French beef with English sausages

Politics, global or domestic, is inherently dishonest. Whatever disagreements arise, they hardly ever have much to do with the face value of the argument.

It’s like a woman telling her husband she is dumping him because they are emotionally incompatible, whereas what she means is that he isn’t making enough money. Or a man ostensibly divorcing his wife because she has failed to match his spiritual growth, whereas in fact he wants to marry his plump secretary.

If the jilted spouse takes issue with the enunciated reason for the split, the two will be at cross purposes in the ensuing conversation. They’ll be talking about different things.

Thus it’s pointless to argue with the French about any customs checks on Lancashire sausages travelling to Northern Ireland or furniture going the other way.

Boris Johnson and his Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab are wasting their breath trying to explain to Manny that Northern Ireland and England are two parts of the same country, the UK. Yes, they are separated by some water – but then Corsica and Réunion island are still parts of France even though they aren’t on the mainland.

Manny may not be a particularly educated chap, but his geography stretches this far. He knows all that. He also knows, and so does Boris, and so does Dominic, and Manny knows they know, that this isn’t what the real argument is about.

As far as Boris is concerned, Manny can choke on Lancashire sausages, and Manny wouldn’t mind seeing Boris shove them into the place that’s normally exit only. His beef isn’t with the sausages but with Brexit.

Manny is a fanatic of the EU, correctly sensing that it has been contrived specifically and exclusively for people like him. Hence he takes Brexit personally, knowing that it has put the EU – and hence his own political future – into jeopardy.

As far as Manny is concerned, Britain doing well outside the EU is a catastrophe on several levels. The most obvious problem is that other EU members may decide to follow suit, and that house can survive only so many departures.

The less obvious but more immediate problem is that Manny’s most dangerous domestic opposition comes from nationalist parties that are at best lukewarm on European federalism.

The poster adorning this article was produced by Action française, a political think-tank cum party that’s the nearest France gets to real conservatism. This royalist, Catholic child of Charles Maurras is too small and out of touch with modernity to present a serious threat, but it does state a Frexit position cogently.

Manny realises that Frexit is another way of saying Down with Macron!, which has been said with increasing frequency after his inept handling of the vaccination programme. That failure rankles, especially against the backdrop of Britain’s success, as spectacular as it was unlikely.

The threat comes from Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement national that’s neck and neck with Manny’s lot in the polls. Now, Mlle Le Pen refrains from calling for Frexit in so many words. But she cleverly uses anti-EU rhetoric to stoke up the nationalist feelings of her natural constituency.

Her message is simple and syllogistic. The EU is Manny, and Manny is the EU. The EU, acting through Manny, is killing Frenchmen by its vaccination fiasco. So even if you may not want to get rid of the EU yet, the next best thing is getting rid of Manny by voting for Marine.

If I advised Macron on political matters, I’d recommend that he put some serious distance between himself and the EU. He could easily match Le Pen’s diatribes without committing himself to any action and certainly not Frexit.

But that would be like expecting a candidate for Iran’s presidency to state publicly that there is a god other than Allah, and Mohammed isn’t his prophet. The words would just refuse to cross his lips, partly out of conviction, but mostly for fear of alienating his core support.

Manny will never stop trying to make Britain’s post-EU life as difficult as he can. If we were run by statesmen rather than spivocrats, we could easily pay him back in the same coin – for example, by promoting the anti-EU sentiments that are rife in some member countries, especially those in Eastern Europe. (I’d also suggest supporting Rassemblement national, but Putin is already doing that, and I wouldn’t want him for an ally.)

But that’s not going to happen, is it? Messrs Johnson and Raab will do some shadow boxing with Manny without ever landing a punch. They’ll argue some obscure legal points, go back and forth for a while before finally giving in.

Or they may not give in – ultimately it won’t matter. One way or the other, EU gauleiters, which is what all those national presidents and prime ministers are, will find a way to cut off their nose to spite Britain’s face. Such is the nature of that very beastly beast.

Are we all wimps now?

Danish midfielder Christian Eriksen collapsed on the pitch yesterday, having suffered what looked like cardiac arrest.

The medical team acted instantly, administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation within minutes. That saved Eriksen’s life, and he is now stable in hospital. He may never play football again, but it looks like he’ll live.

A distressing event for everyone concerned, no doubt. Yet the weeping and wailing surrounding it is perhaps even more distressing.

The players on both teams were crying like babies. So were many spectators. So were some TV presenters. So, if their accounts are to be believed, were many viewers.

Now, I am capable of empathy as much as the next man, and I’ve never thought of myself as a callous person. Had I been present on the scene, I know I would have been upset at the sight of a young man fighting for his life. But I certainly wouldn’t have sobbed uncontrollably.

To be fair, some of the players did the right thing: before the medics rushed in, they had administered mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and then formed a live ring, shielding the stricken man from gawkers.

Others, however, just wept, joining the worldwide lachrymose choir. One begins to think that Boris Johnson’s call for a more “gender-neutral”, “feminine” society wasn’t so much a call as a statement of fact.

