Less Catholic than the Pope

Just to think that a mere seven years ago we had a real Catholic Pope, one who devoted his whole life to upholding Christian doctrine.

Our Catholic Pope

This is what Benedict XVI said about the issue that’s so close to his successor’s woke heart: “A century ago, anyone would have thought it absurd to talk about homosexual marriage.”

He then added that homomarriage, abortion and reproductive technologies were of the Antichrist. “Modern society is in the middle of formulating an anti-Christian creed,” said His Holiness, “and if one opposes it, one is being punished by society with excommunication.”

No one has to be a Catholic or, more generally, a Christian. However, no Catholic or, more generally, no Christian would have a leg to stand on if he tried to object. For the view expressed by the Pope has scriptural antecedents in both Testaments.

In the two millennia that passed since St Paul wrote on this issue in his epistles to Romans, Corinthians and Timothy, the Church accepted his view as sacred truth. Then, seven years ago, when Pope Benedict was forced off his throne, things began to change.

Pope Francis clearly dreads excommunication from secular society with its increasingly subversive and anti-Christian diktats. Going against Christian doctrine, the teaching of the Church and its entire history, on the other hand, is no problem at all.

Hence, halfway through a documentary film about him, Pope Francis endorsed homosexual civil unions: “Homosexual people have the right to be in a family. They are children of God. Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable over it. What we have to have is a civil union law; that way they are legally covered.”

The pontiff’s concern for the minutiae of secular law is touching. It’s comforting to know that the Pope is ready to veer outside his remit and engage in legal debates. Or rather it would be comforting if such forays didn’t come at the expense of his core business.

It’s interesting to follow his logic though. If all God’s children have the right to form a family, why not marry homosexuals in church? What’s food for the goose of the registrar ought to be food for the gander of the priest. Denying that is like saying that burglars have a right to rob my neighbour, but not me.

The rationale given by his Holiness is sheer demagoguery. Of course, homosexuals are children of God. That’s why they must be loved and treated with dignity, like all God’s creatures made in His image and likeness.

Not that I am drawing any direct parallels, but the same goes for thieves, murderers and even Jeremy Corbyn. We as Christians are duty-bound to love them, treat them kindly and pray for their salvation. But that doesn’t mean we should endorse their actions, or desist from stopping them by every available means.

The Church expresses this concept tersely: love the sinner, hate the sin. On the other hand, Pope Francis is saying that not only must the sinner be loved, but also that his sin must be actively endorsed. In Christianity, this is called heresy. In logic, this is called a category error.

This Pope is unlikely to renounce the former, but he’ll probably correct the latter before long – by declaring that homosexuality is no longer a sin and homomarriage should be given a sacramental status in the Church. On balance, I’d rather he stayed illogical.

Our ads are racist and sexist

Wearing my two hats, one of a champion of progress, the other of an ex-adman, I am appalled. For the current trend in British advertising violates my most cherished principles.

One of them is that any public communication featuring images of people must faithfully reflect the demographic makeup of the whole population. The same principle must also apply to any professional group, be that the board of a bank or the government of the country.

You’ll agree that any violation of this postulate betokens racism, favouring one racial group over others. This, as we know, is the eighth deadly sin, much worse than the other seven.

Admittedly, it took me a while to accept this principle that now seems self-evident. Progress took its time to work its way into my viscera, but now it dominates every humour in my body and soul (this last word shouldn’t be taken literally: every progressive person of any of the 74 known sexes knows that the soul is but a figment of reactionary imagination).

That’s why it’s with great anguish that I have to report being greatly offended by current TV and print advertisements. For they flagrantly violate the sacred principle of proportional demographic representation I hold so dear.

Take black Britons, for example (I hope you realise that I’m using the questionable term ‘black’ for brevity only – ‘British persons of Afro-Caribbean descent’ is morally correct but rhetorically long). They make up 3.4 per cent of the British population.

Thus, 3.4 per cent of any group shown on public media, specifically in advertising, must be black. I not only accept this principle but salute it with both hands.

However, while I don’t have any statistics at my disposal, anyone watching TV will confirm that the actual proportion is higher by an order of magnitude. At least one of every three people shown in commercials seems to be black.

Now, any adman will tell you that a photograph of potential customers should reflect the target audience for the brand. Some brands are specifically aimed at black audiences, and in my time I did quite a few such ads.

Moreover, when I worked in New York, whole agencies existed that specialised in black markets exclusively. I did some freelance work for them because I had a knack for talking to black audiences – why, I don’t have a clue.

However, the other day I caught a commercial for Peter Jones, the department store in Sloane Square that separates Chelsea from Belgravia. Living as we do just down the road, Penelope often shops there, and I sometimes tag along to make sure she doesn’t take too many liberties with the charge card.

I’m not sure that in the 30-odd years I’ve ever seen a black family shopping there, appalling as this fact is. But now I have – in a TV commercial for the store. Why such demographic chicanery?

No advertising agency would aim a campaign for Peter Jones at a black target group. Very few black live in the vicinity, and one doesn’t run into too many black Sloanies.

Hence ads featuring them miss the target audience, which no agency worth its salt ever used to do. Much as it pains me to say this about my former colleagues, they seem to be sacrificing professional integrity for… what exactly? Political correctness? Propaganda? Virtue signalling?

It’s not just this particular campaign. A new arrival in England who knows nothing about the country and wishes to fill that vacuum by watching TV commercials will get a wrong idea about his new country’s demographics.

Blacks and Asians together make up about 10 per cent of the population. Hence, if we stuck to the principle of proportional racial representation, one out of 10 actors and models appearing in ads should come from those groups. The actual percentage is much higher, although it would take serious research to establish the exact numbers.

