Always remember the 12th of December

This morning I caught a glimpse of the Labour slogan and rubbed my eyes to make sure I hadn’t misread. I had.

Please meet Mr Maduro

For a second there I thought it said “F*** THE MANY NOT THE FEW”, which would have been a welcome, if indecorous, display of truth in campaigning.

Alas, a closer examination revealed that the first word was actually FOR. In comes decorum, out goes truth.

Getting back to the truth, on the eponymous date above Britain will go into the most important general election ever. All other elections might have changed the governing party, for a few years. This one may change the country, for ever.

On 11 December Britain will be like any other Western country, better than some (most, as far as I’m concerned), not as good as some others. But within a few weeks of 12 December, she may become hell on earth, in keeping with my little trompe-l’œil.

For, whatever the polls are saying, it’s entirely possible that Corbyn may succeed Johnson, and this is the first time that the words ‘Corbyn’ and ‘succeed’ have been used in the same sentence.

Other parties in other elections wanted to change what Britain does. The Corbyn-McDonnell gang want to change what Britain is.

They don’t want her to remain a moderate country that, despite being mildly socialist, still retains such civilised amenities as basic freedoms, an economy that keeps her close to the top end of world prosperity, justice that’s residually just, a grumbling but generally content populace, a growing but still manageable crime rate.

They want to turn Britain into an Anglophone Venezuela, an impoverished, violent, lawless hellhole in the midst of a civil war, today bubbling just under the surface, tomorrow splashing out in a red mist.

If just half of Labour’s plans come to fruition, and even if sensible people were allowed to choose which half, that’s what Britain will become – overnight and possibly irreversibly.

The economy will collapse almost instantly: close to a trillion pounds has already left our shores in anticipation, with Sir James Dyson leading the exodus. And Dyson is a British patriot, with not only financial but also emotional capital vested in the country.

Foreign capital, unburdened with such ties, will get out immediately, while the getting is good. Our AA credit rating will go in the blink of an eye: financial markets won’t want to do business with a country where business is regarded as evil, where property is insecure and capital is in danger of confiscation.

Wealth producers will stop producing wealth, or rather they’ll produce it elsewhere. Wholesale nationalisation, extortionate taxation, our customary red tape turning into iron chains will put paid to our prosperity, which is unimaginably high in the historical perspective.

Economic catastrophe won’t be short in coming, but that isn’t the whole story, not even the half of it. For economic repression on a scale planned by Labour is bound to lead to political oppression.

No government has ever succeeded in robbing the people in such a decisive fashion without causing a violent response. Even in Russia, with no tradition of liberty whatsoever, wholesale robbery by the new communist state resulted in a civil war and millions of victims.

Granted, the Bolsheviks resorted to violent repression even before such a reaction, but then the freedom-loving British aren’t Russians. It would take less provocation to set them off.

Nowhere in the world has a political programme akin to one planned by Labour ever been carried out without every liberty being severely curtailed – and without violence perpetrated by the state and those resisting it.

The British haven’t so far had the occasion to develop vigilance against such upheavals, and it’s natural that complacency should set in. People here simply don’t believe that a Venezuela or Zimbabwe can arrive at these shores – but it can.

Civilised institutions take centuries of loving nurture to build, but they can be destroyed in an instant of hateful assault. If history teaches anything, it’s that. Alas, history also teaches that nobody learns from it.

I pray that won’t be the case here, and I hope you’ll join me. But prayer alone isn’t enough (don’t tell Fr Michael I said this).

We must all approach the upcoming election with the gravity it deserves. For a start, this means putting aside resentments, rancour, ideological animus, enmities.

Rather than indulging such red-hot emotions, we must activate ice-cold thinking. Voting guided by febrile emotions – or principles, call them whatever you like – can at this stage be tantamount to national suicide.

All of us – Leavers and Remainers, Tories wet or otherwise, even some Labour members – should ask ourselves a simple question: Would Britain and the British be better off with Corbyn as PM, McDonnel as Chancellor and Abbott as Home Secretary?

If the answer is an emphatic no, as it has to be for anyone other than those bereft of brains but possessed of hate, envy and a desire for revenge, then the next question ought to be the quintessentially British query: What are we going to do about it?

Let’s start by not treating 12 December as a second EU referendum, which is an easy impression to get from our press.

All the Leavers among my friends, which is to say all my friends, are unhappy with the deal Boris Johnson has negotiated. It’s not the kind of Brexit we’d like, but – this can’t be overemphasised – it’s the only one we’re going to get, for the time being.

If tactical voting for the Brexit Party or, nostalgically, UKIP splits the vote and ushers Corbyn into Downing Street, we’re likely to stay in the EU until it disintegrates of its own accord, which I hope will be soon.

Even those whose heart is in their EU home, to paraphrase the revolting flag flown by the Hammersmith & Fulham Council, must decide if they’d want to remain if that meant the national catastrophe of a Trotskyist government, with its ensuing impoverishment, disintegration of social order and tyranny.

Whether we want a better deal, no deal or no Brexit, we must remember what’s at stake on 12 December. Not to be too melodramatic about it, it’s our country, ladies and gentlemen.

Death of a hero

The title is shamelessly stolen from Richard Aldington’s novel about the horrors of war, one of which was the death of the eponymous hero.

As the Russian’s say, may earth be your down

However, at the risk of upsetting veterans, there exists a higher grade of heroism than following one’s comrades over the top: the lonely courage of a man standing up against a satanic regime, alone against the ogre of secret police, pliant courts and browbeaten populace.

It takes much heroism to take on the enemy and fight for one’s country. It takes even more to take on the SYSTEM and fight for one’s soul.

Vladimir Bukovsky was one of the few genuine heroes of my generation, a fighter for the noble cause of human freedom and dignity – everywhere, not just in Russia. His whole life was one continuous scream, echoing St Matthew: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul”.

They did their best to kill his body, but his soul soared so high above their puny reach that they couldn’t even dream of killing it. Bukovsky was a martyr, in the old, real sense.

I use the word ‘martyr’ advisedly, in the knowledge that he did manage to get out of Russia alive. But the bastards did get him by delayed action: his health was ruined by 12 years spent in prisons, labour camps, punitive psychiatric hospitals, endless hunger strikes. That he survived until age 76 is a miracle, but then men like him are known for them.

