A Happier New Year!

The comparative adjective is, I’m afraid, all we can hope for in 2023.

The all-out war thundering on in Europe and threatening to engulf the world makes unqualified happiness unlikely – especially with the domestic situation going from bad to worse.

The aftermath of Covid possibly apart, our internal wounds are self-inflicted. But what about the external threat, one posed by a criminal regime pouncing on some neighbours, endangering others and threatening the world with nuclear annihilation?

There we may not be the ones directly twisting the knife. But Western countries, including Britain, are accomplices to those crimes, both before and after the fact.

Our contribution to the rise of evil in Russia came in a package of ignorance, greed, acquiescence, ideological bias and cowardice. None of those is of especially recent vintage.

Western opinion-formers always misread the Soviet Union as badly as they are now misreading Russia. I reminded myself of that last night when chatting with a friend on Skype.

He recommended the Hungarian film Son of Saul, which he described as one of the most powerful Holocaust films he had ever seen. And my friend’s recommendations aren’t to be dismissed lightly, since he is a man of taste and discernment.

However, I dismissed that one, on general grounds. I’ll start watching Holocaust films, I said, no matter how powerful, when they are matched by the same, or at least remotely approaching, number of films about the GULAG.

He smiled ruefully: the problem was familiar to him as were the reasons for it. For the Holocaust provides a useful emollient for the West’s troubled conscience. It both externalises and concentrates evil, squeezing it into the narrow confines of Nazi genocide.

Compared to that, the coverage of Soviet crimes always got a free ride, although communist atrocities outscored the Nazi equivalent by an order of magnitude. Can you remember offhand a single film about mass murders in the GULAG? I can’t, even though I’m sure one or two must be gathering dust in the Hollywood archives.

What does that have to do with Putin?, I hear you ask. Well, just about everything.

He is drawing on the reservoir of residual goodwill towards Russia that never seems to be exhausted in the West. In the good tradition of Western glossocracy, the mendacious slogans proffered by the Russians are taken at face value, while the awful deeds hiding behind them are ignored.

Different segments of Western opinion-formers respond to different slogans, but the Russians have always been able to fashion a menu to suit current tastes. Thus the left traditionally jumped up to salute every Soviet lie about universal social justice. The dying moans of the skeletal victims of the GULAG, millions of them, somehow got muffled by the propagandistic din.

And even when the news of monstrosities like the Holodomor genocide seeped through into the mainstream Western press, they were explained away as the unfortunate fallout of an intrinsically noble exercise.

By the same token, it was – and to a large extent still is – ignored that Stalin started the Second World War as Hitler’s ally. During the Blitz, Nazi planes flew on Soviet fuel and rained Soviet-made bombs on British cities – that fact was then and later overlooked or dismissed.

In the dying years of the Soviet Union, the transparently bogus glasnost and perestroika were hailed as a global victory of liberal democracy and even, in a particularly asinine gasp of trimphalism, the end of history. In fact, what was under way was a transfer of power from the Party to the KGB, with organised crime claiming crumbs off that table.

That created history’s unique government, a fusion of secret police and the Mafia into a single criminal entity. And still the West refused to notice what was going on, responding instead to the lying sloganeering, along the lines of ‘traditional values’.

Lenin’s rearmament and especially Stalin’s industrialisation owed so much to Western capital and technology as to owe them practically everything. Western banks and manufacturers lovingly suckled with their short-sighted greed the evil baby of bolshevism, weaning it on its favourite sustenance of congealing red liquor.

Bolshevism might have disappeared, but the same tendency didn’t. When the crimes of the post-Soviet regime could no longer be hushed up, Western leaders still sang hosannas to Putin and his gang.

Putin, cooed Tony Blair, “deserves a seat at the table” for his “patriotism”. Once he got his feet under that piece of furniture, he’d embrace Western values and end the long history of Russia’s confrontation with the West, if not quite history tout court.

Credits and technology poured into Russia; purloined trillions flowed in the opposite direction; another monster was allowed to grow to maturity. And now Europe is ablaze.

Even where ideological bias is absent, ignorance ably works towards the same end. For example, in today’s article Jenni Russell thus describes a protagonist of Vasily Grossman’s novel Life and Fate: “He has been an orthodox Christian, a Tolstoyan, a man who believed communist agriculture would create the kingdom of God on earth.”

Which of the three is he, Miss Russell? For this is a flagrant case of a double (triple?) oxymoron: no one can be all those three things at the same time, nor even a combination of any two. Any knowledgeable and conscientious commentator would have pointed that out, but such overachievers are in short supply wherever Russia is concerned.

The tradition of ignorance perseveres. Layers upon layers of misinformation overlay a solid base of ideological bias and wishful thinking to create a towering structure of opinion that overshadows reason and morality.

Even now Putin’s genocidal war on the Ukraine, though it has few fanatical supporters like Carlson or Hitchens, is largely portrayed as an unfortunate aberration, a deviation from an otherwise straight course chartered to Western-style goodness.

Our mainstream media refuse to acknowledge that a succession of evil regimes have moulded the Russian nation in their own image. Watching Ukrainians dying for the imperial fantasies of their KGB rulers, most Russians react with enthusiastic support barely leavened with inertia and indifference.

It’s not just the Russian government but Russia that has become a cancerous growth on the world’s body. Yet where in the mainstream media have you seen this point argued or even broached?

For that reason alone, it would be hard to look forward to 2023 with any degree of optimism. Yet there are many other reasons for pessimism as well.

After the appalling game of musical chairs at Westminster, we’ve effectively ended up with a single-party state, and the single party in question is unapologetically socialist.

The results are predictable: taxes and inflation shooting up, living standards speeding in the opposite direction as they are being overtaken by an accelerating collapse in public morality. Strikes and incompetence are paralysing the country, with every public service rapidly becoming a barely available luxury rather than a confidently expected entitlement.

And yet – and yet the Christian in me refuses to abandon hope, even as the realist struggles to see any grounds for it. So forget all those comparative adjectives and have a happy, healthy, productive New Year. Who knows, you may buck the odds, with me rooting for you every step of the way.

The only famous tennis player I’ve ever played

The title is both accurate and untrue. It’s accurate because Pelé was both famous and a tennis player. It’s untrue because he wasn’t famous as a tennis player. But that’s how I remember him.

No, the man on the right isn’t me

The year was 1984, a few months after I moved from Houston, where I had played tennis almost every day, to New York, where the game was unaffordable, at least for me.

