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’.

What price a German chancellor?

Westerners whom Lenin uncharitably described as “useful idiots” were tricked and misled into championing his evil regime. Some were evil themselves, but most were indeed idiots, acting out of loyalty to a false ideology.

No tongues please, we are politicians

Many of today’s Western champions of Putin’s evil regime are paid, not misled. That makes them even more useful, but certainly less idiotic. They know which side their bread is buttered and act accordingly.

I have written about the morally (and possibly legally) dubious business dealings of many Western leaders with Putin’s gangsters and him personally. Trump and his retinue, the Clintons, the Bidens, Osborne, Mandelson and a few others have appeared in that context more than once.

Yet the evidence in most of those cases is circumstantial. No prima facie proof exists that, for example, Trump’s failure to say one bad word about Putin is linked with his pursuit of Russian business for decades. Nor can one prove that Osborne’s intimate contacts with the Russian gangster Deripaska had anything to do with his securing a post-parliamentary job as editor of a paper owned by a career KGB officer.

I may smell a giant rat there, but the odour comes from inference and conjecture, not the sort of evidence a court would regard as such. However, in the case of Germany’s former chancellor Gerhard Schröder no conjecture is necessary. Putin has bought him lock, stock and barrel.

The only remaining question is whether or not that transaction took place when Schröder was still chancellor (1998-2005). The answer depends on how one explains the statement Schröder made during his tenure, when he called Putin a “flawless democrat”.

If he genuinely thought so, one questions his sanity. If he didn’t think so, but said it anyway, one questions whether he acted as a free agent.

One way or the other, the moment he lost the election to Angela Merkel, Schröder was appointed to a series of highly lucrative positions in the Russian energy industry, culminating in his current chairmanship of Rosneft, the state oil monopoly. Gazprom, the state gas monopoly, also employs Schröder, as chairman of its Nord Stream project.

Both companies are at present under Western sanctions, but that means nothing to Schröder. Like Lenin’s useful idiots, he sold his soul to the devil. But, unlike them, he didn’t sell it on the cheap.

No one can rise to such heights in Putin’s Russia without pledging undying and unquestioning loyalty to Putin, both political and personal. Thus, in addition to lobbying Western leaders on behalf of Putin’s energy industry, Schröder shows the same allegiance in defending Putin’s crimes.

He vigorously protested against Western sanctions imposed after Russia’s aggression against the Ukraine. And he denied – against all evidence – Russia’s involvement in any assassination attempts, including the latest one against Alexei Navalny.

Such awful allegations against the flawless democrat Vlad, declared Schröder, are based on “no certain facts”. This is the line taken by the Kremlin and well rehearsed  in the Russian underworld. No evidence qualifies as a certain fact unless the murderer is photographed pumping bullets into his victim – or Putin’s signature appears on a published order to ‘whack’ Navalny.

Navalny, recovering from the poison he himself must have administered to give Putin a bad name, was understandably incensed.

In an interview published by the magazine Bild, he called Schröder Putin’s “errand boy” who receives “shadow payments” from Moscow. Yet Navalny was only half right.

Putin’s errand boy Schröder undoubtedly is. He might just as well have been called a stooge, puppet or flunkey, but that’s a matter of semantics, not substance. However, the second accusation was phrased loosely.

There’s nothing “shadow” about the millions Schröder is paid by the Kremlin. No Judas, he. Schröder takes his pieces of silver openly, avidly and proudly, the labourer worthy of his hire. Of course, any money anyone receives from the Kremlin is ipso facto not just shadowy but excremental, but that’s not the evidence one can take to court.

This isn’t a figure of speech. For Schröder, fortified by Putin’s filthy lucre, is suing Bild for the adjective Navalny used. As he announced:

“I therefore feel compelled to take legal action against the publisher who has violated my personal rights in the most serious way. The same will happen to other media if they take over and spread the false allegations spread by BildZeitung.”

Putin’s poodle has barked like a mastiff, but any competent barrister can defang his case. I’m sure Schröder will end up paying millions in court costs, but thanks to Putin, his frequent partner in foreplay, he can afford it.

How many other Schröders are indeed lurking in the shadows, I wonder. How many Western politicians and pundits take Putin’s rouble secretly to shill for him openly? It would be easy enough to find out, given the will. Alas, the will is nowhere in evidence.

Vulgarity laid bare

Since modernity is dedicated to the advancement of the common man, it has to champion common tastes.

In the next second, comedian Sarah Silverman will raise her arms to make a political point

Common isn’t necessarily the same as vulgar but, in the absence of strong discouragement, it may gravitate in that direction. And, if encouraged, it definitely will.