Here I have to disagree with Sarah Vine, poor Michael Gove’s wife. According to her, the two desiderata are mutually exclusive: it’s either gender-neutral or feminine, not both.

This just goes to show how futile it is to apply semantic standards to semiotic messages. Never mind the seeming oxymoron. What her husband’s boss was trying to communicate was the fashionable contempt for men and especially their traditional traits.

In that sense, gender-neutral, feminine, hermaphroditic, neuter all mean the same thing: not men, at least not men as God made them. Only men recast in the feminine mould are still allowed to get away with keeping their primary sex bits – they have atoned for the deadly sin of manhood by adopting feminine characteristics.

Reacting to unpleasant sights with tears is a visible manifestation of the invisible self-castration. Such a reaction shows that, though a person was unfortunate enough to have been born with a penis, he is doing all he can to get in touch with his feminine side. Full marks for trying, but do let’s go through the communal ritual of shedding tears.

The match in question was between two Scandinavian sides, Denmark and Finland. Their players are thus heirs to the stern Nordic character of the Vikings. Their forebears cut a swathe through half the world, killing, raping, pillaging and only ever crying with joy, at the sight of their enemy’s headless body swimming in a puddle of blood.

Not that I condone such behaviour, but what on earth has happened to them? And what has happened to the grandsons and great-grandsons of the Britons who lived through the Blitz hardly ever losing their nerve and even sense of humour? People who decorated their bombed-out shops with signs saying “Come in, we are even more open than usual” were no cry-babies. Now their descendants weep when a chap they don’t know suffers a cardiac event.

I’m not going all macho, certainly not so much as to say “men don’t cry”. We do, with sufficient provocation. Grief, bereavement, a dreadful disease striking someone we love, losing a child or a beloved woman may all bring tears to our eyes.

We do try to fight them, but sometimes the fight is lost. We still try because self-restraint, the ability to control effusive emoting is what we do, what we have always done. This quality is most commonly associated with men, but women blessed with good taste and a strong backbone may display it too.

Now this laudable stoicism is despised. Everyone is supposed to wear his heart on his sleeve, with the inevitable result of that organ getting caked in grime. ‘Boys will be girls’ seems to be the mandated new version of the old phrase.

Mr Johnson ought to be careful what he wishes for. He should also pray (within his new-found Catholic rite) that Britons will never again find themselves at war, seeing their comrades blown to scarlet bits in front of their eyes, or their houses smashed to rubble. The spineless castrati he sees in his mind’s eye will go to pieces – and so will the country.

Wokery may be an election-winner, but also a country-loser. Feminise enough men, and society will lose its balance, like an acrobat losing his footing on the tightrope.

It’s not only actions but also words and ideas that have consequences, some of them grave, some irreversible. The on-going woke orgy can have just such an effect on society, and then it’ll be like tuberculosis. When the symptoms appear, it’s too late to do anything about it.

Abandon reason all ye who enter here

Wokery is a popular sport, but a steep entry fee is charged at the arena. All entrants must leave their brains at the door, and these may not be reclaimable on the way out (if anyone ever does leave).

Good block, Boris. Now let’s see that left hook.

That’s no great hardship for most wokers of the world because they have no brains to begin with, except in the strictly anatomical sense. A few, however, may possess some intelligence, and those overachievers do have something to lose.

Boris Johnson who, I have to remind you and myself, is a Conservative prime minister, is nobody’s fool. But intelligence means little, nor indeed will last long, when not propped up by character. If any proof of this observation is still required, Mr Johnson is happy to provide one.

Speaking at the G7 conference, he urged the world to come out of the Covid pandemic by “building back greener and building back fairer and building back more equal and… in a more gender-neutral and, perhaps a more feminine way.”

I suppose this twaddle means that, having spent much of his adult life practising assorted vices, including some highlighted in the Decalogue, Johnson now feels like signalling virtue.

And he doesn’t care how pathetic that makes him sound. Wokers never do: their communications aren’t semantic but semiotic, bypassing reason altogether.

They don’t take the trouble of trying to understand what they are saying because they know their audience won’t either. As long as the people’s nerve endings are tickled the right way, anything goes.

No one decorticates those semiotic messages to see how they hold up to semantic scrutiny. Doing so is seen as bad manners in woke circles, enough to get one blackballed.

Since I’ve already suffered that fate, I take people’s pronouncements at face value, trying to understand what they actually mean. Allow me to indulge this obsolete habit again by looking at Mr Johnson’s statement from some sort of reasonable vantage point.

“Greener” means a wholehearted commitment to the climate change hoax. Though lacking any scientific justification, it has to be avidly gobbled up by the woking classes on pain of ostracism.

Either Johnson doesn’t know that the climate crusade is merely an extension of the Marxist urge to undermine our civilisation or he knows it, but says such things anyway. You decide which is worse.

“Fairer… more equal” covers a multitude of sins, or rather woke virtues. When such words are uttered by prime ministers, they tend to mean economic levelling through extortionist taxation.

Also implied is kowtowing to Marxist campaigns like BLM, and indeed Mr Johnson has urged England fans to support the obscene Marxist rite of ‘taking the knee’ at the European Championship.