Bukovsky hated the Soviets, and the feeling was reciprocated. He was 16 when a KGB interrogator asked him: “Why do you hate us so much?” “I don’t hate you,” replied Bukovsky. “I don’t believe you.”

As all his aphorisms, this one rings true. Russian children couldn’t think through the nature of totalitarianism; they were too young to amass enough factual knowledge or indeed to hone the requisite rational faculties. But some of them had an in-built polygraph: they knew the regime was lying to them and shuddered in revulsion. I was one such child, so I know.

Bukovsky was a purer dissident than the Nobel laureates Solzhenitsyn and Sakharov in that his distaste for communism didn’t evolve in his mature years – it was visceral, innate and impervious to doubt. Also, unlike them, he didn’t enjoy the protective cocoon of worldwide fame and could easily have been killed.

And killing him was never far from the Soviets’ mind, for Bukovsky was the first to expose their most sinister crime: committing dissidents to punitive psychiatric care and trying to destroy their minds with massive doses of Thorazine and other psychotropic drugs.

In that diabolical intent they would have succeeded, but for the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. In 1976 he agreed to exchange the imprisoned leader of the Chilean communist party Luis Corvalán for Bukovsky, who was serving a seven-year term of ‘strict regime’.

Incidentally, Pinochet’s Spanish counterpart, Gen. Franco, also saved the lives of Soviet dissidents, Dymshitz and Kuznetsov, who in 1970 tried to hijack a plane as the only way of getting out of the Soviet paradise. Their death sentences were commuted after Franco agreed to do the same for the similarly sentenced ETA terrorists. Characteristically, the liberal West couldn’t (wouldn’t?) do what those widely reviled men did.

Bukovsky’s fight against the KGB is well-documented, and that was the fight he won by outliving the Soviet Union. But Bukovsky knew he hadn’t outlived the Soviet evil.

Looking at the entourage of Gorbachev and then Yeltsyn, all communist party members, Bukovsky correctly observed that no man could have more than two out of three qualities: intelligence, honesty and party membership.

Intelligent party members were knaves; honest ones, fools. His accurate assumption was that an intelligent and honest man couldn’t belong to that criminal organisation.

Bukovsky wasn’t religious, but, like all cultured and moral people, he thought as if he was. He knew that only repentance could stop the wounds inflicted by Soviet crimes from festering.

That’s why, when the Soviet Union ‘collapsed’, he called for a Russian version of the Nuremberg Trials, with all accomplices in Soviet crimes named, shamed and punished. He also insisted that no member of the communist party and especially the KGB should be allowed to hold any government post.

That insistence was as idealistic as it was unrealistic. In the original post-collapse euphoria, Bukovsky failed to realise that all those glasnosts and perestroikas were designed as a gradual transfer of power from the party to the KGB.

When the transfer was complete, he recoiled with horror, seeing that over 80 per cent of the new ruling elite, including Col. Putin himself, had enjoyed KGB careers. Unlike Western useful idiots, the Hitchenses of this world, Bukovsky never described Putin as anything but evil.

If Lenin’s useful idiots came mostly from the left, Putin’s come from the right. The two extremes may be different ideologically, but they are united in their moral decrepitude: by supporting an evil regime they increase and perpetuate evil in this world. Bukovsky saw that with the clarity of a prophet.

Having settled in Cambridge, he remained the moral and intellectual focus of Russian dissent. But Bukovsky’s sensors of incipient totalitarianism everywhere remained finely attuned and calibrated. 

In one of his books, he coined the portmanteau term ‘EUSSR’, correctly perceiving the EU as the USSR-Lite. The ‘Lite’ part is most welcome: so far the EU hasn’t murdered or imprisoned its opponents.

But Bukovsky’s X-ray vision could penetrate beneath the surface: he saw in the EU the same combination of left-wing ideology and unaccountable bureaucratic structure he had abhorred so much back in Russia. One of his well-aimed epigrams was that the Bolsheviks triumphed in Russia, and the Mensheviks (more moderate socialists) in Europe.

Similarly, Bukovsky loathed the fascisoid dictatorship of political correctness, correctly identifying its Soviet-like totalitarian cravings. The Soviet Union remained his frame of reference, which isn’t the worst measuring stick of tyranny, either mature or inchoate.

Freedom hasn’t had a better defender than Vladimir Bukovsky; tyranny, a more implacable enemy. They don’t make men like him any more, which makes one pessimistic about our future. Without martyrs, heroes and seers to confront evil, it’ll triumph – with Bukovsky raving and ranting about it in heaven as much as he did on earth.

Vladimir Bukovsky, RIP.  

“Is this coz I’s Asian?”

Cambridge-educated Labour MP Keith Vaz doesn’t express himself in the Ali G idiom. But he’d be entitled to ask this question, if with better grammar.

Would you buy Westminster Bridge from this man? I know I would.

True enough, all those doubting Thomases who refuse to believe Mr Vaz’s simple explanation of that 2016 incident have to be racists.

Why else wouldn’t they accept his perfectly believable version of the event? But judge for yourself.

Somebody spiked Mr Vaz’s drink in a pub at around 11 pm. Can happen to any 60-year-old man, can’t it? Of course it can.

I don’t know what the drug was, but it did have a peculiar effect. Having sipped his drink, Mr Vaz approached two male prostitutes, introduced himself as a washing machine salesman named Jim and invited them to his flat in North London.

Except that he didn’t know they were rent boys. Mr Vaz thought they were interior decorators, which is an easy mistake to make.

Hence they went to his flat to discuss the colour schemes for a possible redecoration project. Nothing odd about that: midnight on a Saturday is my favourite time for such appointments, as I’m sure it’s yours as well.

Mr Vaz then offered to buy cocaine for the two decorators, although, as he explains, not for himself. Such selfless hospitality is to be expected from our MPs in general and Mr Vaz in particular.

He’s ever ready to offer disinterested help to any good cause, as he did in 1989. Although a Catholic, he led a march of several thousand Muslims in Leicester calling for Salman Rushdie’s book The Satanic Verses to be banned.