The US, the first and most successful state of modernity, provides a useful – if far from the only – illustration of this tendency. Western European countries, after all, benefit from centuries of aristocratic culture. The US, on the other hand, was explicitly instituted as a challenge to that culture, if not its outright rejection.

“Repudiation of Europe,” the novelist John Dos Passos once wrote, “is, after all, America’s main excuse for being.” Since, in the West, it’s Europe that’s the historical depository of taste, manners and civility, such repudiation is fraught with dire consequences – especially if elevated to the status of ideology.

This isn’t to deny that many Americans, in alas steadily decreasing numbers, are civilised people. But even those mavericks are aware that vulgarity of language, manners and dress acts as a badge in their country, or else a password securing admission into the inner sanctum.

Nowhere is this more noticeable than in politics. The British, whose vulgarity is otherwise rapidly catching up with the Americans’, still cherish the institution of a monarchy reigning through, or rather in, parliament.

That imposes some vestiges of style on our parliamentary and electoral politics, leaving Britons amused, not always good-naturedly, by the vulgar spectacles of American primaries, party conferences, debates and political campaigning. The very length of US presidential campaigns, typically restarting the day after the inauguration, is a source of much mirth in Britain.

Our politicians may be – as a rule are – corrupt in every moral and intellectual sense, but at least they try, with variable success, to maintain some veneer of civilised style. This is reflected in their campaigns, devoid of any serious substance though they usually are.

For one thing, we ban political advertising on TV, a medium that encourages vulgarity like no other. Rather than political campaigners flashing their perfect dentistry on the box, we have middle-aged ladies and gentlemen with blue, red or yellow rosettes pinned to their Barbours knocking on doors and politely asking the residents to vote a certain way.

Sometimes the Barbours, tweeds and sensible shoes give way to more proletarian attire, but at least some clothes are universally present. Not so in America.

There, some celebrities, including Sarah Silverman, Mark Ruffalo, Amy Schumer, Chris Rock and Naomi Campbell, have appeared naked in a clip encouraging people to cast their postal vote early. Surprisingly, they didn’t tell them to vote not only early but also often.

Nor did they suggest how their viewers should vote, but there was no need. All the nudists are known as left-wingers and Trump haters.

Somehow the idea has settled in that casual exhibitionism is a valid way of getting serious points across. Given half the chance, celebrities whip their clothes off as a signal of their belonging in the ranks of fully paid-up vulgarians.

In this case, their pretext for practising what used to be diagnosed as a sexual perversion is the concept of a ‘naked ballot’. This is a ballot form left uncounted because it isn’t properly concealed in the envelope.

The pretext is rather flimsy and far-fetched. Even though I haven’t done any advertising for years, I’m sure it would only take me a few minutes to come up with a dozen tasteful and more interesting ways of communicating the same message.

But of course these celebrities vindicated Marshall McLuhan by proving that the medium is the message. In this case the medium was their nudity catering to the onanistic fantasies of their viewers, vulgar and proud of their vulgarity.

I’m surprised they stopped at mere flashing. I could suggest other ways of using their bodies to make a point. They could have, for example, engaged in intercourse on camera, symbolising either the unity of all Biden supporters or else the outrages perpetrated by Trump on the country.

But even in its actual form, that obscene show lowered the tone of this campaign at a time when one wouldn’t have thought it could be lowered even further. And the tone isn’t the only problem.

Vulgarity reigns supreme so far, but it may yet cede that leadership position to brutality. A recent poll shows that 51 per cent don’t think that Americans will accept the outcome of the election as legitimate, while 56 per cent expect blood in the streets whatever the outcome.

I can’t say I’m surprised. Rampant vulgarity comes at a price – it strips politics of its dignity and solemnity, reducing it to the level of a brawl in a pole-dancing joint. Yet some pomp and circumstance are necessary to add an air of majesty to politics, raising it above suspicions of double dealing and fraud.

And, I hate to break the news to my American friends, Sarah Silverman’s tits, impressive though they are, don’t qualify as pomp and circumstance. However, when bared in public, they do qualify as a lamentable display of vulgarity.

“Token blacks urgently wanted”

“No other qualifications required. Join the board of a FTSE 100 company and enjoy making millions in a congenial multicultural environment.”

I wish those woke morons read Sowell. But they won’t, will they?

No, this isn’t a real ad in the Appointments section of the Financial Times. But it will be if Legal & General has its way.

L&G is one of Britain’s biggest institutional investors that manages more than £1.2 trillion in assets, mostly on behalf of pension funds, and owns a chunk of most British blue-chip companies. That gives it hefty clout, which it’s prepared to use for blackmail purposes.