That created a serious problem for I have an emotional dependence on exercise, and tennis is the only exercise I’ve ever known as a grown-up (this side of something I’d rather not talk about). Driven to desperation, I widened my search to the low-rent boroughs and finally stumbled on a small club in Astoria, Queens, where the hourly fee was a third of Manhattan’s.

The pro hit with me for a few minutes and was satisfied that I could hold my own at the exalted Astoria level. He then told me that three chaps needed a fourth for doubles. Would I be interested?

By that time I was getting so stir crazy that I wouldn’t have turned down a game of wheelchair tennis. Okay then, said the pro and led me to the adjacent court where the knock-up had already started.

“This is your partner,” he said, and my jaw dropped. I was about to find myself on the same court with Pelé, my childhood idol. We shook hands, and I said: “Sir, I don’t know who you are but I still remember that goal you scored in 1958.”

He flashed a megawatt smile and asked me to be patient with him: he had only been playing for a few months. Fair enough, as it turned out Pelé hadn’t yet mastered the finer points of doubles strategy. But on a purely athletic level he was astounding.

For example, I’ve known many experienced players who, after years in the game, never learned to hit a volley way in front. Yet Pelé did that naturally, with an ease that put me to shame.

He humbly begged my forgiveness whenever he missed a shot. I myself missed more than my usual share – it’s hard to be consistent when, instead of watching the ball, you can’t take your eyes off your partner.

I don’t remember how the game went and who won. But I do remember the perfect gentleman playing next to me, with a shy yet radiant smile never leaving his face. I’m not a professional physiognomist, but one thing for sure: a man whose smile can both light up and warm up a whole tennis club has to be kind and good.

We shook hands at the end, with me hoping that some of the stardust would rub off on my palm. It didn’t, but the memory has survived.

I lied to Pelé: I hadn’t seen any of the goals he scored at the 1958 World Cup. But I had heard them. Because we had no TV set (few families had them in Moscow at the time), I appreciated the man’s genius aurally, through the wireless.

Suddenly, instead of just a profusion of names ending in ‘-ov’ or ‘-in’, the radio waves flooded our room with exotica like Vavá, Garrincha, Didi, Santos – and Pelé. “Look at that!” screamed the commentator. “Pelé stopped the ball dead with his instep! Chipped it over the Swedish defender’s head! Caught it in mid-air! And half-volleyed it in! Goal!!!”

My 10-year-old imagination was excited by the audio picture so vividly drawn. As years went by, the excitement abated. But it never disappeared completely: the idols we worship as children never quite leave us.

A few years later we did acquire a TV, and I got the chance to see Pelé’s magic, not just to hear it. For example, in 1965 he singlehandedly destroyed the USSR team in a friendly. The score was 3-0, with Pelé scoring two and making the third.

At that time I had grown up enough to go in for self-analysis. Specifically, I wondered how it was possible that a trivial spectacle of 22 men kicking an inflated leather balloon could be so aesthetically pleasing even to someone who knew the difference between Bach and Beethoven and had tried to read, if without understanding a word, The Critique of Pure Reason.

There was a simple, single-word answer to that long-winded question: Pelé. For few human pursuits, no matter how trivial, are incapable of growing an artist in a field of artisans. For what is art if not an argument for man’s vicarious divinity? And what is an artist if not walking proof of the argument?

The argument can be made and won even in areas not ostensibly conducive to such debates. And even a game largely dominated by unsmiling chaps with nicknames like ‘Chopper’ or ‘Razor’ is still occasionally lit up by a true artist touched by God. Di Stefano, Cruyff, Maradona, Best, Messi, Ronaldo. And the greatest of them all, Pelé.

True art elevates, makes us better, regardless of where it’s practised, including on a football pitch. Beauty always comes from God even if it’s not explicitly created in His name.

Football is an intensely tribal game, with rivalries on and off the field often touched with rancour, borderline hatred. However, not only opposing fans but even opposing players sometimes applauded Pelé’s touches – his genius helped their spirits soar above tribal rivalries and quotidian concerns.

His actions were indeed trivial in the general scheme of things. But their effect on millions wasn’t.

They sensed Pelé wasn’t just a ball-kicker. He was an envoy from, or at least a reminder of, another world, one of pure beauty divorced from the drab reality of physical life.

I mourn the death of my one-time tennis partner and an all-time artist among footballers. Whatever his human failings mentioned in so many obituaries, I’m sure God will recognise His own when welcoming Pelé to eternity. RIP.   

Happy lung cancer!

Generally speaking, cancer is no laughing matter. So much more welcome should be the rare occasions when it is.

“I have WHAT?!?”

Having said that, I don’t think mirth was the overriding emotion of hundreds of patients at Askern Medical Centre in Doncaster.

On 23 December, just as they were hanging the last tinsels on their Christmas trees, they received a text message from that GP surgery.

The message must have killed the festive spirit stone-dead. It said: “From the forwarded letters at CMP, Dr [NAME] has asked for you to do a DS1500 for the above patient. Diagnosis – Aggressive lung cancer with metastases.”

That sort of diagnosis, as I know from personal experience, can really bugger up one’s mood, even at Yuletide. However, as I recall, I didn’t emote – even when a consultant imaginatively called Donald McDonald told me, 17 years ago, in his broad Glaswegian, “Your prognersis is puer.” (“Your prognosis is poor”, in English.) “I can still beat you at tennis,” I said.

Some of the recipients, especially those who were genuinely awaiting results of lung cancer tests, reacted more effusively. They hugged their kin and burst out crying. Others rushed to the phones, only to find all lines full, as they always are at NHS surgeries.

Their anguish lasted 22 minutes, when another text message arrived: “Please accept our sincere apologies for the previous text message sent. This has been sent in error. Our message to you should have read: We wish you a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”

Oh well, an easy mistake to make, I suppose, especially in the NHS. Unless, of course, that was a prank pulled by a nurse with a black sense of humour to match my own.

Now, as Penelope will confirm, I like a practical joke as much as the next man. Once, for example, when she was running for a bus, I shouted after her: “Did you think of what this is doing to the children?” Her fellow travellers looked at my long-suffering wife with derision.

You may think that sort of thing is infantile, and you are probably right. But it’s reassuring sometimes to keep one’s younger side alive, hoping it won’t vanish altogether.

Some of the pranks I’ve pulled on my friends, family and the odd stranger have been less innocent than that one, but they were all funny, at least to me. And I don’t think any of them was vicious.

It would be the easiest windup in the world to ring a stranger and say something like: “This is your GP surgery speaking. Bad news, I’m afraid: you’ve got an aggressive lung cancer with secondaries.”

