English leave, Florence-style

The English call it French leave. The French call it English leave. But the idea is the same: leaving without saying good-bye.

Theresa May and her jolly friends took the concept on and refined it: their version of Brexit is saying good-bye without leaving.

The mainstream reaction to Mrs May’s Florence speech ranges from mild approval to mild disapproval, with ‘mild’ being the operative word in either case. If you loved Cameron’s oratory, you’ll like May’s.

Those who mildly approve heave a cautious sigh of relief: it could have been a lot worse. For example, Mrs May could have suggested incorporating Britain into federal Germany as one of her provinces, possibly under the name of Anglo-Saxony.

Those who mildly disapprove share the sentiment: it could have been worse. But then it could have been better too. For example, Mrs May could have bargained them down to £15 billion. Or else she could have stood a bit firmer on the transition terms.

Outside that middle-of-road puddle of the mainstream, one hears splashing all sorts of invective aimed at Mrs May. She’s accused of a whole raft of sins, from shilly-shallying to cowardice, from crypto-socialism to downright treason.

Yet both the mainstream and the brooks flowing on either side miss the salient point about Mrs May and her jolly friends, the group I collectively call the apparat. Let me spell it out for you: THEY WANT TO REMAIN.

This regardless of their party allegiance and even – critically – of how they campaigned in the referendum. If they campaigned to leave, it was mostly for reasons of personal political advancement. Some of them might have seen rational arguments in favour of Brexit, but the inner voice of such arguments was muffled by the shriek of their viscera: I WANT TO REMAIN!

Accusing Mrs May of treason is pointless: her primary loyalty is pledged to the apparat that begat her, and to this collective entity she’s unwaveringly true.

All its members realise, rationally or intuitively, that the EU represents a logical, ineluctable extension of the very essence of modern ‘democratic’ politics, which, in turn, represents a logical, ineluctable extension of modernity.

This truly dark age of the West was adumbrated by a mass revolt against Western civilisation, aka Christendom. Incongruously named the Enlightenment, that revolt set out to do what all revolts do: overturn every certitude, assumption, presumption, prejudice, axiom – and replace them with something new-fangled. This is observable in every walk of life, including politics.

The essence of traditional politics was subsidiarity: devolving power to the lowest sensible level, from centre to periphery. Yet the vector of modern politics points in exactly the opposite direction, from periphery to centre.

This separates the ‘leaders’ from the people, thus reversing a truly (as opposed to virtually) democratic process. Rather than choosing a village mayor from a list of candidates everybody knows personally, people are supposed to choose their ‘leaders’ among those they don’t know from Adam.

Effectively this means they vote not for the better of two candidates but for the cheesier of two waffles, especially if it’s accompanied by a photogenic appearance. This is guaranteed to elevate to government those unfit to govern, nonentities seeking self-aggrandisement.

They seek to remove every remaining bit of power from the local, truly democratic bodies that stay close to the voters, and transfer it to the centralised apparat, claiming all the time that the people are governing themselves.

This is a gift that keeps on giving: modern unchecked democracy leads to ever-increasing centralisation, and for that reason it’s wrong to complain, as today’s conservatives do, that growing centralisation undermines democracy. That’s like saying that pregnancy undermines sex.

Yet at some point the distance between the apparat and its subjects can’t grow any greater. The apparat has acquired its own inner imperative to expand, but its growth is constricted by the physical dimensions of the country.

Logic then dictates that, to increase and perpetuate its power, the apparat has to cross national boundaries, becoming not only stronger than the people but also bigger and more detached. This explains the European Union, a corrupt setup designed to absolve the apparat of even vestigial accountability.

The EU is the ultimate expression of the very essence of modern ‘democratic’ politics. Or rather the penultimate one: it’s the anteroom to world government.

Only the cleverer members of the apparat understand this rationally, but they all feel it in their bone marrow. That’s why, whatever they claim in public, privately they all want to torpedo Brexit – not because they feel this would serve public interest, but because Brexit is a challenge to the power of the apparat, indeed an existential threat to its very survival.

That’s why the apparatchiks have closed ranks to resist this threat, and whatever squabbles they’re reported to be having are either purely tactical or simply window dressing.

Obviously no one will come out and say that, referendum or no referendum, we should stay in the EU because the people have made a mistake. That would shatter the make-believe of self-government, thereby breaking the rules by which the virtual reality game is played.

Hence even those who, like May, campaigned against Brexit have to claim that the will of the people is sacrosanct. After all, 17.4 million of us voted for Brexit, more than have ever voted for anything else.

Yet a game shouldn’t be allowed to impinge on real life. And in real life they want to procrastinate as much as possible in the hope that Brexit will lose momentum. Make no mistake about it: popular will is fickle.

Given enough time, any number of mines could derail Brexit, turning the people against it. For example, if, or rather when, a severe economic downturn occurs, it could be blamed on Brexit – even before Brexit is a reality.

In fact, everything could be blamed on Brexit, including bad weather, traffic jams and the stale beer at the King’s Head. Various Jacks will pop out of the box, probably led by the emetic Tony Blair. “We told you so,” they’ll hiss, Iago whispering into Othello’s ear. “But not to worry: you have every right to change your opinion, the way so many others have.”

Every passing day makes such a development possible. Every passing year makes it likely, especially since the referendum has effectively destroyed any organised, institutional resistance by making Ukip ostensibly redundant and plunging it into chaos.

None dare call it conspiracy, and in fact none should. A conspiracy involves conscious action, a meeting of minds, a banging of heads together. Nothing like that is necessary here: the apparat is like a pack of wolves who don’t depend on collusion to stick together. The need to do so is encoded into their DNA – as the need to stay in the EU is encoded into the DNA of the apparat.

This is the salient point to be taken out of Mrs May’s speech, serendipitously delivered in Florence, that cradle of political perfidy. The affection she professed for the EU wasn’t a diplomatic manoeuvre; everything else was.

Brexit may or may not happen. But if you think it has already happened, you may be in for a let-down. I for one don’t hold my breath.

Bold is the new craven

“Words, words, words,” shrugged Hamlet. But words do matter, for they may change the perception of the concepts they denote.

The utterly objectionable and therefore funny comedian Jimmy Carr, for example, offers ‘struggle snuggle’ as an alternative to ‘rape’, claiming that thereby people would change their mind about the underlying reality.

This is an obvious joke that wouldn’t work in the real world. Yet when it comes to Brexit, similar verbal chicanery works a treat.

