Iron Lady and woolly liberals

Margaret Thatcher continues to divide opinions both here and abroad, usually along the lines of pro or con. My taxonomy is different: I ignore all opinions, for or against.

Opinions, as discrete from judgements, are useless. Judgements, on the other hand, aren’t, especially when sound. Alas, those emanating from liberals seldom are, regardless of where the liberals come from.

The Russian historian Tamara Eidelman is a case in point. This morning I watched her YouTube lecture on Margaret Thatcher, delivered from a broadly liberal position.

Eidelman exudes the milk of human kindness, and I bet she could even cite the provenance of this phrase. This thoroughly sympathetic woman deftly uses the Internet to carry history to the masses. Her lectures are erudite and cogent, which is laudable.

But neither she nor many within the ranks of the liberal opposition to Putin understand British, and generally Western, politics well enough. This makes it hard to harbour high hopes that Russia would flourish should they come to power and try to implement Western models, as they see them.

You may wonder why an Anglophone writer addressing a predominantly Anglophone audience would choose to comment on a lecture by a Russian historian on a British statesman.

The reason is simple: Russian Westernising intelligentsia have always been a mirror reflecting the West. The mirror is concave, making both the vices and virtues of the West appear enlarged and exaggerated. Looking in that mirror we can perhaps understand ourselves more clearly. After all, only something that’s actually there can ever be enlarged and exaggerated.

Eidelman is better-educated than most other Russian Westernisers, but she seems to form her concept of politics on the basis of general liberal principles and papers like The Guardian. Jumping from that springboard, it’s hard to reach the lofty heights of the complex phenomenon that was Margaret Thatcher, unquestionably our greatest post-war statesman.

Now, to Eidelman and most Russian liberals, the word ‘conservatism’ has negative connotations because they associate it with Putin. Still, being a scholar rather than an ideologue, she tries to put forth a balanced view, by and large succeeding.

Where Eidelman errs is in consistently describing Margaret Thatcher as a conservative. That’s a mistake often made by those who confuse the upper-case Conservative party with lower-case conservatism. The two may overlap here and there (these days, almost nowhere), but they are far from being coextensive.

Mrs Thatcher’s views would have made her conservative in America, but in Britain she really was a Whiggish radical. The difference isn’t so much in the ideas as in the balance among them.

English conservatism predates the Reformation and hence has strong Catholic, later also Anglo-Catholic, roots. American – and Mrs Thatcher’s – conservatism is predominantly Protestant, in her case even Methodist. Both types stress individual responsibility over collective security, self-reliance over dependence, hard work over indolence, a small state over a big one.

But the balance is different, as are the accents. Catholic, which is to say traditional, conservatism is rooted in church doctrine with its concepts of subsidiarity and solidarity. The former translates into the idea of individual responsibility based on the Christian concept of free will making free choices.

But also vital is solidarity: care for the weak, sick, widows, orphans and others who can’t take care of themselves. Conservatives don’t necessarily believe it’s the Exchequer that should provide such care, but then neither do they believe in the primacy of economic prosperity over all other considerations.

None of this is alien to Protestantism either, but there, especially in the Calvinist denomination dominant in Britain, the accent on rugged individuality and success through hard work is more pronounced. The solidarity aspect is downplayed, though not ignored.

Calvin assigned a redemptive value to wealth, seeing it as God’s reward for virtue. Austerity, thrift, self-reliance, unsmiling pursuit of material happiness, contempt for worldly pleasures are fundamentally Protestant virtues, summed up in what Max Weber described as ‘Protestant work ethic’.

This explains why even in our time Protestant countries boast a per capita GDP 1.5 times higher than in Catholic countries, three times higher than in Orthodox ones, and five times higher than in Muslim lands – this despite an ocean of petrodollars sloshing underfoot in the largest Orthodox country and many Muslim ones.

Thus Sweden is richer than Italy, but where would you rather live, given the choice? And Sweden is Lutheran, not even Calvinist, as British (and American) Protestantism tends to be. Italy would be my uncontested choice, but probably not Mrs Thatcher’s. Her worldview was largely formed by her Methodism, as was the balance among her political desiderata.

Eidelman ignores this aspect, as do most Russian (and British) liberals, which leaves her at a disadvantage when it comes to understanding her subject. She constructs a schematic representation of Margaret Thatcher the Iron Lady and then tries to squeeze this complex phenomenon of a woman into the primitive contrast of individualism versus collectivism, Right versus Left, or capitalism versus socialism.

This is a conceptual error, and it begets a whole raft of smaller lapses, some of a factual nature. We’ve all done it, and far be it from me to take anyone to task over a gap in research. It’s just that some of Eidelman’s factual errors spring from her simplistic analysis.

For example, it’s logical to suppose that Mrs Thatcher’s commitment to meritocracy and individual attainment would make her a great champion of grammar schools. True enough, that’s how Eidelman portrays her tenure as Secretary for Education. According to her, Mrs Thatcher, as she then was, fought tooth and nail to preserve grammars against the onslaught of comprehensives.

The reality is rather different – and in general, Mrs Thatcher’s actions didn’t always reflect her rhetoric. She actually closed down more grammar schools than any of her Labour counterparts.

Under her aegis the number of pupils attending comprehensives almost doubled, from 32 to 62 per cent. This shows above all that Mrs Thatcher was a shrewd political operator, who acted on the polls showing that, after three decades of unremitting socialist propaganda, grammar schools were unpopular. But a courageous fighter for selective education Mrs Thatcher certainly wasn’t.

Eidelman successfully contains her problems with the philosophy behind free education streamed to fit the diverse abilities of pupils. She only says that it has both good and bad sides.

As her former colleague in the teaching profession, I fail to see any bad sides. Every teacher knows that in any class about 25 per cent of the pupils are above average, another 25 per cent below average, and the remaining 50 per cent somewhere in between.

A universal curriculum has to target the largest group, meaning that for a quarter of the pupils the curriculum would be too boring and for another quarter, too difficult. Dividing them into three, or at a pinch two, streams would benefit them all.

Conversely, lumping them all together runs the risk of producing whole generations of illiterate, deracinated Mowglis divorced from our civilisation – and this is an empirical observation, not a theoretical construct. However, such stratification runs against the grain of liberal egalitarianism, and Eidelman’s instincts go on strike, in the nicest possible way.

Speaking of strikes, she gives a reasonably accurate account of Mrs Thatcher’s confrontation with the miners, but the nuances again fall by the wayside.

Thus Arthur Scargill, head of the National Union of Mineworkers, emerges out of her account as a gracious loser. He saw that, after almost a year of industrial action, Mrs Thatcher had won. Hence, when met with an anti-strike picket, he said that his principles wouldn’t let him cross a picket line and meekly retreated.

I would have been tempted to mention that Scargill was a rank communist, part of the hard left faction within Labour toiling towards a revolutionary cataclysm. Mrs Thatcher’s stand was based not so much on an abstract belief in free enterprise as on the urgent need to save the country from mayhem. She was the British answer to Franco and Pinochet, but unlike them she acted strictly within parliamentary constraints.

