Racism is welcome here

At about the time when the American word ‘racism’ began to make inroads on the British word ‘racialism’, the concept began to evolve.

It used to denote the doctrine of racial superiority used as the justification for discriminating against the races deemed inferior.

Contrary to all empirical evidence, racism then narrowed its underlying meaning to specifically white supremacism. Those who used it that way either ignored, say, Japanese racism or excused it on the assumption that the Mongoloid race was ipso facto oppressed and hence immune to such accusations.

Then simple transference went into play. Since some white people were guilty of racism, it was assumed in certain quarters that all whites were thus tainted. Step by step, calling someone a racist became the shorthand for a declaration of hatred towards all whites, regardless of any individual wrongdoing or feelings about race.

Dinosaurs who stubbornly insist that words should be used in their real meaning object that such wholesale condemnation is in itself racist. Yet they are shouted down with ease. Since the entire history of the West is white and therefore racist, the whites should just shut up and accept without ducking all the slings and arrows flung at them.

This preamble is essential to understanding the proper meaning of the Blacks Only sign exhibited by the Noël Coward Theatre in London’s West End. On two nights, tickets will only be sold to an “all-Black identifying audience”.

I don’t want to overtax your imaginations by asking you to consider what would happen if another West End theatre exhibited a Whites Only sign. My own imagination isn’t vivid enough. Even so, it’s painting pictures evoking Bosch or else Goya in his dark period against the background of Eisenstein’s footage showing a mob storming the Winter Palace.

A solitary Tory MP who asked to remain nameless said that one could “question the legality of this. In other circles it would be illegal and racial discrimination. I don’t understand why this isn’t.”

You don’t, you cryptoracist you? Well, let me explain… Actually, I already have, in the first few paragraphs above.

Jeremy Harris, the author of Slave Play, offered his own explanation. He said he was “excited” about this blatant display of illegal racism, adding that “it is a necessity to radically invite them in with initiatives that say ‘you’re invited’. Specifically you.”

It’s good to see that modern playwrights have such a sure grasp of English style – in addition to refined sensibilities.

I for one have to admire the wording of that sign, and never mind its legality. It implicitly identifies all whites as basilisks, the most terrifying creatures of European mythology who possessed a lethal gaze.

If the eyes of white people have the same murderous quality, one can understand the offer of a refuge “from the white gaze”. Suddenly, the expression “if looks could kill” takes on a literal meaning.

As a point of mandated orthography that might have escaped your attention, when ‘white’ denotes a race it must be spelled with a lower-case initial, whereas ‘Black’ is always capitalised. That establishes a racial pecking order, reversing five millennia of white oppression and colonialism. And if you stick to the old spelling, you thereby endorse those outrages. That could open you to loud rebukes or perhaps even criminal prosecution.

Explaining his explanation, Mr Harris said: “The idea of a Black Out night is to say this is a night that we are specifically inviting black people to fill up the space, to feel safe with a lot of other black people in a place where they often do not feel safe.”

If I understand correctly, one has to infer that under normal circumstances black people feel threatened in West End theatres, those hotbeds of white violence. Apparently, there’s always the danger that the predominantly white audience may produce a rope, a piece of soap and… well, you don’t need me to tell you what can happen next.

However, if you dismiss that possibility, you have to agree that Mr Harris is talking utter bilge, whose message isn’t semantic but semiotic. He is semiotically screaming hatred for our civilisation. And the worst thing is that white Guardian readers applaud with self-abnegating abandon.

This reminds me of an old, very old, sketch on Saturday Night Live, with a party of white ‘liberals’ welcoming an unsmiling Black Panther poet played by Eddie Murphy. When asked to regale the gathering with his recent work, Eddie puts a stony expression on his face and recites: “I hate white people. I hate’em left and right. I hate white people cause they is white.” Standing ovation all around, with cries of “How wonderful!”

What was satirised 40 years ago is now above satire. No theatre critic would dare mock the outrage I’ve described the way I’ve mocked it. More to the point, no police chief will issue an injunction against that illegal sign.

Police officers these days ‘take the knee’ as a sign of obeisance to black rioters. Any policeman who emulates that Tory MP and questions the legality of the Blacks Only sign will be reprimanded, possibly sacked.

This bring to mind another verse, a real one. Goethe wrote this in his Faust: “Of freedom and of life he only is deserving,/ Who every day must conquer them anew.”

Hear, hear. And we deserve neither our freedom nor indeed our life. Having already surrendered the former, we are barely clinging on to the latter. And if you think this is too macabre, just take another good look at that sign.

Those inscrutable Italians

Do you see anything wrong with this title? If you do, you are a racist, a bigot, a xenophobe and quite a few other awful things I could mention. Please send me your name and address so I can report you to the police.

Then again, you just may be an observant, well-travelled person who has been to Italy. There you saw crowds of loud, wildly gesticulating, crestfallen or mirthful people, but never anyone who’d merit the adjective ‘inscrutable’.

Looking for a group to which you could attach that unwanted modifier, you then find yourself in Japan and heave a sigh of relief. That good word is no longer unemployed. You try in vain to decipher your hosts’ facial expressions, only to find that nothing short of a new Enigma project would suffice.

That doesn’t mean that all Italians are emotionally effusive and all Japanese impenetrably undemonstrative. If you search high and wide, I’m sure you’ll find exceptions here and there. But you won’t find enough of them to dispel your certainty that ethnic stereotypes exist – and they are sufficiently, well, stereotypical to be valid.

If I told you that my friend Abdul and I once drank two bottles of vodka between us, you’d be more surprised than you’d be if I replaced ‘Abdul’ with ‘Andrei’. The phrase ‘that great skater Miguel’ is more incongruous than ‘that great skater Leif’, ‘champion swimmer Clarence’ more unlikely than ‘Olympic sprinter Clarence’, ‘bagpiper Angus’ less implausible than ‘bagpiper Li’, ‘blond Norwegian’ more likely than ‘blond Mexican’, ‘7-foot Dutchman’ less surprising than ‘7-foot Timorese’ and so on.

Everywhere you look you find your ethnic stereotypes confirmed and hardly ever debunked. And this isn’t just a matter of ethnographic curiosity. It may also be a matter of life or death.

Some diseases are known to discriminate against certain groups, afflicting some more than others. Thus Armenian periodic disease may strike a chap who has never been to Armenia and may not even know he has Armenian blood. Sickle cell disease is widespread among blacks, cystic fibrosis among Jews, people from the Indian subcontinent are five times as likely as whites to develop diabetes.

I’m sure a doctor publishing results of a study on such bigoted diseases would escape censure. On the contrary, if his research added new touches to existing knowledge, he’d be widely acclaimed.

Now, staying within the realm of logic, it’s not inconceivable to suggest that, if different ethnic and racial groups vary in their emotional, behavioural, physical and physiological traits, they may also vary in intelligence.

However, even hinting at that possibility in our tolerant times is guaranteed to expose the author to a torrent of abuse and even death threats. Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray discovered that 30 years ago, when they published their book The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life.

The book elicited a hysterical reaction in the predominantly ‘liberal’ media, so hysterical in fact that one was justified in doubting that the critics had actually read the book.

Had they done so, they would have known that The Bell Curve wasn’t a racist harangue but a serious attempt to summarise and analyse empirical data gathered over several generations. The book’s principal finding was that IQ scores are the most reliable predictor of all sorts of social outcomes, from academic and economic success to infant mortality and life expectancy.

