owned clubs, and their salaries are set individually.

The players’ pay reflects their quality and commercial clout, along with the owners’ wealth and ambition.

I’m not aware of any authority, at least in the West, that can dictate to the clubs how much they must pay their players, male or female. Thus huge disparities of income are inevitable both within each sex and between them.

Now leaving the owners’ wealth and ambition aside, how does Miss Hegerberg think her quality and commercial clout compare to Messi’s?

As far as quality is concerned, she’d have to be delusional to believe that she’s as good as a top player in the men’s pub league, never mind a top professional.

Actually, I’d rather watch a good pub league match than the Women’s World Cup. The former wouldn’t be an exemplar of technical mastery, but then neither would it be as excruciatingly dull as the latter.

In fact, the technical and physical gap between men and women in football is even greater than in tennis, where God knows it’s huge.

As to the comparative commercial clout, I can only repeat the rhetorical question in the title. Hundreds of millions of football lovers around the world pay exorbitant ticket prices to watch top male professionals weave their magic on the pitch. And if Hegerberg’s team played on one TV channel and Messi’s on another, which one would draw a higher rating? Quite.

So what’s the basis for Miss Hegerberg’s demand for ‘equality’ (she doesn’t know the difference between ‘equal’ and ‘the same’, but then many native speakers make the same mistake too)? There’s none, other than a voracious political appetite.

She is jumping with both feet on the bandwagon of our care-share-be-aware New Age, where neither reason nor justice can hitch a ride.

Like all New Age activists, she has the ear to catch the distant rattle of the bandwagon. And like Billy Jean King in tennis half a century ago, Hegerberg knows when the time is right to jump on.

For years now, TV companies and newspapers have been trying to shove women’s dull, inept football down our throats. A serious propaganda effort is under way, and every such movement needs its figureheads.

Ada Hegerberg is happy to oblige. I don’t know how she’ll be able to get her way, but something tells me she will. That bandwagon is gathering enough speed to crush any obstacle.

Whose friend, whose foe?

Last summer I was interviewed by the French ‘right-wing’ radio station Radio Courtoisie. The subject was Putin’s Russia, the length was an hour and a half, the language was French.

Another acolyte expressing his admiration of Col. Putin

That last aspect stretched my modest linguistic attainment to breaking point or, as I actually thought, beyond it. However, the interviewer assured me I did just fine.

Yet minutes before the recorded interview was to go on air, the station manager cancelled it because he feared that “the Russian embassy would be offended”.

Why, you might ask, should an independent radio station worry about the delicate sensibilities of a foreign embassy, especially one representing a country openly hostile to France and her allies? After all, I cited no facts one couldn’t read in hundreds of publications, including a small library of books.

There’s only one possible explanation: the station isn’t independent. It has close links with Marine Le Pen’s party, which is financed by Putin’s government. Hence my interview would have left bite marks on the hand that feeds Radio Courtoisie, and that simply couldn’t be allowed.

I remembered that incident when reading about the scandal that has destroyed the governing coalition in Austria, tipping the country into political chaos.

The junior partner in the coalition was the Freedom Party, which is ideologically close to Le Pen’s National Rally, German AfD, Italian League and a raft of similar European groups (including a few in Britain) usually described in the press as ‘populist’ or ‘far-right’.

Both terms are inadequate, suffering as they do the hyperinflation of overuse. First, all parties in universal-franchise democracies are populist – if they weren’t, they would win no elections. They all rise to the top by expert demagoguery designed to swing the largest blocs of voters.

Since most voters aren’t trained to ponder political nuances and complexities, the demagoguery is typically reduced to catchy slogans activating the salivary glands of the electorate. If the slogans are spouted by a charismatic, persuasive leader, his party has a chance of forming the government – especially if the slogans wielded by the previous lot have been proved to be lies.

As to the far-right tag, it’s less universal but equally meaningless. Both Hitler and Margaret Thatcher have been thus described, and it’s hard to think of two politicians further apart.