Half the time such a joke would work, but a moron who does that sort of thing is guilty of something far worse than puerile humour. Still, you may disagree, but I’d rather our medical service were guilty of occasional cruel jesting than of endemic incompetence.

Also, I’m disappointed with those cry-babies in Doncaster. What’s with all that weeping and hugging? What happened to those traditionally hardy Northerners? Are they now trying to get in touch with their feminine side?

Chaps, even in our woke times it’s still not against the law to be men. That breed is supposed to be distinguished by stiff upper lip, not just stiff upper lap.

While we are on that subject, Russian soldiers called up to fight in the Ukraine will have the chance to have their frozen sperm stored in a cryobank for free. That way private Ivanov can have his head blown off by a Ukrainian shell and still continue to comply with the Genesis commandment of “be ye fruitful and multiply”.

I understand the attraction of the idea: since Russia will always need a steady supply of murderers, looters and rapists, it’s important to keep the reproductive cycle uninterrupted. Yet the country shouldn’t go to all that unnecessary trouble and expense.

Considering the winter temperatures on the front line, ill-equipped Russian soldiers don’t even have to ejaculate to have their sperm frozen. The inclement weather will turn most of them into walking (and then falling) cryobanks in no need of expensive equipment. Once they are down, it will be an easy enough matter to…

I’ll leave that macabre image to your imagination, and I’m sorry about evoking it. The story of that accidental prank at Doncaster must have got me in this kind of mood.

“We the people”

I have to admit to a personal idiosyncrasy: whenever any group claims authority to speak on behalf of the people, I look for a place to hide or, barring that, to throw up.

Diderot and his pupil

With no notable exceptions, I detect therein the workings of a small group of demagogues lacking real legitimacy and hence seeking its simulacrum.  

The US Constitution, which opens with the words in the title, is a case in point. The other day I mentioned that it was ratified by less than three per cent of the people in whose name it supposedly had been drafted.

That set an example for all post-Enlightenment states to follow. Governments voted in by, say, a third or even a quarter of the people, claim a ringing popular mandate. That, they insist, empowers them to do whatever they like, including playing fast and loose with the constitution. Hey, the people have spoken. So you, Mr Sceptic, might as well shut up.

The opening passage of the US Constitution was lifted almost verbatim from the constitution of the Iroquois nations: “We, the people, to form a union, to establish peace, equity, and order…”.

That wasn’t a case of simple plagiarism. For the framers obviously lacked any examples of prior republican charters. Hence they asked John Adams, who at that time was drumming up support for the new state in Europe, to write an overview of all existing forms of government.

He responded by producing a three-volume work that remains a seminal text of political science to this day. It took Adams some three weeks to write, making one rue wistfully that few contemporary politicians would be capable even of reading such an essay in that time, never mind writing it. (Joe Biden, ring your office.)

Among other polities, Adams specifically investigated the experience of American Indians whose tribes often ran themselves along proto-democratic and proto-federalist lines. He evidently found the opening words produced by the Iroquois Confederacy sufficiently inspiring to suggest a version of them for the preamble to the US Constitution.

Every American schoolchild knows (or rather used to know) that. But the words “we the people” also had a more immediate and less exotic provenance in the works of Denis Diderot, one of the key figures of the Enlightenment.

Diderot was perhaps the greatest French writer of his time, much admired by the other men with a claim to that distinction, Voltaire and Rousseau. Yet he illustrates the depth of the abyss into which even a supremely gifted man can fall when he lacks sound metaphysics to hold on to.

Diderot’s novels, The Nun, Rameau’s Nephew and Jacques the Fatalist rival Voltaire’s Candide for coruscating brilliance, but his fiction isn’t what he is mainly known for.

As the editor of, and principal contributor to, The Encyclopaedia, he laid out the blueprint for the coming civilisational mayhem. It’s his ideas, and not just his words, that worked their way into the formative documents of both American and French Revolutions.

Diderot is often misquoted as saying, “Men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.” Pedantic readers notice the inaccuracy and gleefully say that Diderot said nothing of the sort. But he did.

For the benefit of such erudite readers, here’s the exact quotation from his poem: “La nature n’a fait ni serviteur ni maître;/ Je ne veux ni donner ni recevoir de lois./ Et ses mains ourdiraient les entrailles du prêtre,/ Au défaut d’un cordon pour étrangler les rois.” [“Nature created neither servant nor master;/ I seek neither to rule nor to serve./ And its hands would weave the entrails of the priest,/ For the lack of a cord with which to strangle kings.”]

(At this point, kaleidoscopic scenes starring King Charles and Archbishop Welby flash through my mind, but I make an effort to chase them away.)

So never mind the exact wording, feel the spirit. And it was the spirit that animated the Enlightenment.

Like any modern revolutionary movement, it accommodated two salient human types I call the Nihilist and the Philistine. The Nihilist seeks to destroy the old order; the Philistine, to build some sort of eudaemonia on the resulting rubble. The two types coexist symbiotically in every revolution, but their relative weight differs from one to the next.

Thus both the American and French revolutions sought to destroy, with the Nihilist’s voice clearly discernible in the discordant political choir. But the Philistine claimed his own share of voice too, offering some vision of what he wished to create.

If the two types were more or less balanced in the American Revolution, the Nihilist was the dominant voice in the French version of the Enlightenment oratorio. And Diderot was both the choir master and the preacher.

Bizarrely, his sermons reached all the way to the Russian court of Catherine II, that most absolute of monarchs. Catherine liked to flirt with fashionable ideas and often described herself, against all evidence, as a republican. Hence she sought Diderot’s advice on how to weave the ideals of the Enlightenment into the Russian political fabric. (That didn’t prevent her from extending serfdom to the Ukraine.)

When she found out that Diderot was struggling to make ends meet, she appointed him caretaker of her vast library and paid him a princely (revolutionary?) sum of 50,000 livres in advance. Diderot then spent five months in Petersburg, swapping platitudes with the Empress every day – against the background of the screams coming out of the torture chamber run by her secret police chief Stepan Sheshkovsky.

On his deathbed, Diderot bequeathed his political will to Catherine, and it was his dying wish that she should follow it to the letter.

The Empress not only should abdicate, wrote Diderot, but she should also exterminate any future pretenders to the throne. He left it to her imagination whether or not to use priestly entrails to that end.

“There is no true sovereign other than the nation, and there can be no true legislator other than the people,” taught the dying man.

Catherine ought to bestow on her grateful subjects a constitution, added Diderot, starting with the words: “We the people, and we the sovereign of this people, swear conjointly these laws, by which we are judged equally.”