“Gender-neutral” means… well, you tell me. Encouraging more children to decide which of the 72 sexes identified so far better suits their neurosis? Possibly. A call for a legal ban on masculine pronouns? Perhaps. Demand for unisex public lavatories? Maybe. Blanket support for the Marxist subversion of the family? Yes, at least implicitly.

“More feminine” is a clarion call to arms for the share-care-be-aware warriors. Masculine qualities, such as fortitude, courage and combativeness, enable people to resist a war on everything they hold dear, specifically one waged by Marxist subversives.

Castrating men spiritually, morally and ideally surgically is a way of preparing the ground for the implantation of Marxist saplings. Mr Johnson seems to be willing to act as gardener, and he wants us all to give him a helping hand.

In other words, conservatism, as understood and practised by the Tories, is a lighter, still somewhat less virulent, form of Marxism. And if you have any doubts on that score, consider Julie Burchill’s plight.

Though not an especially deep writer, Miss Burchill is a brilliant one. She has an instantly recognisable voice of her own, which is a necessary if not sufficient part of writing talent. Such writers are rare among our columnists, and they ought to be cherished.

Miss Burchill may churn out nonsense at times, but she comes up with funny lines more often, and one of those has landed her in trouble. The Telegraph, historically a Tory mouthpiece, has sacked Miss Burchill from her weekly column for racism.

The evidence for this vice, than which, as we all know, nothing viler exists, came from her comment on the name the Sussexes gave to their new-born daughter, Lilibet. “What an opportunity missed!” rued Miss Burchill. “They could have called her Georgina Floydina.”

Whose febrile brain detected racism in this line? Miss Burchill was clearly mocking not Lilibet’s mixed race but her parents’ unwavering loyalty to woke causes, no matter how cretinous or subversive.

Alas, she failed to grasp that any other than a hagiographic reference to George Floyd in any context is ipso facto racist. “George Floyd was a drug-addled thug”? Racist. “George Floyd is an imperfect role model”? Racist. George Floyd was killed resisting arrest”? Racist. “George Floyd has become an icon for Marxist sedition”? Racist.

And even if it’s not George Floyd who is the object of satire, taking his name in vain must still be seen as sacrilege, while doing so in reference to Harry and Meghan is also lèsemajesté – especially if some lowly staffer at the Palace evinces displeasure.

Boris Johnson is a Conservative prime minister, and The Telegraph is a Conservative newspaper. I feel I must keep reminding you of this, lest you forget. Easily done, that.

“Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy”

Such was my friend’s reaction to the news that a member of the grateful public slapped Manny Macron in the face.

Manny, getting slapped down

Manny was doing his Tour de France, a meandering road at the end of which he hopes to secure another few years at the helm. A lot of flesh is being pressed, but some of the flesh strikes back.

Neither my friend nor I have much respect for the president of France (nor, truth be told, for any other modern politician). We see him as a typical EU spiv with narcissistic tendencies and an unquenchable thirst for power that he is incapable of using wisely.

Nor does Manny’s maniacal hatred of Britain do much to endear him to either of us. His isn’t that de rigueur Anglophobia that the French political classes often profess but seldom feel.

No, had Britain stayed in the EU, Manny wouldn’t mind us very much. As it is, he sees the British as traitors to that great idea, a denatured pan-European state run into the ground by the likes of Manny for the benefit of, well, the likes of Manny.

Still, neither my friend nor I felt sorry that the attacker had wielded only his open palm, not a knife or a gun. You see, we are both conservatives, a term that denotes not so much a political philosophy as style, manners, tastes and temperament.

That’s where conservatism starts, and the political or any other philosophy is strictly derivative, although of course not nonexistent. And attacking politicians we don’t like with knives, guns or even open hands is too uncivilised for us.

Such is the problem: civilised, conservative opposition to the modern order is limited to elderly gentlemen like us, who are too few and too isolated to constitute a viable political force. Our style, manners, tastes and temperament prevent us from screaming off soap boxes, rabble-rousing, organising riots and revolutions – or even slapping the likes of Manny for the sake of attracting attention to our cause.

The arrested attacker was shouting Montjoie, Saint-Denis! – that battle-cry of the medieval Kingdom of France was first mentioned in the Song of Roland. Also arrested was his friend sporting the fleur-de-lis and filming the incident.

Both the motto and the livery betoken royalist, which is to say impeccably conservative, credentials. But we can’t see those chaps as fellow conservatives. In all likelihood they are fascisoid radicals, a species occupying an altogether different rung in Lamarck’s ladder.

The situation is becoming increasingly reminiscent of Germany circa 1933. There were only two dynamic political forces at the time, the Nazis and the communists. Hence the Germans either had to choose one or the other, or watch from the sidelines with a sardonic smile on their faces – the option taken up by most conservatives.

The battle lines are drawn in different places now, but the similarities are obvious. Political power throughout the West is in the hands of an increasingly detached dirigiste elite, unerringly steering our civilisation to a gruesome end.

Real conservatism is for all intents and purposes extinct, and the only noticeable opposition comes from radical groups painted in various hues of brown or red. The more dirigiste the state contrived by the elite, the more it serves not the country but itself, the more violent the reaction – and France is as dirigiste as they come, in the West at any rate.

