“Today, Mr President, we’re all Republicans”

When President Reagan lay on the operating table having lost half his blood after being shot in 1981, he told the masked surgeons: “Please tell me you’re Republicans”.

The lead surgeon, a life-long Democrat, responded to the brave joke with the words in the title above. That wasn’t just a witty and noble response. It was accurate political analysis.

An attempt to kill a president starts a wave of sympathy carrying even many former detractors on its crest – especially if the target responds with courage. Reagan was seriously wounded: the bullet had punctured his lung, and he had difficulty breathing. He still found the strength to smile at his wife Nancy and chuckle: “Honey, I forgot to duck”.

The assassination attempt happened shortly after Reagan had been inaugurated to his first term. John Hinckley’s shot and the president’s response to it made a second term practically guaranteed – and would have done even if Reagan’s record hadn’t been as good as it was.

Political assassinations have political consequences, and what happened yesterday won’t provide an exception to that rule.

Donald Trump wasn’t wounded as seriously as Ronald Reagan – Thomas Matthew Crooks’s bullet only grazed his ear. But the former president’s response was as courageous, if expressed in his own manner, not Reagan’s. Trump waved aside the bevy of Secret Service agents rushing to drag him off the stage, raised his fist above his bloodied face and shouted “Fight!”.

There, that’s the election sewn up. For gunfire, and courage under it, occupy a special place in the American heart. It was the gun that created the American nation, and it was the gun that delivered half the continent to it.

The first settlers keeping the tomahawk-wielding natives at bay, the revolutionaries taking on the British army, the Indian fighters during the westward expansion, the Yankees and the Rebs killing one another to put the finishing touches on the Constitution – the American nation entered the world stage to the accompaniment of gunshots.

Americans see the gun as a guarantor of their freedom, from foreign invaders and domestic tyrants alike. This is canonised in the Second Amendment to the US Constitution, and it’s a culture that older European countries have difficulty getting their heads around.

Americans don’t care. They might have come from Europe, but they aren’t Europeans any longer. In fact, many of them agree with their novelist John Dos Passos, who said: “Repudiation of Europe is, after all, America’s main excuse for being.”

A culture in which the gun has a significant role to play is bound to feature assassination as a way of settling political differences. Four US presidents have been shot dead while in office – by comparison, only one prime minister of Britain, a much older country, suffered the same fate (Spencer Perceval in 1812).

In addition to the successful assassinations of presidents and other politicians, there have been many unsuccessful attempts as well. Altogether, at least 60 American politicians have been fatally shot in the country’s history, which is pretty good going for a young nation. Add to this the scores of unsuccessful attempts, and the context of Donald Trump’s shooting becomes clear.

This has everything to do with culture and nothing to do with the availability of guns. Until relatively recently, guns were as widely available in Britain as in the US. A hundred years ago, British commercial and other travellers routinely packed revolvers next to toothbrushes in their luggage, and handguns were completely banned only in 1996. And yet this never produced a free season on politicians.

Every time a widely publicised shooting occurs in America, there’s clamour to repeal the Second Amendment and ban all or most of the guns in private ownership. Apart from the practical infeasibility of confiscating such a vast number of weapons (393 million at the last count), such calls betray ignorance of, perhaps even contempt for, the national culture, as formed over the past 400 years.

Some other reactions to the attempt on Trump’s life are already in the public domain, and they range from legitimate to insane. The latter category includes insistence that Trump himself staged the botched assassination to boost his electoral chances.

We are still awaiting the results of forensic investigation, but even the preliminary frame-by-frame analysis of the assassination videos evokes the 1971 novel The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth.

There a professional hitman has President De Gaulle in his crosshairs, but just as he pulls the trigger De Gaulle moves his head and the bullet misses him by a whisker. Apparently, exactly the same happened this time: Trump turned his head just as Crooks fired, which made the bullet hit the target’s ear, not the middle of his forehead.

Suggesting that something like this could have been staged takes a madman or a fanatical Trump-hater, which is the same thing: any fanaticism presupposes a mental disorder. Yet legitimate questions do remain, and I hope we’ll get some answers soon.

First, how could a killer toting a rifle find himself on a roof a mere 150 yards from the presidential candidate? A Secret Service sniper instantly shot Crooks after the shots were fired – if the lawman was able to identify the shooter and draw a bead on him seconds after the attempt, why hadn’t he seen him seconds before? Was the protection detail spread too thin? Does this have anything to do with Biden’s attempts to have Secret Service protection removed from Trump following his trial?

It’s tempting to ascribe this crime to the divisive nature of current American politics, something on which I commented the other day. Yet this temptation must be resisted, even though the Democrats routinely portray Trump as a fascist and an existential threat to freedom. Republicans, especially those of the MAGA variety, respond in kind, which puts even more electrical charges into the thunderous political atmosphere.

However, anyone who looks at the hundreds of American assassination attempts I’ve mentioned, including the 60 successful ones, will find it hard to find a common political thread running through all of them, or to ascribe them to a particular political climate.

It’s true that the current scene is more polarised than any I’ve ever seen in a rather long lifetime, but pot shots have been taken at American politicians at all sorts of historical moments and for all sorts of reasons. Reagan, for example, was hated by many ‘liberals’, but he was shot not by one of them, but by a deranged man who wanted to impress the actress Jody Foster.

Kennedy was cordially detested by American conservatives, but it wasn’t one of them firing from the window of the Dallas Book Depository. In fact, Lee Harvey Oswald was a communist.

Anyway, let’s not second-guess the forthcoming investigation and try to predict its outcome. Predicting the outcome of the November election, on the other hand, is easier.

Trump was probably on course to win it anyway, but the physical courage he showed yesterday will put even more wind into his sails. He may well be unstoppable now, which I doubt was Crooks’s intent.    

Russia isn’t fascist

Any serious analysis thrives on precise definitions and dies on loose ones. And if there’s one word that many hacks – including, alas, me from time to time – use loosely, it’s ‘fascism’.

Thus, I’ve occasionally described Putin’s Russia as fascist, which is almost correct. But in the realm of serious analysis, it’s a miss as good as a mile. Almost correct means wrong.

Mea culpa and all that, but now is the time to atone for my sin. So here comes: Russia isn’t fascist. It’s Nazi, which is almost the same thing but not quite. So let’s sort out our definitions.

Umberto Eco famously enumerated 14 distinguishing features of fascism but, being a Leftie, he obfuscated the issue rather than elucidating it.

Eco and his ilk use the words ‘fascist’ and ‘conservative’ interchangeably. Hence all his 14 points spin out of an overarching definition of fascism as: “essentially rejecting the spirit of 1789, the spirit of the Enlightenment. Fascism sees the Age of Reason as the beginning of modern decadence.”

I suggested in an earlier article that we add another redolent spirit to the list, that of the Vendée. Following the 1793 regicide, the revolutionary government slaughtered 170,000 inhabitants of that province (about 20 per cent of its population) who had risen in protest against the closure and robbery of churches.

Thinkers like Edmund Burke and Joseph de Maistre instantly saw the link between “the spirit of the Enlightenment” and revolutionary violence, leading to a frontal assault on Western civilisation. And later commentators considerably brighter than Eco showed how ‘the Age of Reason’ begat modern savagery – including fascism and Nazism.