To her credit, the Empress didn’t follow Diderot’s prescriptions. But other people did.

That’s why I’m always amused (and bemused) when fire-eating American patriots deny any philosophical and political links between their country’s founding and the Enlightenment. But then ideologies of any kind are impervious to facts – and reason.   

The trouble with US conservatism

In many such contexts, ‘American’ can be replaced with ‘modern’ without much detriment to the meaning. That takes American conservatism out of its parochial confines and makes it worth pondering wherever we live.

Harry Jaffa

Any such reflection should start from the discipline many Anglophone conservatives hold in low esteem: philosophy. These congenital empiricists are making a mistake, for any polity is a physical embodiment of a metaphysical fact.

The organic states of Christendom derived their legitimacy from dynastic succession going back so far that we might as well assume it comes from God. (I owe this thought to Joseph de Maistre).

The metaphysical premise of the post-Christian political state is easier to make out. After all, it’s usually laid down on paper in the founding constitutional documents. Rejecting the legitimacy that comes from the patina of age, modern states have to seek it in a set of principles, usually traceable back to the Enlightenment.

The purveyors of the civilisational shift from one to the other dealt in stolen goods. The Enlighteners pilfered Christian furniture from its ancestral home and tried to furnish their own house with it.

Thus Christian freedom derived from free will became political liberty derived from some mysterious ‘consent of the governed’. Christian equality of all before God became egalitarian levelling of all before the state. Christian charity was perverted into a provider state.

And the doctrine of natural law, evolving from the pre-Socratics to Aquinas via Aristotle, was turned into the mythical notion of natural political rights arbitrarily derived from fashionable secular theories.

All of this comes across in the Declaration of Independence, making a political case for independence from England on the basis of “Laws of Nature”. That was an Enlightenment fallacy served neat.

Regardless of what Locke and Paine had to say on the subject, “separate and equal station” for countries can’t be derived from ‘Laws of Nature’. There is no law of nature that says a colony is entitled to independence from the metropolis. There exists, however, a modern tendency to pass aspirations as rights.

A “separate and equal station”, desirable though it may be to some, can only be achieved either by agreement or by force. No group has equality built into its reclaimable biological make-up. Portraying independence as a right that somehow supersedes the law was modern demagoguery at its most soaring.

Add to this other larcenous Enlightenment fallacies, such as all men being “created equal”, and you begin to understand the problem facing those Americans who are intuitively inclined towards conservatism.

The problem is basic: conservatism is at odds with the country’s founding documents, especially the Declaration. Yet repudiating them is impossible for American conservatives, who’d otherwise find it hard to explain what it is they are trying to conserve.

Some, such as Russell Kirk, Willmoore Kendall and Frank Meyer, realised this, which made them pessimistic, not to say despondent. Yet some others, such as Harry Jaffa, tried to shoehorn conservatism into the Declaration – only to find that a Size 7 shoe will never fit a Size 11 foot.

These thoughts crossed my mind the other day, when a good friend sent me an article by a young scholar from The Claremont Institute. This think tank, inspired by Jaffa’s thought, defines its mission as restoring “the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life.”

Its secondary, if unstated, objective is to reconcile those principles, as laid down in the Declaration of Independence, with conservatism, and that’s where the problem starts.

I must admit to a soft spot for Harry Jaffa, something I always have for men with a talent for spiffy epigrams. One such damaged Barry Goldwater’s campaign in 1964, when Jaffa was his speech writer.

“Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice,” said Harry through Barry. “Moderation in pursuit of justice is no virtue.” I remember American lefties still squirming about this adage 10 years later, but in 1964 they rallied the electorate by portraying Goldwater as an unapologetic extremist.

Another memorable aphorism by Harry Jaffa was: “We were baptised in the Jordan, not in the fiery brook.” That was a bilingual reference to the materialist philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach, acknowledged by Marx as a source of his inspiration.

Jaffa brought his sharp mind to bear on the impossible task of somehow finding a conservative kernel in the shell of natural rights, as expounded by Leo Strauss. Strauss was a major influence on that romantic strain of American conservatism, most of which eventually gravitated towards neoconservatism.

The young Claremont scholar tries to dance around the obstacles, but he lacks Jaffa’s agility of foot. For example, he correctly states that the USA was constituted as a republic, not a democracy, and, unlike so many of his compatriots, he does know the difference.

But he ignores the dynamics. For a republic constituted on the principle of natural rights and expressly devoted to the advancement of the common man (“created equal”) will ineluctably degenerate into a democracy-run-riot – this, regardless of the founder’s original intent.

Many of them, John Adams specifically, were horrified when observing the chicken hatched by the egg they had laid. In 1806 Adams wrote, “I once thought our Constitution was a quasi or mixed government, but they had made it… a democracy.”

This, by his correct if belated judgment, had a disastrous effect not only on America but on the whole world. In 1811 Adams rued: “Did not the American Revolution produce the French Revolution? And did not the French Revolution produce all the calamities and desolation of the human race?”

I sympathise with the young author’s predicament. He rummages through the Enlightenment haystack hoping to find the needle of conservatism. But the search is in vain: the needle is simply not there.

He stubbornly repeats Lockean ideas about consent and social compact, but they are not so much unconservative as anti-conservative. Rousseau put them into his Du contrat social, and nobody has ever accused him of conservatism.

I have many problems with those seminal concepts, too many to discuss here. I’ll just mention one: it’s unclear how that consent can be withdrawn or that social contract revoked.

For example, less than three per cent of the American population voted to ratify the Constitution in 1788. Did they thereby issue consent and enter into a contract on behalf of the remaining 97 per cent and also every subsequent generation?

Much of Locke’s thinking was self-contradictory. For example, protection of property rights was the cornerstone of his political philosophy. Yet at the same time he insisted that representation was the sole legitimising factor of taxation (that came across as “No taxation without representation” during the Revolution).

The two notions are in conflict. For by transferring all sovereignty to a representative body, the people will eventually make its power absolute. When unchecked, this power extends to confiscating as much of personal income as the representatives see fit – in effect trampling over property rights so cherished by Locke and the Founders.

The young Claremont scholar didn’t solve those problems because they are unsolvable. It’s impossible to swear by “the principles of the American Founding” and be a political conservative at the same time. That’s like a dipsomaniac preaching teetotalism.

See what net zero does?

We’ve seen it happen. A fat woman decides enough’s enough. She starts a punishing regimen of diet and exercise, shedding first ounces, then pounds, then stones.