Brexit is a linguistic disaster, made possible by a thoroughly ignorant dumbed-down public brainwashed to ignore the real meaning of words. This leaves the field wide-open for political liars, which term these days is more or less synonymous with politicians.

Take the words ‘divorce negotiations’, for example. As a veteran of several of those, I feel qualified to assure you that Brexit has nothing in common with any such things.

A divorce is an (ideally) equitable bilateral agreement, wherein the two parties decide to cancel their marriage contract and sit down, in person or through their attorneys, to agree mutually acceptable terms.

Yet Brexit is by definition unilateral. One country in what is in effect a federation has decided to secede, a right stipulated in the articles of most federations, including this one. Historically, the rump federation can  only stop this act by violent means, as the American Civil War shows.

However, by the looks of it, the EU isn’t planning a modern-day version of Operation Sea Lion, although the state of the British military, especially the Royal Navy, is such that this time around an invasion just might succeed. But that option is off the table.

What’s there to negotiate then? One doesn’t negotiate leaving a party once it has turned unpleasant. One thanks the hosts, gets up and leaves.

Another meaningless word is ‘owe’, as in “we’ll pay the EU what we owe and not a penny more.” I keep asking the same question and shall continue to do so until someone provides a sensible answer: Why on earth do we owe anything at all?

Continuing the party analogy, when we bid good night to the hosts, we aren’t usually asked to pay for the food and drink we’ve consumed – much less invited to negotiate the exact sum. We just go.

In this case we’ve prepaid for our now consumed and egested repast in annual instalments, making any demand for further payments even more ludicrous and shooting the party analogy down in flames. But ‘divorce’ doesn’t work any better, for its financial aspects include a division of not only liabilities but also assets.

I don’t know the exact amount of EU assets, nor our fair share of them. However, since the word ‘assets’ hasn’t even been mentioned, neither should we insist on using the misnomer ‘divorce’.

We can’t be expected to pay alimony to the EU, nor child support for its junior members, but what about paying for privileged access to the European market? Fine, I’m prepared to accept that for the sake of argument.

The principle has thus been established; now let’s haggle about the price. What price such access?

Like any market price, this should be established by market forces. So what’s the going rate for our access to other major markets, such as the US, China and Japan? The answer is zero, which is exactly the fair price.

Or rather it’s zero in terms of cash on the nail. We do pay for free access to those markets in kind, by opening our market to the countries in question. That, and only that, payment should be offered to the EU from the bottom of our hearts.

The EU’s demand for €50 billion and Mrs May’s counteroffer of €20 billion have absolutely nothing to do with either divorce settlements or trade negotiations. They’re talks between two parties in a shakedown.

The EU is the blackmailer essentially sending Britain a message along the lines of “if you ever want to see your country free again…”. Rather than refusing to negotiate with the blackmailer, Britain is the sweaty victim weeping into the phone receiver: “We’ll pay, we’ll pay! Please don’t hurt us! But will you please take 20 instead of 50? Please, we’re begging you… and the police won’t hear a word about it.”

This is exactly what’s going on. The EU may want our money, but what this wicked contrivance wants most of all is to punish Britain so severely that other members would think twice before trying their own exit.

The purpose of this extortion isn’t so much economic as political because so is the true purpose of the EU. The objective isn’t to create a single superstate for the benefit of its members. It’s to create a single superstate, full stop.

I was touched to see that even Nigel ‘Black Wednesday’ Lawson has come to realise this self-evident fact, albeit 25 years too late. As Chancellor, Mr Lawson (as he then was) thought it would be a jolly good idea not only to be in the EU but actually to join the ERM as a prelude to joining the euro.

That little misapprehension cost Britain £3.4 billion, but the other day Lord Lawson (as he now is) graciously agreed to acknowledge what has been blindingly obvious for decades to any averagely intelligent person with a modicum of knowledge about the EU. Better never late, I say.

Mrs May’s upcoming speech on her Brexit ‘proposal’ has been pre-billed as ‘bold’. Having been trained to realise that words in today’s political lexicon are used to mean something exactly opposite to their dictionary definition, I know what to expect.

Manny + Brigitte = France

You want something done right, the saying goes, give it to a busy man. Or, as Manny explained in practically so many words, to a man whose busy wife tells him what to do and how to do it right.

“Love is part of my life and my balance,” Manny said the other day, moving me to tears.

“On a different subject, I’ve been with my wife for decades now and she is part of me. It’s very important for my personal balance to have somebody at home telling you the truth every day.”

Actually, he didn’t say “on a different subject”. I added it out of spite and sheer envy, for I too would love to have my wife make every decision for me. As it is, I have to wrack my brain every morning, figuring out what T-shirt to put on and what scurrilous, vituperative prose to write. Lucky Manny, I say.

The other day, for example, Brigitte came home from a fact-finding trip to Chanel in a foul mood. “You know what bordel happened to me?”

Non, maman.”

“I was walking down Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré with Marlene…”

“Marlene qui?”

“Don’t you know your own foutu cabinet? I thought I gave you ze assignment to learn ze name of every member for today’s class,” frowned Brigitte, fingering her trusted ruler. “Marlene Schiappa, that’s qui, you imbécile. Your Gender-Bender Minister? Ze one you always ogle?”

Maman, I swear, je n’ai jamais…”

“Shut your gueule and listen, you petit con,” interrupted Brigitte. “As we turned the corner, some sale con de merde wolf-whistled at me!”

“At you, maman? Are you sure it wasn’t at Marlene?”

“Are you saying I’m too old to be wolf-whistled at, you espèce d’enculé?”

“But no, maman, you don’t look a day over sixty, especially when you wear zat…”

“Oh shut your gueule, Manny or I’ll mark you down for conduct. The question is, what are you going to do about such criminal acts? Do you realise that thousands of women are wolf-whistled at every day? And dieu only knows how many are asked for their phone numbers!”

Mais maman, garçons will be garçons. When Marlene and – especially! – you walk down the street, men just can’t contain themselves…”

“Zat’s right, Manny,” said Brigitte, tapping her ruler against the edge of the table. “Zat’s why I want you to contain zem. Toi.”

“How can I do zat, maman?”

“Call yourself président de la republique, you espèce d’idiot? You do zat by making wolf-whistling a misdemeanour, and asking for a woman’s phone number a felony. Do you get zis or do you want me to paint you a tableau?”

“Oui, maman. Je comprend.”

The next day Manny, comely Marlene Schiappa by his side, declared that henceforth wolf-whistling and other public manifestations of unsolicited attention to women were outlawed. Having helped to strike that blow against sexploitation, Marlene went home to finish her next pornographic novel.