Both of them combine totalitarian control over the population with an aggressive foreign policy, corporatist economy and an ideology of national superiority. But their legitimising claims to such superiority differ.

Both fascism and Nazism seek support for that claim in their history as a smithy of national character. However, rather than staying faithful to historical facts, they interpret, pervert and often invent them. For example, Mussolini preached an uninterrupted continuum between the glory days of the Roman Empire and his Italy, which was good propaganda but shabby history.

Yet, though Mussolini and other fascists insisted on national superiority, their claim had no biological component. That’s where the Nazis are different: though they too accentuate their superlative national character, they ascribe it not just to history but also to racial genetics.

The fascists treated their opponents as enemies. The Nazis treated them as sub-humans, a category that included Jews, Gypsies and Slavs.

While the world always boasts a nice complement of fascist regimes, Europe was spared Nazi ones for a period demarcated by Hitler at one end and Putin at the other. That period was so long that it couldn’t last.

Putin and his acolytes routinely claim racial superiority for the Russians who, according to them, boast an extra gene of spirituality in their biological makeup. Conversely, Russia’s enemies, as nominated by Putin, are described as racially inferior – to the point of not being human at all.

As I often do under such circumstances, I let the Putinoids speak for themselves, with me acting only in the humble capacity of translator. So here’s how one of Russia’s leading TV channels responded to the outcry following the deadly attack on a children’s hospital in Kiev the other day:

“Such enemies can’t be regarded as human. We must accept this simple and frightening thought: there are no human beings on the other side. Not a single one. Our missiles aren’t killing people. Not a single person. There are no persons there.

“If we don’t accept this as a given, if we don’t forbid ourselves to consider them human, to pity and protect them – we’ll weaken ourselves. We’ll limit our capacity to save our own children. We’ll complicate our way to Victory.

“Yours truly keeps repeating (and I’m not the only one who talks and thinks this way) that: the only way of defeating terror is to annihilate the terrorists and petrify the nation that produces terrorists. If the aim of the Special Military Operation [Putin’s aggression against the Ukraine. A.B.] is to de-Nazify and demilitarise the Ukraine, then this is how this aim must be achieved: surviving Nazis [Ukrainians. A.B.] and their whole families must panic and flee to the West. Across the Polish border. Away from the shelling. Away from the ruins of their homes and cities. Dropping their yellow-and-blue flags and slippers [? A.B.] along the way.

“So yes – it may be simple and frightening, but we shouldn’t apologise for hitting a children’s hospital. We must say: ‘You want this to stop, friends? So surrender. Capitulate. And then we may spare you’.”

I must emphasise that this isn’t a one-off rant of a madman. It’s the standard fare nourishing the minds of Russians, and it’s cooked by everyone who ever appears in mass media: Putin himself, members of his government, MPs, columnists, talk show hosts and their guests.

Remove references to the Ukraine from that soliloquy, and it wouldn’t have looked out of place in an oration delivered by Adolf Hitler, Josef Goebbels or Julius Streicher, circa 1942. So let’s stop complimenting Putin’s Russia by calling it fascist. It’s even worse than that. It’s Nazi.

When I mentioned that extra Russian gene of spirituality to a friend of mine, he said wryly: “As is evident to everyone.” It is indeed.

Law as ordure

Starmer’s Justice Secretary

Our crime rates are climbing on a Harrier jet trajectory, and London is giving New York a good run for its money. Britain has already outstripped the US in many crime categories, most notably in car thefts. We are still lagging slightly behind in murder, but even that gap is closing.

As a result, our prisons are filled to the gunwales, and it has been announced that by the end of the month there will be no more room left in the cells. The situation is dire, but our new government has found an ingenious solution.

Before I tell you what that is, I encourage you to activate your common sense and decide what you’d do, given the same problem. I bet you won’t beat my own two possibilities that seem to be the only ones making sense even in theory.

One, we reduce crime, thereby lowering the demand for prison places. Two, we build more prisons. If there exists another possibility, I’d like to hear about it.

Actually I have, thanks to Starmer’s Justice Secretary Shabana Mahmood. In a recent interview, Miss Mahmood credited Islam with being her political inspiration: “My faith is the centrepoint of my life and it drives me to public service.”

If this inspiration is unmitigated, we can conceivably look forward to new punitive measures, such as mutilating thieves, stoning adulterers and throwing homosexuals off tall buildings. That, however, is hypothetical. For the time being, Miss Mahmood and her boss have outlined their solution to the problem at hand.

Their idea is the automatic release of prisoners who have served 40 per cent of their sentences. The current cut-off point is 50 per cent, which already constitutes a travesty of justice.

If you’ll forgive a blindingly obvious observation, imprisonment is there to serve three purposes. First, it keeps prisoners isolated from society they have harmed and could harm again. Second, it deters others from committing crimes. Third, and by far the most important, it serves justice, that cornerstone of civilised society.

Automatic release before the full term is served fails on all three counts, which makes it profoundly corrupt. Add to this the staggeringly lenient sentences routinely passed in the first place, the fact that some crimes, such as burglary, often go unprosecuted, and we begin to understand why our streets are unsafe to walk.

Not enough criminals are isolated. Crime isn’t sufficiently deterred. And a compromised system of justice encourages criminals, while discouraging society from seeking restitution.

So much for the theory. In practice, some 20,000 criminals will be immediately released to ply their trade at our expense. Before long, a quarter of our prison population will be unleashed into the streets. But, as Miss Mahmood hastily explained, terrorists and sex offenders won’t qualify for early release.

Curiouser and curiouser, as Alice would comment. Terrorists I can understand. But why sex offenders? The implication is that maiming or even killing a woman is less criminal than having sex with her without permission. Surely that can’t be right?

Well, you see, killing a woman is a crime against her person, family and friends. But raping her adds a whole new dimension to the evil deed: it’s a crime committed against the dominant ethos, specifically against its feminist constituent.

In the same vein, planting an unwanted kiss on a woman’s lips is treated as a felony. Insulting a man racially is worse than assaulting him physically. Making statements tagged as transphobic incurs harsher sentences than burglary. In short, our Lady Justice isn’t blind. She is vindictively woke.

Getting back to Labour’s plan of how to reduce prison overcrowding, I think Starmer and Mahmood are missing a trick. For, given the confidently expected rate of recidivism, our prisons won’t stay empty for long.

Hence releasing criminals early is a palliative measure at best. Not only will most of the same chaps be back soon, but their soft treatment will encourage many others to follow suit. No, a more permanent solution is required, one that’s guaranteed to keep our prisons sparsely populated.

I can propose one that would be consistent with Labour philosophy and also with Sir Keir’s track record as the Director of Public Prosecutions. Whole categories of crimes should be made legal: drug offences, burglary, mugging, robbery, assault – the potential exculpating list is long.

Only sex offenders, racists, transphobes, misogynists, terrorists and – if you insist – murderers should receive custodial sentences. All other criminals should be told they should go and sin no more. They will then become choristers at their nearby churches and get jobs as hospice carers.