The same goes for homosexuals. The most reliable study I’ve seen showed that only about 1.4 per cent of Britons favour their own sex. Yet advertising certainly features a much higher percentage. It’s as if the ads were meant to be aspirational, showing life not as it is, but as it’s supposed to be.

The champion of progress in me rejoices; the former adman weeps. Since advertising budgets are tightening up to suffocation, precise targeting becomes even more vital than ever. One has to admit with much chagrin that many of our advertisers pursue – or are forced to pursue – other than merely commercial objectives.

Just to think that in the past advertising was just a way of flogging brands. Now it has to multi-task, to use a fashionable phrase. Long live progress, I say. And if it necessarily includes racism, then so be it — provided it’s the right kind of racism.

God let Boris down

A fortnight ago Boris Johnson must have appealed to God’s mercy.

Let’s put them up in Westminster. There’s always plenty of wind there

“Lord,” said Johnson genuflecting, “I’m going to pledge in the Commons that wind farms will power every British home within a decade.

“But can thou please help me out, in the name of political correctness and therefore my political career? I beseech thee, oh Lord, to keep the wind nice and strong in perpetuity for, as thou knowest, with no wind those bloo… sorry, those glorious turbines won’t keep turning. And, cripes, Lord, if they don’t turn, thy chosen country, Britain, will freeze in the dark.

“More important, Lord, I, thy intermittently faithful servant, shall be reviled in all eternity. So please, please do this little thing for me, Lord, and I’ll let thy bishops mouth any old rubbish without ever contradicting them.”

To be fair to our devout PM, he kept his end of the bargain: Number 10 didn’t reject the bishops’ petition containing helpful advice on foreign policy, and nor did it tell them to mind their own business, which is far from being in order.

But the deity was blatantly in default. In fact, during that conversation He had told Johnson not to keep his hopes up high.

“I’ll do what I can, my son,” said God. “But behold, my stock in trade is keeping the winds down, not up. Remember my Scripture? ‘And he arose, and he rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind eased, and there was a great calm’.”

Yet Johnson didn’t heed that fair warning. The next day he stood up and shouted at his fellow MPs (even though some of them aren’t fellows, I hasten to add): “You heard me right. Your kettle, your washing machine, your cooker, your heating, your plug-in electric vehicle – the whole lot of them will get their juice cleanly and without guilt from the breezes that blow around these islands.”

I didn’t realise that household appliances are capable of feeling guilt, as Mr Johnson’s locution implied, but there we have it. Alas, all those contraptions immediately headed for trouble, for God Almighty was as good as his word.

A few days after the PM made his momentous promise, “the breezes that blow around these islands” were rebuked by God, and there was great calm – that is, everywhere but at National Grid’s good offices.

The utility company, responsible for keeping the country warm and light, screamed bloody murder in its customary bureaucratese: “Unusually low wind output coinciding with a number of generator outages means the cushion of spare capacity we operate the system with has been reduced. We’re exploring measures & actions to make sure there is enough generation available to increase our buffer of capacity.”

Allow me to translate. Because there was no wind to speak of, National Grid had to dip into the emergency reserves supplied by traditional sources, those that don’t depend as immediately on God’s benevolence.

However, what happens a few years down the road if God plays the same trick again and Britain has no traditional energy sources to fall back on? Let’s not forget that by that time the grid will also have to accommodate several more million electric cars, all thirsty for their fair share of clean, guiltless juice. 

That possibility doesn’t bear thinking about and, to give Mr Johnson his due, he doesn’t think about it. Instead he thinks that by the time that cataclysmic blackout arrives, he’ll have finished his political career on his own terms. He’ll be raking in millions by tossing off memoirs and articles, speaking at boozy fundraisers, sitting on countless boards and taking bungs for introducing foreign gangsters to his successors.

And if a Dark Age arrives in Britain, he’ll happily up sticks and retreat to a country that’s not quite so advanced in its march towards progress. France could be good, what with Mr Johnson already fluent in her language. As to the rest of us, it’s sauve qui peut.

My quarrel isn’t really with the PM. He’s the usual garden variety spiv washed into Downing Street by the wave of universal, and increasingly illiterate, suffrage. What does sadden me no end is a society totalitarian in its thought, if not quite yet in its methods.

Being a literate sort, Mr Johnson has doubtless read a few serious books (such as Heaven and Earth by Ian Plimer) that debunk, reams of data in hand, the hysteria about anthropogenic global warming for the scam it is.

Hence he knows that man’s actions play an infinitesimal role, if any, in climate changes, compared to the impact of solar activity and a myriad other factors studied by, inter alia, astronomy, geology, solar physics, astrophysics, palaeontology, tectonics, oceanography, geochemistry and volcanology.

He must be aware that for 80 per cent of its history the Earth has been warmer than it is now, and that ecological catastrophes have only ever been caused by periods of cooling rather than warming. Of course he is. But for our peerless leaders, it’s the denial of knowledge that is power.

Given the progress in information technology, and the concomitant regress in public intelligence, new orthodoxies take months, rather than centuries, to hatch. But they are none the less intractable for it: obey them or else.

No deviation, heresy or apostasy is allowed; no flexibility is built in. New, fake, orthodoxies are chiselled in stone for ever, or at least until next month, when new ones arrive. No public official can possibly come across as a global warming denier and still hope to keep his job.

And keeping their jobs, or getting better ones, has become the sole purpose of governance in Britain. So we’re going to revert to the days before the Industrial Revolution, when energy was only produced by wind, water or muscle.

That’s the thing about modernity: it’s a snake devouring its own tail. First it fraudulently holds up technological progress as its principal redeeming feature; second, it destroys that progress when it comes in conflict with some zig or zag of its ideological pieties.

So let’s wait for a new Don Quixote, who’ll attack those wind farms on his trusted Rocinante, if with better result. That’s our only hope.   