Manny, on the other hand, had to do the English homework Brigitte had given him. “We are Franks, n’est ce pas?” she had said. “And Anglais, c’est la lingua franca, but no? Zat means ze Franks must speak Anglais.”

She then wrote down a speech in English and told Manny there would be no supper until he learned it by heart for his CNN interview. The next day Manny was ready.

“Come back,” he addressed the thousands of French expats who had fled from France during his tenure as Finance Minister. “Ze spirit of conquest flows again.”

Manny didn’t specify which conquest he had in mind, leaving room for speculation. Did he mean the German conquest in 1940 and the subsequent occupation? If so, the parallel is apt, reflecting as it does the power structure within the EU.

No, surely not. Even if such a seditious thought had crossed his mind, Brigitte would have had none of that. Likening the EU to the Third Reich? C’est insupportable!

Manny was probably referring to the heroic liberation of France singlehandedly undertaken by Gen. Leclerc’s one armoured division in 1944, with some token support from the 70-odd divisions provided for imperialistic purposes by les Anglo-Saxons.

If some logical rigorist were to complain about the word ‘singlehandedly’ in the previous sentence, he’d only prove he knows nothing about a) France, b) the way history is taught there, c) Manny and, most important, d) his foster mother Brigitte.

The trouble is that by now Manny’s target audience might have been thoroughly brainwashed by their hosts les Anglo-Saxons. Their minds hopelessly corrupted, they might have understood Manny to mean that yet again Anglophone troops brandishing tanks and Hershey bars will roll into France to kick the Germans out.

It’s back to school, Manny, to learn the art of precise phrasing. Brigitte still has a lot of work to do.

Nothing wrong with racial stereotypes

Matthew Sayed is a fine sports writer. But ‘sports’ is an indispensable modifier.

Alas, these days popularised expertise in one field is automatically accepted as a qualification in any other in which the expert chooses to express himself. Yet anyone immune to the gravitational pull of celebrity realises that, outside their own bailiwick, such intrepid chaps are usually found out.

Mr Sayed’s article in today’s Times is a case in point. He starts with sports and then strikes out into concepts he doesn’t properly understand.

“Why Romelu Lukaku Chant is Simply Offensive,” is the peg on which Mr Sayed hangs his holier-than-thou vestments of a paid-up bien pensant. The chant in question refers to the size of the black footballer’s genitals, which offends the author.

It’s indeed offensive, regardless of the truth of the underlying assumption. But vulgar banter in the stands doesn’t really merit serious discussion, never mind an attempt at inductive analysis leading to far-reaching conclusions.

Yet this is precisely what Mr Sayed attempts. He argues that, since the chanters probably have been unable to ascertain personally the size of Mr Lukaku’s manhood, they proceed from a stereotypical assumption.

True, but another stereotype he decries, disproportionate representation of blacks in many sports, is rather more empirically provable. That doesn’t bother Mr Sayed. Essentially he denies the existence of any racial characteristics, other than the undeniable chromatic ones. Just look at long-distance runners, he suggests.

It’s easy to form the misapprehension that blacks are better at it than whites. Yet a closer examination reveals that most of those Olympians aren’t any old blacks. They come specifically from Kenya – and not just from Kenya but a small part of it, “a tiny pinprick on the map of Africa.”

If I were Ethiopian, I’d be offended. What about Abebe Bikila who won two Olympic marathons? And other great Olympic champions from the same parts?

Also, looking at other sports, what about the NBA and the NFL in America, both dominated by black athletes? What about the preponderance of black footballers in England, France, Holland and elsewhere? What about the NBA cliché “white men can’t jump”, an observation that also applies to most jumping events in athletics?

“The logical fallacy is not hard to detect,” writes Mr Sayed. “When we see black people with a particular trait, it is easy to assume that this trait is shared by all people with black skin.”

Only for an idiot. And the logical fallacy is all Mr Sayed’s. No trait, other than the German propensity for lavatorial humour, is shared by all or even most people in the same group. Group characteristics of any kind reflect not totalities but averages.

As such, they’re meaningless when applied to every single person, but – if statistically valid – meaningful when talking about general tendencies. Yet Mr Sayed will have none of that.

“[Assumption of racial differences] underpinned slavery, miscegenation, aspects of Nazism, certain forms of eugenics and many other more subtle ways of organising human society along racial lines. It underpinned Jim Crow segregation until 1964 and the prohibition on interracial marriage in the southern states of America until 1967. It also formed the basis of apartheid South Africa, which lasted until 1991.”

All true – but none of this means that no racial differences exist. It only means that evil people may use good statistics and accurate observations to draw bad conclusions, namely that some races should be oppressed. If I were Mr Sayed, I wouldn’t mention logical fallacies.

But of course he proceeds not from sound reason but from a corrupt ideological premise, which he goes on to prove: “One of the great objectives of the Enlightenment was treating people as individuals.”

At first glance this doesn’t quite tally with mass murder by category, which is such an endearing feature of post-Enlightenment modernity. Neither does it tally with the class view of society, which is again a product of Enlightenment thought. Nor does it explain how the USA, the first nation constituted strictly on the Enlightenment principles, saw for the next two centuries no contradiction between them and the practices that rile Mr Sayed so.

The distinction that escapes Mr Sayed – to be fair, he isn’t the only one – is one between persons and individuals. The first is quintessentially Judaeo-Christian; the second, modern.

Our civilisation is founded on the understanding that all persons are created in the image and likeness of God. This is the basis of the only true equality, that before God. All men are brothers because they all have the same father – this truth created a natural kinship that dwarfed the petty inequalities of earthly existence.

The Enlightenment, a misnomer if I’ve ever heard one, represented a frontal assault on Christendom, an attempt to destroy most of its premises and pervert others. One such perversion was replacing the true equality of persons with the demonstrably bogus equality of individuals.

For individuals aren’t, nor can ever be, equal. Contrary to the Enlightenment fallacy in The Declaration of Independence, all men are created unequal physically, intellectually, morally, socially. The quotidian world is propped up by hierarchies of both individuals and groups – a ladder in which some occupy higher rungs than others.

This is a natural state of affairs, and it can only be changed by unnatural, coercive means. Hence every regime inscribing equality of individuals on its banners ends up killing a lot of individuals – even the US doesn’t escape this observation if we add up the casualty counts of two acts in the same play, the Revolution and the Civil War.

Someone with the lifeblood of our civilisation coursing through his spiritual veins would notice the obvious differences among various races, and he may even find them mildly interesting. But ultimately he’d dismiss them as irrelevant, adding nothing to his understanding of the world or his judgement of the people in it.