Its powers that be cast an eye over the demographics of FTSE 100 directors and issued a collective gasp: 37 out of 100 had all-white boards! There can be only one reason for that inequity: structural or institutional racism (I’m still waiting for someone to explain the difference).

They then used their formidable powers of logical reasoning to establish an ironclad link between that outrage and the inspiration behind the BLM movement:

“The horrifying killing of George Floyd and so many others has led many institutional investors to think much more seriously about structural racism and inequality,” stated the company’s communiqué.

Well, not on our watch, said L&G. The company then sent what’s effectively a blackmail note to all the FTSE 100 companies and, for good measure, to US companies in the S&P 500 register. Unless they put at least one BAME (B for preference) member on their board by 1 January, 2022, L&G will vote their boards out.

Somewhere in the background lurked the unspoken, but nonetheless real, threat that all those trillions will find other homes unless those structural/institutional racists comply. Now I do apologise for using so many acronyms, but those initials, L&G, BAME, BLM, fit together so snugly as to become both inseparable and indispensable.

If anyone still thinks that big business is inherently conservative, this latest development should dispel that misapprehension. In fact, the moneybags’ record in that department shows exactly the opposite.

The two evil regimes of modernity, Bolshevik Russia and Nazi Germany, weren’t short of financial support both internally and from abroad. Many of Russia’s richest men, such as the textile magnate Savva Morozov, pumped billions into the Bolsheviks’ coffers, while assorted German bankers and industrialists provided the same service for the Nazis.

At least, all those Krupps, Thyssens and Porsches could claim they were trying to thwart the communist threat. Many Wall Street firms funded the two satanic regimes out of unalloyed greed, which is deplorable but borderline understandable. (For details, refer to the extensively researched books by the Stanford University professor Anthony Sutton, Wall Street and the Bolshevik Revolution and Wall Street and the Rise of Hitler.)

However, few of those sorely misguided individuals, some of whom paid for their mistakes with their freedom or lives, were ideologically committed to the causes they bankrolled.

L&G is different: the company doesn’t just trail in the wake of the BLM movement, but pushes its way to the front. Now, I seldom resort to arguments starting with the words “there ought to be a law against…”, but in this case I’ll make an exception.

L&G has a legal and moral responsibility to three groups only: their investors, shareholders and employees. The company is remiss in its duty if it adopts policies detrimental to all three, as it does in this case.

Seeing that I’m in the mood to refer people to other men’s writing, L&G’s bigwigs ought to read books by the American philosopher and sociologist Thomas Sowell, incidentally black himself.

Immune to charges of racism, Prof. Sowell exposed, reams of data in hand, the inanity of L&G-type thinking decades ago. Having read his ground-breaking research, I can assure L&G that no successful company, much less a FTSE 100 one, could afford to indulge in discriminatory practices even if its management were so inclined.

Companies compete not just for markets but also for talent. They have a vested interest, measurable in pounds and pence, in elevating to the decision-making positions those best qualified to make decisions.

Where there is no profit motive involved, shows Prof. Sowell, for example in public institutions, discrimination is more likely. Bigots there don’t pay their own money for the privilege to indulge in bigotry.

The picture of corporate life painted by L&G’s fecund minds is fake in every detail. Successful companies don’t hold back talented black executives just because they are black. If they lack BAME board members, it’s because no suitable candidates have emerged – it’s as simple as that.

In fact, L&G refutes itself with its own data. After all, if only 37 of the FTSE 100 companies have no black directors, that means the remaining 63, almost two-thirds, have them. Are they more broadminded? Or just lucky to have talented blacks on their staffs?

Cutting to the chase, L&G is calling for promoting less capable candidates, and hence stunting the more capable ones, for spurious ideological reasons. This is called reverse discrimination in Britain, affirmative action in the US and sheer idiocy in either country.

Less capable directors will make less profitable decisions, hurting their own shareholders and staffs, along with the three L&G groups I mentioned earlier, those the company has a moral and legal obligation to protect.

So yes, there ought to be a law against it. Meanwhile, until one is found and applied, I propose that the company’s name should be changed to Illegal & General.

P.S. The Dutch don’t want Britain to claim sole credit for cretinism. Ton Koopman’s Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra has just been denied government funding because of its lamentable lack of diversity. Personally, I haven’t seen many black musicians specialising in 18th century music, but perhaps Dutch ministers boast a wider experience than mine. Actually, I’d deny Koopman any funds purely for artistic reasons, but that’s a separate argument. 

Exactly what is a Tory?