Hence Mrs Thatcher had to work in a hurry. One never knew what the next election might bring, and time was of the essence.

Vindicating the old saw about haste and waste, she let her innate radicalism run riot. For example, she destroyed the traditional civil service that had served Britain well for centuries. Instead she proceeded from an unmitigated faith in meritocracy, not realising that over time it was bound to turn into spivocracy.

Her breakneck drive to sell council houses to the tenants set the stage for the subsequent mortgage crisis and a spate of foreclosures. And her closing down many of the smokestack industries was another sound idea undone by the speed of its realisation.

Had Mrs Thatcher felt she had a clear run of, say, another 10-15 years, she could perhaps have prepared the ground for her sweeping reforms by investing more time and money into retraining and relocation programmes, and other social parachutes. But, familiar with the vagaries of democratic politics, she acted precipitously, which created serious social problems.

Still, Eidelman’s palpable kindness and liberal instincts get the better of her. While admitting that the general standard of living rose greatly under Mrs Thatcher, she bemoans the resulting plight of the poor.

She doesn’t notice the inherent contradiction there. For the best way to help the poor is to reduce their number, and Mrs Thatcher’s reforms eventually achieved that end. Hers were desperate times, and she resorted to dangerous measures – with most, though not all, coming off.

I’m sorry that so many educated Russian liberals don’t understand Britain well. But then the same could be said about their British counterparts, and what’s their excuse?

What’s your phobia?

Mine is acrophobia, irrational fear of heights. That’s what the Greek word phobia means: extreme, irrational fear.

A Tory, encountering a Muslim

There’s no tangible reason for me to be unable to stay on a top-floor balcony, and yet I am. That’s irrational. Ten seconds, and I have to rush back into the room because otherwise I fear I might jump. That’s extreme.

Acrophobia is a psychiatric disorder, albeit a mild one. Since I’m not particularly bothered by it, I’ve never sought treatment. Stick to tennis, Alex, I say to myself. Hang-gliding isn’t for you.

Now, if you believe our Tory ex-Chancellor Sajid Javid, his party also suffers from a phobia. And theirs is more serious than my mild, mundane disorder.

The disease in question is Islamophobia, and it must be so recondite that it doesn’t seem to appear in any psychiatric manual. Since Mr Javid spoke about the party at large, not just specific individuals, the situation is as dire as can be.

Thousands of Tories must impersonate Edvard Munch’s famous painting every time they espy a Muslim. They wouldn’t be caught dead anywhere near Edgware Road, where Muslims roam in large numbers. Pursued by the nightmares of Muslims, they wake up in the middle of the night drenched in cold sweat, hoarse from their screams.

No? That’s not what Islamophobia means? Fine, in that case please explain to me what it does mean. And if you can’t, let’s ask Mr Javid – he’ll sort us out.

On second thoughts, I don’t think anyone who uses the word phobia in any other than its proper meaning can sort us out on anything. The improper meaning in which this word is often used isn’t medical but political.

Tag phobia to the name of any group our woke opinion-formers deem oppressed, and Javid is your uncle, Warsi is your aunt. A neologism is coined. This is three perverse tendencies of modernity for the price of one: desemanticisation of words, medicalisation of conditions and politicisation of everything.

If Islamophobia doesn’t mean irrational fear of Muslims, what on earth does it mean in woke, as opposed to English? Take your pick.

It could mean hatred of Muslims, although I doubt that’s what many Tories feel.

Or it could mean merely a mild dislike of Muslims, probably a somewhat wider affliction, but hardly a pandemic.

Or else it could be just talking – or, worse still, joking –about Mohammed’s marital preferences, and that sin may be quite widespread (mea culpa, in the spirit of openness).

Or it could mean a genuine concern about Islamic terrorism, which is hardly irrational, considering that two-thirds of the people charged with terrorist offences are Muslims.

Or it could denote an equally legitimate worry about many Muslims’ inability or reluctance to accept British culture and laws.  

Or it could mean a propensity to discriminate against Muslims, which is actually the subset that Mr Javid used to illustrate the wider problem. Apparently, he was once blocked from standing in a safe Tory seat because its constituents were unlikely to vote for a Muslim candidate.

If that was a true reflection of the demographic situation there, then the local Tory association was only guilty of a realistic assessment of their man’s electoral chances. Using demographics to political ends is par for the course. If you don’t believe me, explain why the manifestly inept Sadiq Khan has been re-elected as Mayor of London.

And if Mr Javid’s association was indeed driven by a prejudice symptomatic of the whole party, then he must be a statesman of Periclean proportions. After all, he managed to overcome institutional Tory Islamophobia and rise to the second-highest political post in the UK.

On the other hand, he didn’t keep it for long, so maybe he is making a valid point. Then again, two of the three highest offices in the Tory government are at present held by Hindus, so perhaps the Conservative Party is either not racist or racist only selectively.

To be fair, he was going not only by his own ordeals, but also by the findings of the inquiry led by Swaran Singh, a former equality and human rights commissioner, and requested two years ago by Mr Javid himself.

While acknowledging that the Conservative Party isn’t racist institutionally, Mr Singh did detect traces of “anti-Muslim sentiment” at local levels. He also pointed out two instances illustrating said sentiment.

First, when Boris Johnson was still a mere newspaper columnist, he compared burka-clad Muslim women to letterboxes, which gave people the impression that the Tories were “insensitive to Muslim communities”.

I disagree. That flourish of Mr Johnson’s pen only shows his knack for a visually apt simile. He could have, for example, compared those ladies to penguins, but that would have been less accurate because penguins have white chests, and Muslim women don’t – or if they do, they don’t display them in public.

The second example had to do with Lord Goldsmith’s campaign for the mayor of London in 2016. In the heat of electoral jousts, Lord Goldsmith suggested that Sadiq Khan, the eventual victor, was a closet Islamic extremist and therefore dangerous to London.

When a brouhaha ensued, he apologised for his poor judgement, while denying Islamophobia.

Now, if false, Lord Goldsmith’s accusation was libellous, and British laws cover such indiscretions like a blanket. Did Mr Khan not sue because Lord Goldsmith’s statement was true? In that case, the sin committed wasn’t libel but divulging official secrets.

However, even if Lord Goldsmith’s premise was incorrect, his conclusion wasn’t: Sadiq Khan is indeed dangerous, nay downright detrimental, to London even if he isn’t an Islamic extremist.

I wish Mr Javid, and Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, who supported him unequivocally, busied themselves with better things than catering to the brittle sensibilities of their co-religionists. Or at least found real English words to describe their grievances, rather than the woke jargon that’s more destructive to our country than any conceivable phobia.  

P.S. The other day, an Argentinian TV presenter announced the death of William Shakespeare, “one of the most important writers in the English language – for me the master.” Actually, the William Shakespeare who died on that day was an 81-year-old man from Coventry, who was the first Briton to be vaccinated against Covid. An easy mistake to make, I suppose, especially for a TV personality.