But for someone who, like Mr Sayed, is thoroughly indoctrinated with Enlightenment nonsense, such differences constitute an affront to his whole worldview. That’s why he’s prepared to deny the obvious, bending both facts and logic out of shape as he goes along.

If you can stand a piece of avuncular advice, Matthew, stick to sports. You’re bloody brilliant there.

Those N. Korean geniuses

Southeast Asians, including North Koreans, tend to have slightly higher IQs than Europeans and North Americans

This fact may pique one’s interest for a second or two. But it doesn’t begin to explain the staggeringly rapid success of Kim’s armament programme.

After all, it takes more than just a few brainy scientists and engineers to become one of the world’s best-armed countries. The nature of modern weapons is such that their development and production requires an awful lot of money.

Yet N. Korea’s per capita GDP is about 50 per cent lower than that of Bangladesh, which can’t be convincingly described as a paragon of prosperity. In spite of that the country spends the better part of $4 billion a year on the military.

This may sound like quite a lot to you and me. But we aren’t trying to match up to NATO’s military might. N. Korea is, and for that purpose the cited sum is grossly inadequate, especially since the country’s pronounced goals are quite ambitious.

Kim has declared that the US is “the main criminal” responsible for “centuries of massacres” against N. Korea. That made the Yanks not only dastardly but also prescient, for North Korea only came into existence in 1948. But we aren’t going to quibble about numbers, are we? One way or the other, N. Korea and the USA “will never be at peace”, and America ought to be “bludgeoned to death with sticks like a rabid dog”.

‘Sticks’, you understand, is a figure of speech denoting some sophisticated hardware to be used in the bludgeoning capacity, specifically to vaporise a major US city, leaving behind nothing but “gloom and ash”. Such sticks cost a fortune to develop and then even more to produce.

I don’t know how Kim’s military budget is broken down, but I’d imagine that maintaining a standing army of 1.5 million well-armed soldiers must consume its lion’s share – even considering that those poor chaps are unpaid.

That leaves a mere pittance even for R&D in things like hydrogen bombs, missile submarines, ICBMs carrying miniaturised nuclear warheads – never mind their mass production. At most, even considering the superior mental prowess of N. Koreans, this may barely suffice for copying ready-made technologies and implementing them with imported components.

Yet N. Koreans assure their credulous audiences in the West that their scientists and engineers don’t need foreign help to work miracles. Armed with history’s most progressive ideology, they stop being mere intellectual giants. They become demigods capable of performing feats well beyond the reach of those underachieving and uninspired Americans and Russians, who used to pioneer such development.

What took those backward laggards years, often decades, Kim’s eggheads can accomplish in months – on a shoestring and with a most primitive scientific and industrial base. That’s what even a slightly higher IQ can achieve, to say nothing of the encouragement and instruction Kim personally offers his boffins.

Just consider the astounding progress of Kim’s rocketry. In 2016 and early 2017 N. Koreans had several failed tests of the intermediate-range, single-stage missile Hwasong-10 based on the Soviet missile R-27. Yet already on 14 May, 2017, they successfully tested the next-generation Hwasong-12, another single-stage rocket, powered by the souped-up version of the same engine.

Hwasong-12 possessed enough range to hit Guam or even Alaska. The second successful test, on 29 August, launched the missile over Japan. It took both Americans and Russians several years to cover the same distance in missile development. Kim’s superhuman geniuses did so in a few months.

But that wasn’t all. On 4 and 28 July, 2017, the N. Koreans successfully tested the two-stage missile Hwasong-14 powered by the slightly modified Russian RD-250 engine. Now there we’re looking at serious kit: the missile’s range of up to 10,000 km is enough to reach Los Angeles.

The breath-taking, head-spinning tempo of this progress is unprecedented. Normally the whole process would take up to 15 years, and did in both Russia and the US. Yet the N. Koreans covered the same distance in fewer months than the number of years it took the world’s greatest military superpowers.

Do you still think Kim’s boys had no outside help? If so, you disagree with experts who state unanimously and unequivocally that, even considering those chaps’ stratospheric IQs, such an achievement is impossible. Not unlikely. Not improbable. Impossible.

That means N. Korea did indeed have outside help, and you’re getting no prizes for guessing where it came from. All the technologies and key components were transferred to Kim by Putin – one ‘strong leader’ helping out another. The Koreans then applied their own ingenuity, knowhow and meagre resources to screwing those missiles together at a record-breaking speed.

Nor is it hardware only. The Russians have also transferred to Kim their paranoia, well-honed over centuries.

The whole world has been united in its urgent desire to destroy (subjugate, corrupt, impoverish – the verbs change from time to time) Russia since way before Russia was even known as such. And now Kim has been trained to howl that the world has for centuries harboured similarly bloodthirsty plans against a country that has only existed for 69 years.

Putin has explained, urbi et orbi, that Kim needs a strategic capability in order to survive. “We all remember what happened to Iraq and Saddam Hussein,” explained the KGB colonel. “His children were killed, his grandson was shot, the whole country destroyed and Saddam himself hanged.”

N. Korea, one of the world’s most satanic states, is thus depicted as an innocent lamb about to be led to slaughter by those awful Yanks. Yet somehow, the Americans didn’t pounce when it became known that N. Korea was becoming a nuclear power.

Was it perhaps because they followed the same doctrine of containment they had earlier applied to the USSR? And is it possible that they’re making belligerent noises now only because containment has failed and N. Korean communists are openly threatening US bases and even the mainland?

There does exist a causal relationship between Kim’s Russian-supplied nuclear ICBMs and Trump’s threats. But it’s exactly opposite to the morbid vision Putin and Kim try to peddle to the world.

N. Korea has become, and Putin’s Russia is rapidly becoming, a pariah state. As such they’re natural allies, friends even. And friends must help one another – this is the simple philosophy whence N. Korea’s nuclear ICBMs have come.

The apparat is running scared

Today’s Western countries are governed not by statesmen, nor even any longer by politicians, but by apparatchiks. These jumped-up, faceless, morally and intellectually corrupt nincompoops display the character traits of all their predecessors – regardless of nationality, culture or political system.

Their first loyalty is pledged to themselves, but, aware as they are of their own limitations, they realise they need to pool that loyalty with many similar ones within a system that can serve and protect them all.

Such pools go by the name of Latin origin but Soviet provenance: apparat, a bureaucratic system that transcends ideologies, philosophies and party allegiances.