Mr Vaz described the march as “one of the great days in the history of Islam and Great Britain”, while desisting from adding that the day would have been even greater had the marchers been able to execute the fatwa declared on Mr Rushdie.

Such ecumenical selflessness does credit to Mr Vaz’s commitment to multiculturalism, than which no greater cause exists. I for one applaud his courage.

Which he also displayed by welcoming his midnight decorators at a considerable risk to himself. After all, cocaine is a Class A drug, which, contrary to what Ali G believed, isn’t a guarantee of quality. It’s more of a guarantee of criminal prosecution, entailing up to seven years in prison for possession and up to life for supplying.

But no risk is too great when one wishes to be kind to interior decorators. Anyway, at that point the spiked drink kicked in, and Mr Vaz suffered an onset of amnesia.

You may doubt that a spiked drink can induce such an effect, but I assure you it’s quite common. Therefore Mr Vaz doesn’t remember then having unprotected sex with the two decorators, as they claim he did.

So it’s his word against theirs, and whom would you rather believe, two prost… I mean decorators or the honourable gentleman who has represented Leicester North since 1987? I rest my case.

Alas, Mr Vaz’s colleagues in parliament didn’t. When the story of his redecoration project first hit the headlines, he was made to apologise to poor Mrs Vaz (for what, wanting his flat to look nice?) and quit as head of the Home Affairs committee.

However, the parliamentarians then got ashamed of their incredulity and a month later appointed Mr Vaz to the Justice Select Committee. They must have surmised – correctly, I hasten to add – that his ordeal gave him unique insights into matters legal.

The police, who as we know are institutionally racist, took a different view. Proceeding at a slow speed characteristic of natural (and police) forces, the other day they reached the outrageous conclusion that Mr Vaz’s version of the event was less than truthful.

As a result, parliament’s sleaze watchdog declared that Mr Vaz had shown “disrespect for the House’s standards system” and caused “significant damage” to the reputation and integrity of the Commons.

Over the past few months I’ve been doubting that the integrity of the Commons could be damaged any further, but evidently it can. Anyway, the watchdog recommended Mr Vaz be suspended for six months, which would be the longest such suspension ever.

And, if approved, the suspension may lead to Mr Vaz’s losing his seat altogether. The news hit the poor man with a mighty bang, and as a result he has been admitted to hospital.

I hope you’ll join me in wishing Mr Vaz a speedy recovery and prompt return to his parliamentary duties. I for one sympathise with the anguish he has had to suffer at the hands of those racist MPs. Come back soon, Keith – at our parliament you fit right in.

Voting age is no argument

It’s almost 50 years since Harold Wilson lowered the voting age from 21 to 18, and one hears much clamouring for it to be lowered even more.

See what happens when children play at politics?

Now, any argument has a ‘what’ and a ‘how’ aspect: the issue at stake and the rhetorical mastery with which it’s put forth. What these days tends to vex me especially isn’t so much the former as the latter.

All of us have at one time or another supported an untenable proposition, especially when young. I for one blush at some beliefs I held in the Russia of my teens, although mine never included what Lenin so aptly called “the infantile disorder of leftishness”.

The tendency in the West, however, is for the young to reach out tropistically for liberal panaceas, whereas the old know there are no panaceas, and if there were, they wouldn’t be liberal (in the newfangled sense of socialist).

This is nothing new, as Edmund Burke pointed out in his masterly decortication of the French Revolution: “He who is not a républicain at twenty compels one to doubt the generosity of his heart; but he who, after thirty, persists, compels one to doubt the soundness of his mind.”

One might question the first part of the aphorism, but, if the experience gathered over millennia is anything to go by, not the second. This, to me, ends the argument about the voting age: it should be raised, rather than lowered to make sure more voters are sound of mind.

Those who, for some unfathomable reason, are interested in my thoughts on the ‘what’ of the issue can tap ‘paedocracy’ into the SELECT feature in this space. However, the issue that most concerns me these days is the ‘how’, which is to say the puerile inanity that these days passes for rhetoric.

Unless they themselves are young, champions of paedocracy argue not from ideas but from ideology. That would be fine, provided they were honest about it. But they aren’t.

They should take heed from Peter Mandelson’s frank cynicism on the subject of the unlimited Muslim immigration he and his boss Blair had fostered. Rather than laying a smokescreen of verbiage about humanitarian concerns, Mandelson admitted nonchalantly that such migrants had been welcomed because they would eventually vote Labour.

One suspects that the same rationale impels those who insist on a lower voting age: the younger people are, the more likely they are to gobble up the leftie pie in the sky that many older people find indigestible.

But our paedocrats don’t own up to their motivation. Instead they try to offer arguments that invariably sound as if they come from the mouths of babes.

Cue in Ed Miliband, who in 2013, when he was leader of the Labour Party, voiced the usual inanity: “The future of our society is going to affect young people the most. When you get to the age of 16 you can join the Army, you can get married, you can pay taxes. I think you should be able to decide the country’s future.”

That’s like saying that a lad who gets a job stacking the shelves at Waitrose is qualified to sit on the John Lewis board. Or that a recent graduate of a football academy can manage a Premiership club. Or, closer to the point, that a youngster who pays a nominal tax is fit to determine the government’s fiscal policy.

Of course, for chronological reasons, youngsters stand to gain or lose the most from today’s political decisions. By the same token, a tot’s future may be affected by his parents’ decision to move house. But that doesn’t mean sensible adults should let a six-year-old make or veto that decision.

Or should they? Enter Prof David Runciman, the head of politics at Cambridge University. Allow me to clarify: Prof Runciman holds one of the world’s highest academic positions to which a political scientist can ascend.

One would expect that, whatever his innermost convictions, someone with his credentials would be able to support them with sound arguments. Alas, that expectation would be forlorn: I’ve heard better political rhetoric around closing time at the King’s Head.

Prof Runciman doesn’t feel the proposal to lower the voting age to 16 goes far enough: “I would lower the voting age to six, not 16. And I’m serious about that.” I’m sure he is. That’s the trouble.

What’s amazing here is Prof Runciman’s lamentable ignorance of the basics of his chosen discipline. To wit: “You should never, never interfere with the basic principle of democracy, which is one person one vote. And you should never take votes away from people.”