Whether the rebels scream “Black lives matter”, “Power to the people”, “Save the planet” or for that matter “Montjoie, Saint-Denis” is just a question of phonetics. They all claim they are offering a substantive alternative, but it’s one between the rock and the hard place.

My friend and I don’t want to be governed by either Manny, his attacker or the British (or American) equivalents. We’d like to see in government sage, prudent, courageous statesmen, and neither the self-serving spivs currently on offer nor their febrile attackers.

And we are dreaming of such statesmen as we watch a herd of pigs gracefully flying through the air. Alas, they are unlikely birds.

So sports and politics don’t mix, do they?

Yesterday I wrote about the pathetic ritual of England footballers ‘taking the knee’ before matches.

The greatest tennis player of all time?

Chaps, someone who feels compelled to signal virtue is guaranteed to have none. Virtue is a silent, undemonstrative quality that can only ever be manifested tacitly.

That’s why I despise rich people who insist that the recipients of their largess emblazon the donor’s name on their façades. “But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth,” teaches a recognised, if nowadays ignored, authority on virtue.

Yet tennis beat footie to woke stances, which is par for the course. Being more of a middle-class game, tennis attracts more people susceptible to woke diktats.

A salient trait of the middle classes is fear of causing offence. Those above and below the middle classes tend not to give much of a damn, and they don’t care who knows it.

They are secure in their social standing, whereas the middle classes often aren’t. So they may feel they risk dropping a rung or two on the social ladder should they defy newfangled orthodoxies.

However, whereas football powers that be emphasise the racial end of the woke spectrum, their tennis counterparts are more concerned with feminism. Hence for the past few years men and women have been getting equal prize money at the Grand Slam tournaments.

That flies in the face of both arithmetic (the men spend on average twice as much time on the court) and the sacred egalitarian principle of equal pay for equal work. It also ignores the commercial principle of supply-demand: men’s matches attract much bigger audiences, both live and on TV.

Yet no one has accused wokers of the world of being rational: they live by their visceral instincts, the prime of which is resentment of our civilisation as it is, and especially as it has been. This is expressed by rote, through a series of ironclad mantras spouted whenever someone pushes a relevant button on their inner jukebox.

Come the season of major tournaments, some of those mantras become all-pervasive. One of them is invariably uttered whenever a commentator describes Serena Williams as the best female player of all time.

The show host will contort his facial features into a grimace of sanctimonious opprobrium and say: “Why female player? Isn’t she the best tennis player of all time, full stop?”

Like all woke mantras, this is so meaningless as to be borderline idiotic. Any full-time male player, including those on the veterans’ and US college circuits, would beat any female player, including Serena.

Anyone who has ever swung a racquet in anger knows this. Moreover, Serena herself knows it. When an interviewer asked her a few years ago if she was ready to take on Andy Murray, Serena just laughed. “I’m not going to play Andy,” she said. “He’ll beat me love and love in six minutes flat. The men play a different game.”

Yes, the game is different. It’s just the prize money that isn’t.

The usual, specious, argument is that the men’s total prize pot at the lesser tournaments is bigger. That may be, but comely female players have much greater opportunities to supplement their income with endorsements and model work.

Eugenie Bouchard, for example, made $6.1 million last year even though she has never won a major. And Anna Kournikova, who only won $3.5 million in career prize money, has a net worth of $60 million. It’s not just fun but also money that blondes have more of.

However, I feel I know how to reconcile the two sides, those who claim Serena is the best woman player ever and those who insist she is the best player tout court.

Putting on my Solomon hat, I can offer a solution that ought to satisfy both parties (or not, as the case may be). Serena is neither the best tennis player of all time nor even the best woman player.

She isn’t the former because any male player you’ve ever heard of could beat Serena without working up a sweat. The only criterion by which she could be deemed superior to, say, Federer or Nadal is that she has won more Grand Slams: 23 to their 20 each.

All God’s children love objective comparison criteria, but that’s not comparing like with like. Since we’ve already established that women play a different game, bean counting simply doesn’t apply here.

But I agree that the number of Slams is a useful measuring stick when we compare players leaving their mark within the same game, in this case women’s. Well, by that criterion the best woman player of all time is Margaret Court, not Serena Williams.

Court has 24 majors to her credit, compared to Serena’s 23. One might say that Serena at her best would have beaten Margaret at her best, which is God’s own truth. But that argument doesn’t work any better here than it does when we compare men’s and women’s tennis.

The women’s game is now different from what it was half a century ago, when Margaret Court was active. Thus we can take that hypothetical comparison out of the equation and simply go by the objective numbers, 24 versus 23.

But that’s where politics comes in. Mrs Court just doesn’t cut it as the best of all time.

She is a white woman and a Christian pastor. And she is outspoken in her rejection of woke orthodoxies, such as homomarriage and sex change. She doesn’t believe that Fanny can be your uncle and Bob your aunt – so her name never comes up as a candidate.

Serena, on the other hand, ticks all the appropriate boxes. And the one she doesn’t tick, the number of Slams, can be simply redacted from the ballot.