As I’ve mentioned, Starmer has form in this sort of thing. When he was the DDP, he was called ‘Sir Softy’ in some circles. Americans would have probably called him ‘Minimum Keir’, by analogy with ‘Maximum John’, Federal Judge John H. Wood known for his harsh sentences.

Thus Sir Keir secured the release of an arsonist who had racked up 36 convictions on 171 offences. Not only was he set free, but he also received £30,000 in compensation for ‘unlawful’ imprisonment. Sir Keir found a loophole through which that hardened criminal was unleashed on a terrified community, and 15 others soon followed in his tracks climbing through the same opening.

Another signature case was Starmer’s ruling to release Gary Afflick, a sex offender, drug dealer and satanist, who lured children into a life of crime. Known as a Fagin-like character, Afflick ran a gang of youngsters he controlled with beatings. Eventually he got 14 years for supplying drugs, kidnap, blackmail and indecent assault – only to be released early thanks to Starmer’s ruling.

Starmer’s record and first policies bode ill for the country. I have no doubt that the Labour government will destroy the economy, quickly making us all poorer, but that’s not the worst thing that can happen.

Britain can survive a collapse of the economy, but she can’t survive a collapse of justice. The rule of just law is the very essence of our polity – everything else is secondary or tertiary.

Justice must be done and be seen to be done, this seminal legal principle was established by Lord Chief Justice Hewart in 1924, and it’s among the most perceptive legal aphorisms I know.

A crime that goes unpunished, or insufficiently punished, disturbs social tranquillity, sending destructive waves through society. When such outrages multiply, society may never again find itself at rest, and the consequences will be unpredictably dire. Sir Keir and his acolytes are playing with fire, but it’s the electorate that gave them the matches.

A piece of unsolicited advice to the government: if you can’t reduce crime, build more prisons and fill them to the brim. If you are short of funds, just ditch your cretinous commitment to net zero – that alone will be enough to finance proper justice. That way we’ll be better off, not to mention safer.   

House divided against itself

Such a house, said the book that used to define our civilisation, will not stand. The same goes for the civilisation that book used to define.

Is it 1938 all over again?

Much as I dislike biologism as applied to humans, it does offer useful shorthand. Thus, when it comes to civilisations, one could say they all go through the biological cycle of birth, childhood, adolescence, maturity, old age, gradual decline – and death.

Or else one could eschew determinist biology and rely on historical analysis instead, such as the kind offered by R.G. Collingwood: “Civilisations sometimes perish because they are forcibly broken up by the armed attack of enemies without or revolutionaries within; but never from this cause alone. Such attacks never succeed unless the thing that is attacked is weakened by doubt as to whether the end which it sets before itself, the form of life which it tries to realise, is worth achieving.”

In other words, when the termites of self-doubt and disunity infest the foundations of a great civilisation, it can then, and only then, succumb to a push from within or without. If Collingwood were with us today, he’d doubtless shudder at the sight of the situation he warned against.

The push is being applied from the outside by the new axis of evil: Russia, China, Iran and North Korea. The bloodiest war in almost 80 years is already raging in Europe, with Russia leading the way and the other evil powers firmly in its corner. Commentators are drawing all sorts of dystopic scenarios, and many of them ring true.

One precondition for a civilisational demise is in place, but what about the other one? Is our civilisation united in its sense of purpose? In fact, what exactly is its unifying purpose, its binding mission?

The on-going NATO summit is expected to answer such questions, but it can’t do that. NATO is a defensive military alliance founded in 1949 to deter or, barring that, repel Stalin’s aggression.

That has now been transposed into the new aggressive reality created by Putin’s Russia. But NATO has always focused on what it was supposed to fight against, not on what it was supposed to fight for.

Such is the nature of all military alliances: they are ad hoc formations brought together by a specific strategic need, not the need to define core civilisational values. NATO realistically acknowledges this in its motto: Animus in consulendo liber (“a mind unfettered by deliberation”).

This slogan doesn’t obviate the need for deliberation. It only states, correctly, that such pondering is beyond NATO’s remit.

Yet those of us who aren’t part of the NATO command must identify the core values of our civilisation, and these have to be pro- rather than anti-. Great civilisations are defined by what they love, not by what they hate.

A civilisation is never static; it’s always work in progress. That’s why it can only ever be properly assessed in a historical context. We’ll never know where a civilisation is going unless we know where it has been.

In the centuries before the US graced the world stage with its entry, Europe, or the West as it then was, had been more or less united. But that unity came out of a conflict ever-present in human societies, that between universalism and particularism.

This conflict is still going on, but its pendulum is now swinging the other way. If in the distant past it used to swing towards universalism and therefore unity, it’s now noticeably swinging toward particularism and therefore disunity.

When the West still went by its original name, Christendom, it was Christianity that served as the binding universal agent. Nations in our sense of the word didn’t exist, and various kingdoms and principalities had more things bringing them together than those setting them apart.

This doesn’t mean Europe was war-free. It wasn’t: war is an ever-present part of the human condition. Yet medieval wars were strictly dynastic squabbles, fights for territory. They were never clashes between mutually exclusive views of the world – it wasn’t only nations that didn’t exist at the time, but also ideologies.

The great 11th century schism between West and East was caused by a fissure in the concept of religious universalism, exacerbated by an acute phase of secular particularism. Yet the West still remained more or less monolithic – it just no longer treated the Christian East as part of the same monolith.

The Reformation changed all that. Suddenly, France and Holland or England and Spain acquired a divisive difference, one that couldn’t easily be settled by nuptial arrangements or by bartering territory. From then on, European countries were no longer just Christian. They were either Catholic or Protestant, and their respective churches had to take political sides. Thus, one instant effect of the Reformation was the politicising of religion, a development that had to be harmful to that institution.

Above all, the Reformation represented the first triumph of particularism over universalism. Had that not been the case, the Church could have disposed of Luther and Calvin the same way it had earlier disposed of Jan Hus.

As it was, many German princes saw in the Reformation their chance to break away from the Holy Roman Empire and establish their unchallenged sovereignty within their own realms. By waving the banner of anti-Papism, the princes sacrificed millions at the altar of secular particularism. What today is Germany lost half of its population in the Thirty Years’ War of the 17th century.

The house now stood divided, and it turned out defenceless against the battering ram of modernity known by the misnomer of the Enlightenment. Understood in my terms, it represented a triumph of particularism over universalism – the West quickly acquired a vast number of fault lines, each threatening to produce a deadly eruption at any time.

Christianity was tossed away as a universal blanket altogether, and it was replaced with a patchwork quilt of nations, ideologies and politics. Man was deemed to be nothing but an animal, but a sufficiently wise one to sort out his problems all by himself, without any need for divine intervention. That false premise was bound to produce deadly effects.

The West began to rend itself asunder, and the process has been continuing ever since, with the curve steadily moving in the same direction through assorted peaks and troughs. The house is still standing, but deracinated squatters have driven the original owners out and are now taking the building apart brick by brick.

It has turned out that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a poor substitute for Christian universalism, and the European Union is a far cry from a united Europe. The West has lost its Christian adhesive and failed to find any secular replacement offering the same binding effect.