The left-leaning press often sticks this tag on economic libertarians, and they indeed may be on the right of the political mainstream in most countries. But, say, Le Pen’s lot preach the kind of economics that isn’t a million miles away from our dear Jeremy or, for that matter, France’s own Trotskyist Mélenchon.

Le Pen’s party is both nationalist and socialist, which blend has some history in European politics. Austria’s Freedom Party is as nationalist but less socialist, Italy’s League is even less socialist but equally nationalist, while Germany’s AfD isn’t socialist at all, but even more nationalist, much given to bandying about words like Volk and Vaterland, which have a certain ring to them.

While they all swear by national identity, their opposition to the European Union isn’t always the same as, say, our own Brexit Party’s or Ukip’s. All those continental parties mainly hate one aspect of European federalism, unrestricted immigration, especially of Muslims.

But some of them don’t hate the EU as such. Marine Le Pen, for example, has softened her anti-EU position considerably, and AfD doesn’t mind the EU, provided the Muslims and other undesirables are kept out.

The palette is quite broad, as you can see. But all these parties have one thing in common: they enjoy Putin’s support and (some definitely, others probably) financing. Hence all of them profess admiration for Russia’s kleptofascist regime.

This brings into doubt their own conservative credentials, when these are claimed – and Austria’s Freedom Party does claim them.

If such credentials were real, the leaders of these parties would be hard-pressed to explain their admiration for a regime that murders its opponents at home and abroad, imprisons dissidents, suppresses elementary liberties, blocks opposition websites, runs an economy criminalised from top to bottom, pounces on its neighbours like a rabid dog, attempts to subvert the political process in Western countries, and in general positions itself, both in word and in deed, as an enemy of the West.

One can understand why such parties take Putin’s rouble. Political parties are always starved of funds, and those outside the mainstream especially so. But this neither explains nor certainly excuses their seeking support from avowed enemies of their countries and the West in general, who openly confront the West all over the globe and threaten it with nuclear Armageddon.

We must also remember that some 87 per cent of Russia’s ruling elite led by Col. Putin are KGB/FSB officers trained in recruitment and seduction. Why do you suppose they spend billions to cultivate marginal political groups, both on the right and extreme left, in Europe? Do they do that out of a disinterested charitable instinct?

They don’t. They clearly expect a quid pro their quo.

Some of their ends are purely fiscal – let’s not forget that the Russian KGB government is organically fused with organised crime, and most of its key figures are billionaires who’d like to make even more billions.

But mostly they want to destroy Western politics they hate by sowing as much chaos as their purloined cash can buy. How and by whom the chaos is created doesn’t matter to them, as long as it’s destructive.

They don’t have an ideology as such, although they claim they do. They just use KGB methods to create troubled waters in which they can fish for their billions unimpeded.

Accepting support and especially money from such a regime ipso facto makes the recipients as evil as the donors – they dine with the devil, forgetting that at such a table no spoon is ever long enough.

This is the background to the scandal that has destroyed Austria’s governing coalition. The Freedom Party’s leader and the country’s vice-chancellor-elect Heinz-Christian Strache was filmed trying to strike a deal with the putative niece of a Russian oligarch.

Strache solicited donations from the woman, promising in return to help her invest €250 million of “not entirely legal” money in Austria. This, although it could be confidently expected that such a transaction would then be used as a blackmail weapon to secure political concessions as well.

Strache’s second-in-command Johann Gudenus also met with the woman’s representatives in 2017.

When the story broke, a spate of sackings and resignations followed, and the chaos so beloved of the Russians has materialised. Now the question is, would the Austrians have entered into similar negotiations with other evil regimes, say North Korea?

Perhaps, though somehow I doubt it. It’s just that so many people, including otherwise decent folk like Nigel Farage, have been successfully seduced by Putin’s KGB tradecraft into refusing to believe that his regime is indeed evil.