The most repulsive article of the year

Admittedly, this winner emerges out of a one-man poll, and one man’s experience is limited. So let’s just say that Jonathan Meades’s Telegraph review of the book The International Brigades is the most repulsive article I’ve read in a long time, and certainly this year.

The background to the Spanish Civil War

The first paragraph tells you everything you need to know: “In reality, [the Spanish Civil War] was a despicable Catholic crusade against socialists, communists, anarchists, secularists, modernists, liberals and unaffiliated adventurers…”

Take the derogatory adjective out, and the description is accurate. That’s exactly what that war was, and thank God for that. To any normal person, such a crusade would merit adjectives like ‘noble’, ‘gallant’ or ‘honourable’.

Yet to Mr Meades it only rates ‘despicable’ and ‘Catholic’, two modifiers he clearly regards as equally pejorative if not quite fully synonymous. By inference, he finds it appalling that anyone, especially Catholics, would wish to stop the human types he enumerates so lovingly.

I’m always amazed how that war still excites imaginations, especially those inflamed by leftie passions. It’s as if the left, having lost the war on the battlefield, is now trying to win it by retrospective propaganda offensives.

Even after the horrors perpetrated all over the world by those so beloved of Mr Meades became common knowledge, his ilk still can’t control their posthumous hatred of Franco. That’s understandable: he was the first man to stop communism by force in a full-blown war.

However, that’s par for the leftie course. Practically everyone writing about the Spanish Civil War toes the same line, although not everyone defines Franco’s motives with Mr Meades’s commendable accuracy.

That war provides the quickest test of political affiliation. If you want to know where someone stands politically, ask him if he thinks the right side won the Spanish Civil War. Anyone who answers yes is a conservative, anyone who answers no is, well, not.

That Mr Meades’s answer is a shrill no doesn’t by itself qualify him for the distinction in the title above. Yet how he goes about making his point does, for seldom does one encounter such a combination of ignorance, stridency and mendacity.

For those of you who have more important things in life than reading about the Spanish Civil War, the International Brigades were the volunteer shock troops of Comintern (the Communist International), which is to say of Stalin.

The Soviets created it in 1919 for the explicit purpose of fomenting a world revolution. Comintern used espionage, subversion and propaganda to turn the whole world into the blood-soaked, starving, disease-ridden hell the Soviet Union was already.

Those who serve hell are commonly known as devils, and that’s exactly what International Brigade recruits were. True, some of them were merely misguided, meaning they served satanic objectives out of stupidity rather than evil.

That, I suppose, matters to the salvation of their souls, but not for any practical purposes. Those who serve evil are themselves evil – unkind but true.

To Mr Meades, those recruits are something else entirely: “Many merely shared a commitment to democracy and the labour movement… [They were] modest people in pursuit of justice.”

That is, democracy and justice as exemplified by Stalin’s Russia, where millions had already been butchered and the rest enslaved. As to the labour movement, any manifestation of it in the Soviet Union was welcomed with machinegun bursts, kangaroo trials, mass executions and concentration camps.

I keep writing about the Soviet Union because not one of the 3,000 words in Mr Meades’s article mentions the Soviet involvement in that war. He does mention in passing a “bloody war-within-the-war [between the Stalinists and the Trotskyists] in Barcelona”, which sounds like an internecine conflict among Spaniards.

In fact, by that time the Soviets, using the International Brigades as their vanguard, had taken full control of the Republican side. The massacre of the Trotskyists and the anarchists (I’m not shedding any tears for them, by the way) was a purge conducted by the NKVD in parallel with similar actions in the Soviet Union proper.

One of the men murdered in those purges was José Robles, a friend to both Hemingway and Dos Passos, who were at the time producing a propaganda film about the war. Appalled by the murder, Dos Passos quit the project and eventually became a conservative. Hemingway finished that cinematic NKVD op on his own, editing Robles out.

Mr Meades spares no words in fuming about the help Franco received from Hitler and Mussolini, tacitly assisted by “Stanley Baldwin and Anthony Eden, who like most men of their social class dreaded communism more than fascism…”. And yes: “Without [Germany and Italy], Franco would have been defeated and democracy sustained.”

Had Franco been defeated, Spain would have become in 1936 another Romania, circa 1948. That seems to be Mr Meades’s idea of a democracy sustained. However, Franco would have routed the Republicans singlehandedly had they not received massive assistance from Stalin.

Soviet generals advised, and often led, the Republican armies. Soviet pilots flew combat missions in their Soviet Seagull and I-16 fighter planes. Soviet tank crews were employing pincer thrusts in their Soviet BT tanks. Soviet officers ran Republican intelligence and counterintelligence (stealing Spain’s gold reserves in the process).

Since Mr Meades can’t possibly be ignorant of these facts, his failure to mention them even obliquely testifies to the kind of dishonesty that ought to surprise even those familiar with the standards of left-wing journalism. That it’s practised in a supposedly conservative paper should, however, come as a slight surprise.

Mr Meades creates the impression that the Republicans were basically disarmed: “The efforts of the French air minister Pierre Cot, who sold the Republicans aircraft on the sly, were in vain.” Meaning what? That the Republicans had no warplanes to fly?

None of this is to say that Franco was a little angel. But neither was he the fascist he’s portrayed to be by the likes of Mr Meades.

Franco did align himself with foreign fascists in Germany and Italy, and domestic ones in the Falange. But then even Winston Churchill, not commonly regarded as a fascist, said he’d form an alliance with the devil himself if it helped defeat Hitler. No doubt Franco felt the same way about stopping communism in its tracks.

Civil wars are always fought with utmost brutality, and Franco committed his fair share. However, any decent person, especially one armed with the hindsight of the horrors perpetrated by the communists in every country they conquered, would feel that Franco’s cause was just.