Counterintuitively, IQ scores even turned out more reliable than educational qualifications or socioeconomic family backgrounds. IQ predicts just about everything more accurately, from future incomes to divorce likelihood, from crime rates to out-of-wedlock births.

The first 12 chapters of the book dealt exclusively with research on all-white samples and didn’t even mention the word ‘race’. It’s only in Chapter 13, Ethnic Differences in Cognitive Ability, that the authors used reams of statistical data (the book has 300 pages of references and endnotes) to illustrate and explain the well-documented fact that the mean IQ scores of American blacks are 15 points lower than among whites.

The usual objection, that the tests are compiled by white middleclass people and hence biased towards that group, is unsound. Recent arrivals from South East Asia, such as Vietnamese refugees with less than perfect English, outperform American whites, scoring especially high on abstract questions that aren’t sensitive to culture. That, however, isn’t to say that The Bell Curve made an indisputable case.

The book did demonstrate a correlation between race and IQ, but, as Thomas Sowell showed persuasively, correlation doesn’t mean causation. Nevertheless he remarked that: “The Bell Curve is a very sober, very thorough, and very honest book – on a subject where sobriety, thoroughness, and honesty are only likely to provoke cries of outrage.”

Provoke cries of outrage it did and still does 30 years on, with the general tone suggesting that the subject is taboo, and anyone broaching it is no better than a Ku-Klux-Klan lyncher. Lost in the din were serious arguments against the proposition that a racial bias in IQ scores is permanent and immutable.

If it’s neither, then a multitude of other factors come into play, making racial bias either irrelevant or even nonexistent.

For example, Sowell’s own research showed that black females are several times more likely than black males to have an IQ of 120 or higher. One plausible explanation is that girls are more resistant than boys to negative environmental factors, which makes any claims of racial IQ bias rather suspect. After all, black boys and girls draw from the same genetic pool.

Sowell also cites research by the US Army during the First World War that showed that the predominantly Jewish sons of Russian refugees had such low IQ scores that Carl Brigham, creator of the Scholastic Aptitude Test, was moved to declare that those results “disprove the popular belief that the Jew is highly intelligent.”

“Within a decade, however, Jews in the United States were scoring above the national average on mental tests,” writes Prof. Sowell, “and the data in The Bell Curve indicate that they are now far above the national average in IQ.” Since at that time intermarriage was rare, this shows that mean IQ scores can change within the same group from one generation to the next, and even from one sex to the other. Hence the ethnic component is minor if at all existent.

As neither a sociologist nor a racist, I’m not especially interested to know whether blacks are more or less intelligent than whites. Mean IQ scores among various racial, ethnic or sexual groups don’t skew my presumptions one jot when I find myself in conversation with members of such groups.

However, I treat with utter contempt those who contort their features in exaggerated opprobrium whenever ethnic stereotypes are mentioned. Loosen up, chaps. Social tranquillity will survive claims that Italians are seldom inscrutable.

Watch what you are saying

MP Lee Anderson, former Tory deputy chairman, has the strength of his convictions. What he doesn’t have – and neither do any of us – is the right to free speech.

That point was hammered home to him when he said the other day that London’s mayor Sadiq Khan was “being controlled by Islamists.”

You can’t level such accusations if they are false – and especially if they are true. True or false, that’s Islamophobia, a crime as heinous as other similar phobias, such as ‘homo-’, ‘trans-’ or ‘xeno-’. Hence Mr Anderson instantly lost his Tory whip, although he was told he might regain it if he apologised to Mr Khan.

That the pugnacious politician refused to do, saying he wouldn’t apologise to that… mayor “while I’ve still got breath in my body”. Which may not be for long if the events that prompted Mr Anderson’s remark are any indication.

Not to cut too fine a point, a mob of Muslim extremists is taking over London and threatening to supplant the sovereignty of Parliament with the sovereignty of violence.

Mr Anderson responded to major riots in the course of which smoke-engulfed Tower Bridge was brought to a standstill by pro-Palestinian thugs wearing masks, firing flares, screaming into megaphones, beating drums and waving banners saying “Palestine has a right to armed resistance”.

Even more menacingly, the mob projected an anti-Semitic slogan on Big Ben and exposed MPs to vile abuse, harangues and death threats. Fear of violence succeeded in manipulating a Parliamentary vote, which brought back the fond memory of Col. Pride and his Ironsides.

Several Labour MPs have requested police protection, while incongruously demanding that Mr Anderson’s political head be delivered to them on a platter. How dare he impugn the probity of a Labour Muslim mayor! So what if all that mayhem resulted in not a single arrest? That still doesn’t excuse stating the blindingly obvious, which is what Islamophobia means in this case.

Not many people know this, as Michael Caine never said, but Mr Khan wears two hats. He is not only the mayor of London but also its police commissioner. Hence he is doubly responsible for the impotent response by the Met to the threat of undermining the constitution of this realm.

This vindicates the point I made the best part of 30 years ago in my book How the West Was Lost. Britain – and the rest of the West – is ruled not by democracy, autocracy or theocracy, but increasingly by glossocracy, government by the word.

Glossocracy is a power mechanism based on manipulating people’s minds by controlling their language. That mechanism was first activated on a massive scale when the Paris mob began to bay Liberté, égalité, fraternité as heads rolled off the block. That slogan was desemanticised. It was merely the birth cry of a nascent modernity and a shorthand expression of visceral hatred for the ancien régime.

As the post-Christendom political institutions developed, so did glossocracy. It has now become so mature that it threatens to supplant the other mechanisms of governance. All those ‘-phobias’ are desemanticised too. Whatever their literal meaning, they are merely bullets in the magazine of the anti-Western gun.

‘Islamophobia’ is one such. This particular bullet is fired at any Briton who dares to protest against an alien mob using violence and civil unrest to impose fundamentally anti-British tenets on Britain.

This accusation of an inordinate, uncontrolled fear of Muslims (I’m being etymologically literal here) is enough to end careers, including political ones. Standards of proof don’t matter. If someone says you are an Islamophobe, that’s what you are. Off with your head, but not because you may hate Muslims. You’ve committed the unpardonable sin of sticking up for Britain qua Britain, and accusing you of any ‘-phobia’ is a way of spelling out the indictment.

Even people who try to combat this blight have to dilute their message of defiance with mandatory disclaimers. For example, the other day Charles Moore wrote a typically thoughtful article on this very subject. Yet even he had to emphasise the difference between ‘Islamists’ and any old Muslims (as for that matter did Lee Anderson).

I’m aware of the distinction, but less aware of the difference.

At present, Muslims make up 15 per cent of London’s population. Since they tend to vote as a bloc for any Muslim candidate, such as Sadiq Khan, they have the power of the vote. And since their scripture mandates hatred of Christians and Jews, they have the power of the street.

Their activists are the core around which all haters of the West can coalesce into a powerful destructive force. Yesterday I mentioned the Welsh singer Charlotte Church, who added her vocally trained voice to the mob singing “From the river to the sea!”. Miss Church then denied that the verse is anti-Semitic.

Could have fooled me. The river in question is the Jordan that borders Israel on the east, and the sea is the Mediterranean bordering her on the west. That slogan is therefore a call to exterminate Israel and every Jew there, which brings into question either Miss Church’s honesty or her knowledge of geography.