This question, often in the back of my mind, has been pushed to the forefront by the obituaries of the Tory journalist Sir Peregrine Worsthorne, who died two days ago at the venerable age of 96.

He emerges from the obituaries as an entertaining but lightweight writer, which, for a change, tallies with my own view of his work. And all obits agree that Sir Peregrine was a quintessential, true-blue Tory.

That, however, raises the question in the title, and it isn’t easy to answer. The same question, by the way, is posed implicitly by another entertaining and lightweight writer, Sasha Swire, the author of Diary of an MP’s Wife.

She argues that neither David Cameron nor George Osborne, nor indeed anyone else other than the Swires, is really a Tory. She identifies many such impostors within Tory ranks, but without bothering to define what it is that makes a Tory. Supposedly that goes without saying.

It doesn’t. For Lady Swire’s definition of a Tory must be very different from mine. Hers, for example, doesn’t clash with supporting homomarriage, which both she and her husband did, whereas mine does.

Then again, Sir Peregrine also tended to define his politics apophatically, from the negative. “I was never a Thatcherite,” he kept saying, with ample justification. After all, as far back as in 1958 he called on all Tories to “pledge allegiance to the welfare state”, which isn’t a pledge Margaret Thatcher would have countenanced.

Sir Peregrine once brilliantly described Thatcherism as “bourgeois triumphalism”, the implication being that Thatcher was a Tory in name only. True, she was a Whiggish radical par excellence, and Worsthorne was right to identify the essential class element in Toryism.

Alas, however, that class has been relegated to the status of a Ye Olde England period piece. For all practical, political purposes it’s dead, and so is the political movement it spun. Not only Thatcher but all Tory politicians are these days Tories in name only.

When the modern Tory party was instituted in the 19th century, it was, not to cut too fine a point, the party of aristocracy and landed gentry. The Tories believed in a social order based on traditional hierarchy, although not without flexibility.

Their attitude to the lower classes was paternalistic, akin to that of a father who feels that even his unsuccessful child deserves love. Since the lower classes were mostly employed in agriculture and nascent industry, Tory paternalism extended to those fields, taking the shape of what today we call protectionism.

In other words, Toryism was the flesh of the flesh and the blood of the blood of the aristocratic order. Hence, when Disraeli was coming up through the party ranks as its most brilliant mind, the only objection to making him the leader was that he wasn’t a “gentleman”, meaning not the owner of a baronial estate.

Since Disraeli’s claims could no longer be denied, the “gentlemen” in the party found a simple solution: they gave Disraeli a sizeable estate in Buckinghamshire, making him the Earl of Beaconsfield. Only then was he deemed qualified to lead his party.

All that is lovely, but it’s conspicuously lacking in contemporary relevance. If the essence of traditional Tory loyalties was adequately described as God, King and Country, the first two legs of that tripod have been knocked out by “bourgeois triumphalism”. That surely predated Margaret Thatcher, although she raised it to a new level.

The social, cultural and political soil in which Toryism used to grow so luxuriantly was sown with coarse salt to render it barren. Toryism qua Toryism predictably died, but the name hung on, an emptied shell to be filled with new content.

Such content is on offer, but it’s hardly uniform and not at all Tory, in the true meaning of the word. In order to function as a viable political force, erstwhile Tories had to become something else.

The menu of available options is extensive, designed to satisfy every taste. Tories can nowadays be neo-conservatives, non-conservatives, American-style conservatives, socialists, liberals, blood-and-soil nationalists, libertarians, Thatcherite Whigs. The only thing they can no longer be is Tories.

That’s why the same charge as the one Lady Swire levelled against Dave and George, and Sir Peregrine against a much wider group, can be legitimately levelled against just about any prominent Tory politician.

They can be all sorts of things, admirable or otherwise, but they can’t be Tories. Oxygen has been sucked out of the air they used to breathe.

That doesn’t mean real Tories are extinct. They aren’t, and I know quite a few. However, they all realise they are anachronisms, who can no longer exert serious influence on their country’s culture, mores – and certainly her politics. Being a Tory at all these days means being a reactionary, which sounds like a swear word to a modern ear.

Whitehall and Downing Street are off limits for Tories, for ever, as it now seems. Hence people who regard themselves as real Tories and still play a role in political life may effortlessly “pledge allegiance to the welfare state”, like Sir Peregrine, or campaign for homomarriage, like poor Sir Hugo Swire.

Toryism has become a church so broad that no faith is anywhere discernible. And even old-style Tory eccentrics, like Sir Peregrine, are fading away.

Sir Peregrine Worsthorne, RIP.

Congratulations, Vlad!