Mr Meades doesn’t qualify as a decent person, which he proves by saying: “It’s telling that the senile cretin Ronald Reagan announced that the Brigade’s Lincoln Battalion fought ‘on the wrong side’.”

Living as he does in a glass house, Mr Meades shouldn’t throw ‘senile cretin’ stones too often. But then of course no vile invective is off-limits when someone dares to suggest that stopping the midnight terror of communism isn’t so bad.

Like all lefties, Mr Meades feels he has to end on a didactic note: “[Dictators] are successful in accruing power for power’s sake. They are the ones whom the most unscrupulous and morally bereft emulate, they are the ones whom we must watch like hawks…”

Anyone with a modicum of education will know that Franco didn’t pursue “power for power’s sake”. In fact, he was most reluctant to lead the anti-communist rebellion, and only did so because he wanted to save his country from Mr Meades’s typological precursors. They too must be watched like hawks.

Those offensive sexual preferences

Before you report me to the police, allow me to exculpate myself. I am hereby declaring, hand on the Merriam-Webster dictionary, that no sexual preferences, except perhaps male heterosexuality, can ever be deemed offensive or in any way objectionable.

Amy Coney Barrett would be my choice any day

They are all, except perhaps male heterosexuality, free of any moral component and therefore immune to any other than laudatory judgement. Any attempt to exercise any other than laudatory judgement is immoral, socially unacceptable and possibly illegal.

I’m glad we’ve clarified this point so I can get on with it, starting with the explanation of what the title above means. What’s offensive isn’t any sexual preference, but the term itself.

As a lifelong student of English, I’m happy it’s developing heightened sensitivity to all-important nuances. ‘Sexual preference’ itself was a welcome embellishment on the Biblical ‘abomination’ and the later, somewhat judgemental, ‘perversion’. Now the term ‘sexual preference’ itself has become an abomination and perversion.

This is so obvious that one wonders why it took the world so long to realise it. At least realise it the world finally did. The epiphany came during the vetting hearing of Amy Coney Barrett, nominee for the US Supreme Court.

Mrs Barrett is a devout Catholic, which makes her highly suspect to fearless fighters for LGBTQ+ rights (I hope I got the acronym right — all those letters are terribly confusing, though I do love the open-ended plus).

The suspicion is that, if ascending to the Court, she’ll start sticking iron rods into the wheel-spokes of progress, especially the part that involves abortion and the sort of practices that the Bible describes as abominations.

That’s why during her hearing Mrs Barrett was asked point-blank if she’d ever try to reverse the 2015 ruling that allowed homosexuals to marry in all 50 states, as is their constitutional right.

(At the time, I re-read the text of the US Constitution and all its 27 amendments for confirmation. Alas, my eyesight no longer being what it used to be, I couldn’t find any mention of that constitutional right, although I’m sure it must be there somewhere.)

The trap was laid, and Mrs Barrett promptly fell into it. “I do want to be clear,” she said, evading a direct answer to the question, “that I have never discriminated on the basis of sexual preference and would not discriminate on the basis of sexual preference.” Gotcha!

Senator Mazie Hirono jumped up and declared that Mrs Barrett is a factor of clear and present danger to LGBTQ+ rights. As a Catholic, a conservative and a Trump nominee, she’s already under a cloud of suspicion. And now her use of ‘sexual preference’ has turned a suspicion into a certainty.

Only rabid “anti-LGBTQ activists”, said Sen. Hirono, use that offensive term. It implies that homosexuality is a matter of personal choice, rather than an immutable part of a person’s identity.

People no more choose to be homosexual than they choose to be blue-eyed or, say, Latino, tweeted Ritchie Torres, a Democratic congressional candidate in New York: “As a gay man, I do not have a ‘sexual preference’ any more than I have a racial preference or an ethnic preference.”

That shows that Mr Torres is so far behind the times that I, acting on behalf of progress, demand an apology. For these days race is very much a matter of personal choice. A white person can identify as black, and anyone who has an issue with that is instantly branded as a fascist or some such.

But if we reluctantly stay at Mr Torres’s stage of progress and agree that race isn’t a preference but a fact, then there’s a slight error in his observation. You see, a person born to a race can’t, or at least until recently couldn’t, opt not to be a member of that race.

However, a person born homosexual can exercise the option of not practising it for social, moral or – God forbid – religious reasons. After all, both heterosexual and homosexual people used to renounce the practice of their sexuality and choose a monastic life instead, so such abstinence is possible.

Anyway, forget I’ve said that. It’s just that I momentarily relapsed into my former self, the way I was before I became a champion of progress. And my new self rejoices at the speed with which Merriam-Webster reacted to that momentous lexical discovery.

Within hours of that hearing, the dictionary updated its entry of ‘sexual preference’ by identifying it as offensive. Before progress gathered speed, it used to take a new usage decades to make its way into reputable dictionaries. Now, largely thanks to the technological advances of which modernity is so justly proud, it takes hours.

The proper, inoffensive, term is now ‘orientation’, not ‘preference’. Myself, I’d prefer ‘sexual identity’, which would be more consonant with progressive usage.

A person could then have both a gender identity and a sexual identity, with the former also being a changeable preference and the latter defying any choice… sorry, I’m getting dreadfully tangled up in the labyrinthine workings of progress. But you know what I mean.

Sen. Hirono gleefully remarked that, though Mrs Barrett had refused to give a direct answer to that tricky question, her silence, coupled with her use of the newly offensive term, “spoke volumes”. Quite. As in the volumes of the Merriam-Webster dictionary.

Leftie smugness soars high

It has long been my contention that modernity systematically undermines the very reason in whose name it was inaugurated.

John Walter, the founder of The Times, must be weeping in his grave

Driven by ill-conceived prejudices, modernity has been steadily replacing ideas with ideology, sanctity with sanctimoniousness, morality with moralising and righteousness with self-righteousness.