An apparatchik has no principles. All he has is slogans, and those serve a purely utilitarian purpose. When the purpose changes, so do the slogans. As long as such toing and froing doesn’t endanger the apparat, the apparatchik has much leeway.

But the second the apparat itself is threatened, the apparatchiks close ranks and join forces against the menace. When that happens, even omnipotent dictators are no longer immune.

Stalin, for example, was probably killed by the very apparat he had created. He had been steadily weeding out the undesirable elements within that group, and the apparat was willing to grin and bear it. But when Stalin decided to wipe out the apparat collectively, it wiped him out instead.

Apparatchiks detest mavericks, even those willing to work within the system. Margaret Thatcher, for example, was ousted precisely for that reason: she was no longer perceived as a loyal member of the Tory apparat. The apparat smelled danger and united against it.

It’s against this backdrop that one must view the seemingly violent squabbles between Tories and Labour in Britain, Democrats and Republicans in the US, Gaullists and Socialists in France, Christian and Social Democrats in Germany and so forth.

Those conflicts are neither, God forbid, philosophical nor even political. They are fights for territory within the apparat. All such disagreements are part of a game, with the players exchanging meaningless shibboleths they themselves don’t believe, know that neither does the other side, and know that the other side knows.

None of this matters – until an outsider appears who refuses to play the game. That throws a gauntlet to the apparat, and suddenly it’s no longer a game. Caps come off the lances, and an innocent joust becomes a fight to the death.

Nothing illustrates this tendency better than the deranged, hysterical hatred flung Trump’s way by both sub-divisions of the American political apparat. Set aside are their (already illusory) differences. Forgotten are their party allegiances. Trump is an outsider who clearly flouts the apparat’s code of practice – off with his head.

I haven’t observed anything like that since Nixon, who became a marked man in 1948, when, as a congressional investigator, he nailed the Soviet spy Alger Hiss to the wall. Since then the predominantly ‘liberal’ American press went after him like a pack of bloodhounds.

Finally they got him at Watergate, and there’s no doubt that Nixon had committed a crime. One still suspects that the very same journalists wouldn’t have been quite so principled had a similar transgression been committed by one of the Kennedys.

Yet Nixon was a party man through and through, meaning that, much as he offended some parts of the apparat, he didn’t threaten it as a whole. But for Watergate, he would have happily completed his presidential tenure and retired in peace.

Trump is a different animal altogether. He has no discernible party allegiance and doesn’t even bother to conceal his contempt for the bipartisan apparat. Trump doesn’t recognise the validity of the apparat’s ethos and spurns it at every opportunity.

That earns him spittle-sputtering hatred from all sides, regardless of the intrinsic merits of his policies. Some of them, I’d say most, are quite reasonable, but that’s neither here nor there. What offends the apparat isn’t so much anything Trump does as everything he is: an outsider, someone who mocks the rules, a potential threat.

Trump may well be a one-off figure, a stutter in the workings of the apparat soon to be corrected and never again repeated. But the wishful thinker in me hopes that he represents something truly valuable: one of the sledgehammers knocking out the cornerstone of the apparat.

And not just the American variety. Interestingly, thanks to the advances in communication technology, our world is so globalised that, whatever challenges to the apparat occur, they tend to happen at the same time in many places.

Witness, for example, the brewing dissent against the ultimate perfidy of the apparat, its attempt to self-perpetuate under the shelter of a supranational setup free from even vestiges of accountability.

Anti-EU parties and sentiments are gaining ground across Europe, and I’m not even talking about the Brexit vote that took me by surprise. But the apparat is feeling the pinch everywhere: in France and Germany, Italy and Spain, Hungary and Poland.

In all those places, attacks against the apparat proceed under various sets of slogans, ranging from genuine quest for sovereignty to legitimate concerns about the social, demographic and economic effects of mass immigration; from patriotism to nationalism to xenophobia; from conservatism to socialism to outright fascism.

Yet one detects that underneath it all the revolt transcends all such things, that at base it’s an expression of resentment against the apparat. And pressure is being applied from both inside and outside.

A current example of the former is Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who himself has always been a cog in the workings of the apparat. Hence he’s no more principled, selfless and moral than the rest of them.

But Johnson is smarter than most, which is why he may have discerned the rebellious grassroots tendency I’ve mentioned. Hence he has seemingly recklessly assailed the very apparat he has served for so long both as a hack and a politician.

A cabinet member attacks his institutional superiors at his peril, and Johnson knows this perfectly well. Yet he has publicly taken the PM and Chancellor to task over their Brexit shilly-shallying.

Johnson has clearly hardened his already generally Brexit stance by demanding a clean break with not a single penny in ‘divorce settlement’. The romantic in me hopes his newly acquired intransigence comes from some Damascene experience, but the realist recognises a strong element of opportunism there as well.

If so, it’s much more valuable. When a clever chap like Johnson sees a political opening in scoffing his party leadership, then he may sense something they don’t. The apparat may be tottering, and before long it just may come down with a big thud.

Wholly Russia

Hundreds of thousands of expertly organised patriots have come out to gridlock Russian cities with rallies.

In a show doubtless pleasing our own Putinophiles, this time around the demonstrators are waving not the customary red flags, nor even swastika banners that appear now and again, but posters, icons and gonfalons with visages of saints.

If only we had our own KGB joining forces with the Church to instil as much piety in the British as the counterpart Putinesque fusion has instilled in the Russians. Isn’t that right, Mr Hitchens? Piety is the lynchpin of conservatism, isn’t it?

Of course it is. Yet a more observant and better-educated commentator may discern something peculiar in the Russians’ recently discovered devoutness. So peculiar, in fact, that its public manifestations typologically resemble Nuremberg rallies more than your run-of-the-mill religious processions.

To wit, the poster in this photo says “Matilda is a slap in the face of Russian people”. Now the Matilda in question is the ballerina Matilda Kschessinskaya, who died at the venerable age of 99 in 1971, 46 years ago.

Hence the aforementioned slap must have been delivered posthumously, and so it has. What makes so many Russian cheeks sting is the new eponymous film by the director Alexei Uchitel about the 1890-1893 affair Kschessinskaya had with Grand Duke Nicholas.

By itself this escapade was extraordinary for neither Russia nor Matilda, who favoured the Russian royalty as lovers, husbands, sires of her children and providers of a sumptuous palace in the centre of Petersburg.

Nor were Russian royals ever suspected of having taken the vow of chastity. For example, Grand Duke Nicholas’s father and especially his grandfather, Alexander II, were womanisers of epic proportions, which Nicholas never was.