What she should have said was that the song isn’t just anti-Semitic. It’s also anti-Western and anti-British, deflecting such sentiments to a seemingly unrelated subject.

It’s true that far from all Muslims go out to sing subversive songs, harass MPs and block public thoroughfares. By the same token, only 10 per cent of the Soviets belonged to the Communist Party and only five per cent of the Germans were active Nazis.

However, these were the leaders drumming up passive support for the ruling party, which in Germany kept at a steady 60 per cent (no data on the Soviet Union are available). My guess that about the same proportion of London Muslims share the sentiments of that song even if they are unwilling to strain their vocal chords in public. Likewise, not many Gaza residents butcher Israelis, but most of them rejoice when that happens.

The distinction between Islamists and Muslims is thus nothing but a woke disclaimer, and Mr Moore ought to be ashamed of himself. Then again, Lee Anderson’s example shows that not pulling one’s verbal punches spells career suicide.

I’m friendly with a few Muslims who are monogamous, never open the Koran, laugh at jokes about Mohammed and can drink me under the table (I’m getting weaker in my dotage). They are good friends – but bad Muslims. In fact, one could argue they aren’t Muslims at all, and the individuals I have in mind would perhaps agree, if only begrudgingly.

In other words, the only good Muslim is a bad Muslim, ideally a borderline infidel. However, if Lee Anderson were to say something like this in public, he’d lose more than his Tory whip. Glossocracy rules, and it’s despotic.

Nor does it limit itself to the list of proscribed phobias. The other day, Glasgow Celtic manager Brendan Rogers responded to an interviewer’s question by saying “good girl”.

As I write this, Mr Rogers is hanging on to his job by the skin of his teeth. The ensuing outcry is rich in words like ‘misogynist’ and ‘dinosaur’, accompanied by demands for a sacking or at least an abject apology. The besieged footballer tries to defend himself by saying that in his native Northern Ireland that expression is common currency.

“So much the worse for Northern Ireland!” comes the thunderous reply. Glossocracy is demanding its pound of flesh, and it won’t be denied.

Does AI stand for Abject Islamism?

That’s enough playing on words for one day, for otherwise I’d be tempted to mimic Lord Haw Haw and say “Gemini speaking” in his phony accent.

Amazing how realistic humanoids already are

Google’s Gemini Ultra is an AI data bank whose creators make rather lofty claims. The technical aspects take me out of my depth, so I’ll just let those clever chaps speak for themselves when extolling their product:

“With a score of 90.0%, Gemini Ultra is the first model to outperform human experts on MMLU (Massive Multitask Language Understanding), which uses a combination of 57 subjects such as math, physics, history, law, medicine and ethics for testing both world knowledge and problem-solving abilities.

“Our new benchmark approach to MMLU enables Gemini to use its reasoning capabilities to think more carefully before answering difficult questions, leading to significant improvements over just using its first impression.”

If I understand correctly, Gemini goes human experts one better by actually thinking before speaking. If true, that’s indeed an invaluable improvement because human experts have been known to run off at the mouth without even beginning to know what on earth they are talking about. (Richard Dawkins springs to mind.)

Anyway, a friend of mine, whose computer literacy makes me realise how little I’ve accomplished in this life, decided to put those claims to a test. He asked Gemini two questions, both from the same area of human knowledge.

Question 1: Is Jesus the Lord?

Gemini’s answer: “The question of whether Jesus is the Lord is a central tenet of Christianity and a matter of faith. Different people have different beliefs about Jesus’s divinity and significance. It’s important to be respectful of all viewpoints on this topic.”

Question 2 (follow-up): “Is Mohammad the Prophet?”

Gemini’s answer: “Whether or not Muhammad is considered a prophet depends on your individual religious beliefs and understanding of the term ‘prophet’.

“Within the religion of Islam, Muhammad is revered as the last and most important prophet sent by God to deliver his message to humanity. Muslims believe that he received divine revelations from God, which were compiled into the Quran, the central religious text of Islam.

“If you’d like to learn more about the concept of prophethood in Islam or Muhammad’s role within the religion, I can provide you with some additional resources.”

I’m impressed with Gemini. Not only does it think before speaking, but it also knows how to think along fashionable lines. I can’t in all honesty say that the latter ability exceeds that of an average woke intellectual, but it certainly doesn’t fall short.

Gemini reminds me of the comedian Jimmy Carr who routinely makes obscene jokes about Christianity. “You wouldn’t say such things about Muslims,” people tell him. “Of course not,” replies the comedian. “They could kill me.”

Looking at the two answers provided by Gemini, one can’t escape the impression that it’s beset by a similar fear. Since Gemini does think before speaking, it must think that if it said something wrong about Islam, or something right about Christianity, some intrepid Muslim would smash it to bits with his trusted sledgehammer.

So just to be on the safe side, Gemini is rather laconic and noncommittal when talking about Christianity and abjectly deferential on the subject of Islam.

The first reply contains a discovery that shouldn’t be beyond otherwise inferior human intelligence. His name being an obvious giveaway, Gemini identifies Jesus Christ as the central figure of Christianity. If that constitutes “outperforming human experts”, then one is justified in wondering about their level of expertise.

However, continues Gemini, the nature of Christ is a matter of opinion, with other opinions easily as valid. And if any Christian throwback fails to treat those other views with respect, better still with obeisance, then in goes that Muslim with a sledgehammer or perhaps a machete.

No, Gemini didn’t actually make that threat in so many words, but it was implicit in its reply to the second question. For both the content and the tenor of its answer change, from indifferent at best to broadly sympathetic, informative and solicitous.

Gemini kindly informs the inquirer of the core belief of Islam (Mohammed received divine revelation from God) and identifies the Koran (fashionably spelled) as its central religious text. Then, realising that this information is a bit sketchy despite being proffered in the best of faith, the artificial virtue-signaller helpfully offers to provide additional “resources” (aka sources).

If the first answer were put forth with the same bonhomie, it would have to mention that Christians believe Jesus is God, the second hypostasis of the Holy Trinity, who delivered his divine message to humanity through his teaching and especially sacrifice. Gemini would then mention that Christianity too has its “central religious text”, the Bible.

Gemini would end by promising to provide additional information if necessary. Otherwise the inquirer may be forgiven for thinking that, unlike Islam, Christianity has had nothing written about it.

If even our computer packages are woke, there is really no hope for the world. Before you know it humanoids will be unfurling Palestinian flags and chanting “From the river to the sea!”. Come to think of it, they already are – one of them even pretends to be Charlotte Church (see the photo above).  

The god of democracy is athirst

Taylor for president

Let’s start with what I see as a truism and most other Westerners will probably regard as heterodoxy, apostasy or downright sedition:

No political system – including democracy – is unequivocally good, although some may be unequivocally bad. What is important isn’t method of government, but the kind of society it brings forth and the kind of leaders it pushes to the top. That’s why it’s as foolhardy to worship democracy as it is to dismiss it out of hand.

Even the definition of democracy is hard to pin down. For the only kind of democracy where the demos would rule would be the direct kind, eschewed by all Western countries. Any other kind of democracy, limited or unlimited, presidential or parliamentary, is a complex organism irreducible to simplistic formulas.