The basic principle of democracy is that some people elect their governments – not that all people do that. For example, only about a third of Britain’s population had the vote in 1927: women were disfranchised, as were both sexes under age 21.

Does this mean Britain only became a democracy the next year, when women got the vote? Or did she gain that status only in 1970, when the voting age was lowered to 18? Or do we still have to wait a while longer, when Prof. Runciman’s proposal has been acted upon?

Actually, even by his logic a democratic deficit will still exist: what about the little ones between ages zero and five, who have even more at stake than six-year-olds? Provided they can talk, shouldn’t they vote too to conform to Prof Runciman’s illiterate notions of democracy?

Lest he might be accused of scholarly impartiality, Prof Runciman then let his guard drop: “If 16- or 17-year-olds voted in the 2017 general election, there is a chance that Jeremy Corbyn would now be prime minister,” he wrote with a distinct longing.

For once I agree. He probably would be. Which is the best argument for raising the voting age to 25 at least – 30 would be even better.

My, aren’t we sensitive

The line currently making the rounds is that “Harry and Meghan are single-handedly modernising the royal family.”

Well, first, it’s not so much modernising as destroying, which in this context (and in most others) amounts to the same thing. And second, it’s far from single-handed.

The rot set in when Edward VIII married for ‘lurve’ and as a result became the Duke of Windsor. His beloved was a twice-divorced American woman of easy virtue, who had distinct pro-Nazi sympathies, so that was a meeting not just of bodies but also of minds. 

Then Harry’s father married his mother, or, to use Harry’s preferred idiom, his dad married his mum. That marriage was arranged, which in theory should have worked better than ‘lurve’. In practice, it didn’t.

For Diana was a thoroughly modern woman, meaning that the notions of duty, service and honour were alien to her. She wanted the glamorous life of a princess, but without sacrificing her otherwise insignificant ego and ‘lurve’.

When that didn’t quite work out, Harry’s mum cuckolded his dad many times over and dragged our monarchy through the gauntlet of numerous glossy covers. Devoid of intelligence but richly endowed with cunning, she basked in media attention, while claiming to abhor it.

Her favourite trick was to tell the paparazzi where she’d be, strike all sorts of seductive poses for their benefit and then claim she was deeply traumatised by the subsequent photographs.

Because the royal family refused to accept her on her own terms, Diana declared war on it. The decisive battle was her BBC interview that had a strong emetic effect on sensible viewers. 

Harry’s mum would flap her eyelashes histrionically, break her voice at appropriate moments, pour her heart out and confess she was besotted with Captain Hewitt, whose spitting image Harry is. (To be fair, he also bears some resemblance to Charles’s pictures at the same age, while ginger hair runs in Diana’s family.)

Hence there’s nothing single-handed about Meghan’s current star performance, with Harry playing a supporting role. They have a suitable role model in Harry’s mum, now that the word  ‘mother’ has followed the word ‘he’ into the rubbish bin of lexicology.

Meghan claims to be traumatised by the incessant media attention she draws as a member of the royal family. Because of that, she says in her TV interview modelled on her late mum-in-law’s performance, she and Harry are reduced to bare “surviving”, missing on the “thriving” that’s their due.

Among other things, that’s a hidden reference to her race: “survivin and thrivin” is a stock jive reply to “How’s it goin?”. Here Meghan is using her mum-in-law’s material: she makes constant references to her black half, only then to accuse the media of being obsessed with it.

Thus on her visit to Africa she told impoverished natives she understood their plight as “a mother and a woman of colour”. That’s a hypocritical ploy often used by American black (in her case, half-black) activists who claim to be “Africans like you” – much to the real Africans’ consternation. What they see before them is Americans, not fellow Africans.

The same dishonesty comes across in Meghan’s complaints about the unbearable pressure of a life in the spotlight for which she was unprepared in spite of her friends’ warnings.

“Because I’m American I very naively didn’t get it. It’s complicated,” moans Meghan. But it’s not complicated at all, and if she really doesn’t get it, it’s not because she’s American, but because she isn’t very bright.

This is a Hollywood starlet that has never in her life missed the slightest photo opportunity, including posing nude, to squeeze every ounce of publicity out of her modest talents. Being in front of the camera and having every juicy detail of her private life scrutinised is her stock in trade, so forgive me if I don’t take her whining at face value.

Then came the inevitable New Age bilge about internalising emotions: “I really tried to adopt this British sensibility of a stiff upper lip… But I think what that does internally is probably really damaging.”

The Hollywood sensibility of stiff upper lap comes more naturally, one can understand that. But dignified restraint is really worth developing even if it doesn’t come naturally, and even if one isn’t a member of the royal family. 

It’s simply good manners not to thrust one’s problems down other people’s throats. And self-restraint does no damage, not this side of New Age psychobabble quackery. 

While stiff upper lip is widely associated with Englishness, it’s not an ethnic characteristic, but a cultural one. I’ve seen it displayed by New Englanders and Texans of a certain type as often as by Englishmen and Welshmen, with none of them looking particularly damaged by their emotional continence.

It’s only the brash, tasteless modern ignoramuses keeping Freudian quacks in business who are trained to let it all hang out not just physically but also emotionally. 

This is also a manifestation of the modern tendency towards homogenising men and women into an emotionally hermaphroditic mass, while in parallel infantilising both sexes.

Harry, doubtless taking his cue from his wife, claims his mental health needs “constant maintenance” because his mum’s death is still a “festering wound”. 

Now, Harry was 12 when his mum was tragically killed on her revenge mission against his dad and the rest of the family. He’s 35 now.

This ought to be enough time for any man to come to terms with his mum’s death, tragic as it doubtless was at the time. If he can’t do so, it’s only because he doesn’t realise that’s what grown-ups do, especially if they happen to be men.

Harry is crying out for our sympathy, but he isn’t entitled to it now, certainly not as much as he was in 1997. This emotional blackmail may be calculated or genuine, and I don’t know which is worse.

As to Meghan, she must realise how lucky she is. She has married into a life of wealth and privilege that’s not contingent on her being ‘nice’ to studio executives, agents, producers and directors. Moreover, it’s not vulnerable to age – she’ll still be the Duchess of Sussex even after her looks fade.