They have chosen to take at face value the nauseatingly cynical conservative noises emanating from Russia, to pretend to others but above all to themselves that some affinity exists between their parties and Putin’s kleptofascist gang.

All I can say is that I hope this isn’t the case – although in practice the distinction between wicked politicians and duped ones is often blurred.

Drunk, moi? It’s sciatica, stupid

“I’ve said it many times that I do not have a problem with alcohol,” said Jean-Claude Juncker at yesterday’s press conference. “Stupid journalists always ask the same question, even though this question has already been answered.”

“Sorry, mon ami, I thought you were Angela.”

So it was. Less than a year ago. By me.  

It was then that Juncker, or Junk as he likes to be known to his friends among whom I proudly count myself, explained that his numerous public embarrassments were caused not by booze but by attacks of sciatica.

Since irresponsible hacks clearly ignored that explanation, I feel duty-bound to rerun the explanatory piece I wrote then. The Nobel prize for medicine is sewn up, I wrote.

Or if it isn’t, it should be. For only one medical researcher combines penetrating insights with the courage to stage death-defying experiments on himself.

Many doctors, including some Nobel laureates, have gone down in history for exposing themselves to pathogenic substances. Jesse Lazear exposed himself to yellow fever, Max von Pettenkofer to cholera, Daniel Zagury to HIV – the list can go on. But it’ll never be complete without Junk’s name.

Last July Junk came up with a daring hypothesis on the aetiology and symptomatology of sciatica. His courageous self-experimentation at the NATO summit then turned the hypothesis into scientific fact.

Junk’s breakthrough discovery was that sciatica is caused by the toxic substances added to Glenfarclas malt whisky. As with all such additives, the adverse effect is directly proportional to the amount consumed.

To support this theory Junk self-sacrificially, not to say heroically, consumed a full bottle of the dangerous beverage. Sure enough, he immediately developed a bad case of sciatica, featuring a unique clinical picture.

In addition to pain in the lower back, the virulent form of sciatica caused by Glenfarclas is evidently characterised by zigzagging, stumbling, losing one’s balance, trying to topple over backwards, laughing uncontrollably and for no good reason, kissing everything that moves and forcing foreplay on men and women alike.

At the time I started a campaign demanding that Glenfarclas labels carry a government health warning. Predictably the government, preoccupied with such marginal issues as Brexit, ignored my entreaty.

More evidence, they said, was required before such a step could be taken. My friend Junk, they added, should be encouraged to collect more research data. According to them, the corpus of evidence gathered hitherto only qualified as a promising start.

When I conveyed the bad news to Junk, he took it in his stride. “All we can do, Al,” he said, “is keep plugging away. I don’t care if I have to drink Scotland dry to help all those millions of sciatica sufferers.”

Junk was true to his word. He chose the Africa-Europe summit at Vienna’s Hofburg Palace as an appropriate site for his self-experimentation. When I later asked him how much Glenfarclas he had consumed to bring on sciatica symptoms, Junk told me it was none of my bloody business.

“Let’s just say it was well in excess of LD50,” he said, yet again resorting to the arcane technical jargon that comes naturally to him but leaves ignoramuses like me bemused.

“LD50, you nincompoop,” explained Junk, sensing my bewilderment, “is Lethal Dose 50, the amount of an ingested substance that kills 50 per cent of the test sample. Well, I’m in the other 50 per cent.” he added proudly. “Tell that to those Brexiteer énculés.”

Even before that momentous event, Junk had staged a lower-level trial to obtain more evidence of sciatica causing bizarre amorous episodes. He had been filmed ruffling the peroxide hair and kissing the cheek of Pernilla Sjölin, the EU’s deputy head of protocol.

Aware of the episode’s medical significance, Miss Sjölin went along, which encouraged Junk to consume more whisky, thereby exacerbating the sciatica symptoms.

He then expanded his sample base by engaging Mrs May in a foreplay session, involving kissing, petting and murmuring sweet nothings into her ear, such as “You nebulous bitch, why don’t you pull your head out of your cul and tell me what the bloody hell you want.”