There are indications that the West is beginning to realise that its whole way of life is under threat, and some signs of inchoate unity are appearing. Yet no civilisation can survive if it only defines itself negatively, by what it’s opposed to.

In the absence of a strong positive component, even its will to resist an outside threat will weaken, as Collingwood pointed out. That’s why fault lines are appearing in NATO, and weblike cracks are spreading fast.

The United States, the metropolis of the NATO empire, looks as if it’s losing interest in the organisation. Biden’s Democrats mask their growing indifference to Europe with fiery phraseology, but the mask is slipping away constantly. At the same time, MAGA Republicans and their peerless leader are quite upfront about that, questioning why America should pay for European defence.

This is a typically crude argument designed to pluck the thickest of the American heart strings. One could respond that America has methodically supplanted Britain as the West’s leading empire, and that ascendancy brings benefits that outweigh the costs. But one can’t argue rationally against slogans – and the underlying reality they communicate.

And the underlying reality is that the perennial clash between American proselytism and isolationism is going the way of the latter. Americans increasingly seem to treat themselves and Europeans as ‘us’ and ‘them’, with the erstwhile sense of familial unity attenuating all the time.

The fissures within Europe are even more noticeable. The travesty of the EU might as well have been designed by enemies of Europe craving its demise. The attempt to build a surrogate secular universalism on the basis of bureaucratic socialist megalomania was doomed to failure from the start – particularist pressures were always going to be too strong.

German and French patriotisms, to name one example, can happily coexist, but German and French nationalisms can’t. And nationalism is a natural, one is tempted to say inevitable, offspring of the very idea of a nation. The EU hoped to toss all the nationalisms into a cauldron and boil them together into a sort of universalist stew, but it was bound to end up with a pie in the sky.

It seems more and more that the Russian threat isn’t producing a sense that all of Europe is in it together. One detects instead the spirit of every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost.

The NATO summit has issued a declaration of unwavering support for the Ukraine’s struggle against Russian expansionism, but the words ring hollow. Nor is there any guarantee that Article 5 of the NATO charter will be invoked if a member comes under attack.

A unity that can only come from a sublime universal idea is absent, and our enemies sense that. That’s why they are likely to become even more recklessly aggressive. One can only hope that there’s enough residual spunk left to resist them in a civilisation no longer certain what it stands for. We should have listened to Collingwood.

Intelligence doesn’t mean one jot

Comrade Mélenchon is a happy bunny

Neither does talent. Neither does courage. Neither does loyalty. Neither does self-sacrifice. Neither does any other fine quality.

All such ostensibly good things only mean something positive if they are applied to a good cause. If someone puts such qualities to an evil end, I’d much rather he were stupid, giftless, cowardly and disloyal.

This seems like an elementary thought, but it escapes many people. That’s why, for example, pundits whose IQ leaves the average level in the rear-view mirror often describe suicide bombers as ‘cowardly’.

Now, the English language boasts hundreds of thousands of adjectives, and hundreds of them can be appropriate to describe a suicide bomber. But if there’s one adjective that can under no circumstances be applied to such a fanatic, it’s ‘cowardly’.

A man who sacrifices his life for a cause he holds dear is certainly not a coward. By any sensible standards, he is a hero. But his heroism serves an evil cause, which makes him evil. Now that adjective fits him like a latex glove.

The core of a man’s personality is his character, which can be anything between noble and rotten. And when it’s manifestly rotten, the natural human tendency is to deny such a man any qualities that are good in the abstract.

Thus, I’ve heard it said, for example, that Stalin was stupid and ignorant. He was neither. He was a highly intelligent man and better-read than most people I’ve ever met. Yet, when assessing him, many commentators activate a simple yet erroneous syllogism: intelligence is good – Stalin was bad – therefore, Stalin was stupid.

Because you and I aren’t evil, we find it hard to comprehend the deeds committed by evil people. On our plane of reference, everything they do is irrational and hence dumb. We don’t realise that they exist on a different plane, where our standards are null and void, and where everything they do makes perfect sense.

A topical illustration hot off the press:

Yesterday it was announced that Jean-Luc Mélenchon, whose hard-Left coalition won the French elections, is planning to introduce a wealth tax of 90 per cent on all income above €400,000 a year. Thus a man earning €1.4 million annually will clear only about €300,000, if he’s lucky.

Commentators are up in arms, and not just dyed-in-the-wool conservatives and libertarians. This isn’t a tax, they shout, it’s confiscation. True. So?

So it doesn’t makes sense, they reply. Wealthy people, especially businessmen, aren’t going to grin and bear it. They’ll up their sticks and leave for sunnier economic climes, taking their businesses – along with the jobs and tax revenue they produce – with them. Again, true. But so what?

What do you mean so what? The net effect of that measure will be negative, that’s so what.

Irate commentators whip out their trusted calculators and do some serious number-crunching. I can follow neither their fingers nor their calculations, but I’m more than happy to accept their conclusion: introducing that tax will lose money for the public purse.

The only people to benefit will be tax lawyers and accountants. They’ll devote thousands of billable hours to finding more loopholes than one can see in the walls of all the medieval castles in France combined, and there are hundreds of them.

Couldn’t agree more. However, my recurrent question still stands. So what? All such arguments make perfect sense only on the plane where decent, rational people operate.

Such people may have never heard of the Laffer Curve, but they’ll find the logic behind it easy to grasp. There are two tax rates that will produce no tax revenue whatsoever: 0 per cent and 100 per cent. The former rate means not taxing the income people earn; the latter, people deciding not to earn any income if it’s going to be confiscated anyway.

There has to be an optimum tax rate that will give people an incentive to work hard and produce more income both for themselves and the public treasury. Most economists believe that figure to be somewhere between 15 and 20 per cent, but whatever it is, it’s nowhere near 90 per cent.

You understand it, I understand it, my neighbour’s spaniel understands it. Does this mean Mélenchon doesn’t? Is he dumber than that annoying dog who keeps barking at odd hours?

Not at all. He’s smarter than the spaniel and, for all I know, he may even be smarter than you and me. It’s just that he inhabits a plane so different from ours that anything he does seems senseless to us. Yet it all makes perfect sense from where he’s sitting.

Mélenchon is hard-Left. As such, he is driven by an all-consuming hatred of the rich, Jews, conservatives, Americans, even the soft-Left – all the traditional bogeymen of his ilk. He, or his fellow socialists like Starmer, will talk your ear off speaking about their affection for ‘working men’. But in fact, they don’t give two flying francs about working men, especially those who are successful at what they do.

If anything, socialists much prefer the unemployed, those who depend on the state’s largesse to survive. People who are good at their jobs run the risk of becoming wealthy and hence Mélenchon’s enemies.

He’ll suffocate them with taxes and possibly run them out of the country not because he thinks the state will be better off as a result. He knows as well as you and me that won’t be the case, but he doesn’t care one way or the other. His aim isn’t to extract more tax revenue for the state. It’s to punish those who are or may become independent of the state.

Evil men like him aren’t driven by the rational calculations of an accountant. They are driven by febrile hatred and insatiable thirst for power. These are their prime motives, and confiscatory tax rates serve both.