However he was smitten with the beautiful 17-year-old dancer, and surely a single 22-year-old chap can be forgiven for sowing some wild oats? He who is without sin…and all that.

That’s where we’re stepping on a thorny path. For in 1894, now happily married to a German princess, with Matilda switching to other princes, Grand Duke Nicholas became Nicholas II, Tsar of all the Russias. In 1917 he was forced to abdicate and a year later the tsar and his family were massacred on Lenin’s orders.

And in 2000 Nicholas and his family were recognised as saints by the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) that saw in them “people who sincerely strove to incarnate in their lives the commands of the Gospel.”

Those examining the history of that reign with a dispassionate eye may take exception to that assessment, but that’s hardly the point. The point is that in the same year a five-foot KGB officer Putin became president of Russia.

Or rather that’s one point among several. Another one is that Putin, with an unerring instinct honed in history’s most diabolical organisation, realised that the Russians can’t live without an ideology personified in the figure of a strong leader.

Meek attempts in the previous decade to posit democracy and free enterprise in that role had predictably failed, for such lovely things can’t be mandated from above, certainly not in a major country with no history of them. Sure enough, democracy turned into anarchy, and free enterprise into a kleptocracy to end all kleptocracies.

Yet an ideology was sorely needed to justify the miserable lives the Russians had lived, were living and, as could be confidently forecast, were going to live in eternity.

This is where that KGB experience came in handy. Putin and his ruling oligarchy (85 per cent of whom share his professional background) created a weird cocktail of Russia’s glorious imperial past (critically, not only tsarist but also communist), victory in the very same great war Russia started as Hitler’s ally, militarisation, traditional bellicosity towards Russia’s neighbours – and Orthodoxy.

ROC went along with this stratagem as Putin knew it would. After all, its entire hierarchy, starting with the Patriarch, are career KGB agents, the kind of people Putin could talk to in the spirit of corporate solidarity and guaranteed mutual understanding.

The confidence trick took several years to refine, but it’s now running like a well-oiled machine. Previously removed statues of Stalin are proudly going up again, a statue of one of history’s worst mass murderers Felix Dzerjinsky has just been erected in Kirov, the mummy of Lenin, the teacher of inspiration of those two monsters still adorns Red Square.

And of course Nicholas’s sainthood is never questioned. Somehow he’s being portrayed as John the Baptist to Lenin’s Christ and Stalin’s St Peter, the man who passed on the relay baton of the great empire.

It could be argued, rationally and convincingly, that Nicholas bears the lion’s share of blame for the demise of the pre-communist and relatively benevolent Russian empire.

But we’re not in the realm of rational and convincing propaganda. We’re in the realm of no-holds-barred propaganda, and in that realm Alexei Uchitel has caused great offence. And him, such a great man otherwise.

Rather than being a dissident against Putin’s kleptofascism, Uchitel is its enthusiastic supporter. He welcomed the annexation of the Crimea, the aggression against the Ukraine – and would no doubt welcome even Jewish pogroms, if Putin chose to emulate the sainted Nicholas.

Yet his personal loyalty is immaterial. Matilda shows the sainted tsar as having an extra-, well, pre-marital affair, which no Russian saint is allowed to do. Why, Putin’s stormtroopers have even accused Uchitel of showing the saint’s marital infidelity. That’s why, following multiple threats of blowing up cinemas, many Russian distributors refuse to run the film.

How Nicholas could have been unfaithful to his future wife before he even met her is a question that’s never answered, nor indeed asked. A saint has to remain saintly, against all reason.

One could argue that the libidinous Nicholas had no way of knowing that a century later he’d become a saint. One could even go so far as to suggest that many real saints, such as Augustine and Francis, had been guilty of much worse excesses before embarking on the road to sainthood. But when totalitarian propaganda speaks, reason shuts up.

Out of sheer mischievousness, however, I’d still like to ask a provocative question. If even depicting Nicholas’s dalliance is so offensive, how come the mummy of his murderer Lenin is still worshipped as an imperial relic – on Putin’s direct orders?

A silly question, I know. But perhaps Peter Hitchens can answer it: he seems to understand the laudable logic behind Russian kleptofascism.

Too close to home

The police are treating it as a ‘terrorist incident’. I treat it as a personal attack.

For Parson’s Green is my tube station, a five minutes’ walk from where I live. The District Line train incinerated by an “improvised explosive device” at 8.20 yesterday, is one I or, even worse, my wife could have been on.

The explosive device, wrapped in a Lidl shopping bag and hidden in a bucket, wasn’t improvised very well. It exploded only partially and, while it sent a wall of fire through the train, the blast wasn’t of murderous power.

So far no fatalities have been reported, although some people were badly injured. One woman had all the skin on her legs burnt off, 28 others suffered similar injuries.

The police are looking for the suspect, who is believed to have planted several other similar devices. The suspect’s identity hasn’t been divulged yet, and we don’t know who he is. But we can take a wild guess at what he is.

It starts with an ‘M’ and describes his religion. I’ll give you a clue: he’s not a Methodist, Mormon, Mennonite, Molokan or Mithraist.

The device is similar to those previously used in London, some to greater effect, especially those triggered by suicide bombers screaming “Allahu Akbar!!!” (there, I’ve given you another clue).

The most successful of such attacks were the four staged on 7 July, 2005, that murdered 52 people. The leader of the suicide bombers was named Sidique Khan, not to be confused with the London mayor Sadiq Khan.

Mayor Sadiq Khan, not to be confused with the murderer Sidique Khan, promised that London “will never be intimidated or defeated by terrorism”. Perhaps. But that doesn’t mean the ‘M’ persons will stop trying.

Prime Minister Tessa also had a comment: “My thoughts are with those injured at Parsons Green…”  She got the cliché wrong. It’s supposed to be “my thoughts and prayers…”, MTAP for short.

I don’t know if her leaving prayers out is significant, perhaps testifying to the PM’s incipient atheism. Or else she shares Richard Dawkins’s view that mass murders committed in the name of the ‘M’ faith tar all religions with the same brush.

I also wonder if the choice of a Lidl plastic bag, in preference to one from, say, Sainsbury’s, is a political statement, in this case pro-EU. Why else would an ‘M’ person use a bag from a German-owned supermarket chain?

Don’t be misled by the note of levity you may detect in my prose. This is but a defence mechanism designed to mitigate the shock, and I don’t shock easily.

Terrorist attacks striking elsewhere have a certain impersonal, abstract quality. Hence one’s outrage isn’t concrete but general.