That degenerative condition has now reached its terminal phase, that of smug triumphalism. This forms a neat package when combined with the tendencies mentioned above. And if one were to put a label on that box, ‘David Aaronovich’ would do nicely.

The whole content of his article Reactionary Right Keeps Getting It Wrong could be expressed in three words: I hate conservatives. There could be no arguing against such a spiffy statement, other than saying, well, I quite like them. End of discussion. Call it a draw.

Had Mr Aaronovich left it at that, he would have found himself on unassailable grounds. But, being a columnist, he felt duty-bound to enlarge on that thesis by adding 1,200 words of explanation, which was a mistake.

For, trying to come up with arguments, he only succeeded in proving two of my innermost convictions: a) that lefties aren’t just misguided but also intellectually feeble and b) there’s no such thing as an ex-leftie, which is probably close to how Mr Aaronovich describes himself.

Leftiness isn’t a matter of philosophical ratiocination but one of visceral and cerebral predisposition. This brands one’s personality with an indelible stamp: hard as a man tries, he can only think and feel one way. He may attempt to jam the square peg of dissenting ideas into that round hole, but the fit will never be snug.

Thus, the logical premise of Historical Inevitability from which Mr Aaronovich proceeds is unvarnished Marxism. This is how it goes: because things happen, they were bound to happen and, because they were bound to happen, they are good – as are those who made them happen.

Conversely, those who resist such good and inevitable things are obtuse reactionaries who find themselves on the wrong side of history – or else in its rubbish bin, to use the phrase coined by Mr Aaronovich’s erstwhile guru, Trotsky. Hence the title of the article in question.

But not to worry: those Colonel Blimps are always forced to realise the error of their ways and jump on the rolling bandwagon of Historical Inevitability. Ultimately, truth conquers all.

As examples of such volte-faces, Mr Aaronovich cites Boris Johnson, Dave Cameron and Charles Moore, none of whom would be happy to be lumped together with the other two.

Johnson first became a reformed truth-seeker by becoming a convert to anti-obesity measures: “Having argued long and hard against the state getting involved in such campaigns, he now suddenly understood their value. Why? Because his own obesity had been a factor complicating his illness.”

However, “the facts were clear enough before Johnson shook one Covid-infected hand too many… But the PM never got round to explaining how he’d managed to overlook them for so long.”

Alas, Mr Aaronovich, his leftie bit between his teeth, confuses two separate issues. The detrimental effects of obesity are indeed facts, but that doesn’t mean the state should dictate how, what and when people should eat. Mr Aaronovich may argue either point, but not conflate them.

There exist many sound practices that the state must leave to the people’s discretion. Brushing one’s teeth twice a day, for example, is a good idea, but not a good state diktat. You understand, I’m simply talking elementary logic here, or rather the lack thereof so characteristic of lefties.

Then Mr Aaronovich points out how Mr Johnson has changed his opinion over the past seven years, from “wind power is rubbish” to “we will be the Saudi Arabia of wind”. Neither Mr Johnson nor Mr Aaronovich specified whether that aspiration involves cutting off the dissenters’ hands, but that’s not the point.

The point is that Mr Aaronovich thinks the PM has had a Damascene experience because he was “proven wrong”. But he hasn’t been proven wrong. He has been proven to be an unprincipled weathervane that turns depending on where the political wind is blowing.  

Dave Cameron, Mr Johnson’s dumber twin, is another sinner who saw the light. He “spoke for many Tories in 2013 when he said of his own government’s policies, ‘we have got to get rid of all this green crap’”, a misconception that Historical Inevitability has trampled underfoot.

And it’s not just those lovely wind farms. Because – brace yourself for you’re about to hear something truly awful – “by and large, the people who denigrated wind power were the ones who cast doubt on the diagnosis of manmade global warming.”

Mr Aaronovich doesn’t even bother to explain why such doubts are unfounded. The issue has been decided in Notting Hill, Islington and Hampstead, so there’s nothing further to discuss. Historical Inevitability has spoken, which is good. Conservatives have been shamed, which is even better.

Alas, “in the past five years, the right has been striking back, without being called to account for its U-turns.” Charles Moore typifies this unfortunate tendency, even though Mr Aaronovitch fails to mention any U-turns Lord Moore has made. He’s more generous with a list of grievous errors Lord Moore has committed and will doubtless regret in the future, although so far he hasn’t:

“Moore praised Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical for taking a hard line against contraception and then effectively damned the Church of England for ordaining women because it damaged relations with Rome. HIV/Aids was a purely homosexual problem and it was… liberal hysteria to suggest otherwise; a forerunner of liberal plots such as climate change, the EU and the destruction of British culture.”

To my eternal shame, I agree with Lord Moore on every one of those beliefs. However, I’m glad that Mr Aaronovich is prepared to veer off his comfort zone and engage battle on matters ecclesiastical and theological.

Actually, he doesn’t feel called upon to engage that battle. Having problems with, say, female ordination is so self-evidently dreadful that Mr Aaronovich wouldn’t demean himself by arguing against it. He just gives it as another reason for hating conservatives and welcoming their forthcoming U-turns.

Now, I, and no doubt Lord Moore, would be prepared to give sound theological reasons for opposing female priesthood. Theological arguments in favour are also possible, but that’s not why we have female priests and bishops now.

The Church of England, which both Lord Moore and I have left for that very reason, didn’t decide the issue on theological or ecclesiastical grounds. Its impetus came from trying to cater to every half-arsed wokish fad that comes round the block – thereby hurting, I’m afraid irretrievably, its core business.

Is Mr Aaronovich prepared to join the argument on this level? Of course he isn’t. Nor does he have to: the triumph of wokish fads is Historically Inevitable anyway. So why waste words?