Yet it was the Vienna conference that was singled out for the full-scale experiment. This time it took several burly assistants to keep Junk upright, while he was laughing uncontrollably and trying to fall down.

The amorous symptoms of Glenfarclas-induced sciatica also manifested themselves with new clarity, this time transcending the line separating the sexes.

Yet again Junk selected a Croatian politician as his subject. If in July he had tried to feel up Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, the comely president of that country, this time he focused on Croatia’s PM Andrej Plenkovic (“I thought he was Kolinda,” he later told me. “That’s sciatica for you.”)

When sciatica finally made it impossible for Junk to get up from his chair, he remained seated while trying to, in his parlance, ‘score’ with Estonia’s male Prime Minister Juri Ratas. Evidently Junk had upped the dose of the control substance to produce a cleaner experiment.

Here’s a man willing to suffer excruciating pain for the sake of medical science. And not just pain.

Sciatica is known to produce other conditions, such as cirrhosis of the liver, hypertension, cardiomyopathy, arrhythmia, fibrosis, pancreatitis and imprisonment for affray. Junk is heroically risking all those to advance human knowledge, and I can’t think of a worthier candidate for the Nobel Prize.

I’m also comforted to know that the future of the EU is in such safe, if slightly shaking, hands.

Junk isn’t dedicating his life to this other noble cause in his life for the measly €350,000 a year, plus unspecified expenses. Yet again he’s sacrificing himself for the common good – and how many of us can say the same?

What on earth is centre ground?

The gross inadequacy of our political taxonomy is a recurrent theme in this space, and it’s now made newsworthy again by two grossly inadequate politicians: John Major and Michael Heseltine.

John Major, on a mission to rediscover the sunk Atlantis of the middle ground

These two chaps, who are as responsible as anyone for turning the Conservative party into a cynical misnomer, now lament that, in Major’s phrase, “the middle ground of politics is empty”.

It was that nebulous space, he continues, that “made it possible for me to move from rented rooms in Brixton to a life, which, as a boy, I could have only ever imagined.”

Really? I would have thought it was the skill with which Mr Major, as he then was, stuck a knife in the back of his benefactor Margaret Thatcher. Silly me, now I know it actually was that fertile middle ground.

British politics would be much healthier had Sir John stayed in that Brixton rental or, to be kind, chosen a different path out. Managing a local branch of NatWest in that same neighbourhood, for example, would have been more apposite for his modest talents, and surely such a position would have enabled him to get on the property ladder.

And Lord Heseltine, Knife-Wielder-In-Chief, is so upset with the disappearance of the centre ground that he’ll vote for the Liberal Democrats in the upcoming European elections.

Now until the advent of Jeremy Corbyn, that party was the most left-wing in the country, and even now it’s a close second. Verily I say unto you, the more one seeks the centre ground, the more it looks like a desert mirage.

And yet so many politicians the world over desperately try to stake a claim to that piece of terrain. They must be keen chess players, who realise that a command of the centre of the board gives them a good chance to win the game.

Electoral politics aside, sensible people, especially in England, tend to be wary of political extremes and, truth be told, even of strong opinions. ‘Centre ground’ thus whispers laudable moderation to their ears; it sounds like a nice cup of tea would sound if it could talk.

But what does the term actually mean outside the dog-eat-dog life of electoral politics, or heated debates on any subject? I’d suggest it means so many different things as to mean nothing at all.

It’s like average-income statistics, which offer information without expanding knowledge. For example, Warren Buffet and I may have an average income of 500 million a year, but this datum will tell you little about Buffet’s income and nothing at all about mine.

Champions of the centre ground must see a peculiar picture of politics in their mind’s eye. It looks like a straight line spanning the two extremes, right and left. The right and left sections on the line each cover about 25 per cent of its length, with the remaining 50 per cent constituting the centre ground. Are you fine with this geometry and arithmetic? In theory?