Vandalism + shoplifting = the Enlightenment

Observers of modernity often point out its accelerating divergence from reality, its constant efforts to pass clumsy copies for the originals.

Inspired by zeitgeist, it replaces religion with (at best) religionism, faith with superstition, freedom with liberty, wisdom with cleverness, sentiment with sentimentality, justice with legalism, art with pickled animals, music with amplified noise, statecraft with politicking, love with sex, communication with soundbites, self-confidence with effrontery, equality before God with levelling, respect for others with political correctness, dignity with solipsism, self-respect with self-esteem – in short, everything real with virtual caricatures.

A virtual world is being built in place of the real one, and this construction project has a long pedigree. It didn’t start with today’s mania for wokery, nor even with the twentieth century. It was that misnomer, the Enlightenment, that began to swing the wrecking ball at the edifice of actual reality, while at the same time looting the wreckage.   

For no virtual world can ever be accepted even on its own limited terms unless it bears some resemblance to the real one. It must look like a duck, walk like a duck and quack like a duck – even if it’s not a duck.

Hence, the Enlighteners, in order to be indeed seen by the credulous as a source of light, had no other choice but to shoplift the traditional culture and adapt its terms to the virtual reality that was being created. Otherwise everyone would have realised that theirs was the kind of fire that could only scorch, not illuminate.

This can be best illustrated with the example of the French revolutionary summation of the Enlightenment: liberté, egalité, fraternité. In the early stages this triple lie of a motto didn’t run unopposed: other desiderata, such as unity and justice, were occasionally proposed as replacements for the brotherhood element. The ultimate winner was probably determined by its Christian overtones purloined from the original owner for PR purposes.

To start with, let’s consider its tripartite form. We’ll notice that many revolutionary slogans of post-Christian modernity are made up of three elements, either words or phrases.

Apart from the French one, one could cite the American “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness”, the Russian vsia vlast Sovetam (all power to the Soviets) or the German ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer (one people, one nation, one leader). And even a somewhat less significant twentieth-century revolution had to chip in with a vapid Work harder, produce more, build Grenada!

What we are witnessing here is the first stage of larceny: the revolutionaries sensed that the world around them was alive with Trinitarian music. They probably ascribed that phenomenon to church propaganda and control of learning, rather than to the ontological property of man and nature it really is.

But whatever the source of the music, people’s ears were so attuned to it that they were predisposed to respond to similar sounds even if they conveyed a different meaning. But it wasn’t just the music.

Also hidden in the French slogan was another mock-Christian allusion. For, according to the Enlighteners, ‘fraternity’ flowed out of ‘liberty’ and ‘equality’. Philosophers of the time argued that no brotherhood was possible without liberty and equality, which is to say that the third part of the triad proceeded from the first two.

One doesn’t have to be a theologian to see how the deep and subtle Christian doctrine of the Trinity was vulgarised for an un-Christian purpose by adding the fake echoes of the Creeds.

Each element of the French triad was stolen property. To the original owner, freedom came from – and led to – the truth, which is to say God; equality was a natural consequence of jointly loving, and being loved by, a supreme being, which is to say God; brotherhood implied a kinship bestowed by a common father, which is to say God.

The intellectual cardsharps of the Enlightenment deftly pulled the ace of God out of the pack, leaving people with a hand of cards that were not only low but also marked.

In a similarly devious way, the linear, teleological nature of Judaeo-Christian eschatology was transformed into the secular doctrine of progress.

Unlike the Eastern mind trained to respond to circular, static philosophies, the Western mind had been conditioned to expect a vertical, upward movement on a straight line. With an enviable sleight of hand, the philosophes replaced the kingdom of God as the destination of linear development with the eudemonic idea of happiness as the ultimate goal of life.

That, courtesy of St Anselm, had been known since the eleventh century as a sure recipe for amorality. And in the United States, the first country constituted along Enlightenment lines, the word ‘happiness’ in the Declaration of Independence was understood in strictly material terms, as some of its signatories helpfully explained. Happiness was comfort, prosperity – ultimately property.

Almost the exact wording as in the Declaration can be found in John Locke, the shining light for both American and French Enlighteners. In an often quoted statement he mentioned “life, liberty and estate” in the context of “natural rights”, a concept of his that can only charitably be described as dubious, especially when used widely and indiscriminately. Again there was an element of larceny involved, with the natural law of church doctrine becoming a mishmash of assorted natural rights.

A natural right in its proper sense is an entitlement that presupposes no ensuing obligation on anyone else’s part, such as the right to life. Estate ownership doesn’t qualify for this lofty designation: my natural right to own an estate would presuppose your natural obligation to provide one, something you may or may not agree to honour.

However, in that particular context Locke’s full statement was unobjectionable. What he talked about was preserving a man’s “life, liberty and estate against the injuries and attempts of other men”. The rule of law, in other words.

But this wasn’t how it came out in the Declaration of Independence. Its statement was snappy, a quality essential to slogans but sometimes detrimental to truth. The Founding Fathers chose a less precise term “happiness”, preceded by “the pursuit of”, a combination they declared to be a natural (inalienable) right.

This was more than just a matter of semantics: the underlying idea was turned around. Pursuit of property, rather than the Lockean legal protection of property already amassed, was a de facto declaration of dependence on money. The teleological nature of wealth, beatified by the Reformation, especially its Calvinist offshoot, was thus canonised by the Enlightenment.

Alas, that larcenous shift from actual to virtual reality has itself been canonised. Even many conservative commentators use Enlightenment tenets as their frame of reference. That not only throws their whole philosophy out of kilter, but also makes one wonder about the usefulness of the very term ‘conservative’.

Since these days it means either too little or too much, it hardly ever means anything real at all. But then modernity isn’t about reality, is it?

Nazi goose and communist gander

Nicholas Brock, 52, was the other day sentenced to four years in prison for being a neo-Nazi.

Can you see what’s wrong with this picture?

He decorated his room with SS memorabilia and his body with SS tattoos. He also collected all sorts of material on the Nazi ideology, including a copy of Mein Kampf, along with generally, rather than specifically German, racist brochures.

Yet Mr Brock can’t be legitimately called a monomaniac. In fact, his hobbies reveal a personality in conflict. On the one hand, he has a rich collection of anti-Muslim literature. On the other, he lovingly downloads videos of ISIS beheadings and other gory exploits.

In short, Mr Brock is a nasty bit of work any way you look at it, which Judge Peter Lodder QC pointed out in no uncertain terms when explaining the custodial sentence:

“It is clear that you are a right-wing extremist, your enthusiasm for this repulsive and toxic ideology is demonstrated by the graphic and racist iconography which you have studied and appeared to share with others.

“Your bedroom was decorated with SS memorabilia, a framed Ku Klux Klan recognition certificate in your own name was hanging on your wall.