I wonder if Greta Thunberg plays tennis. If she does, Serena (and Margaret) better watch out: both of them could well be taken out of contention. After all, if politics is a factor in determining who is the best player of all time, why can’t it become the only factor?

Working classes vs woking classes

Those bloody proles just don’t get wokery, do they?

Political precedent: England footballers salute the Führer at 1936 Berlin Olympics

Twice the England team played its warm-up matches in Middlesbrough. Twice the players took the knee before the whistle. Twice they were booed.

That slap in the face of the woking classes caused much ire in the press. Words like “idiots”, “morons”, “stupid”, “louts” were sprinkled liberally all over the match reports – and that’s just in the ‘conservative’ papers.

The FA and its apparatchik employee, England manager Gareth Southgate, were aghast. Those fans just don’t understand the deep meaning of that gesture, they rued. They think it’s political, whereas in fact it’s anything but.

Having thus explained what the genuflection wasn’t, the FA bigwigs were reticent in elucidating what it was. I get it, not political. What then? Aesthetic? Charitable? Socioeconomic?

TV commentators confuse the issue further. This is a gesture of protest against social and economic injustice, explained one. Social injustice, said another on a different occasion, never mind the economic part. Racial injustice, added a third. Somehow gender injustice never got a mention, which left me feeling short-changed.

Let’s backtrack to the origin of the gesture, shall we? A year ago, George Floyd, a recidivist criminal high on drugs was caught in Minneapolis trying to pass a counterfeit banknote. The police arrived, and Floyd put up a fight resisting arrest.

When he was subdued, an overzealous cop pinned him down with a knee on Floyd’s neck, accidentally killing him. No great loss to mankind, one would think, but the subsequent trial found the cop, Derek Chauvin, guilty.  

He is facing a long stint in prison, which is likely to be cut short. Policemen guilty of killing black criminals don’t enjoy a high life expectancy in American prisons, especially when their crime has been widely publicised.

Once the news of the incident broke, the radical Marxist organisation Black Lives Matter sprang into action. Riots spread all over the US, with white people attacked, cars set on fire, shops looted, restaurants trashed. As its symbol, BLM adopted the genuflecting pose, thereby expressing symbolic solidarity with Floyd (who once held a gun to the belly of a pregnant black hostage).

BLM thugs would approach white people in the street, demanding they “take the knee”. Those who refused would be assaulted, at best verbally, at worst physically. How anybody could have thought that Chauvin would get a fair trial under the circumstances is beyond me. An acquittal would have set the whole country on fire.

While the attendant thuggery achieved only a limited popularity, the genuflecting gesture got internationally adopted in all the usual quarters. Those residing there see the entire history of the West as an uninterrupted string of crimes against non-white races, and hardly anything else but that.

Or alternatively they can see history as a crime against ‘our planet’. Or against women. Or against workers. Or against… doesn’t matter what it’s against. What matters is that it’s a crime, and only destroying this awful civilisation can secure a restitution.

These rebels in search of a cause always lurk in the shadows, waiting for two things. First, a pretext for the mob to go on the rampage. Second, encouragement that can only come from an osmotic feeling that the woke establishment is on their side.

Floyd provided the former; the ‘liberal’ media around the world, the latter. The actual, rather trivial, incident has since been blown up into some sort of existential conflict, a clash of civilisations, having little to do with the face value of Floyd’s demise.

To reach that stage, the woking classes had to go through several implicit extrapolations, each more asinine and false than the other.

First, what happened to Floyd wasn’t an isolated event but yet another link in the millennia-long chain of injustice. Second, since the black population of US prisons is three times their proportion in the overall population, this can only be a result of systematic discrimination – and if you dare to suggest any other reason, you are a fascist, racist, white supremacist and generally a bad egg. Third, what happens in the rest of the West is a mirror image of the situation in the US.

I suppose it takes an advanced degree from a top university to come up with such bilge. But woke idiocies aren’t supposed to stand up to scrutiny. They are supposed to activate the reflexes of the share-care-be-aware crowd, providing a welcome relief from their daily toil of saving the planet. And in this case they succeeded yet again.  

Suddenly, Britons living 4,000 miles from the scene of the incident are certain they are directly affected. It’s as if it was their own air ducts, not just Floyd’s, that got constricted by Chauvin’s knee. And it’s the bloody Tory establishment what done it, runs the ubiquitous, if unspoken, refrain. It’s Jacob Rees-Mogg who is to blame, if only vicariously.

And who better to feel this collective psychosomatic pain than our oppressed footballers desperate to eke out a living on £250,000 a week. It’s they who are ordered to take the knee before every match, expressing their solidarity with recidivist criminals.

Quite apart from anything else, this strikes me as illogical. Why just the ball-kickers? Why not actors and musicians before performances? Why not everybody on entry into a public space? Don’t Catholics genuflect when entering a church? Of course they do. There you go then.

The trouble is that most football fans haven’t got advanced degrees from top universities. Football, once described as working-class ballet, attracts a crowd short on academic credentials but long on common sense.