Admittedly, those objectionable conservatives have scored one victory, which they so far haven’t repented: Brexit. But give them time, according to Mr Aaronovich’s prophetic bravura ending:

“Into my head floats an image of 2030, and a podium swathed in red, white and blue and a speech in which the new Conservative leader, Priti Patel, reveals her plan (a lifetime ambition, no less) to revolutionise the European Union – by rejoining it.”

Just to think that The Times used to be a respectable paper. If this is the best talent they can find, it’s not just their problem. It’s everyone’s.

14 October, 1066, and all that

On this day, 954 years ago, occurred one of the most important events in English history. Norman invaders under William, Duke of Normandy, defeated King Harold’s English army in a battle fought a few miles inland from Hastings.

King Harold is killed, says this fragment from the great Bayeux Tapestry

William was affectionately nicknamed ‘the Bastard’, which was a reference to the circumstances of his birth, not his character. However, considering the unsporting tactics he used at Hastings, his character too could have merited that soubriquet.

The Normans were actually Vikings, only about a century removed from their bandit heritage. In the past they had specialised in daring raids on land and sea, terrorising and robbing anyone weaker than they were.

They’d munch on some hallucinogenic mushrooms, don their horned helmets and start cutting throats with a skill seldom matched in the Middle Ages. In the process, they came in contact with many civilisations and learned from each one.

The tactic William used at Hastings came out of the Scythians’ unwritten rule book. Actually, their tactics were unwritten only by the Scythians themselves. Herodotus provided that service for them and, while he was at it, for posterity.

The Scythians’ favourite trick was to feign flight, making the enemy overextend in pursuit. At a critical moment, they’d suddenly turn around and massacre the huffing and puffing posse.

That’s exactly what the ‘Bastard’ did at Hastings. Using his overwhelming advantage in cavalry and therefore mobility, he lured Harold’s forces into a seemingly triumphant pursuit, which then turned into a rout of the English forces. Harold himself was killed by an arrow in the eye – the Normans also had more archers and hence firepower.

The English learned that lesson, but the French didn’t, which was demonstrated during the Hundred Years’ War, when English archers had a field day picking off French knights one by one. Three field days, to be exact: at Crécy, Poitiers and Agincourt. In those battles, the French lost what their histories describe in a characteristically florid style as la fine fleur de la noblesse française.

But it’s not the French who interest me here, but the Vikings. Murderous and thieving acidheads they might have been, but they were clearly so much more than just that.

For they not only conquered but also civilised foreign lands or, alternatively, were civilised by them. The Vikings seem to have had a rare talent for asset stripping: taking from other nations what they found useful and discarding the rest.

For example, the Russian Primary Chronicle claims that the natives actually invited the Vikings to take over Rus’. “Large and rich is our land,” the ancient Slav ‘woodsmen’ are supposed to have pleaded, “but there is no order. Come and rule over us and bring order to us.”

Whence the proto-Russians suddenly acquired this urgent desire for order never has been made clear. Let’s just say that among the many indisputably great talents the Russians possess, a quest for order has never been the most salient.

The Norse version of Russian history is disputed, but what’s beyond doubt is that they did bring civilisation to the Slavic and Finnish tribes they conquered. In the process, they built Kiev, one of the most splendid European cities of the time.

Roughly at the same time they invaded England, the Vikings conquered Sicily and were enchanted by her predominantly Moorish splendour. It took the Vikings but a few decades to lose their language and switch to Arabic. In fact, their official documents were produced in that language for centuries after the Moors were driven out of Sicily.

The Vikings who invaded England were thoroughly Gallicised. They settled in what was later called Normandy at the beginning of the tenth century, when King Charles the Simple gave them that piece of land in the hope that they’d stop harassing the rest of France.

Again, it took the Vikings but a few decades to assimilate. They abandoned their pagan cults to become pious Catholics and developed their own dialect of French. They also showed an unexpected knack for endeavours other than murder, rape and plunder.

The Normans, as they were now called, were busily building cathedrals and churches, schools and castles, both copying and developing the Gothic innovations originating in Île-de-France. They also proved to be masters of governance and administration.

It was those talents that they brought to England, only to find that many of them were superfluous. The English (or Saxons, if you’d rather) already had an intricate and sophisticated political system, much superior to anything the ‘Bastard’ had seen in France. All the Normans had to do was slot into the existing institutions, just as they slotted into the Moorish culture of Sicily.

Yet the marauding Vikings still lurked underneath the veneer of French culture, and the Normans started out by robbing England blind. At least 95 per cent of the lands belonging to the Saxon nobility were repossessed, and 100 years later not a single English earl or bishop was actually English.

The Normans also clung to their own language longer than they did in Sicily, but eventually the nature of linguistics took its course. Franco-Norman gradually became Anglo-Norman and then, centuries later, English, arguably the greatest and certainly the most popular language on Earth.

That’s why we have much to celebrate on this day, for while the bitterness of the Hastings defeat has subsided, the joy of the subsequent culture persists. We admire the square towers of Norman churches adorning our cities and countryside. We marvel at the battlements of the great castles they built.

And above all, we rejoice in the English language, which wouldn’t be the same had that arrow missed Harold’s eye.

Happy Battle Day!

EU’s fishy tactics

What part of sovereignty don’t the French understand? Apparently, this time it’s the part that involves Britain’s right to control access to her coastal waters post-Brexit.

Some kettle of fish, eh lads?

Actually it’s not even that. Fishing rights are just another pretext for the EU to make Brexit as painful as possible, pour encourager les autres. Scared witless of a domino effect, with other EU members falling out of its grip, the EU has never for a second negotiated in good faith.

Instead of trying to arrive at a mutually beneficial accommodation, EU functionaries resort to blackmail, knowing in advance that the British will find it unacceptable. Now they insist that EU fishermen be guaranteed “continuous [meaning unlimited] access to British waters and fish.”