“You stored documents such as the offensively titled Nigger Owner’s Manual, you had video clips of Ku Klux Klan discussions about race war, of cross-burning, of decapitation, and a propaganda video of Combat 18, a race-hate neo-Nazi group…”

And then came the kicker, which left me, and probably Mr Brock, utterly confused: “I do not sentence you for your political views, but the extremity of those views informs the assessment of dangerousness.”

If I understand His Honour’s point correctly, which I probably don’t, he sentenced Mr Brock to prison not for holding political views as such, but because his views were extreme and therefore deemed unacceptable.

Now, I don’t purport to be a legal expert who can navigate comfortably through every nook and cranny of the English Common Law. Yet, on general principle, there is something disturbing about a man going to prison for his views, however repulsive they might be.

But fine, I’m only going by newspaper reports. I haven’t studied the case in sufficient detail to take serious issue with the verdict. It’s possible, nay likely, that Mr Brock strayed from insanity into criminality, as defined by some laws with which I am unfamiliar.

In any case, our air is cleaner without another Nazi inhaling it for the next four years, and few of us will shed any tears for Mr Brock’s ordeal. After all, dura lex, sed lex – we may have reservations about this or that law, but as long as it’s on the books, it must be obeyed and any infraction punished.

If the law says that collecting the literature and memorabilia of a revolting ideology is a criminal offence, then so be it. Who am I to argue?

But, though it pains me to have to remind our judges of this demonstrable fact, Nazism isn’t the only revolting ideology whose survivals persist on our shores. Communism easily rivals Nazism for inhuman savagery and far outscores it in body count.

War casualties aside, the Nazis murdered about 10 million people. The communists managed 60 million in the USSR alone, plus as many in China, plus God knows how many others in Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Moreover, national socialism has a biological limit to its spread by definition. After all, it’s hard for, say, a Cuban to swear by the innate superiority of the Aryan race. But genuflecting before the icons of Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro or Che Guevara is easy: worshiping such heroes transcends race. International socialism is just that, international.

Our homegrown neo-Nazis are indeed odious, but it’s hard to claim that their ideology will take over British politics in any foreseeable future. By contrast, the communist ideology, barely camouflaged by woke effluvia, almost triumphed in Britain. Jeremy Corbyn lost the general election by a wide margin, but not so wide as to make sure his evil creed will never vanquish in the future.

On balance, I believe that communism, in its various guises, presents a much greater danger than any form of Nazism, fascism, jingoism or other creeds going by the misnomer ‘right-wing’. But, being a conciliatory person by nature, I am willing to concede that the two ideologies, Nazism and communism, are equally dangerous.

That’s where the goose and the gander fly out of the gaggle in opposite directions. If basing one’s concept of interior decoration and sartorial splendour on Nazi iconography is criminalised, then surely so should be the communist equivalent? For old times’ sake, shouldn’t laws apply to everyone equally?

Yet Soviet, Maoist and other communist livery is seen as kind of cool among large swathes of Westerners, mostly but far from exclusively young ones. Lenin or Mao lapel pins, Soviet uniform coats and hats, CCCP logos, Che Guevara T-shirts and posters can be publicly displayed with impunity, and no one will dare comment.

A friend of mine, for example, was married to a ‘liberal’ journalist, whom I last saw when she was in her 50s. When they were still together, their bedroom was decorated with a huge Che Guevara poster. When I said something unprintable about it, she sighed and said: “Well, I can’t help it. I’m a liberal.” “In that case,” I said, “you shouldn’t worship mass murderers.” I’ve never seen her again.

Nor is it just individuals who rely on communist imagery for their self-identification. Party conferences of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition unfold to the accompaniment of communist songs, including the Internationale that until 1944 was the official anthem of Stalin’s USSR. Red flags fly everywhere, possibly symbolising the blood of the hundreds of millions murdered by those sharing Labour’s taste in colour schemes.

Yet I’ve never heard, nor read, a single word of criticism. If singing the Horst Wessel Lied in public is against the law, then what about Labour’s favourite chorus of Bandiera Rossa, a communist song ending in a blatant oxymoron, Evviva il comunismo e la libertà?

That’s like singing “long live Nazism and racial tolerance.” Communism and liberty are two things incompatible but, given the choice, I’m sure the Corbyn crowd would opt for the former.

The goose and the gander are served with different sauces, which leaves a rancid taste in my mouth. On that note, off to lunch.

I hate it, RT envies it, EU is “deeply concerned”

Margarita Simonian, head of Putin’s propaganda channel RT, is by her own admission turning green. “I envy Lukashenko,” she said. “Beautifully done!”

Protasevich was warmly welcomed on his return to Minsk

Beauty is commonly known to be in the eye of the beholder. What prompted this aesthetic judgement from that particular beholder, Russia’s female answer to Dr Goebbels, was the act of air piracy perpetrated by Belarus on Lukashenko’s direct order.

The EU, the US and Britain all expressed their “deep concern”, doubtless making Lukashenko and Putin tremble with fear. Had the Ryanair plane been shot out of the sky, the response would no doubt have been upgraded to “serious concern” or, pushing the envelope, even “grave concern”. That would have definitely put paid to the two bandit regimes.

The facts of the crime have been filling newspapers since Sunday, but what matters in any reportage isn’t just the what, but also the how. Emphasis and language make a difference, and expert reporters know this. Thus Russia’s role in this crime, though not exactly ignored, has been underplayed, drowned in nonessential details.

Here are the essential ones.

Lukashenko, commonly described as Belarus’s dictator, is in fact Putin’s viceroy. His regime is propped up by Russian oil, gas, subsidies, technology, logistic and intelligence support, propaganda and trolling. It’s only for tactical reasons that Belarus still retains nominal independence.

That’s why Western papers made a significant omission when failing to report that two hours before the attack the Russian media had been told to “stand by for the publication of an important announcement”. This means the Russian government knew about the hijack in advance and in all likelihood helped to set it up. This sort of thing is called ‘aiding and abetting’ in some quarters.

The crime itself was carried out without any wholehearted attempt at subterfuge. Ryanair Flight FR4978 was carrying 126 passengers from Athens to Vilnus. Two of the passengers were the opposition blogger Roman Protasevich and his Russian girlfriend. Three or four others (reports differ) were agents of the Belarusian secret service that, unlike its Russian counterpart, has nostalgically kept its Soviet name, the KGB.

A bomb scare was announced, while a Belarusian jet fighter Mig-29 began to track Flight FR4978. However, the Ryanair pilots acted in a way consistent with neither a bomb threat nor their usual pattern.

In the past, they always slowed down and started their descent some 110 miles from Vilnus. This time, however, the pilots reduced neither the speed nor the altitude. This means they at first tried to get away from the Mig, which was in a pursuit mode. This little detail wasn’t highlighted in any of the newspaper accounts I’ve read.

The pilots’ actions didn’t even remotely resemble a normal reaction to a bomb threat. Common sense would have called for the quickest possible descent and landing – not a high-speed race against a jet fighter.