The tragic tendency one observes in today’s world is that evil, as personified by Mélenchon et al., is on the march. The masses have been sufficiently dumbed-down to shrug with indifference or even to go along with enthusiasm.

But the evil-doers themselves aren’t necessarily dumb. They are just evil, which makes all else irrelevant.

Long march through the institutions

It wasn’t the Tories who lost the election last Thursday. It was a socialist party clinging on to its traditional name while betraying its essence.

The media are dissembling when claiming the Tories have been in power for the past 14 years. They haven’t. The last time the Tories governed the country was in 1990, only for an internal socialist coup to oust Margaret Thatcher and smother the last gasp of conservatism.

British politics since then has boiled down to a contest between the soft Left and the hard Left. The latter claimed their victory this time around, but it’s the Left of various consistencies that have dominated every public sphere for decades (and not just in Britain).

I’d suggest that the Left’s political dominance is perhaps the least critical fragment of the general picture. And that picture is bleak: one struggles to name a British institution painted any colour other than different hues of red.

Our schools and universities are solidly Left-wing. Only 20 per cent of British academics describe themselves as remotely conservative, and in the humanities and social sciences that proportion drops down to 10 per cent.

The most influential media are as anti-Tory as it’s possible to get without losing any claim to impartiality, however tenuous. The principal TV channels, BBC, Sky News, ITV and Channel 4, are all Left-wing. So are most newspapers and magazines. So are most on-line publications. And even former bastions of Toryism, such as The Times, endorsed Labour, paving the way to power for the hardest-Left government in British history.

The few conservative voices in the arts and entertainment industry are drowned in the flood of Left-wing propaganda masquerading as books, theatre productions, films and even music, supposedly the most apolitical of all arts.

The police and the judges have become instruments of wokery, not justice. Medical and social services collude in enforcing Left-wing diktats, even at a huge cost to their mission in life. And even the army bases recruitment and promotions not so much on any battle-worthiness as on diversity and inclusion.

The civil service, the administrative branch of the British establishment, remains just that. But it’s Left-wing now, because such is the way of the new establishment. It’s no longer the same class that British comedians so love to mock. It’s now made up not of tweedy, clubbable gentlemen, but of the top slices off the Left-wing groups I’ve mentioned.

This raises two questions: Why has the Left won? and Why has conservatism lost? The first one is easier to answer.

The Left have triumphed by being patient and smart. Such qualities have enabled them to replace a strategy based on a frontal assault, aka revolution, with one the Russians call ‘hybrid warfare’. Revolutionary violence has been mothballed, not abandoned. It’s still used sporadically, but only as one prong among many, and not the sharpest one.

The Left are winning not by overthrowing traditional institutions, but by infiltrating them, undermining them from within and eventually taking them over. That strategy goes back to Lenin and the secret service he created, but in the West it was developed by clever Left-wing thinkers, such as Gramsci and those belonging to the Frankfurt School – Marcuse, Adorno, Horkheimer, Benjamin et al.  

In 1967, it was Marcuse’s disciple, the socialist activist Rudi Dutschke, who coined the phrase in the title (der lange Marsch durch die Institutionen in the original) inspired by Mao’s takeover of China. Dutschke’s mentor approved: “Let me tell you this: that I regard your notion of the ‘long march through the institutions’ as the only effective way…”.

In his letter, Marcuse especially emphasised “the development of radical, ‘free’ media”, but he and his fellow Frankfurters envisaged an offensive on all fronts. They came up with an 11-point programme, which to the best of my knowledge never appeared as such in any of their writings. But it can be gleaned from any number of their works, each highlighting one or several of these points:

1. The creation of racism offences
2. Continual change to create confusion
3. The teaching of sex and homosexuality to children
4. The undermining of schools’ and teachers’ authority
5. Huge immigration to destroy identity
6. The promotion of excessive drinking
7. Emptying of churches
8. An unreliable legal system with bias against victims of crime
9. Dependency on the state or state benefits
10. Control and dumbing down of media
11. Encouraging the breakdown of the family

It’s remarkable to observe how that programme, first concocted three generations ago, continues to be put into effect at an ever-accelerating rate throughout the West. If Marcuse were still with us, he’d keep all 11 points intact with only minor embellishments.

For example, he’d add a few -isms to Point 1, transsexuality to Point 3, drugs to Point 6. He’d then flash an avuncular smile of pride in his descendants’ achievements. They’ve done exceedingly well.

Looking at Britain’s public life, one can easily see that it has unfolded according to the plan outlined by the Frankfurters. The incoming Labour administration only has to remove the pseudo-Tory varnish from the plan, not to change it fundamentally.

Of especial interest to me is Point 9, turning widening swathes of the public into dependants of the state. This is the essence of socialism, as conceived by Marx and executed by all Western governments, albeit to various extents and by different means.

The guiding light here was another socialist, Benito Mussolini, a contemporary of the Frankfurters. He expressed his philosophical credo with the brevity that was usually beyond Marcuse and his comrades: “Everything in the state – nothing outside the state – nothing against the state.”

This is the ideal towards which most Western countries strive regardless of who is in government, but especially when the socialists gain political power in addition to their control of all public institutions. And Starmer’s government will add lurid touches to the canvas of statism.

Starmer and his jolly men welcome only one method of acquiring wealth: membership in the nomenklatura. This doesn’t necessarily have to be the government itself. Some 300 quangos already in existence are also acceptable, and Starmer is guaranteed to increase their number.

Anyone seeking financial or other independence from the state is fair game. Under the soft-Left Tory administration, the tax burden already was the heaviest in history. The new hard-Left government will add weight to it as a way of levelling down (the only direction in which it’s ever possible to level). Personal income, inheritance, businesses will all come under extortionist attack.

At the same time, the government will launch a devastating raid on anything else that can make people independent of it. Taxes will be used to raid private pensions yet again, and also to discourage people from using private medicine and private education.

Members of the nomenklatura, on the other hand, will be offered an intricate pattern of loopholes to get around such extortion. For example, when Starmer himself stood down as Director of Public Prosecutions in 2013, he was granted a ‘tax-unregistered’ pension scheme by an act of Parliament.

Such is my schematic answer to the question of why Labour won. Its sails have been billowed with the wind of zeitgeist – which also happens to be the answer to the other question I posed above: Why did the Tories lose?.

As any reader of my book How the West Was Lost will know, I regard the collapse of conservatism as a logical by-product of modernity, inaugurated by the Enlightenment.

The edifice of Western conservatism rested on the pillars of church, monarchy and aristocracy. These have either been blown up in one fell swoop or gradually eroded. All Western countries are now democratic republics or at best democratic-republican monarchies.

They are devoted to the advancement of the common man, a notion they all interpret publicly in the crudest materialist terms, and privately in terms of state paternalism. Paternalism is impossible to practise without a continual effort to manipulate the masses, making them responsive to state control.

The most direct route to such control is for the state to dangle the carrot of elevating the masses or, barring that, at least pulling the erstwhile elites down to their level. The more people become direct clients of the state, the better – social freebies create a dependant class tricked into believing the state serves its best interests. In fact, the only interests the nomenklatura serves are its own.