If so, you must agree that, in practice, none of this makes sense. It all depends on the exact placement of the canvas on which the two extremes are drawn.

Shifting it to the far left, one could observe that Lenin occupied the centre ground between Trotsky and Stalin; or Goebbels, between Hitler and Strasser. So let’s just say that the centre ground doesn’t automatically guarantee either virtue or indeed moderation.

Generally speaking, the canvas of the political mainstream throughout the West, emphatically including the Atlantic powers, is steadily shifting leftwards. Yesterday’s loony fringe becomes today’s centre-left; yesterday’s staid conservatives, today’s radical right-wingers.

In Britain, the impeccably moderate conservative Jacob Rees-Mogg now appears to be a right-wing fanatic against the background of the Tory party shaped in the image of Heseltines, Majors and Mays; in the US, the canvas has been shifted so far towards Ocasio-Cortez that Bernie Sanders looks just slightly left of centre, with Joe Biden bang in the middle ground.

What’s true of the political spectrum in general is doubly true of each particular issue. For, though some of them may allow a centre ground to appear, most don’t.

What is the centre ground between, say, legalising homomarriage or not? Abolishing the death penalty or not? Hitting a rogue regime with sanctions or not? Raising taxes on diesel fuel or not?

Many, I’d suggest most, vital questions in politics are binary, demanding a yes or no answer. The wording of the Brexit referendum reflected this sombre realisation: the choice was between in and out, not between those and somewhere halfway.

That was logical because what was at issue was the sovereignty of Her Majesty’s realm. Either it’s sovereign and governed by its own ancient parliament or it is, in fact if not yet in name, a province of a recently concocted contrivance with no historical, moral or constitutional legitimacy.

I don’t see any middle ground there, do you? A country can’t be a little sovereign, almost sovereign or practically sovereign. It either is or isn’t. There are only two possibilities there, each of them extreme.

Yet it’s specifically Brexit that makes Messrs Heseltine and Major lament the absence of a centre ground. Hence it’s hard to escape the conclusion that this Shangri-La of politics is defined as anything coinciding with their opinions, no matter how extreme.

The implicit syllogism is as simple as it’s dishonest. Heseltine and Major see centre ground as good. Trying to remain in the EU against the explicit wishes of the electorate is good. Ergo, this attempt resides in the centre ground.

At the time Major put his signature on the Maastricht Treaty back in 1992, I described that flourish of his pen as de facto treasonous. For what is treason if not sabotage of a country’s constitution?

Prompted by the experts, however, I’ve realised what else de facto treason can be: centre ground. I’ve got Heseltine and Major to thank for this discovery.

Congratulations to all phobia victims

In case you’ve forgotten that today marks an important occasion, here’s my political idol Jeremy Corbyn to remind you:

Let’s join Jeremy Corbyn in celebrating this glorious day

“Today – on International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia – we recommit to resisting hatred experienced by so many LGBT+ people around the world, whether it’s bullying, abuse or violent oppression. Labour will continue fighting for equality for all.”

Lest you might fear that Jeremy and his jolly friends are solely committed to supporting the rights of sexual deviants (I use this word in a non-judgemental way, simply to denote a numerical deviation from the norm), rest assured this isn’t so.

Labour in general and Jeremy specifically are equally passionate about the rights of every racial and religious minority, except naturally the Jews. Jeremy may not believe in Christ, but he certainly detests Jews.

You may detect a certain logical incongruity there, but none exists. Jeremy has no quarrel with the Jews’ rejection of Christianity. He rejects it himself, so no problem there. The problem is that Jeremy’s inspiration, Karl Marx, equated the Jew with the capitalist, and so does Jeremy.

Now virulent hatred of capitalists (meaning people unlikely to vote for Jeremy) – and hence, vicariously, Jews – isn’t to be resisted at all. Quite the contrary: it must be encouraged.