Around the corner from where one lives is different. Call me an egoist, but it feels as if my home has been defiled. If my home is my castle, then its walls have been breached, and the enemy is rushing through the hole.

Bastards! is the first exclamation that comes out; what are we going to do about it, the first question. The exclamation is emotional; the question, rational.

I’m sick and tired of hearing comments such as those above every time ‘M’ persons commit yet another atrocity. The comments are solicitous and sympathetic, such as “MTAP go to… [fill the blank]”, or else defiant, such as that made by Mayor Sadiq Khan, not to be confused with the murderer Sidique Khan, along the lines of we “will never be defeated by terrorism.”

Yes, but what are we doing to defeat terrorism? Reassuring those who crave our blood that we don’t for a second believe all persons espousing the ‘M’ religion are terrorists? What, not every one of the 1.5 billion of them? Crikey. Who could have thought.

But it doesn’t take that many. A few thousand will suffice to turn every great European city into hell, every nice European neighbourhood into a combat zone ruled by fear. Few are nicer than Parsons Green, at the western end of Central London, 3.5 miles from Piccadilly.

You’d never guess it’s that close. It feels as parochial as a neighbourhood can possibly feel so close to the city’s geometrical centre.

Parsons Green is expensive, which keeps riffraff at bay. It’s also monochrome and no ‘M’ religions are practised in the vicinity. All the churches at and around Parsons Green are either Anglican or Catholic, and if a language other than English is ever heard in the streets, it’s usually French. Merde alors is possible; allahu akbar, unlikely.

I realise that describing my home patch in such terms is unfashionable to the point of being almost illegal. I’m risking a charge of racism, xenophobia and bigotry only to impress on you how nice my neighbourhood is – and how violated I feel.

So what are you going to do about this, Mrs May? And you, Mayor Sadiq Khan, not to be confused with the murderer Sidique Khan? Other than offering your sympathies and condolences?

It’s not as if nothing could be done. These people talk about ‘M’ terrorism as if it were force majeure, like one of those Caribbean hurricanes. It isn’t. Terrorism is an act not of God but of people. And people can be either prevented by police work fortified by government decree or, that failing, deterred by indiscriminate punishment.

But first we must acknowledge we’re at war – and not just with those few thousand terrorists, fundamentalists, extremists, call them what you like. They are but the vanguard, those ordered to punch a hole in that wall.

Supporting them physically are tens, possibly hundreds, of thousands manning the infrastructure of terrorism. And then there are millions, possibly hundreds of them, supporting terrorism morally and waiting for the vanguard to succeed so that they could all rush through the breach.

Hence we must wage war against all of them, recognising that, like in any war, there may occur unfortunate collateral damage. And once war has been declared, specific actions will suggest themselves.

They may include mass deportations and internments, stopping all immigration from ‘M’ countries, shutting down every mosque in which one word of sympathy for terrorism has ever been uttered, exacting awful punishment on countries sponsoring, arming and training terrorists.

I’m not an expert in such measures, but I’d like to believe we have enough people who are. They’re the dogs of war, and we must all cry havoc and let them slip. Meanwhile, I hope Parsons Green will recover its irenic charm. But I fear it might not.

That sod Jean-Claude

The title is my feeble attempt to emulate the front-page 100-point headline in The Sun of 27 years ago: UP YOURS DELORS!

‘Claude’ and ‘sod’ aren’t a precise rhyme, but at least it goes the Sun screamer one better by not relying on the mispronunciation of the culprit’s name. Incidentally, later in the piece The Sun referred to Mr Delors’s ethnic origin by telling him to “Frog off”, which these days would qualify as a hate crime.

The Sun invective was caused by Delors’s plans for closer European integration, which caused Mrs Thatcher to outshout The Sun with her shriek of “No! No! No!”

At the time Delors held the post now occupied with distinction by Jean-Claude Junker, or ‘Junk’, as he likes to be called by his friends among whom I proudly number myself.

Now Junk has made a Yes! Yes! Yes! speech that went even further than ‘Up Yours’ Delors in enunciating what the EU is all about.

Junk wishes to be elected as the unequivocal president of the United States of Europe served by a single finance minister who would impose uniform corporate taxes and VAT for all 27 members. Junk also wants to create a pan-European security service, a single European army and just about a single everything else.

Brexit, explained Junk, has removed the last obstacle in the way of this noble goal, and the continent can now heave a collective sigh of relief. Of course, there’s always the danger that the EU might miss Britain’s billions, but Junk is confident he’ll be able to extort enough of those anyway, by way of a divorce settlement.

My friend’s speech has caused a hostile reaction among those hacks and parliamentarians who obtusely refuse to see the advantages of Britain’s effectively becoming a province in the Fourth Reich. To Junk and his other friend Tony these are indisputable, and it took all his will-power not to end his soliloquy with a thunderous Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Präsident!

I’m amazed he was able to restrain himself, for Junk’s friends know how he is when in his cups, which is more or less always. You see, Junk keeps Scotland’s economy afloat almost single-handedly by consuming toxic amounts of Glenfarclas malt whisky, a shared predilection on which our friendship is based.

But restrain himself he did, possibly because that second bottle of Glenfarclas of the day made him too mellow to shout bellicose slogans.

The closest he came to a modified version of the time-proven battle cry was to explain that “Europe would be easier to understand if there was one captain steering the ship.” Even that thought could have been expressed more epigrammatically (Ein Schiff, ein Kurs, ein Kapitän!), but Junk missed the opportunity.

Actually, Europe isn’t all that hard to understand even now, before Junk has laid his shaking hands on the helm he seeks. Junk has simply reiterated, with Glanfarclas-inspired honesty, the founding desideratum of the European Union: creation of a single superstate based on the model of the Third Reich, ideally minus the death camps.

Yet all those Little Englander fossils are up in arms, saying awful things about Junk rather than thanking him for his frankness. After all, too many other EU officials and fans obscure the actual meaning of the EU with lies about its mainly economic aims.

In that they follow the course charted by their illustrious founders, such as Jean Monnet. Back in 1952 he laid down a commandment I love so much I keep quoting it: “Europe’s nations should be guided towards the superstate without their people understanding what is happening. This can be accomplished by successive steps, each disguised as having an economic purpose but which will irreversibly lead to federation.”

In other words, the EU’s fathers, all those Monnets, Schumans, Spaaks, Spinellis and Gaspieris, taught their children both the strategy (creating a single European superstate) and the tactics (lying about it the better to trick Europeans into toeing the line).