French MEPs Nathalie Loiseau and Pierre Karleskind, both Macron’s allies, have written a letter to their colleagues asking them to vote down any trade deal that includes Britain’s sovereign control over her territorial waters.

They must “ensure that a partnership agreement, if reachable, does protect the interests of our fellow citizens.” This is yet another EU lie. The only interests MEPs, and the EU in general, have ever wanted to protect are those of that political contrivance – and the economy be damned.

That stands to reason: from its inception, the EU has pursued political or, more precisely, ideological objectives. This has always been camouflaged with the same lie that survives to this day: that the EU’s aims are mostly economic. Yet, as one of its midwives, Jean Monnet, explained back in the early 1950s, that’s merely subterfuge:

“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.”

The trick worked famously with all European countries, including, until July, 2016, Britain. Then her smug ‘leaders’ called a referendum, never doubting Britain would be confined to a European superstate in perpetuity as a result.

That only went to show how detached they were from the people of their country. The notion of dissolving Britain’s sovereignty in a continental superstate flies in the face of the country’s history, constitution and national character. The British were never likely to do an Esau and sell their birthright for a mess of pottage – especially one as messy as the EU.

Like all other ideologies, European federalism is pernicious and single-minded, if more cynical than most. This explains the continued attempts by the EU to sabotage any equitable trade deal with Britain: an ideology always trumps all other considerations, including the economy.

That’s why EU negotiators don’t mind risking any damage to their own economies, which will inevitably result if no free trade between Britain and the continent exists. An exchange of tariffs will ensue, with the businesses – and ultimately consumers – of both parties bearing the brunt.

How will the Germans like to see Britons driving Toyotas instead of Audis? How will the French feel about their wines losing ground to colonial competition? EU bigwigs really don’t care, as long as Britain suffers too — and is seen to suffer by other members experiencing itchy feet.

“Why should European fishermen suffer the consequences of a decision, Brexit, they were not part of?” ask the letter’s authors. The implication seems to be that French and Spanish fishermen ought to have had a vote in the 2016 referendum.

But those poor men are already suffering similar iniquities that have nothing to do with Brexit. For example, they can’t sail into the Caspian Sea and catch sturgeon in Russia’s or Iran’s waters. And you know why? Because those waters are indeed Russia’s and Iran’s.

Such is the way of the world, chaps. Get used to it, if you haven’t done so already.

Actually, though they’ll never gain access to those Caspian sturgeon, French fishermen will still be able to fish in British waters. It’s just that their quotas will be reduced, but hey – 71 per cent of the Earth’s surface is covered with water. They could always make up the deficit elsewhere.

I just hope Johnson’s cabinet stands firm – but fear it won’t. I’ll say one thing for our ‘leaders’: they never go against their convictions, for the simple reason that they have none.

They’d sell not only Britain’s birthright but their own families for a couple of percentage points in the polls. It’s just that they may decide that they can’t afford another backlash from the electorate at this time, Covid and all. Let’s wait and see.

Meanwhile, I suggest that Mme Loiseau change her avian name for the piscean Lepoisson. Considering her dedication to fishing, it’s more apposite.

Arise, Lord Lebedev of Moscow

Evgeny Lebedev, his peerage (along with a few British newspapers) bought with his father’s KGB cash, hasn’t donned the ermine robes yet.

Lebedev on the left, Lenin on the right. Or…?

The delay is caused by the requirement that all members of the Lords have a territorial designation, and Lebedev has caused some consternation by choosing ‘Moscow’ as his. However, when a new peer chooses a place in a foreign country, the foreign country must endorse it, and Putin is taking his time.

Admittedly, Lord Lebedev of Moscow has a certain ring to it, but does he have to rub it in? After all, Johnson and other HMG spivs have been bending over backwards claiming that Lebedev is as thoroughly British as warm beer. Hasn’t he been living in Britain since he was eight?

He has – but only because his father was then spying on Britain as a KGB officer working under diplomatic cover at the Soviet Embassy. So, as far as credentials go, this one is pretty thin.

But Lebedev has better ones. He has insinuated himself into our political circles so deeply that his nose can catch every whiff of the Westminster spirit. Thus he senses that our politicians like nothing as much as sponging on celebrities and other nouveaux riches, and never mind the source of the nouveaux riches.

They are the mice begging to be trapped with free cheese, and Lebedev has always been happy to provide it. Acting as the trap is the splendour of his Tuscan villa, the site of many a lavish party frequented by politicians of the right, left and centre.

The queue for invitations grows longer and longer, but these days Johnson is always at its front. The cross-party consensus is that no one throws a shindig like Lebedev, and if that doesn’t merit a seat in the upper chamber of the Mother of All Parliaments, what will?

Who can possibly question his allegiance to Britain, or to her political establishment at any rate? He’s Old Blighty’s favourite son. This is where his loyalties lie.

Or do they? Apparently not. For Lebedev didn’t choose to become the Lord of, say, Hampton (his London house is on the grounds of Hampton Court Palace).

His home is where his heart is, which is in Moscow, and he no longer cares who knows it. Now that he has got his peerage, and it can’t be taken away from him, he doesn’t mind cocking a snook at the very establishment he has been courting so assiduously for years.

But he has missed a trick. Why not cut to the chase and request to be known as Lord Lebedev of Lubianka? Not only would that be even more honest, but I for one would find the alliteration impossible to resist.

The announcement has caused much mirth in Moscow. Journalists are having fun trying to decide who is crazier: Johnson, who elevated Lebedev to the peerage, or he himself for choosing such a revealing title.

In the process, many have pointed out the uncanny facial resemblance between His Lordship and Lenin, in the photo taken during the final stages of his syphilis-induced madness. Such physical similarity, quip the wags, must reflect commonality of character, if not of age and medical condition.