However, just two minutes’ flight time from the Lithuanian airspace, Flight FR4978 sharply changed course eastwards and flew to Minsk – which was hundreds of miles farther away than Vilnus.

Hence the pilots didn’t think the bomb threat was real. So why did they suddenly change course? The answer is obvious: the Mig pilot told them he was under orders to shoot the airliner down if its pilots didn’t comply. Moreover, the threat was made in a way that left no doubt it would be carried out. The fate of Malaysian Air Flight 17 was still fresh in the pilots’ memory.

In other words, Lukashenko, aided and abetted by Putin, was ready to murder 126 passengers plus the crew for the sheer pleasure of getting rid of one opposition journalist. The youngster has since been paraded on Belarusian TV, confessing his criticism of Lukashenko, a crime for which the maximum penalty is death.

Protasevich’s face bore marks of beating and torture, and the picture reminded me of the old Vietnamese images of captured American pilots, who had been tortured so cruelly they could barely utter the requisite confessions. Russia was complicit in those crimes too.

Putin’s mouthpieces reacted in the way one would expect from members of the same gang. Foreign Minister Lavrov praised Belarus for her “absolutely reasonable approach” to the deadly threat posed by Protasevich. And the Ministry spokesman Zakharova indulged in her usual buffoonery.

She was “shocked that the West calls the incident in Belarusian air space ‘shocking’ ” and then launched Putin’s favourite counterattack of it takes one to know one. It’s neither Belarus nor, God forbid, Russia, she explained, but Western countries that are guilty of “kidnappings, forced landings and illegal arrests”. Zakharova didn’t offer any examples of such beastliness – common knowledge was in no need of reiteration.

Other than scaring Messrs Lukashenko and Putin with their expressions of deep concern, Western leaders have done next to nothing in response to this act of state terrorism.

Lukashenko and his coterie were already under sanctions, banning them from travelling to the West and freezing their assets held there. Now these measures have been augmented by a ban for Western airlines to enter Belarusian airspace and for Belarusian planes to land in some Western countries.

I can confidently predict that these sanctions, new and old, will have no effect – other than emboldening the bandit regimes and increasing their sense of impunity.

Neither Merkel nor Macron has the stomach to face up to Putin and his vassals. No matter how deeply, seriously or gravely they are concerned, they’ll still allow Putin to flood Europe with cheap gas flowing through his new pipeline Nord Stream 2, thereby propping up his regime.

Our Foreign Secretary Raab has uttered some strong words, but words are cheap. However, freezing the purloined billions Russian gangsters keep in London would be jolly expensive indeed, which explains why such a response wasn’t even mooted.

Nor will Biden reinstate the sanctions he waived against Nord Stream 2, while his State Secretary Blinken will continue to chat with Lavrov, and his National Security Adviser Sullivan will go on holding meaningful discussions with head of Russia’s Security Council Patrushev (whose criminal activities have earned him a ban from entry into the USA).

A new Munich seems to be in the works, with the West accepting the general thrust of Russia’s hybrid war against it, while continuing to express deep concern over each new crime and to impose harmless sanctions.

Instead, Russia and her vassalages, such as Belarus, ought to be placed in airtight quarantine, with all economic, cultural and political ties severed. Let them eat their Migs, drink their oil, inhale their gas.

Alas, the West isn’t blessed with any leaders other than typological equivalents of the Chamberlains and Daladiers of yesteryear. That’s why our lot are helpless in the face of today’s typological equivalents of Stalin and Hitler.

Penny has problems with her constitution

No, I don’t mean Penny Mordaunt’s physical makeup. As you can see, she is what used to be called ‘a fine figure of a woman’.

Moreover, by all accounts this Tory minister (and a TA officer) is great fun. In my younger days, I could imagine going on a pub crawl with her, to have a few drinks and more laughs, exchange some bawdy stories, sing some ribald songs and see what the immediate future might bring. (In my dotage, I can only fantasise about such things, but this one is a recurrent fantasy.)

The constitution that Penny has problems with is that of the United Kingdom, with the last word giving a transparent clue that Britain still remains a monarchy. And monarchy coexists with aristocracy, there’s no getting around that.

Since time immemorial, hereditary aristocrats have sat in the House of Lords, the upper chamber of Parliament. Yet anything that has existed for centuries presents a sniping target for modern barbarians – they refuse to accept that the world had existed before they were born, and the dial isn’t reset with each new generation.

The Lords is no exception. Thus, during the orgy of constitutional vandalism, otherwise known as Tony Blair’s tenure, the number of hereditary peers sitting in the lords was limited, with most peers to be appointed by the prime minister and rubber-stamped by the Queen. At present, the Lord’s has 791 sitting members, of whom only 92 are hereditary peers.

Now, both Penny and I agree that this arrangement is an abomination. On that pub crawl of my impure dreams, we’d establish that fact between the third and fourth drinks, only to move on to less weighty subjects thereafter.

However, if we persevered with that boring subject, we’d find out that we are dissatisfied with the Lords for different reasons. I think only hereditary aristocrats (moreover, those whose peerage goes back at least a century), should sit in that chamber. Penny thinks the members should be neither hereditary nor appointed, but elected.

She advocates this arrangement in her new book, stopping just short of suggesting a name change. Why such reticence? If the House of Lords is to become like the US Senate, why stick with the outdated nomenclature?

According to Penny, having unelected members makes the Lords, a “relic”, a “mausoleum”, an “anachronism”, “as out of touch with modern democracy as it is possible to be”.

The book has been favourably peer-reviewed by all the usual suspects, Tony Blair, Bill Gates, Elton John, the film director Richard Curtis and such true-blue Tories as Boris Johnson and Ruth Davidson.

Penny castigates not just the undemocratic nature of the Lords, but also its demographics. “As hereditary titles still only pass down the male line,” she complains, “many seats in the upper chamber can only have male bottoms filling them.”

That sentence refocused my thoughts on the part of Penny’s anatomy that can be surmised from the photograph. Having pulled myself together, I had a fright. It sounds as if she wishes to abolish not only hereditary Lords, but also the institution of primogeniture.

Why stop there? If the whole political and social system has to be reduced to a show of hands (most of whom don’t know Penny’s elbow from her… well, you know), then I can point out another part of our constitution that involves unelected officials: the monarchy.

If that’s not an anachronism, a relic and a mausoleum, I don’t know what is. Would this minister of the Crown rather have the Crown abolished? While we’re at it, should we perhaps also chop off the head on which that headgear sits?

Penny is a minister in the government department responsible for constitutional reform, and I’m quaking in my boots. What act of vandalism will this lot perpetrate next?

For Penny’s benefit, the whole point of the House of Lords is that it’s unelected. Unelected means impervious to party pressures, not obligated either to issue or to receive political IOUs. The role of the Lords is to act as a counterbalance to the elected power of the Commons, preventing the lower chamber’s more egregious excesses.

This body traces its provenance back to the ancient councils of elders. Its precursor in England before the Norman conquest was the Witenagemot, the assembly of the kingdom’s leading nobles who would convene after a king’s death to select a successor.