This creates a vicious circle of corruption: the nomenklatura corrupts the masses; they in their turn corrupt the nomenklatura. As the Frankfurters knew, the main battlefields of this war on what Tony Blair called “the forces of conservatism” are cultural and social. A decisive victory there makes political gains as inevitable as they are irrelevant, if cordially welcomed.

Both Britain and France have now delivered political power to the hard Left, which is merely an endorsement of the status quo. But the status quo was established in different arenas and by methods other than voting.

I happen to think that this process is irreversible, which is why I’m amused by Tory pundits promising that the party will eventually come back. It very well may, but Toryism won’t. It’s dead and buried.

The long march will gather momentum, and everyone will have to fall into step.

Jemima Biden, you is my woman

Joe Biden is good, very good. For a laugh, that is.

Biden’s new identity

Yes, I know it’s wrong to laugh at people’s disabilities, but I figure a man standing for the world’s most important political post is free for all. And anyway, at a time of our own political doom and gloom, we must look for comic relief wherever we can find it.

President Biden is happy to oblige. In yesterday’s radio interview, he claimed to be a black woman, specifically a black vice president. This is what he actually said:

“By the way, I’m proud to be, as I said, the first vice president, first black woman… to serve with a black president. Proud to be involved of the first black woman on the Supreme Court. There’s so much that we can do because, look… we’re the United States of America.”

No doubt about that. Mr Biden’s country is indeed the United States of America, the land of opportunity. Including, by the looks of it, the opportunity to change sex.

People who refuse to countenance that particular opportunity are quick to jump at Biden’s throat, claiming he has lost his marbles. Perhaps he has. But it’s also possible that he now identifies as a black woman and, come to think of it, Jemima Biden does have a certain ring to it.

Who’s going to say he can’t? Not you, Mr Racist. Not you, Mr Misogynist. Not you, Mr Transphobe. And certainly not me, the founder and chairman of the Charles Martel Society for Diversity.

If Joe Biden, as he used to be, has indeed chosen a new identity, then his statement is spot-on accurate. He indeed served with a black president as his VP. And if we accept his new identity, as we must on point of ostracism, then he definitely was the first black woman to claim that distinction.

I’m not sure what Jemima meant when she said she was “proud to be involved of the first black woman on the Supreme Court”. Did she mean ‘involved with’? If so, then there’s a hint of a lesbian relationship there, and if you find anything wrong with it, you’re also a homophobe – in addition to being a racist, misogynist and transphobe.

To be on the safe side, I’m willing to accept that in this case it was merely an unfortunate slip of the tongue. Joe Biden, as he then was, did appoint the first black woman to the Supreme Court, and I don’t think anyone spoke of any amorous impropriety there.

It has to be said that Joe Biden, as he then was, tried to assume a black identity even in the previous election. Addressing a black audience, he then said: “If you vote for Trump, you ain’t black.” By inference, people who voted for Biden, including, one assumes, the man himself, were entitled to identify as black.

I’ll allow that his statement of identity wasn’t as straightforward as I’m depicting it, nor my logic irrefutable. But what’s investigative journalism if not an attempt to connect the dots? And now Joe-Jemima hasn’t just connected the dots but also crossed the Ts.

I’d root for Joe-Jemima to win a second term if I thought he’d be able to last the course. That, alas, is looking increasingly unlikely. That’s a shame: as our own dour leader takes a sledgehammer to everything decent still remaining in Britain, we’ll desperately need some entertainment on the other side of the Atlantic.

I don’t know what to suggest to my American friends. Perhaps they should campaign for putting a professional, witting comedian into the White House. Eddie Murphy would be my favourite, but I’m open to suggestions.

What’s your score out of six?

PM and Deputy PM?

If anyone able to add two and two looks at Labour’s spending plans, he’ll see they’ll have to raise taxes. But which taxes?

They’ve pledged not to raise income tax, National Insurance tax and VAT. Taking them at their word, we have to look at the areas left for them to plunder.

This explains the headline in today’s Mail: Labour Will Target Pensioners, Drivers, Savers and Homeowners. Adding businesses and council taxes to that, we get your starter for six.

In the interests of full disclosure, my score is five out of six (I no longer own a business). What’s yours? I’d suggest that few families in Britain would be untouched by this six-pronged offensive.

And yet those very families are marching to polling stations where they are predicted to give Labour the biggest majority a single party has won for 200 years. The words ‘turkeys’ and ‘Christmas’ spring to mind.

I’ve been banging on about the same subject for weeks: the decision to vote against the ruling party has to be a two-part process. The first part is deciding where the government has gone wrong. The second is believing that the other lot would have done better – or will do better, given the chance.

Considering the legacy of Gordon Brown’s economics that left Britain with the greatest deficit in history, and also the global economic downturn and especially the Covid force majeure, the Tories haven’t done as badly as they could have done, although not as well as they should have done.

For example, bringing inflation under control was an impressive achievement, in view of the billions that had to be printed to cover the emergency cost of Covid and the resulting pandemic of state-funded slacking that infected millions of Britons.

Realigning the economy after Brexit was another challenge, and I can only repeat the same thing: the Tories could have done better, but it was easy to do a whole lot worse.

The government’s efforts to curb illegal immigration have oscillated between non-existent and inadequate. And here we get to the second part of the decision process that any responsible voter with half a brain has to go through.

What would Labour have done better? Its immigration policy is based on the old concept of the more, the merrier. They have a vested interest in an inflow of migrants, most of whom would become the state’s dependents and hence supporters of Labour, the big-state, big-spend party.

Johnson’s government exacerbated the Covid damage by locking the country down for the best part of two years. But Labour campaigned to extend the lockdown for another six months, which would have made the damage even worse.

The Tories haven’t taken full advantage of the liberties won by Brexit. Specifically, they made immigration control well-nigh impossible by cravenly refusing to leave the jurisdiction of the European Court and ECHR.

Yet the Starmer government – and also the grassroots of his party – are predominantly Remainers. They’ll seek closer ties with the EU and hence a tighter noose on the throat of British sovereignty.

Tory grandees were mostly Remainers too, but upward pressure from the rank and file in their party forced them to call the 2016 referendum. The British then voted for shaking the EU dust from their feet in greater numbers than they’ve ever voted for anything else. The Tories have played fast and loose with that popular demand, but Labour will ignore it altogether.   

The spending policies mooted by Labour will guarantee a climbing inflation rate, and their taxation policies will stunt growth, such as it was under the Tories. This is a matter of fact, not opinion. In line with their ideology, every Labour government in history has increased spending, raised taxes and pushed the national debt up to suicidal levels.

The Tories have done nothing to stop wokery, that blight that threatens to destroy what little is left of British civilisation. Yet Labour will do much worse: they’ll use wokery to stifle any freedom of expression and promote every idiotic cause, the more perverse the better.

Again, this isn’t a matter of opinion. Just look at their leader, the knee-taking Starmer who believes that some British women (34,000, to be exact) have penises. Tory ministers are wishy-washy on wokery, but at least Sunak never paid genuflecting obeisance to revolting masses and he seems to be sure about which sex has which primary characteristics.  