A little dignity and good taste seems a small price to pay, but if she genuinely feels it’s too exorbitant, perhaps her idea of moving to Africa with Harry has some merit. Let them renounce their titles, along with Civil List grants, and make a life for themselves among the people Meghan claims to understand so well.

My guess is that they’d be back to the Civil List and A-list delights within a month, two at the most. By the sound of it, Africa’s gain will be our loss.

A room with an awful view

This picture was taken from my dining room window overlooking the New King’s Road. That’s in Fulham, London, in case you’re wondering.

Peeking out, I see that all the lampposts along my stretch of the street are tastefully decorated with flags bearing various messages of EU propaganda.

One message is Proud Members of the EU, and since it’s signed by the Hammersmith & Fulham Council, one has to assume it’s this body that feels the pride in question.

One can further surmise that H&F is pursuing its own foreign policy, independent of the UK, which is after all still looking to be on the way out. Yet presumably, even if Britain does leave, Hammersmith & Fulham doesn’t have to tag along.

But this being a democracy, first the denizens of Fulham must hold their own referendum on whether to stay in the UK or seek national sovereignty. Perhaps we could then declare war on Britain, lose it, and live off the fat of a reconstruction plan for the next century.

Alternatively, we may just receive subsidies from the EU, although this particular borough may face an uphill struggle trying to claim hardship.

I wish I could split away from H&F, but I can’t: a divorce settlement would be too costly and fraught with every manner of inconvenience. Perhaps I could just announce I’m leaving and then stay put. I don’t know, what do you think?

How can they print such tosh?

At times, one craves freedom not of speech, but from it.

Did you vote Leave because the EU isn’t socialist enough?

Yes, of course, the reading public should be exposed to a range of opinions. But with one important and increasingly ignored proviso: opinions that are demonstrably idiotic should fall outside that range.

For example, if someone makes an impassioned case for English weather, then by all means give him newspaper space, even if most people would disagree. But if he then concludes that, because English weather is so lovely, Velazquez is a better painter than Goya, the only space he merits is in the loony bin.

Or else, if Michael Morpurgo’s article in The Times is anything to go by, on yesterday’s anti-Brexit march in Westminster.

Since Mr Morpurgo is a celebrated children’s writer, he knows how to speak to little tots in their own language. Alas, he seems to have forgotten how to speak grown-up.

For grown-ups don’t just shoot from the lip when they talk and especially write. If they reach a conclusion on the basis of the evidence presented, then, before writing, they run at least a rudimentary check to see if the evidence justifies the conclusion.

If the disparity between the two is as vast as in the hypothetical example above, they start again. If they don’t realise the disparity is vast, they are either stupid or mad, and you’ll have to decide which designation applies to Mr Morpurgo.

He starts out by listing nine different ethnic inputs into his own DNA, all of them European. Having thus established his ethnic credentials, he then extrapolates to the royal family, whose origin he traces back to every corner of the continent.

No one will demur at this point: not only Mr Morpurgo and our royal family, but just about everybody can boast multi-ethnic roots. And all white people, wherever they live, are of European descent.

That’s not so much true as a truism, which by itself is a bad sign. But in this case, it’s not by itself.

For, displaying sterling erudition that eight-year-olds would find impressive, Mr Morpurgo then states that ours is “a mongrel language, a magnificent blend, from all over the British Isles and all over Europe”.

Not only that, but “our laws and our early religion have their foundations in Rome, our democracy in Athens. So we do not need a flag or anthem or even a union to be European. We are European. We share Europe’s history, her culture, her learning, her glories and her shames.”

Fine, Britain and all other European countries belong to European culture. Since I knew that when I was indeed eight years old, I yawn but at least I don’t vomit.

Moreover, I agree with Mr Morpurgo, that “we do not need a flag or anthem or even a union to be European”. In other words, if I understand him correctly, we can leave the European Union and still remain European.

But I don’t understand him correctly. Because, in the kind of self-refuting reversal amply covered in psychiatric literature, Mr Morpurgo concludes that we do need “a flag or anthem or even a union” after all. We don’t need the EU to be Europeans, but we do need the EU to be good Europeans.

Because, you see, European nations used to fight like alley cats, but then, one wave of Jean Monnet’s magic wand, and: “in the second half of the 20th century did this change. We built a tunnel: we joined Europe physically. And we joined Europe politically. We joined for business, for trade deals.”

If business and trade deals require a political umbilical cord, one wonders why we didn’t also join the US and dozens of other faraway countries with which we do profitable trade without dissolving our statehood in theirs.

As to the old chestnut of the EU solely responsible for keeping peace “in the second half of the 20th century”, it’s mendacious on every conceivable level.

But for NATO and the US nuclear umbrella, the Soviets would have overrun Western Europe the same way they had overrun the eastern half. And, whenever the EU or any of its precursors tried to interfere in regional conflicts, such as in Yugoslavia, they either did nothing to stem the bloodshed or made it worse.

“We either did not realise or we forgot the reason the EU, the European Community, the Common Market, came into existence and who had created it,” continues Morpurgo.

But we haven’t forgotten. However, those of us who have can refresh their memory by reading what one of the EU godfathers, Jean Monnet, wrote on the subject in the 1950s:

“Europe’s nations should be guided towards the superstate without their people understanding what is happening. This can be accomplished by successive steps, each disguised as having an economic purpose but which will irreversibly lead to federation.”

Europeans, in other words, must be duped into believing that the EU serves economic and other worthy causes, while in fact all it pursues is the socialist dream of a single European, eventually world, superstate.

Those British people who are less gullible than Mr Morpurgo, realised that and voted to get out while the getting was good. But he knows exactly why they did so: because the EU isn’t socialist enough.

The EU “seemed unaware how alienated and threatened and resentful so many millions of our citizens were feeling… [because] the divide between those who have and those who have not is shamefully wide in this country and wide all over Europe.”

Now I know dozens of people, all of them conspicuously brighter and better informed  than Mr Morpurgo, who voted Leave not because they felt there were too many rich Europeans, but because they wanted Britain to remain sovereign.

He then displays a firm grasp of political science by explaining that, because some people are richer than others, “at the heart of Europe, democracy is compromised”. However, overcome with agued passion for democracy, Mr Morpurgo wants to ignore the democratic vote of the British people and stay in the EU. That makes sense. 