The traditional assumption has always been that hereditary aristocrats have a vested interest not in transient political jousts, but in the constant wellbeing of the whole country to which they are umbilically linked. The monarchy and the aristocracy form an axis around which revolves the country’s history, with her generations past, present and future.

Without these institutions, Britain would be like the US, but without the money and power. We already have some feeble and superfluous pastiches of American bodies, such as the Supreme Court. Would Penny like to add the Senate to that?

Britain’s unique political dispensation is perhaps her greatest contribution to Western civilisation. Even French subversives, such as Voltaire, venerated and envied England’s politics. In the next century, Britain’s balance of various interests, estates and classes became even finer, arguably representing the highest achievement of statecraft in the West.

Moreover, unlike, say, France, the British political system is an essential part of the people’s national identity. It’s a stable system too, having remained fundamentally the same for 350 years, a period during which France has had three different monarchies, five different republics, a revolutionary government, a directory, a military dictatorship and an empire.

Yet throughout all these tribulations, France remained France, and the French remained French, proving that their political system is only tangentially important to their national essence. However, remove – or vandalise – Britain’s political system, and she won’t be Britain any longer.

Penny evidently fails to understand such constitutional basics, which doesn’t do much for the cause of putting more female bottoms into parliamentary seats… but don’t get me going on this.

Eton ain’t what it used to be

Here’s an excerpt from the aria of Harry in Oprah, Act 2: “My father used to say to me, when I was younger, he used to say to both William and I, ‘Well, it was like that for me, so it’s going to be like that for you’…”

Aren’t you shocked? I know I am.

It should have been “…he used to say to both William and me”, and Harry doesn’t even have the excuse of having gone to a comprehensive school. Yet he does have the excuse of having gone to Eton, whose standards are evidently slipping. That’s what commitment to an unalloyed woke curriculum can do to a school. Its graduates can’t even talk proper, like, even if brung up in posh families.

However, one suspects Harry’s grammar wouldn’t have advanced past the semi-literate level even had he gone to Gordonstoun, treading the path beaten by just about every male member of his family for three generations.

For, if we agree that Eton has been accelerating on a downward slide, Harry outpaced most of his classmates on that trajectory. He excelled only in such rigorous academic disciplines as polo and rugby, while his performance in more cerebral subjects was marred by accusations of cheating at exams.

The subsequent tribunal refrained from ruling on the cheating claim. Instead that body used Aesopian language, saying it “accepted the prince had received help” in his A-level project. A distinction without a difference, I’d suggest.

Alas, while unable to hoist Harry even to an average level academically, Eton also demonstrably failed in forging his character, which has for centuries been the crux of the school’s mission.

If we believe Wellington’s assertion that the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton, then today’s playing fields have produced a snivelling, treacherous, lachrymose spouter of psychobabble trying to get in touch with his feminine side.

I blame Mrs Thatcher myself… What, it wasn’t her fault? Sorry, I thought she could be blamed for everything. How about “It’s all society’s fault?” Actually, this works, to an extent.

We may believe in free will and hence personal responsibility. But it takes strength of mind and character for one’s free will to break through the dense fog of zeitgeist. Someone like Harry, who after years of expensive education can’t even use elementary grammar, lacks the mental and moral tools to prevent the fog from blurring his vision.

And zeitgeist includes self-indulgent, touchy-feely, I-want-to-be-me psychobabble as its inalienable constituent. Freud and Jung (Fraud and Junk?) emptied a bag of rubbish on modernity, and the likes of Harry, his wife and most of our semi-educated, half-baked pseuds got buried under the fetid pile.

But not to worry: help is on the way. After all, every time I criticise some social or political phenomenon, there’s always a reader out there, asking the question deeply rooted in the pragmatic English mind: So what are we going to do about it?

Before I went (sort of) native, I used to say, “Let’s start by diagnosing the disease. Once its aetiology is properly understood, then we can think about the treatment.” Alas, that left my audiences dissatisfied, disappointed and sometimes even disdainful.

Paying heed, here’s my solution to the problem that warped Harry’s mind and character, whatever little of those faculties he possessed to begin with:

Only clinical psychiatrists holding valid medical accreditation should be allowed to ply their trade, which is treating people with real mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia.

All psychologists, psychoanalysts, therapists, behavioural coaches and other such parasites must be summarily struck off whatever registers they belong to, with their licences burnt and their practices shut down by court order. They should then be retrained in occupations that are currently shorthanded, such as restaurant dish-washing and fruit picking.

At the same time, a blanket ban must be issued on all people past age 21 mentioning their childhood traumas, those caused by daddy or mummy having wanted a child of the other sex, daddy and mummy displaying not enough affection or too much or the wrong kind, or even daddy or mummy dying prematurely.

The latter misfortune especially may be a legitimate cause for grief. But it mustn’t be used as an excuse for anything – grown people, especially men, should have developed sufficient inner resources to stop moaning about mummy and daddy. Saying a prayer for them or raising a glass to their memory should be sufficient.

This ought to be the focus of the character-building courses I am hereby proposing as compulsory school subjects. In Britain specifically, children should be taught to cultivate the traditional, now unfortunately moribund, virtues of stiff upper lip, modesty, self-restraint, deference and good manners – qualities preventing people from shoving their little quirks down anyone else’s throat.

‘Down with solipsism’ and ‘a problem shared is a problem doubled’ should be the underlying principles. For, if even our best schools fail to instil Britishness in their pupils, the playing fields of Eton will become places where all subsequent battles will be lost. Especially the one against the toxic zeitgeist of modernity.

P.S. It’s not only Harry and football commentators who misuse English. My once co-author, the Archbishop of Westminster, has on this Pentecost Sunday sent a woke letter to parishioners, in which he talks about “the enormity [sic] of the challenges we are facing”, the prime one springing from the use of carbon fuels.

Unless he really (and appropriately) meant that this particular challenge is revolting, the proper word would have been immensity or perhaps magnitude. Never mind speaking in tongues — today’s prelates can’t even speak English properly.

Fair play is a white lie

Curiouser and curiouser, or rather crazier and crazier. Globe Theatre seminars on “decolonising” Shakespeare’s plays push modernity even closer to the loony bin.

William Shakespeare, as seen by woke academics

According to the participating academics, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, among Shakespeare’s other racist works, is beset with “problematic gendered and radicalised dynamics”, perpetuating “the view that white is beautiful, fair is beautiful, dark is unattractive.”

The Bard reveals his racist, colonialist nature in the very first line, “Now, fair Hippolyta, our nuptial hour”, and rapidly goes downhill from there. Nor is it just this objectionable play.

Vanessa Corredera, professor of English at St Andrews, nailed the Bard to the racist cross: “In context with other plays and even the Sonnets, this language is all over the place, the language of dark and light… there are these racialising elements.”

Prof. Corredera and other participants generously allowed that Shakespeare’s plays shouldn’t be summarily banned. However, directors must activate their conscience to avoid the numerous pitfalls.