Within a year or so she becomes quite svelte, but she can’t stop. And what do you know, a few months later she develops anorexia and dies, or damn near.

Or look at Bruce Lee. The poor chap learned that hydration is an essential part of conditioning. So he started drinking gallons of water – and died of overhydration. And unlike a real man who dies of drinking too much booze, Lee didn’t even enjoy drinking too much water. Give me C2H5OH over H2O any day.

By the circuitous route of such analogies, I’ve managed both to identify the reason for the deadly cold spell paralysing North America and to come up with the solution before frost does the same to us.

Deadly is the right word to describe it. At least 34 people have died so far, killed by blizzards, power cuts, road accidents, river ice giving way, tree branches falling down and so on.

Millions of people are left without electricity, thousands of flights are cancelled every day. Shops can’t sell off all the carloads of useless trinkets they’ve stocked up for the season, lorries can’t deliver goods, the economy is taking a huge hit.

This is the coldest spell for decades, some meteorologists say ever. And you know what’s to blame? Global warming, or rather overreaction to it.

Like that fat woman eating too little food and Bruce Lee drinking too much water, Americans have overdone their commitment to net zero carbon emissions, that’s what I think. Instead of happily driving those house-sized 8-cylinder boats powered by real juice down the I-10, they’ve switched to Teslas and are now freezing to death. Thanks a whole lot, Elon bloody Musk.

It’s not just those murderous Teslas either. Wind farms, solar panels, all other forms of green energy have conspired to eliminate carbon out of the atmosphere or at least to get it down to a level that would make Greta happy.

As a direct result, the greenhouse effect has been replaced with the icehouse defect. About 60 per cent of the US population are facing weather warnings. They are shivering in the dark, shining their phone lights at thermometers and watching the mercury speeding downwards.

Instead of being fried by global warming, ‘our planet’ is about to turn into an icebound wasteland, and Newton’s Third Law explains why: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. (I often cite this law because it’s the only one I remember from secondary school. I drank my way through it, and it wasn’t too much water – I’m not suicidal.)

The action was the ill-advised assault on atmospheric carbon. The reaction is the snowy hell into which America has plunged.

You may think that my analysis of the situation lacks forensic rigour and relies too much on conjecture. Perhaps. After all, I’m neither a meteorologist nor a climatologist. But, as an old ad once said, “Noah’s Ark was designed by an amateur. The Titanic was designed by a professional.”

Perhaps an amateur unbiased by any excessive knowledge or indeed corporate solidarity can detect some obvious truths that escape professionals. Remember it was accredited doctors who told our hypothetical woman to eat less food and advised the very real Bruce Lee to drink more water.

If you are willing to accept my diagnostic hypothesis, the solution to the problem offers itself. Americans – and Europeans! – should turn every Tesla, Prius, wind turbine and solar panel into a bonfire.

In the immediate term, this will provide much needed warmth and light for the stricken areas. In the long run, this measure will ensure a steady supply of carbon dioxide to keep us all warm throughout the year.

As a side benefit, the aesthete in me would love to toss Greta Thunberg into one of the pyres, but the humanist in me balks at such cruelty. So I’ll settle for a version of the Jeremy Clarkson treatment: marching Greta naked through the streets of Buffalo, with people tossing snowballs at her.

On a serious note (something I find hard to strike on the crest of the festive wave of booze), perhaps we should accept that the weather is sometimes warm, sometimes cold and always out of our control.

So let’s stop playing silly games that are certain to beggar us all – even if they aren’t directly responsible for freezing us to death.

Go ahead, envy

Yes, I know envy is a cardinal sin. But I’m sure you’ll be absolved this once – just tell God I sent you.

Myself, I’ve never envied anyone in my life. But if I were you and someone showed me the same picture of the church where he celebrated the midnight mass yesterday, I’d be envious for sure.

Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire is an 11th century basilica housing a Benedictine abbey and indeed the relics of St Benedict. Every Christmas eve the monks put on their plain white vestments and sing psalms in Gregorian chant.

People come from as far afield as Paris, a two hours’ drive away. Our own drive was some 45 minutes shorter, but even if it weren’t it would have been worth it.

In theory, the celebration of mass, especially on Christmas eve, shouldn’t depend on the physical beauty of the site. After all, early Christians made do with candle-lit catacombs, where snitches like Pliny grassed them up to Trajan. And the ‘Galileans’ still managed to capture the grandeur of the moment.

But in practice, a beautiful church with its pomp and circumstance somehow makes the occasion even more elevating. If it didn’t, we wouldn’t have so many beautiful churches.

And Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire is one of the most beautiful in France, which is another way of saying in the world. A trained eye would date it at a glance. For it was in the 11th century that church architecture made its first tentative steps from Romanesque, mainly associated with the Cluniac order, to Gothic, pioneered by the Cistercians.

Saint-Benoît was clearly built from the altar out, and you can see perfectly round Romanesque arches in the back of the basilica. Yet as you move towards the nave, the slightly pointing Gothic arch begins to emerge.

Another century or two and the Romanesque arch will disappear, while the Gothic one will come to a much sharper, more structurally sound, point. That will enable builders to make their churches loftier and with more, larger windows.

That’s why St Bernard, the founder of the Cistercian order, fell in love with Gothic. He wanted more light coming in, for to him light could only come from God. Yet both the Cluniac and Cistercian orders preached unadorned interiors, with plain stone walls, clean lines and symmetrical layouts.

The subsequent development of architecture proved the old maxim: if something can be done, sooner or later it will be done. The structural Gothic advances liberated architects, builders and stonemasons to express themselves, and they didn’t always use that freedom wisely.

Churches were becoming more and more ornate, glorious stained glass became a dominant feature of great cathedrals like Chartres and Bourges, new tiers were added to the naves, and the whole structures began to fly off to the sky.

So far so good (or in this case so sublime), which cautionary phrase should always offset any joy one feels about any kind of progress. For step by step Gothic gave way to Renaissance and Renaissance to the variously vulgar Baroque.

Gone was the laconic, streamlined, ineffable beauty of Romanesque and early Gothic churches. Coming in instead were disfiguring variations on the theme of a wedding cake complete with tasteless figurines, stone squiggles and ostentatious polychrome ornaments.

Baroque vulgarity was even forced into many great Romanesque and Gothic churches, turning them into stylistic competitors with Turkish seraglios.

I remember looking forward to visiting the Archbasilica of Saint John Lateran in Rome, which used to be the principal cathedral of Western Christianity before the hideous St Peter’s was built.