So much more refreshing is my friend Junk’s frank statement that the disguise prescribed by Monnet may now be abandoned. No subterfuge is any longer necessary. He wants to be captain of a single European state – full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes.

Junk has already left the British torpedo in his wake, and he seems to be unaware of any others. The combination of his French Christian name and German surname is so symbolic of the EU’s essence that he seems to think that all remaining members see things the same way.

They don’t. The Poles, for example, cordially hate the Germans, which I observed first-hand as a student in Russia. Every summer I used to freelance as interpreter-guide for British and American student groups, who usually stayed at large dormitory-style hostels they shared with similar groups from all over the world.

Tour organisers knew not to put Polish and German tourists on the same floor, for otherwise fights would break out every time. Once my group had to share a coach with several Polish students. Since coach space was at a premium, the organisers decided to fill our three empty seats with German girls.

Yet the Poles grabbed the poor things and bodily tossed them off the coach. When I tried to interfere, they cried: “Don’t you understand? These are Germans!”

That was almost 50 years ago, and the feelings might have become less febrile since then. But recent actions on the part of the Polish (and also Hungarian) government suggest the old flame hasn’t been completely extinguished.

The EU waters are still full of torpedoes, and all it takes is one or two more to sink the ship Junk proposes to captain. But for the time being, he’s a happy bunny, letting Glanfarclas do his talking.

So here’s to you, Junk, you old sod. Enjoy it while you can.

Yesterday’s pros and today’s cons

There are many ways of judging a political system, but surely the most immediate one is assessing the kind of people it elevates to government.

By that criterion, every one of today’s Western governments fails miserably. Every one of them is dominated by today’s foremost sociocultural type: important nonentities.

Using this fact as a starting point, we can then activate a process of Aristotelian induction to try to understand why this lamentable state of affairs has arisen. But first a little comparative illustration.

In 1815, just before the Hundred Days, statesmen from leading European powers met in Vienna to decide the future of a post-Napoleonic Europe. Without passing judgement on their goals and success in achieving them, let’s just get personal. What kind of people were they?

Austria was represented by Prince Metternich; Britain, first by Viscount Castlereagh, then by the Duke of Wellington; Russia, by Count Nesselrode (with Alexander I in close attendance); Prussia, by Prince Hardenberg and the great scholar Humboldt; France, by Talleyrand. These were men of different moral fibre, but no one would ever describe any of them as a nonentity.

Without being too unkind, let’s just observe that the future of today’s Europe (or the West in general) is decided by rather less accomplished personages. Let’s also notice that all the aforementioned gentlemen were aristocrats, most of old lineage.

Is there a causal relationship there? I’m convinced there is.

The prevalent political system before the nineteenth century was hereditary monarchy, whose power was limited to varying extents by parliaments or other legislative and consultative bodies.

The ruling class was almost exclusively drawn from the ranks of aristocracy or at least gentry. Destined to rule by birth, they were systematically prepared for that role from birth by thorough education, and not only of the academic variety.

Their sense of entitlement was married to responsibility, and what was true of the aristocrats was 100 times true of the princes. From the moment they could understand human speech, they were trained for government by the best minds of the time: philosophers, economists, politicians, theologians, generals. In due course, when princes became kings, that group provided their ministers and advisors.

Alas, in this world we aren’t blessed with perfect political systems. These are manned by people, and people are fallible and sinful. Hence not every traditional Western government was an exemplar of sagacity and probity. Some were ineffectual, some corrupt, some downright evil.

The system was designed to produce good government, yet it didn’t always succeed. But as often as not it did. Can we honestly say the same for today’s answers to Metternich and Talleyrand?

By now it should be reasonably clear that, if our unchecked democracy ever elevates to government those fit to govern, this only happens by accident – and even then one doesn’t see many Metternichs or Talleyrands among such overachievers. Unchecked democracy of one man, one vote is designed to spawn mediocrities and, when they do take over, it’s no accident.

Insurance agents, plumbers, electricians, physios, estate agents, social workers can’t ply their trade without a licence, without establishing their professional qualifications. Without wishing to denigrate those occupations in any way, none of them even approaches the devilish complexity of governing a nation.

Yet no licence is required to be a modern president or prime minister. As Donald Trump shows, even political experience is superfluous. The only sine qua non professional qualification required is an uncanny ability to manipulate votes.

Yet by atomising the vote into millions of particles, democracy renders each individual vote meaningless. What has any weight at all is an aggregate of votes, a faceless, impersonal bloc. Consequently, political success in today’s democracies depends exclusively on the ability to put such blocs together.

This has little to do with statesmanship. Coming to the fore instead are such qualities as disloyalty, a knack for demagoguery, photogenic appearance, absence of constraining principles, ability to tell lies with convincing ease, cold disregard for bono publico, selfishness and an unquenchable quest for power at any cost. This list manifestly doesn’t include integrity, intellect, strong character or the charitable desire to serve others.

The upshot of it is that, when a traditional government didn’t attract the right people, it signified the system’s failure. Conversely, attracting mostly nonentities spells a modern government’s success, defined as achieving the desired result.

If traditional governments were run by pros, today’s ones are run by cons. This unfortunate state of affairs has come about gradually, getting steadily worse as modernity moved farther and farther away from Christendom.

These days it’s impossible to suggest that relying exclusively on the ability of the Average Man to elect his leaders is counterintuitive at best – even a smallish company run on this principle would quickly go bankrupt.

Yet people have been brainwashed to ignore the demonstrable incompetence of all our governments. If they notice it at all, they ascribe it to bad luck, rather than the catastrophic failure of the very principle on which modern governments are based.

Arguments in favour of democracy run riot are always lazy, often relying on Churchill’s 1947 quip that, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

This one-liner from the master of the genre is widely quoted not so much for its wit as for its intrinsic truth. Alas, wit can often obscure truth.

Churchill’s idea of democracy was formed at a time when our political tradition hadn’t yet disappeared in the rear-view mirror. Both a staunch monarchist and a committed parliamentarian, Churchill clearly didn’t believe he was living a double life.

To him there was no contradiction in a strong monarchy being balanced by an elected lower house, with the hereditary upper chamber making sure the balance didn’t tip too much to either end. That was the essence of England’s ancient constitution, which pervaded Churchill’s every pore.

It’s not only lazy but also dishonest to evoke his aphorism in the modern context, circumscribed as it is by an impotent monarchy, debauched House of Lords and dictatorial Commons. I’d guess Churchill would be appalled at today’s lot.

If we must quote Churchill, I’d suggest another adage: “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.” And, may I add, just about any politician.