To sum up: the Tories are rubbish. But it takes a huge amount of irresponsible idiocy to believe that Labour could have done, or will do, better. They won’t. They’ll do immeasurably worse, and they won’t waste any time doing it.

Everything in public life is fundamentally interrelated, so my next comment is on a different but not unrelated subject. This morning’s Sky News, a solidly Labour channel, devoted its longest segment to the plight of Palestinian babies.

Television being a visual medium, the channel helpfully provided a kaleidoscope of most distressing images. Skeletal babies dying of hunger because no formulas are available, and their mothers can’t breastfeed because they themselves are undernourished. Old people barely able to stand up. Weeping and wailing everywhere.

All that is heart-rending, but Sky’s commentary is mind-numbing. Without saying outright it’s all Israel’s fault, the correspondents achieved the same effect by squeezing the word ‘access’ into every other sentence. Yes, access to any war zone is always difficult, but who created the war zone?

The most rudimentary analysis would have been welcome. Yes, the plight of Gaza residents is awful, and no decent person wants to see images of dying babies. But elementary integrity would have demanded a short statement saying that those people only have Hamas to blame for their misfortunes.

Moreover, what we see on our screens is exactly the effect Hamas counted on when launching its stomach-churning attack on Israel. The plan worked: the Israelis responded as any self-respecting country would, the consequences were blamed on Israel, and that heroic country is rapidly running out of friends.

Hamas monsters are gleefully rubbing their hands: every dead baby is a blow delivered to Israel. QED.

Another news item has caught my eye. On his visit to the Ukraine, Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán offered a peace plan to President Zelensky.

To smooth the path to peace, the Ukrainians should lay down their arms unilaterally and hope the Russians will do the same. Now, since Orbán is Putin’s staunchest supporter among European leaders, I’m surprised the Ukraine invited him to visit in the first place. So far he has tried to block every tranche of supplies flowing to that suffering country, and Zelensky correctly sees Orbán as nothing but Putin’s henchman.

It takes a staggering amount of naivety to believe that Orbán came up with that incendiary idea on his own. He is clearly but a conduit of Putin’s plans, which couldn’t be clearer. For Orbán-Putin’s proposal is nothing but a demand for surrender.

That’s how Zelensky took it and, after taking a second or two to catch his breath, he rejected the ultimatum out of hand. It’s that causality again: it was Putin, not Zelensky, who started the war. It’s up to Putin, not Zelensky, to lay down his arms and sue for peace.

But Orbán is relaxed about that. He has done his bit. Now every Putinversteher will scream that Zelensky is a warmonger who rejects peace. And Orbán’s hot air has been paid for by Putin’s gas.

Labour voters stand warned

The warning was issued by Robert Walpole, 1st Earl of Oxford, the dominant political figure in the first half of the 18th century. (Does anyone know why he was 1st Earl of Oxford? After all, the title goes back to the early 12th century.)

The facts of his life are widely known. Walpole was de facto the first Prime Minister of Great Britain, and the longest-serving one in history. He was also the first PM to move into 10 Downing Street, making this address synonymous with the office.

What’s less known is something I pride myself on discovering. Walpole was a seer who saw the future more clearly than most people see the past. In that capacity, he cast a prospective glance over tomorrow’s elections and passed his verdict.

Labour politicians and their fans are more triumphant the day before the General Election than few parties have ever been the day after. As far as they are concerned, the biggest landslide in history is just around the corner, and Britain is about to become effectively a one-party state. The Tories will be too marginalised to offer any meaningful opposition, and Labour will unerringly steer the ship towards the rocks of socialism.

Walpole himself was no stranger to marginalising the Tories. Under his leadership the Whigs ran practically unopposed for at least 20 years, with the Tories reduced to a handful of seats.

In general, this sort of arrangement is rarely beneficial to the country. But in particular, the country may still do well if the dominant party pursues good policies. Walpole did: he lowered taxes, strengthened exports, promoted tolerance and moderation, established a solid working relationship between Crown and Parliament.

Today’s Labour Party may well achieve the same domination as Walpole’s Whigs, but their policies are exactly the opposite. They will raise taxes with suicidal abandon, stifling Britain’s competitiveness and hence her exports. They will treat the monarchy as a mildewed artefact belonging, next to the House of Lords, in what an earlier socialist called the “rubbish bin of history”. And instead of tolerance and moderation they’ll impose tyrannical rule by woke fiat.

Listening to their jubilant shrieks on the eve of the elections, Walpole is smiling wryly. “They may ring their bells now; before long they will be wringing their hands,” he says, repeating his adage of some 300 years ago.

So they will, but our constitution says that wringing their hands will be about the only thing they’ll be able to do about it. It’s extremely hard to replace a government before its five-year term has run out. The people will have to take to the streets, French-style, but this political stratagem doesn’t come naturally to the British.

Even when the country comes to a standstill, as she did in the 1970s, Labour still completed its term. They were only ousted in the 1979 General Election, leaving Margaret Thatcher with the Augean stables of a country to clean out.

Barring a cataclysmic internecine revolt, a party with any majority in Parliament rarely has problems passing the laws it desires. And if the Labour majority is as vast as predicted, Britain will remain a multi-party state only technically. In essence, Starmer will have almost as much power as Xi has in China, and he won’t even have to rely on the secret police to get his way.

Anyone with a modicum of political nous realises that the policies Labour will be likely to pursue will quickly take Britain to the brink of disaster, and ‘quickly’ is the operative word. Effective opposition will come not from the Tories but from the markets, which don’t like socialism any more than I do.

Once the socialists start implementing their time-disproven policy of high tax, high spend, the markets will push the SOS button. Wealthy people who have to share their wealth around even if they aren’t especially charitable will flee, taking their businesses with them. Global corporations based in Britain will move to sunnier economic climes. The pound will collapse.

Again speaking in generalities, that last development is supposed to make our exports more competitive. But Walpole knew that British producers could only take advantage of that if domestic taxes were low enough to give them some freedom of movement. That won’t be the case under Labour.

Our economy will be further crippled by Labour’s fanatic commitment to net-zero madness. The Tories are feigning the same psychiatric disorder, but upward pressure from their grassroots may force them to be more flexible. No such pressure from the Labour rank-and-file: they are much more doctrinaire than they were even under Wilson and Callaghan.

The economic damage Labour will cause in the first few months (only my natural prudence prevents me from saying ‘weeks’) will be dire. But it’ll be minor compared to what they’ll do to the social fabric of British society. Not to cut too fine a point, they’ll rip it to tatters.

Alien immigrants, both legal and illegal, will flood in, and Labour will do all they can to make sure the mighty stream will flow unabated. During Blair’s tenure, so far the most disastrous in history, Labour politicians learned how to perpetuate their power by importing ready-made Labour voters owing their livelihood to social handouts.

Once those sluice gates are flung open, the stream will be difficult to stop even if the ruling party wants to, which Labour won’t. The Tories would want to, in theory, but in practice they lack the nerve and gumption to introduce the kind of measures that can succeed. Still, half-hearted efforts to stem the flow are better than none – and certainly better than concerted efforts to do the opposite.