For example, they should cast more actors “of colour” by way of compensation. And they must also make mature decisions on which language is racist, to be expurgated, and which is acceptable, to be left intact, with possibly only a few minor changes.

This seminar is a true eyeopener not just for the participating scholars but also for rank amateurs like me, catching only the echoes of that learned discussion. There I was, thinking that ‘fair’ is what linguists call a ‘polyvalent’ word, one that can convey multiple meanings.

For example, the traditional British virtue of fair play has no racial connotation that I’m aware of. Nor is someone who replies “Fair” to the question “How are you?” ipso facto a Ku Klux Klan member.

A ‘fair deal’ isn’t necessarily struck by two colonialists, a ‘fair crack of the whip’ doesn’t immediately evoke an image of a plantation overseer in Alabama circa 1850, the proverb ‘a fair exchange is no robbery’ doesn’t suggest that any exchange between black people is perforce larcenous, while referring to women as the ‘fair sex’ may be deemed sexist, but not overtly racist.

Also, I can assuage the academics’ fears of racism implicit in any contrast of light and dark or white and black. These go back to the, well, Dark Ages, when Englishmen regrettably had only a limited exposure to other races. Hence the widespread references to black witches, black cats, dark arts, dark moods and so forth. None of these was meant as a racial slur. Most of such expressions had to do with the colour of the night, which tends to be invariably dark this side of the Arctic Circle.

You know all this. However, what you may not know is how to argue effectively against those who insist that Shakespeare was a racist because he used ‘fair’ to mean ‘beautiful’, or because the Moor strangled his white wife to perpetuate a false racial stereotype.

Now, I count myself among the accomplished debaters against the Bard’s detractors. For example, some years ago I attended a dinner at the Carlton Club, where the subject of Shakespeare came up over port.

My host suggested that Hamlet’s relationship with Gertrude had strong Oedipal overtones. As a counterargument, I took advantage of my finely honed polemical techniques and said: “Oedipus, schmedipus, as long as he loves his Mum.”

That won, or at any rate ended, the debate, with Shakespeare thus escaping any association with faddish theories he predated by four centuries. However, no polemical technique is as polyvalent as the adjective ‘fair’. The one I used on that occasion would be too lame if an argument in favour of Shakespeare’s racism arose.

So here’s a step-by-step procedure you should follow when someone claims at a party that Shakespeare was a racist, colonialist or white supremacist.

Step 1: Flash a disarming smile and hold your open palms in front of your chest as a gesture of peace and surrender.

Step 2: Half-turn to the right as if ready to leave and put your weight on your right leg.

Step 3: Keeping your upper body and right arm relaxed, rapidly rotate your hips and shoulders, shifting your weight to the left leg, while throwing your right hand forward.

Step 4: Hit your opponent on the nose or the point of the jaw, clenching your fist at the moment of contact. (If your opponent is female, like Prof. Corredera, and you are a gentleman, like me, don’t make a fist. Instead, deliver an open-palm slap on the side of her head or cheek.)

Step 5: While your opponent writhes on the floor, enunciate slowly and distinctly: “Repeat after me, you [choose your own pejorative epithet]. ‘I will never again spout woke bilge, and certainly not when talking about our greatest playwright and poet. Get that, you [choose a different epithet from the one in the previous sentence]?’”

Step 6: Having elicited the desired response, leave the premises to avoid messing around with the cops.

You may think that this technique, though undoubtedly persuasive, falls short of the acceptable norms of civilised discourse. True.

But you don’t really think polite, rational arguments are possible when one’s opponent is a neo-barbarian out to destroy everything you hold dear, do you?

I fear Biden more than Covid

“Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul…,” quotes St Matthew, and I happily comply.

What’s next, Joe?

Covid is a mass killer of bodies, but it can’t slay the soul of our civilisation, what little is left of it. Yet a feebleminded US president with woke instincts functioning in lieu of his brain can go Covid one better.

If a strong America makes enemies of the West run scared, a weak America has the same effect on its friends. And they have every reason to be afraid.

The Internet is abuzz with videos making viewers first laugh and then, after some deliberation, cry. But I’m not going to cite any visible and audible signs of Biden’s incipient dementia, his numerous gaffes and slips. Just look at Biden’s actions, not his incoherent speeches or pathetic pratfalls.

When an intellect is weak to begin with and further impaired by some mental disorder, the man can still function on instincts alone. And Biden’s are all woke and therefore subversive.

On Wednesday, he tried to lean on Netanyahu to “deescalate” Israel’s self-defence against Hamas terrorism by end of play. No similar pressure was applied on the terrorists, and not just because they tend to be rather truculent.

Biden’s woke instincts make him reach out tropistically for any anti-Western cause, especially if championed by those he sees as the downtrodden masses of the Third World. Israel is America’s only reliable ally in the Middle East, but she isn’t Biden’s ally, not emotionally at any rate.

Also, though I haven’t come across any visible signs of anti-Semitism in his pronouncements (other than the odd slip of the tongue, such as referring to bankers as ‘Shylocks’), I wouldn’t be surprised if Biden harboured such sentiments. They are part and parcel of his kind of worldview, certainly among woke gentiles.

One way or the other, Biden has been busily overturning Trump’s pro-Israeli policies. Thus he has reinstated financial aid to the Palestinians (meaning Hamas) that Trump cut off. And, more dangerous, Biden has renewed the nuclear deal with Iran that Trump shelved.

This effectively clears the path for the ayatollahs to acquire nuclear arms, and you get no prizes for guessing which country they’ll first threaten with such weapons. The Israelis, who to a great extent depend on America’s support for their survival, have every reason to be afraid.

And not just the Israelis. America’s allies in Eastern Europe, especially the Ukraine, also feel betrayed. Biden’s administration has announced it will waive sanctions on Nord Stream 2 AG, the German company overseeing the construction of Russia’s gas pipeline bypassing the Ukraine.

The company’s CEO is Matthias Warnig, a career Stasi officer and Putin’s loyal poodle, who sits on the boards of several Russian oil companies. When completed, Nord Stream 2 will further increase Europe’s dependence on Russia’s gas, thereby strengthening Putin’s hold on power and hence his capacity to escalate his hybrid war on the West.

While busily undermining America’s allies strategically, Biden has also pushed the button on the delayed-action inflationary bomb ticking away under their economies.

In his memoirs Alan Greenspan, former Chairman of the US Federal Reserve, recalls a lecture by Prof. Arthur Burns of Columbia University: “Burns… went around the room asking, ‘What causes inflation?’ None of us could give him an answer. Prof. Burns… declared, ‘Excess government spending causes inflation!’ ”

Put a different way, governments with socialist leanings cause inflation because they can’t control their rapacious spending instincts. It doesn’t take an economics professor to know that Biden’s plans to spend over $6 trillion are likely to tip inflation over the edge.

Nor is this just a theory either. In April, the US rate of inflation jumped from 2.6 per cent to 4.2 per cent, the highest level since the 2008 crisis. And, partly because world economies are pegged to the dollar, our inflation rate has also doubled.