One detects a potential conflict to be caused by Jews who also happen to be homo-, bi- or transsexual, but trust Jeremy to find his way around it. That’s where Marxist dialectics comes in handy.

Thesis: Jews are bad. Antithesis: sexual perversions are good. Synthesis: long live the revolution! Who can fault this logic? Certainly no Labour person, c. 2019.

But Jews apart, it’s good to know that Jeremy is committed to resisting the bullying, abuse and violent oppression suffered by practitioners of minority sexuality and also by Muslims, especially those who belong to Hamas and Hezbollah.

Underneath it all one detects – or rather hopes to detect – a smouldering affection for all persecuted minorities, except the Jews. Well, actually not just them.

I’m still waiting for Jeremy to issue an equally robust statement supporting a group that, according to the report commissioned by Foreign Secretary Hunt, provides “the overwhelming majority of persecuted religious believers”.

In fact, 80 per cent of people facing religious persecution around the world are –  Christians. Yes, I know that Jeremy isn’t one of them, but then neither is he a homo-, bi- or transsexual. However, this doesn’t prevent him from sticking up for those people in a principled, disinterested way.

How about it, Jeremy? By all means, do continue the steady flow of messages expressing love and support of Hamas and LGBT+ folk. By all means, use Marxist dialectics to solve the dichotomy of Hamas tending to kill LGBT+ folk in all sorts of imaginative ways.

But interspersed with those protestations of love, how about just the odd expression of sympathy with Christians brutally persecuted around the world? Yes? No, I suppose not.

Using the inimitable linguistic trick Jeremy performs with nothing short of virtuosity, one may say that he must suffer from a bad case of Christophobia. That, however, won’t stop anyone from voting for him in the next general election – as long as Jeremy is unwavering in his love of everyone who hates the West and rejects all its moral, religious and political certitudes.

Oh well, enough of such bilious musings on this festive occasion. Happy International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia, everyone! Many happy returns and all that.

If elections were held today…

…Britain would get her first Marxist government ever.

The face of things to come

Now Churchill suggested “that the best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.”

Agreed. But those who lack Churchill’s perspicacity may need further persuasion, and today’s polls provide it with room to spare: Labour is nine points ahead. Projected over a general election, such results will have Corbyn forming a government.

That means that the respondents looked at Labour’s proposed policies and quite liked what they saw. They didn’t see what ought to be instantly obvious even to an averagely bright child: if delivered, Labour’s promises would drop Britain into an abyss for generations and possibly for ever.

Only two groups would contest this gloomy forecast: fools and knaves.

The second category includes the parliamentary Labour party and its activists, who openly want to destroy Britain as she now is and remake her in Venezuela’s image. These people are simply evil, and it’s impossible to describe them accurately without invoking this old-fashioned concept.

The first category seems to include the bulk of the electorate, afflicted as it is by a pandemic of mass idiocy. The contagion of this deadly disease has been spread consciously and systematically by half a century of comprehensive non-education backed up by the like-minded mass media, which is to say by the mass media.

Reason, in the name of which modernity was inaugurated, has been replaced by Pavlovian reflexes. Rather than trying to think proposed policies through, people react by instinct. Never mind the ideas, feel the slogans activating the mechanisms of irrational response.

They hear those admirers of Trotsky, Maduro and other murderers promise “a better, fairer Britain for the many, not the few” and salivate on cue.

Then of course who wouldn’t? I myself quite like the idea and certainly prefer it to its opposite, a worse, less fair Britain for the chosen few. But, unlike those respondents, I don’t stop there.

I actually look at Labour’s ideas and realise they won’t deliver a better Britain. They’ll deliver an impoverished, isolated, disarmed, tyrannised country inundated with an influx of aliens, shunned by all its traditional allies and bossed by communist apparatchiks, the only few who’d be better off.

The economic tsunami unleashed by Labour won’t just have dire economic consequences. For, as any decent political scientist will tell you, secure private property is the bedrock of liberty. A deficit in one produces a diminution of the other.