Our armed forces will be degraded even more than they are now, and we won’t be forearmed even though we have been forewarned. So far Starmer has promised to start spending 2.5 per cent of GDP on defence “when conditions allow”. That’s the Labour for never.

Though incapable of waging war on foreign predators, a Labour Britain will be plunged into aggressive class warfare domestically. So far, Starmer has only hinted at the offensive he has in mind, but the hints (such as the plan to impose a 20 per cent VAT on private school fees) are clear enough. What Corbyn extolled, Starmer will do.

Blair taught his socialist brethren how to throw a camouflage net of centrist phraseology over their essentially subversive nature. Starmer learned the lesson well and, having ousted Corbyn, he has assiduously cultivated the image of Walpole-like moderation.

Yet nothing in his political life paints him any colour other than red. When he was Director of Public Prosecutions, Starmer never saw a criminal he couldn’t free. What do you suppose his stand on law and order will be when he’s PM with virtually a single-party majority?

Incidentally, extremists of the whole spectrum of hues have learned the same trick. In France, for example, Marine Le Pen has worked tirelessly to change the image – not the essence – of her party, shifting it (the image) away from its original neo-fascist design. And Mélenchon has been doing exactly the same with his Trotskyists.

It doesn’t take much perceptiveness to see what’s lurking underneath the camouflage, but, alas, more than the voting masses possess. That’s why the sage people who lovingly nurtured Britain’s constitution for centuries knew how vital it was to counterbalance the elected power of the Commons with the hereditary power of king and aristocracy.

Walpole, for example, was rather the opposite of a populist. He now listens to the ringing bells in the mournful knowledge that the future points to a lot of wringing hands. Alas, there’s nothing he can do about it now. Neither can we, come to think of it.

That’s what I call Dutch treat

I wonder if it’s a Steinway

When it comes to satanic rituals, the British have a lot to learn from the Dutch and their neighbours.

The best – or rather the worst – we can do is get some S&M babes before a mob of drug-addled retards, turn the amplifiers up full whack and let’em rock to pro-Palestinian, anti-royalist shrieks half-muffled by incoherent electronic cacophony.

Music in any aural sense of the word doesn’t come into it – it’s strictly a visual spectacle staged as a pagan rite. I wrote about the Glastonbury festival the other day, and I really have nothing much to add to it.

But the Dutch, Belgians and Germans do, and what they add is a new concept hitherto unexplored by our progressive modernity. They show how to combine satanic rituals with music, and I do mean real music: classical, acoustic and performed by properly trained musicians.

As I write, I’m looking at a brochure advertising a unique concert to take place on 28 July in Amsterdam. Called Klassiek Fetish, it’ll feature performers and audiences clad in the kind of gear… well, I’d better let the brochure speak for itself:

“Amsterdam will be filled with high notes during the launch of its first classical music event for the Fetish & LHBTIQ+ community in the capital following the example of Fetish concerts in the cities of Berlin and Antwerp.

“Celebrate beauty, freedom and wonder while enjoying classical masterpieces performed by amazing musicians.

 “Dress to impress: Leather-Rubber-Uniform-Superhero-Gala-Sportswear-Drag.”

Lest you may think this is just a gimmick, a regular concert with some kinky kit thrown in to spice up the proceedings, the brochure emphasises the transcendent aspect of the experience:

Classic 4 Fetish is not just a concert, but a celebration of individuality and artistic expression. It is an opportunity to show yourself as you are, in a setting that is both respectful and inspiring. Put on your best fetish gear and be enchanted by the beautiful sounds and visual beauty. Let yourself be carried away by the timeless melodies and enjoy the beauty of classical music in an environment where freedom and expression are central. Buy your tickets now and experience a day full of musical splendor and visual magic in the enchanting surroundings of the heart of Amsterdam.

“The programme offers a breathtaking selection of music pieces by Tchaikovsky, Bosmans and Fauré, among others, supplemented with many other surprises.” I shudder to think what these might be. Public flagellation? Human sacrifice?

This is worse, much worse than Glastonbury – in the same sense in which a heresy is a greater threat to a religion than that posed by atheism. A fortress may be able to withstand a battering ram, but it will succumb to the vandals inside its walls.

Christianity and music, its closest approximation in the lay world, can best resist perverse vulgarisation by putting up a wall around themselves and letting the outside world get on with its vulgarity. Both Christianity and music may venture on outside forays to convert the heathen, but they must not on pain of death open their doors to unconverted barbarians.

Churches commit this mistake by downplaying the mysteries of their creed and seeking sleazy popularity, the kind provided by raves and services accompanied by pop excretions. Musicians – or, to be more exact, concert organisers – do the same thing by mixing serious music with trashy muzak best suited to shops, lifts and restaurants. (BBC Proms are a good example of this stratagem.)

Yet both religion and music can succeed only on their own terms – or not at all. When they sell their soul for the mess of popularity, they betray their mission and ultimately become irrelevant.

However, what’s going on in Antwerp, Berlin and Amsterdam is even more sinister than all that. It’s an extension of a continuous effort to sexualise real music, thereby lowering it to the sewer of pop. In this case, the sexualisation is of a perverse kind, but that’s merely a development of a long-standing tendency.

Several generations of people have been raised on the crudely erotic content of pop music, conveyed both through the lyrics and, more typically, rhythm. So trained, people seek the same thrills in real music written to appeal to the higher faculties of man rather than to his lower regions.

Much of Wagner’s oeuvre is overtly sensual (one of my many problems with it), but his operas are too long for pop junkies to get their jollies. They want their fix short and sweet, which explains why Ravel’s Bolero is the most popular classical piece among young people.

Its monotonous coital rhythm produces a most enjoyable response that has little to do with its understated musical content. (Ravel himself once said that there was no music in his Bolero.)

All this was hilariously illustrated in the 1979 film 10, where the Bo Derek character always puts on Bolero before making love (she uses a more direct term). And in 1984, the British figure skaters Torvill and Dean won the Olympics with their elegant copulation on ice performed to the unremitting beat of Bolero.

But at least Torvill and Dean did their bit in elegant clothes, and Bo Derek in no clothes at all. They didn’t take that quasi-classical piece into the ‘Leather-Rubber-Uniform-Superhero-Gala-Sportswear-Drag’ territory.

We’ve had to wait 40 years after the British Olympic triumph for this musical development, but, as Galileo and Newton discovered, falling objects accelerate. The same is true of modern life: processes that used to take centuries or decades to develop, these days take years or months.

That’s why I can confidently predict that things will quickly sink even deeper than the bottom-feeding Klassiek Fetish. I’m not sure, alas, that my imagination is vivid enough to imagine what those lower depths could look like.

It’s possible, for example, that the fetish gear that so far is optional will in due course become compulsory at all classical concerts. Or that the audience will be given Ecstasy and fentonil rather than glasses of bubbly at the interval. Or that we’ll be regaled with a performance of, say, St Matthew Passion by nude singers.

The possibilities are endless, and I’ll leave you to explore them on your own. Let’s just say that Klassiek Fetish shows a promising way forward.

P.S. If you wish to attend Klassiek Fetish, I’ll be happy to provide booking information.