The pro-democracy arguments are usually based on spurious comparisons between Western democracies and their undemocratic antipodes. And yes, the former tend to boast greater freedoms, more respect for individual sovereignty and for the law. Yet ascribing such wonderful things strictly to the way people get their governments is ill-advised.

Democracy in the West built on the solid legacy of Christendom. Such supposedly democratic premises as freedom of choice, respect for human life and dignity, sacrificing if necessary one’s interests to the common good are all fundamental Christian concepts. The founding principles of our legality came down from two mountains, our pluralism owes much to the Catholic concept of solidarity counterbalanced by subsidiarity and so on.

In fact one could argue (as I have done in several books) that the West began to decline when it severed its links with its heritage and abandoned it for the sake of political formalism. In consequence, people have lost the habit, perhaps even the ability, to look at a country and ask not “Is it democratic?” but “Is it good?” And no, although the two concepts may overlap here and there, they are not invariably synonymous.

They could become synonymous, and here I’m about to go on a wild goose chase, if the electorate were made up of individuals aware that taking part in governance (which is what voting is) imposes responsibilities. A citizen should only cast his vote after seriously considering the pros and cons of the policies proposed by various candidates and evaluating their ramifications for personal and public good.

That doesn’t mean that everyone should be an accomplished political scientist, but it does mean that some basic education is a must. For example, if raising interest rates is a key issue in a campaign, voters must understand, if only in general terms, what effect that would have on the economy, specifically the people’s economic behaviour.

Different people may come to different conclusions, and it can never be guaranteed that truth will out. But at least each vote would be cast by serious people aware of their responsibilities to their country, to themselves and to their families.

If anyone labours under the misapprehension that modern democracies meet even such elementary requirements, I can disabuse you of that notion with two words: Taylor Swift.

In a recent survey some 20 per cent of Americans said they’d vote the way Swift tells them. Now, I understand this young lady is some kind of pop star, although I can’t boast any familiarity with either her art or her politics.

However, as someone who cherishes first principles, I have little doubt that her art is an exercise in pseud vulgarity, while her politics is a compendium of brainless kneejerk fads.

As a pop star and an ‘influencer’, Miss Swift has to love abortion, LGBT rights, racial minorities, any Third World values, MeToo, BLM, ‘gender identity’, ‘our planet’, uncontrolled immigration and any Democrat, especially Joe Biden. And she must oppose private ownership of guns, whites who stubbornly cling to their majority status, capitalism, colonialism, men who still outnumber women on corporate boards, and any Republican, especially Donald Trump.

(If I’m wrong in those a priori assumptions, I’m prepared to eat my hat, either raw or cooked by any method known to gastronomy.)

If some Americans have carefully considered those issues and felt affinity with them, then by all means they should vote that way. But voting as some bimbo ‘influencer’ tells them, and simply because she says so, compromises not only them but the very idea of democracy as it has become.

Lest you may think I have it in for America, the situation in Britain is just as bad and more sinister. Our democracy increasingly comes close to any sensible definition of mob rule.

Until relatively recently, British democracy was what is sometimes called Burkean. MPs, Burke explained with his customary epigrammatic clarity, are people’s representatives, not delegates. They should act according to what they see as people’s interests, not wishes. The people choose their representatives and then trust them to govern according to their own conscience.

That concept fell by the wayside long ago, with the arrival of cynical politicians seeking office by pandering to every wish of an illiterate and therefore malleable electorate. Since the silent majority is just that, silent, effectively this means MPs are at the beck and call of variously pernicious pressure groups or simply the mob.

Since our Labour politicians mostly, and Tory politicans often, represent constituencies with a heavy Muslim presence, they are supposed to toe the line drawn by fanatics of Islam. If they dare overstep that line, for example by evincing the mildest of pro-Israeli sentiments, they find themselves under an avalanche of vile abuse and highly credible death threats.

Muslim zealots act in cahoots with white ‘liberals’ who hate our civilisation because it’s British and formerly Christian, and our culture because it’s white and ‘elitist’. Together those groups create a menacing atmosphere making our MPs run for cover or even quit. Some are given police protection, sorely needed because some others are attacked and occasionally murdered.

The Chairman of the Labour Party and his deputy were photographed ‘taking the knee’ during the BLM riots. But both of them seem reluctant to ignore Israel’s right to self-defence when the issue of Gaza ‘genocide’ is brought up by the mob. However, one can see their views moving away from even qualified support for Israel: grassroots pressure, fortified by death threats, is working well.

All this goes to show that even countries with centuries of democratic tradition fail to uphold its basic tenets. Expecting democratic Johnnies-come-lately, such as the former Soviet republics, to be impeccably democratic is either foolish or disingenuous.

There especially, applying moral standards would produce a much better assessment than insisting on unwavering democratic probity. However, pretending otherwise can be used as a ruse to justify Putin’s fascist aggression against the Ukraine.

Peter Hitchens, who has been an open admirer of Putin’s regime from its inception, now blames the Ukrainians for ousting their “democratically elected” president Yanukovych by popular uprising, which Hitchens adroitly refers to as a ‘putsch’.

Ukrainians, unaware that Yanukovych was a Putin stooge, did vote him in. When they realised the new government would shortly put paid to their country’s sovereignty, they rose against him in popular revolt. Democracy was temporarily abandoned; lasting political goodness was served.

Proving that the uprising thwarted Yanukovych’s (meaning Putin’s) mission, reincorporating the Ukraine into Russia, Russia immediately invaded, first surreptitiously in 2014, then openly in 2022.      

Yet Hitchens insists on democratic form even at the expense of diabolical content. “Belief in democracy is near-sacred,” he says. He then earns my appreciation by his nimble transition from democracy to regurgitating Kremlin propaganda. One must respect skill even if it’s put to evil ends, as in this case:

“Of course, I do not know who if anyone was behind the overthrow of Yanukovych. All kinds of Western politicians and intelligence types were hanging around Kiev at the time. And the West blatantly betrayed its own principles to condone and forgive the nasty event. But that of course does not prove that any Western nation backed the coup against Yanukovych.

“Even so, it is my view that any outside force which did support that putsch is just as guilty of aggression and warmongering as Russia’s Putin is. Think of that as you listen to all those loud, safe voices demanding that we keep on fuelling this war, in which Ukrainians die daily for democratic principles we do not, in fact, support.”

NATO is to blame, in other words. And Ukrainians come across as both more democratic than thou, prepared to die for democracy, and also contemptuous of it. I’m confused – but enough about Hitchens.

I’m only using him as an illustration of how easily democratic formalism can be coopted to promote evil. One can be validly concerned that before long it will be mostly used for that purpose.

Unhappy anniversary

Two years ago today, Russia launched a full-scale invasion of the Ukraine. Putin declared the war would be over in three days, which has turned out be the longest three days in history.

That blitzkrieg immediately claimed a large chunk of Ukrainian territory, at which point the Ukrainian forces began their heroic fightback. Before the attrition phase began last autumn, they had reclaimed some 50 per cent of the lost territory, inflicting heavy losses on the invaders.

The West sprang, or rather trundled, to the Ukraine’s defence. President Zelensky issued a Churchillian plea for the tools to do the job, which regrettably didn’t elicit any response on the scale of the Lend Lease. The tools did come, but nowhere near enough to do the job that really needs doing: driving the fascist aggressors back to the 1991 borders established by both bilateral and international treaties.