Yet property under Labour will be at the mercy of ghouls driven by hatred and envy. Such animus is directed at anyone who has had the temerity to use his mind, hard work and – God forbid – enterprise to acquire a modicum of independence from the state’s tender mercies.

For example, one of many, Labour promises to nationalise all utility companies, forcing their owners to sell at 20p to the pound. Yet the word ‘nationalisation’ doesn’t produce an automatic negative reaction in our thoroughly brainwashed population. So let me replace it with its full synonyms: plunder, robbery, theft – take your pick.

For these companies are publicly owned by their shareholders. Clearly, Corbyn and his gang regard anyone who owns securities as their enemies to be squashed. But if asked how they feel about pensioners, they’d probably claim undying love.

However, most great pension funds are heavily invested in utilities, meaning that pensioners will feel not just the pinch but strangulation.

At the same time, taxes will instantly go up, both on individuals and those businesses that keep individuals in work and, typically, pension funds. How do our dumbed-down voters think companies will respond to a government enacting confiscatory policies?

The answer is, they don’t think. If they did, they’d know that major employers, both foreign and domestic, will follow Dyson and flee as fast as their legs will carry them, closely followed by Jews, rich people and many of those Corbyn regards as rich.

The outflow of capital is already estimated at a trillion pounds, which will turn the country with Europe’s best employment record into one with the worst unemployment (although some EU members will contest this honour).

Actually, that process has already started: the mere threat of a Marxist government has already driven many companies – and the jobs they provided – out of Britain. Imagine the exodus triggered by the actual sight of Corbyn moving his bust of Trotsky into 10 Downing Street.

Not only will the existing new companies leave, but few new businesses will be started. Who will risk money knowing that any gains will be insecure?

Public debt will spin out of control, turning from Tory-exorbitant into Labour-suicidal. Just as tax rates go up, tax revenue will come down because the tax base will be shrinking faster than you can say expropriation.

Draconian laws will be required to keep the population in check. I’m sure that the export of capital will be stopped by despotic laws, and even private individuals won’t be allowed to take more than a few hundred pounds out of the country – and eventually out of the bank.

And of course inflation will spin out of control, as it always does in the face of runaway state spending. Just look at Venezuela, Corbyn’s role model.

Those who think that a Venezuela can’t happen in Britain should look at the history of every country acting as a guinea pig for Marxist experiments. What would happen if communists conquered the Sahara desert? asked an old joke. The answer is, at first nothing – then a severe shortage of sand.

Those who intend to vote Labour explain their decision by the inadequacy of the Tory government. It’s inept, led by nonentities, muddled, indecisive, refusing to abide by the popular vote on Brexit and so on.

All perfectly true and then some, every word of it. But elections aren’t a search for absolute good. They are a relativist exercise in preventing the greater evil.

Voting against a party only makes sense if a realistic hope exists that the other party will do better or at least won’t do much worse. Anyone who feels that such a scenario describes today’s Labour is either an evil saboteur or a blithering idiot.

And I’m optimistic enough to believe that most British voters aren’t evil saboteurs. 

Islam is good and original

But, to paraphrase Dr Johnson, where it’s good it’s not original, and where it’s original it’s not good.

Can we please be allowed to take issue with some “expressions of Muslimness”?

Phew, am I glad I’ve managed to get this out in the nick of time, before such a statement will represent a shortcut to prison.

That time may come soon if the government succumbs to the pressure exerted by Labour, the Liberal Democrats and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan (who is clearly the disinterested party here).

They insist that the government adopt as official their definition of Islamophobia, which according to them is “rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness and perceived Muslimness.”

It’s good to know that our senior politicians still possess enough innate sense of style to come up with such lovely neologisms. Yet I do think we need to distinguish between Muslimness and another neologism, this one my own: Muslimishness.

This is the same thing as Muslimness, but without going the whole hog. Oops, forget the porcine idiom and don’t let anyone know I said it, for one expression of Muslimness may be cutting my throat.