“I don’t want a divorce,” concludes Mr Morpurgo. “I do not want to be estranged from Europe.”

But he argued at the beginning that we couldn’t be estranged from Europe even if we wanted to. I get terribly confused, but not as much as Mr Morpurgo.

Equating Europe with the EU may work in a kindergarten, but we’re big boys and girls here. Hence we wonder how a writer can disgorge such drivel. And we wonder even more how a formerly respectable paper can print it.

Why Russia has no chance

How can a country replace a bad regime with a good one? The only possible answer to this question is a resounding and unequivocal “that depends”.

“The values of the Enlightenment” at work

The success of such a transition is predicated on numerous variables. If, for example, a bad regime is an aberration in the country’s generally benign history, this should be a matter of simple backtracking.

If, on the other hand, political goodness is historically scant, things become trickier. There will always be an intellectual elite capable of realising the wicked nature of the present regime – that part is omnipresent.

However, if called to action, such an elite is guaranteed to do more harm than good unless it also envisages a clear pathway to virtue, even understood only in limited political terms.

Believing, as neoconservatives do, that there exists one pathway for all is a woeful lapse of historical knowledge, political nous and indeed common sense. Political panaceas are as impossible as pharmaceutical ones.

For the Phoenix of goodness to rise out of the ashes of wickedness, the bird has to be sent in flight by an intellectually powered idea: the Word is at the beginning of good statecraft as much as of everything else.

This idea can’t be borrowed ready-made and wholesale from someone else. That works about as well as a hired dinner suit: it doesn’t. Some elements of foreign practices can be successfully imported, but their square angles need to be filed off for them to fit into the round holes of the indigenous ethos. 

Without overburdening you with historical references, here’s just one: Lee Kuan Yew, who governed Singapore for 30 years and led it to the best destination the country could possibly have reached.

LKY decided that Singapore could only succeed if it adopted both the language and the traditional economic policies of the Anglo-Saxons, but without losing some essential aspects of its own tradition coded into the nation’s DNA.

This effort was a spectacular success: Singapore became prosperous, clean (if a tad antiseptic) and law-abiding. What it didn’t become is a carbon copy of British or American democracy – LKY realised that would be impossible to wedge into the country’s tradition.

Such political wisdom doesn’t exist in Russia and never has. The list of sublime Russian writers will reel off one’s tongue without a moment’s hesitation; the list of interesting metaphysical thinkers will be shorter but still impressive.

However, one struggles to find a single valuable contribution Russians have made to political or legal theory. Characteristically, Nikolai Lossky’s History of Russian Philosophy devotes 57 pages to Vladimir Soloviov (d. 1900, one of those interesting metaphysical thinkers I mentioned) and only two to all the Russian philosophers of law combined.

If Russian political thought was embryonic a century ago, it has since managed to go backwards even from that inauspicious position. Today’s Russian political commentators sound like little girls who thrust their little feet into Mummy’s shoes, thinking they could thereby become just like Mummy.

They want Russia to be like the West, but without 3,000 years of the same agonising, today meandering, tomorrow kaleidoscopic development informed by the best political, legal, religious and social thinkers the world has ever produced.

I’m specifically talking about the liberal commentators, those who sound perfectly grown-up when pointing out the evil nature of Putin’s kleptofascist regime. That part is easy for anyone with eyes to see, provided those eyes aren’t clouded by the noxious fumes of ideology or the fog of ignorance.

Many of them point out Putin’s age and set their hopes on anno domini – the good colonel is 67, so another 20 years of the same thievery, oppression and rabid aggression is unlikely.

That is, barring a popular uprising many of them see as likely. The Putin junta will be swept away and… Yes, quite. They don’t really know, and I for one shudder to think what may come next, given the quality of the opposition.

Those liberals resemble Lenin’s Bolsheviks in one respect: they want to dislodge the present regime and put themselves in power, but without much of a clue about how to use that power. When pressed, they spout general phrases suggesting that Russia could simply follow ‘the West’, with all its institutions and practices.

I put ‘the West’ in quotes because those Russians see it as an idealised monolith, a faithful reflection of the worldview spun by the liberal press: the Guardian, Le Monde and the New York Times are to them the sole prophets of ‘Western’ virtue.

Mention to them that the West has another, conservative strain of political wisdom, one that predates those venerable publications by millennia, and they’ll start flapping their wings like the aforementioned Phoenix. The word ‘conservatism’ is irreparably compromised in their minds by its association with Putin.

Conservatism to them means a KGB government with a KGB Church in tow, a small KGB/gangster elite looting billions from an impoverished population, suppressed freedom of speech, obedient courts passing sentences predetermined in the Kremlin, rehabilitation of Stalin, imperial effrontery, a constant stream of lies on TV, homosexuals and ethnics beaten up in the street, peaceful demonstrations only resulting in busted heads and arrests etc.

Fair enough, ‘conservatism’, when used as quasi-traditionalist camouflage for Putin’s kleptofascism does mean all those things. However, those liberals don’t seem to be aware that it has nothing to do with the conservatism that produced all those institutions they profess to admire.

Let me show you what I mean by translating a typical piece of writing. The author, one of the best the opposition has, is writing an obituary for his colleague, Yevgeniy (diminutively ‘Zhenia’) Ikhlov:

“Zhenia and I belonged to the same camp… the camp of defenders of the  Enlightenment values. The values of rationalism, humanism and progress. The values of liberty and human rights.

“In our time of rampant utilitarianism, cynicism and post-modernism these values are spat upon and mocked as naïve delusions of a Western civilisation in its youth. But Zhenia believed in them. He believed in liberty… Human rights for all. The rights of man and citizen. In the very 1789 sense… Like me, Zhenia belonged to the camp of Liberty-Equality-Fraternity…”

Concentration camps ineluctably spin out of the one cherished by the author and his late friend, especially in countries without a long tradition of the rule of just law.

Also, it takes particular, and in matters political particularly Russian, ignorance not to realise that “utilitarianism” isn’t a denial of the “Enlightenment values”, but as much their assertion as are “rationalism” and “progress”. Or that the central element of the worshipped triad, Equality, makes the other two impossible. Or that “the values of liberty and human rights” come from Christianity, not from the mayhem “in the very 1789 sense”.