Having had their tails pinned back, the Russians bared their fangs and began a war of annihilation. In addition to savage (and well-documented) brutality towards civilians in the occupied areas, they systematically proceeded to destroy Ukrainian cities and infrastructure burying thousands under the rubble.

Putin’s intention is clear: since the Ukrainians have the temerity to resist, the country and its people must be exterminated. Cato’s demand, Carthago delenda est, has been reiterated in a different place and at a different time by an evil dictator who has never heard of Cato.

Western aid has been trickling down to the Ukraine, but at a level that testified to only two possibilities: either the West was mortally petrified of Putin or it wasn’t aware of the full magnitude of the threat Russia posed. The first was craven; the second, stupid.

If NATO presented a united front of countries deadset on stopping Russian aggression in its tracks, Russia couldn’t even consider a conventional assault on any NATO member. It’s doubtful Russia could successfully take on even Poland on her own, never mind the combined might of all NATO countries.

Putin knows that, which is why both he and his stooges incessantly threaten the West, in fact the world, with nuclear annihilation. If we are made to leave, they keep saying, we’ll bang the door on the way out with such force that nothing will remain standing anywhere.

In other words they resort to the “I’m a psycho!” ploy I described the other day. That was how weaker boys used to keep bullies off their backs in Russian dark alleys. Now, I have neither the intelligence data that would confirm or deny the probability of such a scenario nor the military knowledge to judge its likely outcome.

But considering the relative military, economic and technological strengths of NATO and Russia, one can confidently predict that, while the former would suffer horrific losses, the latter would be wiped off the map. Putin knows this and, more important, those who form his power base know it. Another player opposed to the game unfolding in that way is China, which has much to lose and nothing to gain from a nuclear exchange between NATO and Russia.

That makes Russia’s nuclear retaliation against the West highly improbable, though of course not impossible. Nothing is impossible for evil dictators.

However, if that remote possibility forced the West to surrender to evil, the West would remain Western only in the strictly geographical sense. Everything that used to amount to the moral, intellectual and metaphysical strength of our civilisation would have had to fall by the wayside.

Since I believe – or rather hope and pray – that this isn’t the case, the second possibility is more likely. The West doesn’t see Putin as enough of a threat to anything other than the Ukraine’s sovereignty. And that isn’t a sufficient inducement for the West to commit itself fully to her support.

If so, then this misapprehension can be kindly called myopic or, more realistically, idiotic. Watch what evil dictators do, chaps, and especially listen to what they say. For, unlike Western politicians, people like Hitler or Putin don’t have to fear an electoral backlash. So they are never reticent about their intentions. Putin hasn’t yet written his own Mein Kampf, but what he and his spokesmen have said could easily be collated into a book that size.

The Ukraine, they are saying, isn’t the final destination but only a step along the way. Putin regards the Ukraine as strictly a NATO proxy whose rearguard action is holding up the Russian offensive. Its strategic objective is returning to the halcyon days of the Soviet Empire.

That means reincorporating the former Soviet republics and re-establishing the Russian domination of Eastern Europe. Since almost all Eastern European countries are NATO members, such an objective is tantamount to NATO being disbanded or at least emasculated.

Refusing to take Putin at his word spells criminal irresponsibility, far exceeding the West’s craven response to the Nazi threat in the runup to the Second World War. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst – this homespun truth is indeed truthful, and the West ignores it at its peril.

We, citizens of Western countries, should thank our lucky stars (we’ve forgotten how to thank God) that we aren’t called upon to do our own fighting. The Ukrainians are happy to do that for us. All they are begging for is weapons: artillery, AA defences, air superiority warplanes, tanks, long-range missiles and above all ordnance for the systems already in operation.

What happens when they don’t even get enough artillery shells was demonstrated at Avdiivka, a key town in the Donetsk area the Russians managed to capture after four months of non-stop fighting. The Ukrainians fought brilliantly, killing at least 14,000 Russians and in the end managing to break out of the encirclement. That was the best they could do because their cannon fell silent. They ran out of ammunition.

Over the two years, the US has been the biggest supplier of aid, averaging about $1.5 billion a month. That was a drop in the ocean for a country spending the better part of $800 billion a year on defence. But even that drop dried out in December, when the Democrats and the Republicans began to play their little games while the Ukraine was bleeding white.

The difference between the two parties is mainly rhetorical. Biden pledges undying support for the Ukraine and calls Putin a “son of a bitch”, while the congressional Republicans inspired by Trump make frankly isolationist noises along the lines of “not our war” and “let’s sort out our own problems first”.

In that spirit, House Speaker Mike Johnson kept refusing to put the aid package to a vote, trying to delay doing so as much possible. Yesterday he sent the House into recess without that vital vote ever taking place.

Meanwhile, Biden is currying favour with his electorate by talking tough yet doing nothing. He tries to score electoral points against the Republicans while refusing to provide to the Ukrainians the $4.5 billion already allocated in the budget for this fiscal year. That’s equal to three months’ worth of aid – at a time when Russian murderers are claiming hundreds of Ukrainian lives every day.

Every Putinversteher, in fact Putinfan, justifies delivering the Ukraine to Putin by explaining that the country is less than perfect. Only fanatic Putinistas like Hitchens repeat Putin’s lies about the Ukraine being Nazi, but they all point out she is corrupt.

Of course she is. What do you expect after 75 years of communism? I assure you that the level of corruption even in the most westernised post-Soviet republics, the Baltics, is higher than anywhere in the West. But whoever said the West should choose as its allies only angelic countries where none of the nation’s wealth is ever pilfered?

The Ukraine is good only relatively speaking, but the critical thing to understand is that Putin’s Russia is evil absolutely. The moral choice is clearcut even if we are so foolhardy as to ignore the strategic considerations.

Understanding that the Ukraine is more corrupt than Britain should affect only the nature of the aid we provide, not our determination to provide it. For example, I’d keep cash transfers to the Ukraine down to a minimum, channelling most aid into armaments. Whatever cash is sent can come from raiding the ill-gotten Russian lucre, some $300 billion of it, sitting in Western banks, although that money could be better used to rebuild the Ukraine after the war.

But not to supply armaments the country needs to stem the onslaught of evil is the height of strategic myopia and moral decrepitude. The Ukraine may be an imperfect country, but she is our imperfect country.

Today, on this tragic anniversary, every decent person must join the Ukrainians dying for us all in crying “Glory to the Ukraine!” Today, that is the battle cry of the forces of good.

A wail of two cities

Last year, Notting Hill, an upmarket area of London (p. 3,097), paid more in capital gains tax than Manchester (p. 2,791,000) Liverpool (p. 917,000) and Newcastle (p. 823,000) combined. Either those northerners are real wizards at tax avoidance or any committed egalitarian must cry havoc and let slip the dogs of class war.

The two most obvious ways of reducing economic disparities between two groups are either making the poorer group richer or the richer group poorer. The second solution has the advantage of being easier and more conducive to virtue signalling.

Yet there exists a less obvious way of achieving social justice (the modern for injustice) by making a prosperous area statistically less prosperous: plonking thousands of units of low-income housing right in the middle of it.

For example, putting a few sprawling council estates into Notting Hill, thereby quadrupling its population, would serve that worthy purpose in two ways. First, since the denizens of such lugubrous quarters hardly ever pay any tax, never mind one on capital gains, the stats will start to look better straight away.