Some of them, a minority, are out-and-out louts ready to kill anybody wearing an offensive strip. But most are like those working-class Hartlepool voters who refused to vote Labour because they sensed it no longer has anything to do with labourers and everything to do with toffs out of touch.

The woke crowd has a lot to thank Covid for. Until a couple of weeks ago, the lockdown had kept the fans out of stadiums, and the FA could order the footballers to indulge in that obscene rite without any fear of backlash.

The situation has changed, and a few thousand fans are now allowed to attend. Hence they can flip their collective two fingers (or, under the corrupting influence of American movies, one) at the woking classes. Booing is their way to do just that, and it’s not the expression of innate racism the wokers claim it is.

Much has been made of England’s home advantage in the upcoming European Championship – many of its matches will indeed be played in English stadiums. However, if every match starts with a thunderous booing, I wonder how much of an advantage it’ll turn out to be.

Common folk are rather reticent in England, and it takes quite a bit to elicit a violent reaction from them. They aren’t French, you know. But once properly enraged, they can ride roughshod over alien sensibilities.

The woke crowd has made a stylistic error by enforcing woke rituals in a decidedly non-woke environment. Hope they’ll live to regret it.  

Is the PM Catholic?

When Protestants or the next best thing, atheists, begin to mull over the obscure points of the Catholic canon law, you know time is out of joint.

Happy (and Catholic) couple

What piques such interest among our literati is Boris Johnson’s recent wedding officiated – though, as far as I know, not consummated – in Westminster Cathedral, the seat of British Roman Catholicism.

Considering Mr Johnson’s chequered amorous past, which included two prior marriages and an unspecified number of illegitimate children, people who until now have evinced no interest in Catholicism are expressing deep concern masking an even deeper indifference (sort of like Western leaders, after each new crime committed by Putin or Lukashenko).

Partly it’s Johnson’s own fault, for his religious past is quite diversified too. He was baptised as Catholic, confirmed as Anglican and has since studiously neglected the prescriptions of either denomination.

It’s such polyvalence that has made so many hacks dip into the arcane depths of Catholic statutes. The consensus is that, since Johnson’s previous marriages were outside the Church, they may be deemed invalid. If he now professes Catholicism, he is thus allowed to tie the knot the Roman way.

There’s the rub though. For, in addition to being a deliriously happy bridegroom, Johnson also happens to be Her Majesty’s prime minister. If he is indeed a professing Catholic, then certain issues arise that touch upon constitutional, not just merely canon, law.

For, since Tudor times, England has been a Protestant commonwealth constitutionally, politically and geopolitically. Anglicanism is the state religion, and, taking her coronation oath in 1953, the Queen replied in the affirmative to the question “Will you to the utmost of your power maintain in the United Kingdom the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law?” (I think that this confluence of church and state is incongruous to both, but no one asked me.)

Whereas other mainstream Protestant denominations are nowadays accepted as unthreatening, Roman Catholicism is a different matter altogether. Ever since Henry VIII defied the pope, supposedly in his quest for a male heir, the confessional issue has been intertwined with the little matter of national sovereignty.

England’s relations with the great Catholic powers, France and Spain, weren’t always cordial. Hence Henry, and many others after him, feared that French and Spanish kings could use the pope as a conduit of their political power in Britain. In that context, Catholics got to be seen not just as infidels but as traitors, a sort of papist fifth column.

I wish both sides had been less intransigent in that dispute, with England remaining Catholic without compromising her sovereignty. But she didn’t, and anti-Catholic sentiments were kept hot for centuries by some invisible Bunsen burner.

Until the 1829 Roman Catholic Relief Act, Catholics hadn’t even been allowed to sit in parliament. While that restriction was removed, others have remained in place.

For example, a Catholic still can’t ascend to the throne, and, more germane to the situation in hand, a Catholic prime minister isn’t allowed to appoint Archbishops of Canterbury, which is his remit. Actually, it’s the monarch who appoints and the PM who merely advises, but that’s strictly pro forma.

One way or another, Mr Johnson is our first Catholic prime minister ever, if he’s indeed a Catholic. By his own admission he doesn’t practise any religion with much piety, but his formal allegiance still may create something of a conundrum. However, I’m sure this technical issue will be settled without a hitch, no problem there.

The real problem is different. For, apart from a few hacks, constitutional scholars and students of the Catholic canon law, no one really cares. Just a couple of generations ago, to say nothing of a couple of centuries, there would have been mass protests not just in the press, but also in the streets.

People in workman’s clothes would have marched in the streets chanting anti-Catholic slogans. Words like ‘papist spies’ and ‘popish traitors’ would have been on everyone’s lips, and Catholics with little taste for martyrdom would have cowered behind closed doors.

I know this sounds odd coming from a Catholic, but I’d prefer such a public outcry to what’s happening now: shoulder-shrugging indifference.

No one really cares whether our PM is an Anglican, Catholic, animist or atheist. Yes, some people like to toy with obscure points of religious and constitutional law, but this preoccupation with form can’t mask uninterest in, and ignorance of, content.

The ignorance cuts deep, all the way down to Ben Macintyre, the Times columnist whose scholarly appearance belies his learning difficulties. I last wrote about him a few years ago, when he extolled the poetic excellence of rap and agitated for Bob Dylan to get the Nobel Prize for literature.