I don’t intend to launch a frontal assault on “the camp of Liberty-Equality-Fraternity”. That would be repeating myself, as the readers of my books and surfers of this space will confirm.

The passage above is only an illustration of the paucity of thought evinced by the only available Russian opposition to Putin. With enemies like that, he doesn’t need friends.

Deal or no deal?

We’ve been playing this game for over three years now, and few of us have enjoyed it. The game may or may not end tomorrow, but at least we’re closer than we’ve been.

It’s hard to smile when one is holding one’s breath

It says a lot about our parliamentarians that many of them are bitching about having to go to work on a Saturday. Indeed, what’s national sovereignty compared to a relaxed weekend with a mammal of one’s choice?

Now, what do we call leaving without saying good-bye? The English talk about ‘French leave’, thus putting the blame for such rudeness squarely at Gallic feet. Not to be outdone, the French put the boot on the other foot by calling it filer à langlaise, ‘English leave’.

(A propos of nothing, the same linguistic ping pong is played with a certain contraceptive device the English sometimes call ‘French letters’ and the French capote anglaise.)

Every ‘Brexit deal’ mooted so far has introduced a new idiom: ‘EU leave’, which is saying good-bye without really leaving. Now what about the deal our MPs, still reeling from their ruined weekends, are going to debate tomorrow?

There are only two respectable stances on this debate, one typified by Boris Johnson, the other by Nigel Farage. Those who want to scupper Brexit, deal or no deal, can be contemptuously dismissed on more grounds than can be even listed here.

The Boris view is that, though the deal he has negotiated with the EU is a compromise, it’s the best compromise we’ll ever get. The Nigel view is that the proposed deal amounts to taking EU leave.

The Boris view is more pragmatic; the Nigel one is more principled. My view is that they are both right, and I hope this sitting on the fence won’t cause lasting genital damage.

Boris Johnson has every reason to be proud: he has achieved in three months what Mrs May failed to do in three years. Johnson’s superior human qualities apart, this difference is due to their positions at the starting blocks: Johnson actually wanted to leave and May didn’t.

However, his deal (dread word) has strong elements of ‘EU leave’ about it. First, there’s the question of Ireland.

Mr Johnson’s deal is different from Mrs May’s in that the hated backstop will now apply to Northern Ireland only, not the whole of the UK. That means that, for all economic purposes, Northern Ireland will stay in the EU, while also being able to benefit from whatever windfall is expected to boost the post-Brexit British economy.

I don’t find the positives of this arrangement instantly persuasive. Effectively this means that different parts of the UK will have different customs laws, thereby defying the traditional definition of a united commonwealth. Next thing we know, Scotland and Wales will demand the same status, and they’ll have a point.

The argument against having a hard border between the Republic and Northern Ireland is that it would jeopardise the Good Friday Agreement, concocted by the combined efforts of two spivs going by their diminutive names, Tony Blair and Bill Clinton.

Good riddance, I say. The Good Friday Agreement represented abject surrender to mass murderers. It elevated thugs like Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness to the status of statesmen and members of Parliament – which they had tried to blow up. At least they were honest enough to decline that honour.

Of course, neither hypostasis of Boris Johnson, politician and journalist, would ever be able to enunciate such a thought this side of a boozy Bullingdon Club reunion. The Good Friday Agreement has been elevated to secular sainthood, and an auto-da-fé awaits any heretic.

Then there’s the Level Playing Field clause of the proposed deal. Without getting bogged down in detail, it means that Britain will have to continue to abide by EU social and environmental regulations, no matter how perverse, which usually means very.

Please correct me if I’m wrong, but the whole economic case for Brexit wasn’t just acquiring the freedom to sign our own trade agreements, but also getting rid of the EU red tape tying our businesses hand and foot.

One understands why the EU crammed that clause down Britain’s throat: their own competitive position getting shakier by the day, they don’t want Britain to undercut them on regulations.

Yet there I was, thinking that Brexit was supposed to strengthen our competitiveness, not tie us forever to the apron strings of the unaccountable, unwieldy EU bureaucracy. It’s partly the millstone of regulations that’s dragging both Germany and France into a recession. Do we really wish to follow them, lemmings-style?

No deal is the principled position, and Nigel Farage ought to be commended for sticking to it. Let’s not forget that it’s largely his intransigence that forced that ‘heir to Blair’ into the referendum in the first place.

Farage’s view is that we should ditch Johnson’s deal and ask the EU for an extension (which Juncker said wouldn’t be granted, but then he might have been in his cups). The Tories and the Brexit Party will then go into a general election as a bloc and win a decisive majority, at last making Nigel an MP.

A new parliament of committed Leavers will vote for a clean break with the EU, and we’ll all live happily thereafter in the post-Brexit paradise. And whatever short-term economic pain we’ll suffer will be greatly alleviated by the £39 billion divorce settlement we’ll get to keep.

However, the first duty of government isn’t to create paradise on earth, but to prevent hell on earth. And that’s what the Nigel position is risking.

It’s not a foregone conclusion that our comprehensively educated masses will grasp the difference between May’s procrastination and Johnson’s extension. The Brexit consensus, such as it is, may disintegrate and the electorate may hold the Johnson-Farage bloc responsible for the mess.

As a result, we may get no Brexit and, which is even worse, a Corbyn-McDonnell government. That’s precisely the hell on earth that governments are instituted to prevent.

I can’t calculate the odds for and against such a development – I don’t think anyone can. But let’s assume that the likelihood of such a disaster is no more than 20 per cent. Would you risk the survival of your family on such odds? I wouldn’t either, and neither should we accept them when the survival of Britain qua Britain is at stake.

Hence, wincing from both physical and moral pain, I climb off the fence. The possibility of such a hellish outcome is too great a risk to take. If I were an MP – perish the thought – I’d vote for Johnson’s deal.

Then, letting the dust settle after a year or two, we’d be able to decide which parts of it to keep and which to abandon. With apologies to Shakespeare, some deals are more honoured in the breach than in the observance.

Yes, I know that would be dishonest, but do let’s be consistent pragmatists, taking our cue from Messrs Machiavelli, Burghley and Talleyrand – especially if Marx and Trotsky are looming as the alternative. 