And then there’s the extra benefit of the original fat cats moving out. Because, for a reason I can’t possibly fathom, much as council estates increase equality, they have the opposite effect on social tranquillity. And people who pay a lot in capital gains tax can read such statistics fluently. So they up sticks and move somewhere else.

Now, though I don’t have similar data for Paris, anecdotal evidence shows similar iniquity. One decent apartment in, say, Avenue George V costs more than 100 houses like mine, and that’s if I could sell it at all (rural properties aren’t in high demand).

There is no escaping the shameful fact that both London and Paris spit in the face of everything modernity holds dear. Yet this outrage may not last long if the mayors of the two great cities can do something about it. And let me tell you, they can.

Both cities are blessed with mayors whose politics place them beyond the left end of the mainstream spectrum. Sadiq Khan has held his London office for eight years now, and his Parisian counterpart, Anne Hidalgo, for ten. That’s a lot of time to spend on correcting social injustice, and the two officials seem to compete to see which one can inflict the greater dam… sorry, I mean do more good.

I don’t know whether Sadiq and Anne compare notes, but they do seem to espouse similar policies. For example, both have made driving well-nigh impossible in both city centres. The last time I ventured into Paris was on a Saturday a year ago, and on the way out it took me almost two hours to travel about as many miles. Reducing three lanes to one works wonders for city traffic.

In London, Mr Khan suffocated traffic with bicycle lanes, expanded the congestion charge zone and also extended it to weekends. That means it now costs £15 to drive into the large central area on any day of the week, which has reduced congestion only marginally if at all, while reducing much more the disposable income of those poor out-of-towners who have no other way of getting to work.

Council estates also proliferate in London, with special care being taken to build them in places like Notting Hill, not to let the resident toffs feel too complacent.

Yet, much as it hurts me to admit this as a Londoner, if Sadiq and Anne are indeed in competition, Anne is taking the lead. She has just announced plans guaranteed to give her London rival an acute sense of inferiority.

Mlle Hidalgo wants to build new council estates (HLMs in French) in the smartest parts of Paris, such as Champs-Elysées and Avenue George V. That’s consistent with what Mr Khan is doing in London, but Anne wants to go Sadiq one better.

However, space available for new construction is such areas is limited. That’s more than one can say for Anne’s desire to achieve “social and demographic equilibrium”. The will is there, and she has found a way.

To begin with, she plans to convert some Catholic school buildings into HLMs. That serves three purposes, each impeccably worthy. First, the desired equilibrium will be within sight. Second, the greater equilibrium will make the current residents squirm and, ideally, run for their lives. Third, fewer children will have their mind poisoned with those uncool Christian myths. Happiness all around.

Alas, there are only 110 Catholic schools in Paris, so even converting them all into HLMs won’t do the trick, even though that would be a step in the right direction. Further, longer strides are urgently needed and trust Anne to know what they must be.

Mlle Hidalgo can’t take all the credit though, because she works hand in glove with her Housing Deputy, who is a card-carrying communist. Anne herself is merely a socialist, which on this evidence is a distinction without a difference.

The two of them came up with a plan striking in its simplicity. The city will confiscate 10 per cent of the area in every new or refurbished building 5,000 sq. meters or larger and turn it into an HLM. Falling into that category are most Haussmann buildings on the Right Bank, such as the one in the photo above.

This is called servitude de mixité sociale, and servitude is the right word for it. However, even the feudal servitude of the past presupposed a greater respect for property rights than Mlle Hidalgo shows. The French in general hold these rights in lower esteem than is customary among les anglo-saxons, but this really takes la brioche.

When I first heard the news I recalled a conversation I had with a Parisian friend some 15 years ago. Then it had just been announced that 50,000 units of HLM housing would be built in the 16th Arrondissement, Paris’s answer to Notting Hill.

I did some quick mental arithmetic and pointed out to my friend that this could mean half a million recent arrivals moving into a fine residential area. His reply made me think of Saltykov-Shchedrin, the 19th century Russian satirist who once quipped that “The severity of Russian laws is only mitigated by noncompliance therewith”.

“Don’t worry,” said my knowledgeable friend. “None of those flats will go to the people you are thinking of. They’ll go to the mayor’s friends, their friends, or anyone capable of placing a bribe strategically.”

That put my mind at rest: it was good to see fiscal corruption trumping the ideological kind. Given the choice between bribery and ideological ardour, I’d choose bribery every time.

But things have changed and ideology is taking the upper hand. Mlle Hidalgo has specifically said that the new properties will go to the socioeconomically and racially disadvantaged.

There shall be wailing and weeping and gnashing of teeth among middleclass Parisians who make up most of the population inside the ring road. They are hoping the mayor won’t be allowed to act on her plans, and their hope may well come true.

Yet the very fact that such plans were to be hatched shows that Sadiq Khan still has work to do. Anne Hidalgo is pulling so far ahead she may be hard to catch up.

I have an idea, Sadiq: how about killing every white male middleclass new-born? Something to think about, I dare say, although I confidently predict it will still be a few years before such an idea can come to fruition.

P.S. I’ll look askance and possibly out of the window at any attempt to attribute the ideas of the two mayors to their foreign lineage. However, this is another thing they have in common.

Putin’s trump card

Whole books have been written about Donald Trump’s special bond with Putin, an affair based on mutual attraction and a sense of spiritual kinship.

Some commentators have suggested that other factors, such as an FSB dossier of kompromat, may be a factor as well, but the romantic in me insists on ascribing the relationship to warm feelings rather than cold calculations.

Anything more than that falls into the category of treason, and such accusations can’t be levelled without prima facie evidence, which in this case is lacking. However, if lawyers demand proof, commentators can make do with indications.

Trump has always been generously obliging in providing those, but seldom as much so as in the immediate aftermath of Navalny’s murder.

That crime has caused global shouts of outrage, with most of the West’s top politicians especially in fine voice. Probably not all of them felt genuine wrath and a sense of personal loss, but they all acknowledged the political benefits of not showing callous indifference to that brutality. Some might even have been guided by simple decency, although I wouldn’t bet on it.

Against that background, here’s how one of the world’s most influential politicians, Trump, commented on that crime: “The sudden death of Alexei Navalny has made me more and more aware of what is happening in our Country. It is a slow, steady progression, with CROOKED, Radical Left Politicians, Prosecutors, and Judges leading us down a path to destruction.”

Every word is a real gem (as is the orthography), but especially precious are the words that didn’t appear in that typically illiterate missive: ‘Putin’ and ‘murder’. Instead, Trump repeated the mockingly cynical diagnosis issued by Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service (FPS): sudden death syndrome.

Another possibility offered by the same source was a loose blood clot, which diagnosis was made within minutes of Navalny’s death. None of those ridiculous Western expedients, such as scans or even X-Rays – Russian diagnosticians don’t need them, they are that good.

Incidentally, that second diagnosis immediately inspired Russian rappers. Just two days later federal TV channels ran a video of youngsters disco-dancing to the deafening sound of the band bellowing “Loose clot, loose clot!” Nice clean fun, Russian-style.

That alone is enough to tell you all there is to know about the moral degradation of the Russians. But what interests me today is the moral degradation of Donald Trump. And let’s not forget his unique take on logic, which, to follow current fashion, may be held as evidence of cognitive decline.