According to Macintyre, “…Dylan is indisputably one of the greatest lyrical poets of the age, a supreme master of language who has reinvented his art with exemplary energy and imagination for more than half a century.”

Having thus established his Van Gogh ear for poetry, Macintyre has now made this comment on Johnson’s religiosity: “He has often voiced equivocal feelings about monotheism, pointing to a mixed ancestry that is Jewish and Muslim as well as Christian.”

Hence this eminent historian and award-winning columnist doesn’t know that Judaism and Islam are monotheistic religions too. He seems to think that the term denotes single-minded commitment to one confession only, and one would think he ought to have been disabused of that misapprehension in primary school. Oh well, hey-ho.

No one notices, no one cares, Britain is in the throes of somewhat oxymoronic fervent apathy. If Boris Johnson declared his commitment to the Black Mass involving human sacrifice, perhaps some sticklers would object. Otherwise, the foxholes remain the only places where atheists can’t be found.

Or perhaps even atheists would be better than what we have now. At least they believe in something, if not God. Today’s predominant state of mind is spiritual lethargy, pandemic materialism, believing in nothing but self and usually with a steadily diminishing justification.

I just hope Johnson’s next wife won’t be Muslim. I’m not sure Britain is as ready for a Muslim prime minister as London is for a Muslim mayor.

The French have Covid sorted

Lately the people who gave the world Lavoisier and Ampère, Curie and Lamarck, Pasteur and Poincaré haven’t been getting full credit for their scientific ingenuity.

Thanks, Manny. Now we know.

It’s as if scientific exploits have lost impetus in France. The French must be redirecting their attention to other spheres of life. Such as assisting the Germans in building a pan-European empire in which France would occupy the honourable second place.

However, since I love France, I’m happy to see that things are beginning to move in the right direction. The French have clearly decided that science is too important to be left to scientists. The government has stepped in and immediately scored a big win for French – nay international – Covid research.

Specifically, the French government has isolated a critical contributor in the spread of the contagion. Over the past two years, scientists have racked their brains trying to figure out which factors widen the proliferation of the deadly virus (now that we know its original source).

Large swathes of populations have been investigated to identify such factors. Old people, it has been found, are more likely to contract Covid. Are they also more likely to spread it? The same goes for various ethnic and racial groups, and multiple questions have been asked and answered – or not, as the case might have been.

However, in our era of narrow specialisation, scientists often suffer from a blinkered view of their field. They are either reluctant or unable to venture outside their immediate expertise into the vast multi-disciplined field out there.

Government officials, on the other hand, are blessed with a panoramic vision enabling them to see the whole field at once. Nor are they held back by the narrow confines of their technical knowledge because they have none.

It’s from that lofty perch that the French government looked at Covid and espied with its eagle eye that the virus has a strong political dimension. A group’s propensity for spreading the virus depends not so much on its demographic or racial characteristics as on its political affiliation, especially citizenship.

I haven’t been privy to the details of the study that led to this sensational breakthrough. But the results obtained suggest that some trial subjects, who hitherto presented no risk to others, must have been made to change their citizenship for the sake of experimental purity. As a result, they instantly became Covid carriers.

Luckily, the French government, ably led by my friend Manny, had not only the nous to identify the problem, but also the power to solve it.

Hence it has announced that no British subjects will be allowed to sully la belle France with their offensive presence without a compelling reason. However, French and other EU citizens who have been living in Britain for many years are welcome to travel to France as they please.

In other words, had the British not had the temerity to vote Leave in 2016, Penelope and I would be able to go to our place in Burgundy, see our friends we miss badly and, in Penelope’s case, play her scheduled concert there.

As it is, we present a clear and present danger to the health of the nation, while some of our French friends here, who have been living in London for as long as we have, are immune to even dormant infection.

This establishes beyond a shadow of doubt the aforementioned link between citizenship and Covid, and one has to compliment the French government on its triumphant entry into the field of microbiological research.

Bien joué, mes amis. And oh, by the way, have you visited Waterloo lately?

P.S. I’m desperately trying to adopt the woke mentality, but each time I stumble over some mutually exclusive demands.

A case in point. It’s now fashionable to have black actors play white characters. Currently running on British TV is a historical drama in which Anne Boleyn is unquestionably black.

As an aspiring woke candidate, I applaud that artistic touch. After all, a screenplay isn’t a textbook on history but a work of art. Thus I welcome even the lesbian foreplay in which Anne and her love rival Jane Seymour engage in one episode – this though I don’t think there’s any historical evidence for such a relationship.

However, in a work of art things happen for a reason. Since one can be reasonably certain that Anne was white, why is she played by a black actress? Obviously the underlying statement is that all races are equal not only at present but also retrospectively, and I concur enthusiastically.

But am I or am I not supposed to notice that Anne has changed her known colour? Obviously, if I notice it, I’m a latent racist who has no place in the woke ranks. And if I don’t notice it, doesn’t that defeat the purpose? Since I can’t notice and not notice at the same time, I’m confused.