However, when I finally found myself inside, I couldn’t stay there for more than five minutes. The interior, remodelled in the early days of Baroque, is a towering monument to gilded excess, bad taste and general ugliness.

Now, if all beauty comes from God, is one allowed to ask whom ugliness comes from? I didn’t stay long enough to ask that question. Instead Penelope and I fled across the river to rest our eyes on the aesthetic glory that is the basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere.

But that was in the distant past. Last night we rejoiced in one of the best settings for the midnight mass anywhere in the world. One can almost forgive the French everything.

Merry Christmas!

P.S. Every town and village around us is fighting the night off with a profusion of brightly lit Christmas decorations, trees, life-size Nativity scenes, doorways and windows framed in garlands of 500-watt bulbs. Wonderful to see, but aren’t we supposed to have an energy crisis? Someone must have forgotten to tell that to the good people of Burgundy and Loiret.

Best wishes and worst fears

The best wishes come naturally: Merry Christmas to all my readers!

But the worst fears aren’t far behind. For, just as we celebrate the Incarnation of Our Lord and thus the birth of history’s greatest civilisation, we remind ourselves that a new, surrogate, civilisation has taken over.

It’s animated by various passions, but the principal one is the urge to erase Christmas from public consciousness. Barring that, the new lot are willing to settle for merely vulgarising Christmas, ridding it of any sacred meaning and reducing it to a combination of shopping spree and drinking bout.

Many deeds, both great and wicked, were done in the name of Christ. He redeemed original sin but He didn’t expunge it, thereby turning people into little angels. Doing so would have eliminated free will, turning people not so much into angels flapping their wings as into puppets jerking at the end of a string.

Freedom to make choices presupposed the possibility that some choices would be good, some bad and some downright evil. Yet at least man still retained the ability to know the difference – absolute standards of virtue existed, and they were recognised, if not always followed, by all.

Our relativist, anomic, materialist modernity consigned such absolute standards to oblivion. As a result, it has undone most of the great deeds of Christendom and outdone most of the wicked ones.

Some wicked deeds were justified by mock-Christian demagoguery, along the lines of liberté, égalité, fraternité. Modernity served those beautiful things on a platter, except that, on closer examination, that dish turned out to contain piles of severed heads.

The 20th century, the first completely atheist one in history, continued the tendency to invoke such mock-Christian allusions as millenarian happiness, while ratcheting up hostility to actual Christianity. Severed heads began to number in millions, not thousands.

The gurus of the new order, from Marx and Engels to Lenin and Stalin, sputtered hatred of Christianity so profusely that the toxic spittle engulfed continents. Whole groups, social, racial or ethnic, were now slated for destruction irrespective of any individual wrongdoing.

This was what Prof. Rummel called democide, murder by category. Modernity might not have invented that evil, but it certainly raised it to a level never seen before.

Democide may or may not equate genocide, murder by specifically ethnic or racial category. In that sense, all genocide is democide, but not all democide is necessarily genocide.

Anti-Christian modernity excelled at both. In the name of universal equality, communists murdered all sorts of categories equally: social, cultural, religious, professional and also sometimes ethnic. The Nazis eschewed even mock-Christian demagoguery, replacing it with straight racism justified by unapologetic paganism wedded to national, or rather racial, self-interest.

They replaced all-encompassing democide with more narrowly targeted genocide, an attempt to eradicate whole ethnic and racial groups, mostly though not exclusively Jews. Unlike the Bolsheviks, the Nazis didn’t persecute Christians specifically. But, like the Bolsheviks, they didn’t bother to conceal their hatred of Christianity and its every tenet.

As we celebrate the birth of Christ, Europe is again witnessing genocide at its very heart. Putin and his acolytes have been unequivocal in their stated goal: unless the Ukrainians overthrow their government, ditch their sovereignty and surrender, they’ll all be exterminated.

The methods have changed since communist execution cellars, Nazi gas chambers and concentration camps favoured by both. In fact, they are more reminiscent of Holodomor, the artificial famine of 1931-1932 that killed by starvation some five million Ukrainians, conservatively estimated.

Those murders, however, were committed in the grey area between democide and genocide: it was mostly Ukrainians who were killed, but not specifically for being Ukrainian. Their crime was their love of freedom and consequent refusal to submit to collectivised agriculture in particular and communist despotism in general. Those who repudiated their opposition were allowed to live.

Putin, on the other hand, targets the whole population, just like the Nazis did with the Jews. But it’s cold, not gas chambers, that the Russians have chosen as their genocidal weapon. Unable to stand up on their hind legs and defeat the Ukrainian army like fighting men, they instead fight like mass murderers.

Russian rockets are aimed at the Ukraine’s infrastructure, especially her capacity to keep her civilian population warm during the typically inclement winter. Destroying power stations and dams in no way degrades the fighting capacity of the Ukrainian army. It merely kills civilians, in their thousands at the moment, in what the Russians hope will become millions soon.

If this is substantively different from the Holocaust, the difference escapes me. In fact, if anything, the Nazis had an advantage over Putin’s murderers, that of honesty.

They didn’t claim to be the Jews’ brothers. They didn’t insist their mission was Christian charity towards the Jews. They honestly said the Jews were sub-human vermin who had to be exterminated to preserve the racial purity of the Volk.

Top marks for both honesty and monstrosity then. However, while scoring high on monstrosity, the Russians fail honesty altogether.

In a recent TV address, Putin said: “There’s nothing to accuse us of. We’ve always seen Ukrainians as a brotherly people and I still think so. What’s happening now is a tragedy, but it’s not our fault.”

Just imagine, if you can, Hitler declaring that, as a pious Christian, he had always seen Jews as brothers and continued to do so in spite of the unfolding tragic events that weren’t his fault.

Yet Hitler didn’t and couldn’t claim anything of the sort. That’s why he was only monstrous, while Putin with his Christian pretensions is also emetic.

Christ warned against such people: “For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ, and shall deceive many.”

This is my worst fear this Christmas: that many shall be deceived, and the will to thwart evil hiding under a Christian mask shall dissipate. But on the eve of one of our most sublime events, I can’t leave you on this frightening note.

So, at the risk of repeating myself, a very merry Christmas to all of you. And perhaps, as you raise a glass of festive champagne, you’ll spare a prayer for those who are dying for their freedom – and yours.

Comments on apparel oft proclaim Putin stooges

Sometimes I wonder if Fox News’s Tucker Carlson is our own dear Peter Hitchens in disguise.