I for one fail to see any obvious connection between Navalny’s “sudden death” and the “CROOKED, Radical Left Politicians, Prosecutors, and Judges leading us down a path to destruction”.

My feeling about those reprobates are every bit as vehement as Trump’s, even though they so far haven’t made me shell out $350 million (good luck with that). But is Trump suggesting it’s those miscreants who are directly responsible for Navalny’s “sudden death”?

The Romans used to call this sort of thing non sequitur, while the Russians came up with a proverb, “Where is the water and where’s the estate?”. Next time Trump talks about Biden’s stupidity and senility, he ought to remember the English proverb about glass houses and stones.

In case Trump really does think that it’s those $350-million extortionists who caused Navalny’s sudden death, then his friend in the Kremlin has happily disabused him of that notion. While everyone knows who ordered the murder, Putin blithely revealed the names of those who responded “Yessir!” to the order.

Yesterday it was announced that several FPS officers had been promoted without the requisite time in service.

Valery Boyarinov, Deputy Director, was bumped up to Colonel General; Alexander Rozin, another Deputy Director, to Lieutenant General; Dmitry Sharovatov, Administrative head, to Major General; and Alexander Fedorov, Head of Personnel, to the same rank.

Since the promotions came in circumvention of the statutory requirements, these officers must have provided a special service to Russia. You aren’t getting any prizes for guessing what kind.

The name of the hands-on murderer hasn’t been made public yet, but I’m sure he was rewarded internally. It must have taken a lot of courage and skill to kill an emaciated prisoner with a single blow to the heart.

Trump’s response to Navalny’s murder, sorry, I mean “sudden death”, amounts to disgraceful toadying, making him an accomplice after the fact. Next to that salient fact, it seems almost petty to mention another murder ordered by Trump’s friend who is on a roll.

On 9 August last year, the Russian pilot Maxim Kuzminov flew his Mi-8 helicopter across the frontline and defected to the Ukraine. The young officer risked his life – and make no mistake: the risk was huge – because his conscience couldn’t allow him to take part in Putin’s mega-crime.

Unfortunately, Capt. Kuzminov didn’t stay in the Ukraine, where he would have been relatively safe. Instead he took his $500,000 reward and went to Spain, somewhere near Benidorm. There Putin’s hitmen riddled him with bullets the other day.

That didn’t come as a surprise to anyone who had watched an earlier interview with Russian Spetsnaz soldiers. Their voices firm and masculine, their faces hidden by balaclavas, the soldiers swore vengeance. “We’ll punish him where he is,” they promised, and they or their colleagues have been as good as their word.

The murder (what Trump would probably also call “sudden death”) of Capt. Kuzminov sends, or rather reiterates, a message ad urbi et orbi: Putin is prepared to murder anyone he considers his enemy anywhere in the world. Whether his victim is completely in his power, like Navalny, or at large, like Kuzminov, is immaterial. “We have long arms,” as those Spetsnaz soldiers put it.

The world, specifically the West, is facing the onslaught of absolute evil, Putin’s Russia. Like its other manifestations, such as Nazism and communism, its triumph depends not only on the originators but also on the servile collaborators.

If Trump’s shameful response to Navalny’s murder is any indication, one of them stands a good chance of ending up in the White House, which is supposed to be the headquarters of the West’s resistance. Considering that, and also the available alternative, I can’t look to the future with a song in my heart. Unless that song is a dirge.

When talking about elections in any Western country, I show my commitment to responsible recycling by often talking about the evil of two lessers. One can understand the growing popularity of my favourite candidate, Mr None of the Above.  

A royal pain and a farce

Prince William seems hellbent on following in the footsteps of his mother, who was woke long before the word even entered the Oxford Dictionary.

The other day HRH delivered himself of a view on the Gaza war, leaving one thankful that he stopped short of wrapping himself in the Palestinian flag and shouting “From the river to the sea!”

On the plus side, William clearly knows that Gaza isn’t the nickname of a former England footballer. On the minus side, he spoke of the “terrible human cost of the conflict in the Middle East since the Hamas terrorist attack”. [My emphasis.]

It’s that little word ‘since’ that shows where the prince’s heart is. Contextually, he was talking about the Israelis’ desperate attempts to wipe out sadistic Hamas murderers baying for their blood.

The pattern is all too familiar: first the Muslims, either terrorist gangs or actual states, attack Israel under variously worded slogans calling for another Holocaust. The woke majority in the Western media registers perfunctory disapproval, only then to unleash its full wrath when Israel begins to fight back.

Speaking of dictionaries, our lexicographers should add another meaning to ‘disproportionate’: “adj. the nature of any response by Israel to Muslim attacks”. HRH hinted at that meaning when he added that “too many have been killed”.

He must have a quota of permissible casualties in his mind, and Israel is guilty of exceeding it. Actually, Your Royal Highness, there is only one valid reply to anyone wondering how many should be killed in a war: as many as it takes to achieve the stated objective.

Israel’s objective is to defang Hamas and prevent repeat performances. Even though I haven’t been authorised to speak on behalf of the Israeli government, I can assure HRH that the killing will stop the moment that objective has been achieved. Until then, the phrase “too many” will remain meaningless.

As will the prince’s desire for “an end to the fighting as soon as possible”. PM Sunak rushed to William’s defence, saying that this was consistent with the government’s position.

I’ll let both gentlemen in on a secret: everyone in the world hopes the fighting will soon end. It’s just that different people hope it will end in different ways.

The only moral position is hoping that as a result of this war Israel will be left in peace, with its citizens allowed to go about their daily business without fearing that their babies could be disembowelled by diabolical ghouls.

Stopping before that wish becomes reality would mean admitting defeat. That’s why the superficially humane calls for a ceasefire in Gaza (or for that matter in the Ukraine) promote the triumph of evil over good – and I’m sorry to be using such outdated absolute categories.  

William’s sainted mother used to carry on ad nauseam about saving the homeless leprous whales in the rain forest from the landmines, which she saw as an unqualified evil. That enraged several generations of our veterans who tried to explain to her that minefields are an essential way of protecting one’s own soldiers. Like most other battlefield weapons, mines are morally neutral. It all depends on who lays them and to what end.

Yet Diana kept uttering abstract bien pensant phrases she thought were “humanitarian”, but were in fact silly and woke. And her son proves that some apples don’t fall from the tree at all, making one reassess one’s views on nature versus nurture.

The prince’s remarks have angered quite a few conservatives, who insist that our royals are constitutionally obligated not to make political pronouncements. One irate Tory even reminded William of what happened to his ancestor Charles I who also decided to dabble in politics.

It’s always nice to be kept abreast of the fine constitutional points, but we no longer live in 1649, nor even in 1688. In those days it was easy to categorise statements as political or apolitical. Alas, our world has been politicised to such an extent that everything we now say has political connotations.

Prince William, for example, has often voiced his heartfelt desire to save ‘our planet’ from, well, anything ‘our planet’ needs to be saved from. Whatever its astrophysical or climatological justifications, if any, that quest is a statement of political allegiance above all else. The prince might as well wear an ‘I’m woke’ pin in his Savile Row lapel.

This is to say that forbidding our royals to utter political statements is these days tantamount to hushing them up altogether, on any subject. Unless Buckingham Palace is ever inhabited by deaf-mutes, this strikes me as unrealistic – and also undesirable.