Since most Western governments haven’t paid their way since God was young, that bomb was already primed when Biden took over. But his socialist instincts may well hasten an explosion.

The blast would be devastating on many different levels. Savers and mortgage holders would be hit hard, with shards of bankruptcies and foreclosures flying in every direction. Companies and entrepreneurs seeking financing may find they can’t afford it. And countries with high sovereign debts, such as the US and Britain, will find it impossible to service them. I don’t want to come across as a doomsayer, but we all know what happens when governments default on their loans.

Every time Biden opens his mouth or announces a new policy, I feel like echoing that 1920s American journalist and shouting: “Say it ain’t so, Joe!”. But it usually is, and I grow more and more scared.

No enemies on the Right?

The slogan of the more objectionable groups during the French Revolution was pas d’ennemis à gauche (no enemies on the Left).

Edwin Poots, the young-earther

One can discern echoes of that left-wing solidarity in today’s West, and you can prove this experimentally. All it takes is a single question posed to your average Westerner (not a Muslim): “Who do you think is the aggressor, Israel or the Palestinians?”

If the reply is “Israel”, one can confidently deduce the person’s position on any other issue, from transsexuality to progressive taxation, from open borders to secularisation, from comprehensive education to nationalised medicine.

Since such solidarity cuts across many parties – Labour, Socialist (Democratic, Christian or neat), Liberal, Green, Communist and so forth — whose manifestos may be quite different, one has to feel disappointed in the existing political taxonomy.

Its nomenclatures are clearly inadequate in conveying political convictions – unless you are willing to argue that, say, our Liberal Democratic Party is indeed liberal and democratic.

Since real conservatives stress the individual over the collective, they only add to the confusion by fracturing concepts even further. Our ‘liberal’ press deepens it by tarring, say, Thatcher and Hitler with the same ‘extreme right-wing’ brush.

That’s why in my book How the West Was Lost I instead proposed dividing Western people into two broad categories. Rather than Left and Right, I suggested ‘Westman’ and ‘Modman’.

A Westman feels profound kinship with our civilisation, its religion, culture, philosophy and traditional political forms. A Modman may enjoy some of the fruits of Western civilisation, but he is alien, or often hostile, to its traditional core.

This classification overlaps with the Right-Left divide only partly. Just about everybody on the Left is a Modman, but far from everybody on the Right is a Westman.

That’s why I can’t feel solidarity with everyone perceived as right-wing, even if we may share some convictions. Nor can I adapt the revolutionary slogan to say pas d’ennemis à droite. Calling those I disagree with my enemies would be too strong, but neither can I see them as allies.

Edwin Poots, the new leader of Ulster’s Democratic Unionist Party, is a case in point. I’d describe him as a man after my own heart. However, this is one of many cases where my heart is somewhat in conflict with my head.

‘Somewhat’ is the operative word here because both my heart and head are in agreement on some of Mr Poots’s cherished beliefs.

He wishes to preserve the United Kingdom intact – so do I. He is a Christian – so am I. He supported the Christian bakers who refused to make a wedding cake for two LGBT activists – so did I. He is opposed to Northern Ireland effectively staying in the European Customs Union – so am I. He has problems with Darwin’s theory – so do I.

However, some of his other beliefs give those good causes a bad name. Most of them spring from his religion, which is sectarian Protestant with an accent on biblical literalism.

Atheists who insist that the Bible must be accepted literally or not at all do so because they hate Christianity. Christians who insist on the same thing do so because they are thick or, at best, ignorant.

They expose themselves and, more important, Christianity to ridicule. Thus Mr Poots argues against Darwin and his cheerleaders, such as Richard Dawkins, from the platform of biblical literalism. That makes their inane statements sound clever by comparison.

Even if Darwin’s theory were a scientific fact, which it isn’t, it wouldn’t invalidate Genesis. Since God is outside time, few biblical references to years, months or days are precise chronology. Hence the six days in which the Earth was created fall into the realm of poetic imagery, the dominant literary idiom in use when the Bible was written.

It might indeed have been six days, or it might have been six billion years: God, being omnipotent, is capable of creating things slowly as well as quickly. In any case, Darwin never got around to explaining how species came into being in the first place.

After all, before things evolve, they have to be. All this talk about primordial soups spinning out a single cell out of which Bach and Einstein popped like chicks out of an egg is nothing but fanciful pseudo-scientific speculation. It has more to do with sci-fi than serious science.

The only reason Darwin’s slapdash theory has become orthodoxy is its subversive political impact, not its scientific rigour. The emerging Modman desperately needed something like that to drive the last nail into Westman’s coffin. To him, everything had to have a materialist explanation, and Darwin’s Descent of Man did nicely as a biological companion to Marxism.

The way to argue against the likes of Dawkins – an unsporting undertaking, actually – is by pointing out the gaping holes in Darwin’s intellectual trousers. The disciplines to be invoked are molecular biology, palaeontology, physics, chemistry, logic, philosophy, history etc.

Mr Poots’s arguments, on the other hand, make even Dawkins sound bright. He denies that the Earth is old enough for evolution to have taken place. “My view on the Earth,” says Mr Poots, “is that it’s a young Earth. My view is [it was created] in 4000 BC.”

That’s akin to insisting that the Earth is a flat plate resting on the backs of three giant whales. Some civilisations pre-date Mr Poots’s chosen date by quite a bit. Mesopotamia, for example, goes back to 6500 BC. But that’s not even the point.

Science is vague on how the Earth came into existence, but not when. Radiometric dating puts its age at about 4.5 billion years, give or take 100 million or so. Arguing against radiometric dating is next to impossible for even an enlightened amateur, which Mr Poots demonstrably isn’t. As to his dating the Earth from 4000 BC, that’s simply bonkers.

When Mr Poots was a culture minister, a Modman interviewer feigned disbelief: “You’re the culture minister and you don’t believe in evolution?”

If you want to know how I’d answer this question, type ‘Darwin’ into the SEARCH rubric on my blog, and you’ll find several pieces I’ve written on the subject over the years. This is how Mr Poots answered it: “Yes, absolutely. And you’re telling me that all of this evolution took place over billions of years, and yet it’s only in the last few thousand years that Man could actually learn to write?”

First, no one says that Homo sapiens appeared billions of years ago. His age in measured in thousands of years, not billions. Second, being able to write isn’t a defining characteristic of man.

There are many people, such as many of our comprehensively educated youngsters, who are undeniably human and yet can’t write. Large ethnic groups existing even today are illiterate. Many peoples in the north of Russia, for example, manage to survive without literacy or their own alphabet, as do some in and around Australia. That the Sumerians first began writing in cuneiform around 3,400 BC in no way proves that neither they nor the Earth had existed before that date.

I know that some of my conservative friends may disagree, but I feel that, with friends like Mr Poots, who needs enemies? A thick ally is more dangerous than an intelligent adversary.

No enemies on the Right? Not on your nelly.