Great flag, shame about the bearers

The same unwavering devotion to Putin, barely camouflaged with spurious denials. The same hatred of the Ukraine for daring to resist their idol. The same mendacity in supporting their animus. The same commitment to reciting Kremlin propaganda word for word. And, perhaps most damaging, the same false-flag appeal to ‘conservative values’.

Carlson condenses all that wickedness into personal attacks on President Zelensky, the most heroic wartime leader since the Second World War.

The day before flying to America to meet President Biden and address Congress, Zelensky had visited the front yet again, that time at Bakhmut, currently the site of the fiercest fighting. He had form.

When Russia’s bandit raid started, most observers – including those of Nato and the Ukraine herself – were sure the country would be overrun, and Kiev captured, within days. Spearheading the offensive, Putin sent out hit squads to murder Zelensky.

Though they were neutralised, Zelensky knew, and said publicly, that his days were numbered. “This is probably the last time you’ll see me alive,” he told the journalists.

Nevertheless, when Nato leaders offered to fly him to safety, Zelensky refused. “I need ammunition, not a taxi,” he said. Thank God he survived, as did his country.

Since then Zelensky has led the Ukraine’s desperate fight with unmatched bravery and wisdom. In fact, a credible claim can be made that, morally at least, it’s he and not whoever happens to be the US president who is the true leader of the free world.

I don’t know where this former comedian has found the reservoirs of courage so demonstrably missing in his Western counterparts. But he has definitely earned the respect and admiration of all decent and sensible people.

That category demonstrably doesn’t include such faux conservatives as Carlson. If he were just a crazed idiot, one would be well-advised simply to ignore his lying, ignorant harangues. But he isn’t.

He is an exponent of an ideology that assorted Lefties call conservatism, but which is in fact a craving for right-wing totalitarianism as a replacement for the ascendant left-wing kind. That makes fascisoid leaders like Putin and Brazil’s Bolsonaro their allies both intellectually and viscerally (Carlson admires both).

Hence Zelensky is Carlson’s bête noire – or rather, in this case, verte. For the hack chose to attack Zelensky from the sartorial angle, for wearing his trademark olive green sweatshirt throughout his visit.

Zelensky “dressed like the manager of a strip club”, said Carlson, showing intimate familiarity with such facilities. How dare that Putin-hater show such disrespect for America’s august institutions.

In fact, the Ukrainian president simply kept in mind Polonius’s advice that “apparel oft proclaims the man” – and his mission. Zelensky has vowed never to shed his paramilitary clobber till the end of the war, to remind the world that Ukrainians die in their thousands manning the ramparts of civilisation.

Had that been just an offhand remark, it would have been simply tasteless, not frankly sinister. But it’s just one of many.

For Carlson continued his attack by making a lying, and slyly anti-Semitic, statement that Zelensky is waging an “ongoing war on Christianity”. He didn’t directly attribute that fiendish scheme to Zelensky’s Jewishness, but the subtext was unmistakable. In fact, judging by their gloating comments, some of his viewers got it loud and clear.

This lie is spread by Putin’s agents. The basis for it is the Ukraine’s minor restrictions on the subversive shenanigans of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the aegis of the Moscow Patriarchate.

Since that institution is effectively a department of the secret service, its activities in the Ukraine go well beyond ministering to the spiritual needs of its flock. In fact, the Ukrainian government would be justified to ban it altogether.

But it has done nothing of the sort, this though less than 10 per cent of Ukrainian Orthodox Christians have anything to do with the Moscow Patriarchate. For, unlike Russia, the Ukraine has always been, and emphatically remains, religiously pluralistic.

Two other Orthodox churches are active in the Ukraine, with the autocephalous church under the Constantinople patriarch by far the most populous. Also important is the Greco-Catholic church, mainly in the west of the country, along with various Protestant creeds.

Zelensky’s “ongoing war on Christianity” is an FSB disinformation canard that Carlson and his ilk avidly gobble up and regurgitate. But that sort of thing has never stopped any ideologised demagogues, Left or Right.

I don’t know how intimate Carlson’s links with the Kremlin are, but he definitely uses the Ukraine as a cudgel to beat Biden with. Now, the idea of spanking Biden is appealing. But doing so with moronic logic is off-putting – yet this is what Carlson has done for months.

Tucker’s syllogism would put his IQ into the middle two-digit range: Tucker hates Joe; Vlad hates Joe; ergo, Tucker loves Vlad.

This is how he once put it: “Putin’s never called me racist. Threatened to have me sacked. Never manufactured a lockdown-inducing pandemic. Never taught my children critical race theory or made fentanyl or attacked Christianity. So why does the Washington, D.C. establishment hate him so much?”

Could it be because he is threatening to turn the USA into a strait separating Canada from Mexico? Pouncing on Russia’s neighbours like a rabid dog? Endangering America’s Nato allies? Waging genocidal war and threatening a nuclear holocaust to anyone daring to interfere? Vowing to rebuild history’s most evil empire?

Oh sorry, Putin is doing none of those things, says that jammy Tucker. He is merely trying to settle a “border dispute” with “a nation called Ukraine” led by a “shadow president”.

“Why do I care what is going on in the conflict between Ukraine and Russia?” Carlson once said. “I’m serious. Why do I care? Why shouldn’t I root for Russia? Which I am.”

The rooting isn’t muted by any aversion to lying. Thus: “America and the UK demand total war with Russia, regime change war with Russia and of course, the Ukrainians caught in the middle had no choice but to concede.”

America and the UK are falling over themselves trying to avoid total war with Russia and a regime change there. That’s why they’ve refused to introduce a no-fly zone to protect Ukrainian civilians from genocidal attacks. That’s why they have so far refrained from arming the Ukraine with weapons that would enable her to win the war, not just to stay in it.

That’s not how Carlson sees it. Instead he dutifully parrots Putin’s speeches, saying, for example: “They [Nato countries] just do not need a big and independent country like Russia around.” The Ukraine’s government is a “puppet” of the West, “managed by the State Department.” I’m disappointed. I thought it was the CIA.

Recently Carlson treated his audience to a geopolitical insight so staggeringly cretinous that one wouldn’t expect even him to say something like that: “We don’t arm Ukraine so we can help the Ukrainians. They are merely unfortunate pawns in all of this. We arm Ukraine so that we can punish Russia. Why? For stealing Hillary Clinton’s coronation.”

Excuse me? Hasn’t Tucker’s idol Trump always denied that the Kremlin was instrumental in his election (otherwise known as “stealing Hillary Clinton’s coronation”)? And isn’t Tucker duty-bound to support Donald every step of the way? The chap is too dumb to realise that his statement indirectly confirms Trump’s complicity with Putin, real or not.