P.P.S. Speaking of breakthrough discoveries, I’m sorry the Nobel Committee doesn’t have a sociology category. If it did, I’d carry home the fat Nobel cheque. For, after extensive research, I’ve found out why women are so often paid less. In this case, the answer came not from a meticulously designed trial, but from an old English proverb: A woman’s work is never done.

What if it really is depression?

Forget Covid, China’s criminal role in spreading it, Russia’s aggressive stance, Belarusian air piracy, France being vindictive, Biden being gaga, and inflation soon to spin out of control.

The really explosive news is that Naomi Osaka, the world’s highest-paid female athlete, has bowed out of the French Open.

Players usually default out of Grand Slams due to physical injury, but Osaka’s injury is mental. She claims to have suffered bouts of depression over the past few years, which makes it impossible for her to attend mandatory press conferences after matches.

When she refused to do so after winning in the first round, she was fined $15,000 for violating a clause in the players’ contract. Considering that in the past 12 months Osaka made $55 million, the fine couldn’t have hurt very much.

She could even have absorbed similar fines for each of the seven rounds she would have played had she got to the final. However, the tournament officials took a hard stance and threatened to expel her from the tournament. Osaka spared them the trouble by withdrawing of her own accord.

She has since been attacked by some vociferous people, such as Piers Morgan, and defended by some truly objectionable ones, notably Martina Navratilova and Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, the nearest thing to a communist in US Congress.

Morgan called Osaka “a spoiled brat” and a “narcissist”. She exploits the media to publicise herself and her causes, such as BLM, but then hides behind the smokescreen of psychobabble to shun journalists who are only doing their job (for which they are paid a fraction of Osaka’s income). I’m not sure what reporters’ incomes have to do with anything, but there we have it.

Now it’s my turn to add my penny’s worth to Osaka’s $55 million, and that gigantic piggy bank won’t even notice my modest contribution. Moreover, acting out of character and against my innermost feelings, I’d like to come out in Osaka’s defence.

Proceeding in an ascending order of importance, what’s this brouhaha about press conferences?

I’ve been playing tennis for decades, and I always watch the more important matches, especially those featuring flair players. That makes me a typical tennis fan, for I can’t think offhand of any other televised game where such a high proportion of viewers also play it regularly.

We watch matches in the hope that we may learn something. Perceptive commentary from former players helps. Informed and insightful articles serve the same purpose, and I for one sometimes pick up useful pointers.

But I bet no one has ever learned much from post-match interviews. Most of them are dull, some are only entertaining for a minute or so, after which one yawns and pushes a button on the old remote.

Tournament organisers and sponsors believe that an exhibition of a defeated girl sobbing that she felt OK in the first set, but then lost confidence in the second sells the game to the public. Does it really?

Again speaking for myself, I seldom watch women’s tennis and, when I do, it’s usually for reasons other than te… well, it’s none of your business why I watch it. It’s my TV and I can watch whatever I want for whatever reason.

Lest you accuse me of solipsism, I accept that some people actually like the tennis women play. But does anyone seriously think that Osaka could draw anyone’s attention to tennis not by her strokes, but by her thanking her Haitian father, Japanese mother, Belgian coach or rapper boyfriend?

Or is anyone’s appreciation of a tennis column enhanced by an obligatory quote from a player? “I missed too many first serves”? “My forehand was really working today”? “I couldn’t concentrate properly?” Thanks, Naomi, tell us something we didn’t see for ourselves.

Players should sell the game by hitting good shots, not by mouthing sweet nothings at press conferences. This is especially true now, when Zeitgeist encourages women, and even some men, to go all soppy in front of the camera and try to delve deep into their own psyche.

This brings me to my second, more important, point. It’s possible, likely even, that Morgan and Osaka’s other detractors are absolutely right. She may indeed be a spoiled, narcissist brat who works tirelessly to promote her ‘brand’ in every medium, but then pretends to be too distressed to talk to reporters.

Osaka is a very good player (for a woman, that is), but not an attractive person in any other than the physical sense. Naomi supports woke causes, mostly, one suspects, for commercial reasons. And she does like to spout a bad parody of Freud, who himself was a bad parody of a scientist.

Hence she very well may be using the word ‘depression’ imprecisely, to denote a lousy mood or a bout of petulance. But what if she isn’t? What if facing a critical query may indeed push her over the edge?

Even paranoids have enemies, goes the old line. In the same vein, some people who bandy the word ‘depression’ about may indeed be ill.

Depression is a legitimate and serious psychiatric disorder, possibly caused, and definitely accompanied, by a biochemical imbalance. Except in extremely severe cases, this can usually be treated by drugs but, even so, depression shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand.

It’s true that the word is grossly overused, and it’s also true that shrinks, especially American ones, dispense antidepressants like Smarties. Yet some patients, perhaps a minority, may be genuinely ill.

I haven’t studied Osaka’s medical records, and neither, I suspect, have Morgan et al. In the absence of such information, I’d refrain from accusing her of being a self-serving cheat – much as I find her a silly girl firmly perched on the woke bandwagon.

Let’s not forget that sometimes freedom from the press is as vital as freedom of it. This may be one such case.