Speaking of which, I wonder if the drafters of the proposed official definition would be amenable to us taking exception to some “expressions of Muslimness”, such as cutting the throats of those who say something Muslims don’t like.

If so, then also exempt from the charge of racism should be targeting such expressions of Muslimness as killing Jews, Christians and other infidels; flying hijacked airliners into tall buildings; blowing up public transport; driving vehicles through crowds of bystanders; spraying with bullets editorial offices of Western papers; desecrating Jewish and Christian cemeteries and places of worship; making women wear Halloween costumes; female genital mutilation; attempts to turn whole towns into Sharia areas; and especially the stoning of adulterers.

Anticipating a possible objection, I hasten to acknowledge that practitioners of the other two Abrahamic religions, Christians and Jews, are also eminently capable of doing horrible things, even if they do draw the line at some of the specifically Muslim practices.

But Muslims are the only people who do such things not in spite of their religion but because of it. Hence chaps like Bugsy Siegel, Meyer Lansky, Al Capone or Lucky Luciano were indeed nasty bits of work. However, it’s hard to insist that they murdered because their religions demanded it – that they were acting out their Judaismness or Catholicness, to use the verbal virtuosity cited above.

Would the new definition cover the observation that Islam is culturally incompatible with the West? I hope not, for this would make us ignore the evidence before our eyes.

If you travel around the UK, you’re bound to come to the same conclusion I’ve come to: for a Muslim to become a good Briton, he has to be a bad Muslim (that’s where my neologism ‘Muslimishness’ comes in).

Thus I have no reason to question the Britishness of Home Secretary Sajid Javid, but I do wonder how British are those schoolchildren in London’s Tower Hamlets, Bradford and Luton who go to Muslim schools, speak Arabic there and at home, watch only Muslim TV, listen only to Muslim radio and are taught that one day the country will become a caliphate.

I’ve seen reports that some of those tots don’t even realise they live in an English-speaking country. Will I be allowed to lament this situation if the new definition of racism is adopted?

We already have a whole raft of Race Relation Acts protecting racial minorities, including those that wish to become majorities, from abuse (and in any case Muslims aren’t a racial minority). We also have numerous laws criminalising personal attacks, including those motivated by religious hatred.

The new law (which is exactly what’s being proposed) is therefore redundant – unless, and only unless, it’s designed to criminalise criticism and to hamper the work of the anti-terrorist police.

Yet what interests me isn’t just the immediate consequences of the proposed law, but the real motivation behind it. The underlying urge is common to the Left, which is the margin where all the drafters reside.

They hate the West and everything it stands for – which happens to be the opposite of Muslim desiderata. That unenviable emotion leads them on a never-ending search for battering rams able to punch holes in the already crumbling walls of our civilisation.

One such battering ram, perhaps the weightiest one, is the promotion of unlimited Muslim immigration to a point where it more closely resembles colonisation. They know that the rapidly expanding Islamic enclaves threaten to engulf vast areas of Britain – which is exactly what they want.

However, this isn’t what most British subjects want, at least those who are sensitive to the menace. Nobody had asked them before turning their neighbourhoods into Kasbahs, and more and more of them resent that. Hence some targeting of “expressions of Muslimness and perceived Muslimness”, which is bound to intensify pari passu with the creeping Islamisation.

The Left, which these days boasts a cross-party parliamentary consensus, will fight any resistance tooth and nail, and not because most of them care about racial equality or Islam (Sadiq Khan is an obvious exception).

What’s at stake is their inner, visceral imperative to destroy, and their professed oversensitivity to Islamophobia, loosely defined, is only one of its manifestations. The entire programme of Corbyn’s Labour will serve the same purpose nicely and instantly.

And speaking of Labour, before they try to cast out the mote of Islamophobia out of our eye, they should first cast out the beam of anti-Semitism out of their own eye.

Oh well, I started with a paraphrase, so I might as well finish with one.