In fact, I don’t think either Lebedev or Johnson is mad. Other adjectives spring to mind, but my wife made me promise not to use swear words in this space.  

Moral or pragmatic?

Popular misconception notwithstanding, it’s usually not necessary to choose. The moral political choice often turns out to be the most pragmatic one, but with one proviso.

Largely thanks to Western ‘pragmatism’…

It has to be informed by true, rather than false, morality and by correct ideas rather than misguided ideologies. Thus, American neoconservatives justified their criminal attack on Iraq by pseudo-moral considerations.

Their aim, they insisted, was to carry American-style democracy to every tribal society in the Middle East. To begin with, the region should be freed from its oppressive dictators, the Saddams, Gaddafis and Mubaraks of this world. What could be more moral than that?

Even assuming that they were indeed driven by what they saw as noble impulses, it was clear to any intelligent observer at the time that the underlying principle was asinine to the point of being evil.

It took monumental ignorance to believe that the outcome could ever be other than what has transpired: a region drowned in blood, chaos reigning, wicked foreign regimes moving in, Europe flooded by millions of refugees, global terrorism intensified and so on. And sacrificing millions of lives out of ignorant motives is a useful definition of political evil.

Going back further in time, it was misconceived amoral pragmatism that allowed the two satanic regimes of modernity, Bolshevik Russia and Nazi Germany, to mature beyond gestation.

Directly they completed their coup d’état, the Bolsheviks signed a unilateral peace with Germany, thereby violating Russia’s obligations to the Allies. The country became a de facto ally of Germany and a de jure enemy of the Allies.

Yet the latter had shipped mountains of armaments to Russia’s northern ports to help the country fight the Central Powers. Now there was a distinct danger that those supplies would fall into the Germans’ hands, making them better equipped to prolong or even win the World War.

To protect those supplies, the British landed a force of 170 Royal Marines at Murmansk and Archangel the day after the betrayal at Brest-Litovsk was signed. Instead, given the disarray in the Bolshevik hordes, perhaps a single division could have been sufficient to move inland and wipe out the Red troops.

Yet the cabinet, with the exception of Churchill, didn’t deem that to be the pragmatic choice. In fact, it was under duress that Lloyd George agreed even to a limited intervention.

In his memoirs, he writes: “Personally, I would have dealt with the Soviets as the de facto Government of Russia. So would President Wilson. But we both agreed that we could not carry to that extent our colleagues at the Congress, nor the public opinion of our own countries which was frightened by Bolshevik violence and feared its spread.”

In the same book, Lloyd George displayed his sterling knowledge of Russia by identifying Kharkov as a White Russian general. Yet ignorance was no obstacle in the way of such pseudo-pragmatic statements as:

“Our attitude [towards the Bolsheviks] was that of the Fox Whigs towards the French Revolution.” “A Bolshevik Russia is by no means such a danger as the old Russian Empire.” “Bolsheviks would not wish to maintain an army, as their creed is fundamentally anti-militarist.” “There must be no attempt to conquer Bolshevik Russia by force of arms.”

Hare-brained thinking and staggering ignorance are here happily united with what Lloyd George probably saw as an exercise in much-vaunted British pragmatism. However, had Britain heeded Churchill’s entreaties springing from his moral revulsion of Bolshevik monstrosity, the world would have been spared its worst catastrophes ever.

Had bolshevism been nipped in the bud, Lenin would have again become a wild-eyed immigrant hack shunned by normal people, Stalin would have advanced his career as bank robber, and Hitler would have continued to rant off soapboxes to dwindling audiences.

It doesn’t take much of ‘what if?’ conjecture to see that the next world war wouldn’t have happened, millions of lives would have been spared, and the West wouldn’t have had to spend trillions trying to contain the Soviet – and now post-Soviet – threat.

That was an example of moral and pragmatic wholly overlapping. Munich, 1938, on the other hand, is another example of misconstrued pragmatism trumping real morality to disastrous effect.

Neville Chamberlain (predictably, John Major’s favourite PM) was cast in Lloyd George’s role. He refused to join a “quarrel in a far away country, between people of whom we know nothing” and instead triumphantly waved a surrender paper in the air.

Yet at that time the French army and the British Expeditionary Corps had the German forces greatly outmanned and outgunned. And Stalin hadn’t yet shipped enough raw materials to Hitler to sustain a prolonged war effort.

Moreover, when the Nazis finally attacked Poland, they left their western borders completely unprotected. A Franco-British tank force could have rolled on to Berlin practically unopposed. Yet all the Allies waged was the Phoney War.

Had a real war started in September, 1939, it would have ended Nazism there and then, sparing some 50 million lives. The moral choice would at that time have also been the pragmatic one – yet again.

Western countries are facing such choices now, and again morality and pragmatism should converge rather than each going its own way. For example, our government thinks it’s acting pragmatically by letting the Chinese and the Russians gain more and more control over our economy.

Rather than throwing KGB money back in its wielders’ faces, HMG elevates them to the House of Lords, while allowing the Chinese to take over much of our strategic infrastructure. In parallel, we are disarming at the same speed at which those two evil regimes are arming .

Nor is HMG, whose head fancies himself as heir to Winston Churchill, reacting to Turkey’s blatant aggression against Armenia. In the year my father was born, the Turks committed the first genocide of the 20th century by massacring 1.5 million Armenians. Now thousands of Turkish volunteers are fighting with the Azeri Muslims in the on-going conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, and Turkish warplanes are flying combat missions over Armenian territory.

Boris Johnson and his jolly friends are probably telling themselves that they are acting with laudable pragmatism in their refusal to resist evil predators. In fact, they, along with their Nato allies, are rapidly moving to a point where armed response would become the only possible one.

The upshot is that ‘or’ is the wrong conjunction in the title above. As often as not it should be ‘and’.