It’s not Kurds, it’s NATO

Trump-bashing has become a worldwide obsession, a spittle-sputtering, mouth-frothing mania from which I don’t suffer.

“Hey, Tayyip, I know where you live.”

Whenever a politician is savagely attacked, I always invite people to consider the options. Making negative statements is easy; offering positive solutions is a task that defeats most critics.

What’s the alternative to Trump? Warren? Biden? Sanders? If I dusted off my old US passport and chose to take part in the next election, I’d be as likely to vote for the reincarnated spirit of Heinrich Himmler as for any of them.

Whether I’d be able to vote for Trump would largely depend on the nature of his intimacy with Putin. If I couldn’t find a benign explanation for it, I’d probably give the election a miss altogether.

So far I’ve steadfastly refused to jump on the bandwagon driven by those who claim that Trump is but a puppet on Putin’s string. Some ascribe this subservient status to natural affinity, others to more sinister motives.

That some link exists is beyond doubt, although for old times’ sake we should refrain from accusing a man of treason in the absence of prima facie evidence to support such a charge. However, even if Trump isn’t Putin’s agent, at times one wonders how differently he’d act if he were.

What’s unfolding in northern Syria is one such instance. Trump has blithely betrayed America’s Kurdish allies and invited Erdogan to launch an aggressive incursion.

By way of justification he has used all sorts of increasingly bizarre statements, such as that America owes no debt to the Kurds because they took no part in the D-Day landing.

Neither did any of today’s NATO members, with a partial exception of the Poles. A few Dutchmen, for example, might have come along for the ride, but certainly not as many as the 20,000 of them who served in the Waffen SS.

Does this mean the US owes no obligation to defend Holland against aggression? And as to the Germans, not only did they not jump on those landing craft, but they even inflicted 10,000 casualties on those who did. Does this mean Germany isn’t protected by Article 5 of the NATO Charter?

The Kurds, says Trump, are “no angels” and “more of a terrorist threat in many ways than Isis.” That’s irrelevant if true. If America only ever offered protection to nice people, the Saudis would have been overrun by Iran a long time ago.

One gets the impression that Trump’s approach to politics is mostly informed by his lifelong career of building glittering monuments to venality and bad taste for ethnically diverse Mafiosi.

He doesn’t seem to realise that foreign relations don’t boil down to personal relationships and mutual pecuniary benefit. There are powers in the world that pursue ends that have no monetary equivalent.

Such powers are driven by wicked motives compelling them to act as global bullies. They can’t be mollified by smiley handshakes and confidential exchanges. Resolute strength is the only possible counterbalance.

It’s to stop the expansion of one such power, the Soviet Union, that NATO was created in 1949. Turkey was drawn into the alliance to protect NATO’s southern flank. She’s home to NATO, mostly US, bases and a recipient of NATO, mostly US, arms.

If Turkey wobbles in her commitment to the Western alliance, the alliance will wobble too; if Turkey switches sides, NATO will be badly, perhaps fatally, wounded.

Now Trump clearly doesn’t see Russia as a threat, a typological heir to the USSR. After all, today’s rulers of Russia, and especially his friend Vlad, don’t want to kill all capitalists.

On the contrary, they are sort of capitalists themselves, as obsessed with money as any American property developer. Fair enough, they do spout a never-ending stream of anti-American invective, but only because Congress doesn’t let Trump meet them halfway.

If Vlad wants to help himself to a few marginal countries or peoples in the vicinity of Russia, that’s just fine and dandy with Donald – as long as he and Vlad see eye to eye on the important things in life.

Some of those countries may not be so marginal; others may even be NATO members. But that doesn’t matter to Trump. What’s important is that both he and Vlad, along with their nearest and dearest, continue to avoid war and prosper.

The day after Trump announced the withdrawal of US troops from northern Syria and openly encouraged Erdogan to intervene, the strategic balance in the Middle East – possibly the world – shifted.

Turkey began to act as Russia’s proxy, clearing the way for Putin’s kleptofascist empire to carve up Syria and get a permanent foothold in the region. She’ll then be controlling the crossroads of the global oil routes, reaping rich rewards in both money and power.

It’s not as if Trump didn’t realise this. He does – and welcomes it. “Syria may have some help with Russia and that’s fine,” he said with astounding cynicism. “It’s a lot of sand.” That sand is so saturated with blood spilled over millennia that one is tempted to think it’s important enough not to dismiss so casually.

If probed, Trump would probably describe himself as a realpolitik pragmatist, thinking in the practical categories of national interest, understood solely in economic terms. If so, he must realise that NATO isn’t just a protector of small nations, but also a conduit of America’s global influence.

Dismantling this guarantor of peace in Europe for 70 years would hurt America’s economic interests, to put the problem in the language Trump understands.

And empowering an evil regime that doesn’t even bother to conceal that it sees the West as an enemy may embolden it to take desperate steps.

To roll it back would then be considerably costlier than to keep it in check before it has gathered a full head of steam. And that cost would be denominated not only in blood but also in money.

However, Trump is doing his best to undermine NATO by pushing Turkey into Putin’s embrace. For example, leaked to the press yesterday was Trump’s insulting letter to Erdogan written a week ago.

As a young man Trump must have read How to Win Friends and Influence People; it’s his kind of book. But, judging by the letter, he didn’t grasp its key points.

“Let’s work out a good deal!” starts Trump in his inimitable manner. “You don’t want to be responsible for slaughtering thousands of people, and I don’t want to be responsible for destroying the Turkish economy – and I will.” In other words, by all means act as Putin’s vanguard, but do it nicely.

He started as he meant to go on: “Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool!” Trump writes at the end.

Now, Turks are known for their pride. If Trump thinks this combination of threats and insults will keep Erdogan on side, he’s sorely mistaken.

The threats are empty anyway: he can’t destroy Turkey’s economy. He can hurt it, but Vlad will be there to take up the slack with an open chequebook and a steady supply of arms and energy. But the insults are real, practically guaranteed to alienate Turkey from NATO.

As I said earlier, I don’t know if Trump is doing Putin’s bidding because of some kind of cloak-and-dagger ‘deal’. It may be just ignorance and naivety. But, in the practical categories Trump swears by, it doesn’t really matter.