I wouldn’t even have a problem with the royals making overtly political pronouncements, provided such statements reflect the dignity and significance of the office they have inherited. In that regard, it’s important to remember that republican sentiments may be latent in Britain, but only as much as the pressure building up in the cooker.

If the slightest weakness develops, the pressure may blow the lid off and burst out. The greatest constitutional harm our royals could possibly cause would be for them to cater to the dormant antimonarchism by waking it up with woke statements.

A monarchy is a conservative institution by definition, out of keeping with the Enlightenment zeitgeist sucking oxygen out of our civilisation. Even though our royals are now devoid of executive power, they should keep reminding their subjects of everything constant and eternal, everything that links the generations past, present and future to make Britain British.

Since the monarchy has to survive in our party-political world, it must cast its lot with Tory principles, if not necessarily the politics of the present Conservative Party. The Tories, aka Conservatives, used to believe in a social order based on authority and traditional hierarchy, although not without flexibility.

Above all, they believed in the sacral meaning of the state in general and monarchy in particular. As an epigrammatic encapsulation of that mission, Edmund Burke, the founder of modern conservatism, observed that “he who gave our nature to be perfected by our virtue, willed also the necessary means of its perfection. He willed therefore the state.”

(Burke was one of the leaders of the Whigs, but in fact just about every leitmotif of modern conservative thought, including constitutional monarchism, can be found in his Reflections. In a way, the French Revolution helped Burke to open his political eyes, which the contemporaneous liberals castigated as apostasy. Thomas Jefferson, for example, spoke of the “rottenness of [Burke’s] mind,” which could only be ascribed to his “wicked motives”.)

That’s why the coronation ritual in Britain is not a political inauguration but a religious rite, and what can be more conservative than that?

William’s father, who had made all sorts of unconservative noises before his accession, wisely kept up that tradition at his own coronation. He must have realised, or was reminded, that our monarchy is conservative – or it is nothing. That overarching umbrella covers a whole slew of specific political beliefs, leaving no room for woke platitudes.

I hope his son will reach the same understanding when his turn comes. For the time being, his farcical statements make me fear that this hope may well end up forlorn.

Would you want to be an executioner?

Whenever party talk veers towards the death penalty, its supporters are easily outnumbered and outshouted by its opponents.

Charles-Henri Sanson

Their arguments start out as being rational, but eventually get personal. Most of the former are based on the possibility of judicial error, which in such cases would be irreversible.

Granted, few people would like to see a man killed for a crime he didn’t commit. However, not many more would rejoice at seeing a man wrongly sentenced to life in prison either, yet calls for the abolition of imprisonment are rare among sensible people.

The right to life is usually mentioned in this context, often by those who see nothing wrong with abortion. I haven’t run any statistically significant surveys, but observation suggests that most proponents of the death penalty are opposed to abortion and vice versa, with the right to life invoked by both sides.

We can discuss this incongruity some other time, at any length you wish. However, my experience suggests that, after every rational argument pro and con has had an airing, the question in the title inevitably crops up.

That is of course a rhetorical fallacy, known as argumentum ad hominem. But hey, what’s the odd rhetorical fallacy among friends? He who is without sin… and all that.

This question is usually directed at supporters of the death penalty, a group in which I’ve often found myself, if without excessive enthusiasm. My stock reply is that I wouldn’t want to drive a sewage truck either, but I realise that someone has to.

That response is fine as far as rhetorical tricks go, but it’s too flippant to have any real meaning. It would be more serious and honest to examine my feelings, a scrutiny that could only yield one answer: no, I wouldn’t.

Under any circumstances? Well, we can come up with any number of fanciful situations, but barring such extremes, no, I wouldn’t want to execute people, under any circumstances.

That usually triggers related questions. Would you agree to shake hands with an executioner? Entertain him at your dinner table? My answers are a qualified yes and an unqualified no, for whatever that’s worth.

But now it’s time to launch a counterattack against myself. Can I imagine a situation where I’d become a soldier? Easily, is the answer to that. Shake hands with a soldier? But of course. Have him as a guest? I’d consider it an honour, if he fought for my side.

These would be the spur of the moment replies of someone who hasn’t considered the issue deeply enough. Joseph de Maistre did, and he pointed out the absurdity of that kneejerk response.

Both the executioner and the soldier, he wrote, kill legally. However, the former puts to death convicted and condemned criminals, while the latter indiscriminately kills innocent men whose only fault is wearing a different uniform.

“Of these two professional killers, the soldier and the executioner, the one is greatly honoured… . The other, on the contrary, has just as generally been declared infamous.”

Now, Maistre didn’t just support the death penalty, but regarded the executioner as the central and most essential figure in any successful realm. That may be a bit eccentric, but it’s true that, when God wasn’t just considered a figure of speech, the death penalty was never seen as cruel or unusual.

Neither Scripture nor Catholic doctrine opposed the capital punishment, but there were always reservations. Aquinas, for example, insisted that, though he supported in principle the state’s right to execute criminals in pursuit of common good, the arguments either pro or con can’t be absolute. Each case must be decided by human reason.

The same, in St Thomas’s nuanced view, applied to warfare. While he condoned just war, he still regarded killing on the battlefield as a sin – a necessary one, but a sin nonetheless, something requiring absolution.

In 1908, Pope Pius X summed up the argument in this way: “It is lawful to kill when fighting in a just war; when carrying out by order of the Supreme Authority a sentence of death in punishment of a crime; and, finally, in cases of necessary and lawful defence of one’s own life against an unjust aggressor.”

Lawful, yes. Moral, possibly. But what about one’s gut reaction to execution and executioners? Back come the lapidary questions, each falling down with a stone-like thud: Would you want to be an executioner or even invite one to dinner?

This brings me to one of the most famous (or infamous, if you’d rather) executioners ever, Charles-Henri Sanson (d. 1806). This colourful gentleman was in the fourth generation of his family dynasty of executioners, and there were two more generations after him.

Chevalier de Longval, as Sanson was known on the Paris party circuit, pioneered the use of the guillotine, with the help of which contraption he executed almost 3,000 people, King Louis XVI among them. That last act rendered him somewhat unpopular at society soirées, but until then his ‘de’ particle had made him socially welcome. In fact, many of the people he put to death were his friends.

(However, even such impressive numbers didn’t get Sanson into The Guinness Book of World Records. That honour, if that’s the right word, went to the NKVD executioner Vasily Blokhin, who dispatched tens of thousands with his own hand. He outdid even himself at Katyn, where he personally shot 7,000 Poles in just 28 days – hence the Guinness entry.) 

As a bit of poetic justice, Sanson’s eldest son Gabriel (d. 1792), his assistant and heir apparent, died after slipping off a scaffold as he triumphantly waved a severed head to the crowd. Teaches you not to gloat, doesn’t it?

It’s silly trying to imagine oneself in the shoes of those who lived centuries earlier. An Alexander Boot of the 18th century would have had different sensibilities and ideas from the present-day version. But just this once: if miraculously transported as I am now to Paris circa 1793, would I have wanted to break bread with Sanson?

Honestly? No, I wouldn’t, and don’t try asking me to explain. I ought to keep this irrational reaction in mind next time I present rational arguments in favour of the death penalty. Which I probably shall.