Bad news is hitting us from every angle, like torrential rain swirled about by a tornado. Yet at times some good news lightens up the gloom, a sudden ray of sunshine breaking through the darkness.

Next winner of Nobel Peace Prize

That’s how I felt on reading that my good friend Vlad Putin had been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Seldom has there been a worthier, more deserving candidate. The other 316 nominees, I thought, were there merely to make up the numbers.

Yet I’ve eschewed a premature celebration, partly because I’m afraid to put the jinx in and partly because I remember that, historically, not all candidates who merited this distinction actually received it.

This goes for all Nobel Prizes, emphatically including the one for literature. Just compare the two groups, those who got it and those who didn’t.

Group 1: Sully Prudhomme, Theodor Mommsen, Bjornstjern Bjornson, Gabriela Mistral, Jose Echeragay, Giosue Carducci, Rudolf Christoph Eucken, Selma Lagerlof, Paul Heyse, Herta Müller, Elfriede Jelinek, Dario Fo.

Group 2: Leo Tolstoy, Anton Chekhov, Mark Twain, James Joyce, Marcel Proust, Henrik Ibsen, Graham Greene, Vladimir Nabokov, Jorge Luis Borges, W.H. Auden, Robert Frost.

See what I mean? And if you think the Peace Prize has escaped such travesties, you have another think coming. 

For example, Vladimir Lenin, nominated in 1917, was unjustly ignored. The injustice was glaring: after all, the great leader had set out to eliminate whole classes standing in the way of the ultimate peace, that of a communist paradise on Earth.

Granted, the Nobel Committee might have doubted that he would have the courage of his convictions. Such is the lot of many great visionaries: people doubt either the sincerity of their beliefs or the strength of their determination.

Lenin went on to put those Swedes to shame by annihilating millions of obstacles to peace, those he called “especially noxious insects”: priests, peasants, industrialists, businessmen, engineers, artisans and artists, philosophers, scientists and most university graduates.

Alas, by the time the Committee realised its mistake it was too late: Putin’s precursor died, of syphilis, a mere seven years after he had been so shockingly overlooked.

His successor, Stalin, went Lenin one better by being nominated twice, in 1945 and 1948, on either side of the second artificial famine he organised in Russia and in the midst of yet another great purge designed to do away with every extant threat to peace, particularly Jews.

Yet, in spite of those efforts, Stalin too got bypassed – twice. That in spite of his having singlehandedly defeated Hitler, his partner in the early days of the Second World War. (Current Russian history books downplay the partnership bit, while emphasising the singlehanded part.)

Stalin’s second-in-command, Vyacheslav Molotov, also got his nyet from the Nobel Committee in 1948, when he was nominated for his “contribution to creating a new system of international relations”, otherwise known as the Cold War.

Hitler received his nomination in 1939, and he too came up short – just three months before he, in alliance with Stalin, set out to preempt the deadly threat to world peace posed by Poland. Had the Committee not jumped the gun, as it were, Hitler would have been a shoo-in.

Another one of Hitler’s allies, Benito Mussolini, also got a nomination. That came in 1935, the year he led a peace crusade against Ethiopia and, for all practical purposes, nationalised Italy’s economy. Either achievement was a sufficient qualification, yet justice seldom vanquishes in this world.

However, the more recent trend in Nobel Peace Prizes suggests that Vlad is in with at least a loud shout. In 1994 the Prize was awarded to Yasser Arafat, “for his efforts to create peace in the Middle East”.  

The trend in question is inspired by the adage si vis pacem, para bellum enunciated by the Roman writer Vegetius – if you want peace, prepare for war. Or better still, wage one, goes the modern embellishment.

Thus Arafat qualified by having masterminded numerous terrorist acts against Israeli and Western targets, and also by having turned Lebanon and Jordan into blood-soaked battlegrounds. That established his credentials as a fighter for peace worthy of the highest accolade.

It’s in light of this welcome development in the Committee’s thinking that I believe Vlad has the Peace Prize sewn up. After all, he can take sole credit for three wars, those in Chechnya, Georgia and the Ukraine, along with a shared credit for the war in Syria.

Since every war in history has ended in some kind of peace, Vlad has worked tirelessly to make the world more peaceful. In the process, he has been diligently uprooting individual weeds stunting the growth of peace in the world. In pursuit of that noble agricultural aim, he hasn’t balked at using effective herbicides, such as thallium, polonium, gelsemium and novichok – surely such dedication can’t go unrewarded?

In eager anticipation, I’m hereby extending my heartiest, if ever so slightly premature, congratulations to my good friend. Keep up the good work, Vlad! All peace lovers the world over are rooting for you.