No falsehood is too big or too small for Carlson. Thus he has repeated Russian lies that the USA runs bioweapons laboratories in the Ukraine. And of course, as far as he is concerned, imposing sanctions on Putin’s gangsters constitutes illegal seizure of property.

One can only regret that the likes of Carlson have let the increasingly awful Democratic Party claim as their own the noble cause of helping the Ukraine thwart Russia’s attack on civilisation. And that “conservative values” are touted by those who don’t even know what conservatism means.

And now, by all means, let’s discuss Zelensky’s dress sense.  

Jeremy Clarkson is wrong

The other day the laddish journalist Clarkson wrote a column in which he owned up to detesting Meghan Markle “on a cellular level”.

He was “dreaming of the day”, Clarkson added, when Meghan was “made to parade naked through the streets of every town in Britain while crowds chant, ‘Shame!’, and throw lumps of excrement at her”.

Commentators more securely plugged into popular culture than I am detected a reference to a scene from the TV series Game of Thrones, of which I haven’t seen a single episode. Whatever its cultural antecedents, however, Clarkson’s remark is highly objectionable.

It shows most lamentable insensitivity to Meghan’s personality and her mission in life. For she’d welcome this chance to play the role of an excremental, dismounted Lady Godiva. Where onlookers would see shame and humiliation, she’d see a golden rain of Netflix dollars coming down to cover her nudity.

Both in her previous incarnation of a B actress and her present mission of building a capital of money and notoriety on the ruins of the royal family, Meghan has always lived or died by publicity. The worst possible fate for her isn’t being shamed. It’s being ignored.

There would be little chance of that in a scene spun out of Clarkson’s vivid imagination. Anyway, public nudity is no big deal for a B actress, and hardened excrement wouldn’t even sully her unduly.

But imagine the publicity value of such a stunt. Why, Netflix executives and their competitors from other services would be racing one another to add zeroes to Meghan’s already bloated fees.

Think of TV rights, photo rights, book rights, interview rights and you’ll realise that Meghan would see no wrongs in that little performance. She’d be thanking Jeremy Clarkson all the way to the bank.

Now Jeremy, for some subliminal reasons known only to our nattering nabobs of wokery, is perceived as a man of the right. I suppose they’ve arrived at that nomenclature by a process of elimination: he who isn’t conspicuously Left has to be Right.

That’s how, for example, Hitler got to be known as a right-winger the moment he attacked Stalin. Stalin was undeniably and commendably left-wing; Hitler started out as Stalin’s ally but then became his enemy; ergo, Hitler was extreme right-wing.

Later the same tag was attached to people like Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, whose similarity to Hitler wasn’t immediately obvious to those untouched by ideological afflatus.   

Clarkson made his journalistic bones as a petrol-headed host of an entertaining car programme on TV. In the eyes of the woke brigade, his fanatic devotion to automotive transport alone would be sufficient to stigmatise him as an inveterate conservative.

Clarkson can detect a deep metaphysical significance in a powerful engine driving four wheels. That, his irrepressible laddishness and an innate gift of the gab make him a good watch, for a programme or two.

After that, that petrol-headedness grows a bit tiresome, but Clarkson remains good value for a snappy phrase and the odd putdown that makes the pinkish fringe see red. That’s precisely the effect his fantasy of Meghan has had.

Unlike sensible people, our woke mavens don’t mind Meghan. In fact, they see her as a comrade-in-arms, a sort of ideological Parteigenosse. By knocking lumps out of the royal family, she is fighting their fight too. And her half-caste origin adds much welcome frisson to her trenchant attacks launched from the beachhead of solipsistic narcissism.

Her and Harry’s obscene show has broken all Netfix records, in the UK at any rate. That makes her a successful media personality, another feather in her cap (and in her arrow aimed at the monarchy). In short, Meghan is one of them, and Clarkson isn’t.

That’s why his crude comment caused an outburst of hysteria completely out of proportion with the gravity of the offence. And what do you know, it’s not Clarkson’s misreading of Meghan’s personality that his detractors object to. It’s his rudeness.

He has committed a hate crime, they scream. And specifically? Never mind specifically. A hate crime’s a hate crime. Fine, if you insist: misogyny, at least. And at most? Oh well, possibly racism as well.

And perpetrators of hate crimes are, well, criminals. Clarkson must be arrested, tried and sent down for a long stretch, ideally for life. He is guilty of a felony, not just a boorish remark.

I can confidently predict that, if he says something similar about any woke icon a couple of years from now, Clarkson will indeed have his collar felt. Yet evidently we aren’t quite at that point yet.

Hence Sir Mark Rowley, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, ruled out a criminal probe into Jeremy Clarkson’s misdeed. Police officers, he explained, were “not there to police people’s ethics”.

“The legal lines are only crossed, generally, when things are said that are intended or likely to stir up or incite violence,” continued Sir Mark. But then a sinister overtone crept into his statement: “I don’t think this is one of those cases but of course we will keep a close eye on it.”

Since ‘we’ isn’t a royal pronoun but a collective reference to the police, Jeremy Clarkson should watch his step. Another intemperate remark, and he may indeed be charged with a hate crime. As it is, he is likely to be punished only professionally, by losing some of his lucrative engagements.

Pity the same exacting standards aren’t applied to woke mouthpieces screaming hatred for those they see as their enemies. When the comedian Jo Brand publicly wished that someone threw battery acid into Nigel Farage’s face, she suffered no censure, much less a police promise to keep an eye on her subsequent utterances.

Labour politicians screaming “Rejoice!” when Lady Thatcher died received no opprobrium. Guardian and Independent journalists routinely describing as ‘fascists’ anyone who voted Leave aren’t censured in any way.

On the contrary, they are welcome guests at academic events, such as those at the Oxford Union, from which conservatives are banned as a matter of course.

Back in the late 80s, my son spent a couple of terms at the LSE. On his first day there he was stunned to see a lobby poster announcing a university debate. The theme was: “Resolved – this house will assassinate Thatcher.”

This sort of thing could have been treated as incitement to violence in some quarters – but wasn’t. Vituperative attacks on anyone perceived as even remotely conservative are an exercise in free speech. The shoe on the other foot makes it a hate crime, something for the Met to “keep a close eye on”.

As to Jeremy Clarkson, he ought to learn how to wield a rapier rather than a bludgeon. And a course in psychology wouldn’t go amiss. If he took one, he’d refrain from giving Meghan ideas for self-aggrandisement.