Death and taxes are sometimes the same thing

Wouldn’t it be nice if we had a Conservative government? What, we already have one? Could have fooled me.

The Chancellor’s quandary: How can I hurt the economy today?

This Tory government is a dead ringer for the Labour administration of Tony Blair, although admittedly it’s less catastrophic than Jeremy Corbyn’s administration would have been.

Johnson, Sunak et al. enforce every plank of the woke agenda, with Dominic Raab’s refusal to take the knee the only conservative gesture any of them has made. As for conservative policies, they are following the trail left by flying pigs.

This emphatically includes HMG’s treatment of the economy, currently playing a dirge on the doldrums. Yet the Chancellor refuses to change his tune on taxing and spending.

So-called Tory governments have form on that: over the past 10 years they have hit the economy with 1,000 tax rises. That would be pretty good going even for unapologetic socialists.

At least this time HMG has an excuse for profligate spending: Covid. Still, with the national debt going over the two-trillion mark, and the deficits soaring at 300 billion a year, even socialists must see that such fiscal promiscuity is unsustainable.

The current situation is likely to change in the next few months, both for the better and for the worse. The better part is that Covid seems to be on the wane. The worse part is that inflation is going up and interest rates are bound to follow suit.

The only mitigation for going crazy with the printing press and IOUs is that the interest rates have for many years been lower than at any time since Charles II was king. If they rise sharply, which is likely, such policies will cross the line separating imprudent from suicidal.

So how is HMG preparing for new challenges? How is it planning to pull the economy out of the mire? Remember that in addition to Covid, there’s also the issue of redirecting the economy away from the EU and towards an independent trade policy.

In response, the Chancellor is about to unveil a set of new policies – each the exact opposite of sanity, each likely, nay guaranteed, to send the economy into an irreversible tailspin.

I’m not going to blaze any new trails in economic thought. Thankfully, none is required. Modern economies have been functioning around the world for so long that we know for sure what works and what doesn’t.

Examples of remarkably successful reversals in economic fortunes are helpfully provided by post-war Germany and, later, the ‘Asian tigers’: South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong. All of them started from a nadir and quickly reached the zenith. An example of languishing at the nadir for decades is closer to home: post-war Britain.

The successes were scored by governments who realised that a state can only affect an economy positively by not affecting it negatively. They drastically reduced social spending, taxes and their own slice of the economic pie. That unleashed the people’s initiative, enterprise and creativity, of which, as it turned out, there was a vast, if hitherto dormant, supply.

Even chaps unencumbered with Nobel Prizes for economics have to conclude that any policies that have such a liberating effect are always at a premium, but especially when the economy is in dire straits. Conversely, measures that have the opposite effect are guaranteed to run the economy aground.

In that light, let’s look at some of Mr Sunak’s proposed policies.

He is planning to launch a tax raid on online business, including a ‘green’ tax on deliveries. In addition to kowtowing to the climate hoax, that means consumers will be buying less, which, in a consumer economy, is bound to have a knock-on effect on the producers. Result? A slow-down at a time when the economy is already at a crawl.

Mr Sunak also plans to hit the self-employed with new taxes, essentially putting them in the same category as wage slaves. However, self-employment involves taking entrepreneurial risks, while full-time employment is considerably safer.

The incentive to take such risks will diminish, and so will the number of small businesses that are the principal drivers of the economy. Result? A shrinking tax base, most likely delivering lower tax revenues. Also, a more static economy – in a situation begging for dynamism.

The Chancellor is also going to play fast and loose with income tax bands, pushing between one and two million people into a higher one. This is what some economists call ‘bracket creep’, and others ‘stealth taxes’. Whatever you call it, it discourages hard work and ambition. Result? As above.

Mr Sunak also wishes to increase the corporate tax rate from its current rate of 19 per cent to  25 per cent. This at a time when most corporations are already half-dead due to Covid.

Hitting them with new taxes is tantamount to delivering a coup de grâce. Result? Massive job losses, bankruptcies, higher prices (corporations tend to pass tax increases on to customers) and – possibly most deadly – turning foreign companies away from Britain when attracting them is crucial.

Also planned is another ‘stealth tax’, on wealthy pensioners. Seemingly, this will affect only about 10,000 people who’ll have to pay an extra £22,000 by 2024. But they don’t call such taxes ‘stealth’ for nothing. This one will also hurt millions of young achievers who’ll get into the higher band by the time they retire.

Rather than investing in their future, people will be thus encouraged to mimic HMG’s thirst for spending and borrowing. This is an example of how a government can damage the economy by encouraging ruinous economic practices and discouraging sound ones.

HMG must have played truant when the lesson of 2008 was taught. Result? A rich potential for crises and a negligible one for higher tax revenues.

There are two ways of filling budget holes: reduced spending or increased taxation. The former is well-nigh impossible for a spivocratic government that fears oblivion if it can’t bribe voters with handouts. In this, all governments are similar, regardless of their party affiliation.

But at least Tory governments used to know that high tax rates don’t mean high tax revenues, quite the opposite – and that, while lower taxes invigorate the economy, higher ones may well kill it. That’s why I’m so sad that we don’t seem to have a Tory government at the helm.

Game of racial chicken

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t, as Walker’s Crisps found out.

You don’t have to be black to like it

In addition to churning out tonnes of the snack whose popularity I can’t for the life of me understand, the company is committed to woke rectitude. This is reflected in the palette of the extras appearing in Walker’s commercials:

“The casting for all of our advertising reflects the diversity of the nation and our consumers. We are strongly committed to playing our part in pursuing racial and social justice,” declared Walker’s.

The company’s top spokesman, Gary Lineker, football player turned highest-paid BBC presenter, is unfashionably white. But not to worry. Walker’s finds ways to make up for that imperfection.

Thus its latest commercial shows, in addition to Gary, 12 other actors, all of them black to varying degrees. If we take Walker’s at its word, this is a fair representation of Britain’s demographics.

While one can argue with its arithmetic (blacks make up only about three per cent of our population), its woke credentials have been thereby bolstered – or so it would seem. Who could have thought that such casting would incur an accusation of racism?

No, I don’t mean the woke reverse racism, boosting to grotesque proportion the share of minorities featured in advertisements. No one would dare protest against that, on pain of being branded racist, ageist, homophobe, transphobe, a global warming denier and an EU hater.

I mean the common-or-garden racism, of the kind communicated through burning crosses, lynchings and garments made of bed sheets – this even in Britain, where such methods of self-expression have never made much headway.

You see, Walker’s has formed a tie-in with KFC, probably based on the similarity in the target markets for both products. Hence, while their latest commercial stars the whitey Gary flogging the crisps in the foreground, the other actors are shown enjoying their buckets of fried chicken.

Where’s the racism in that, I hear you ask. This question shows how grossly insensitive you are to the nuances of wokery. I bet you also suffer from a whole raft of unconscious biases, only curable by a public recantation and a subsequent indoctrination course.

What makes the commercial ‘controversial’ even according to a modelling agency specialising in diversity is the negative connotations associated with the blacks’ dietary habits in America. They love fried chicken, and have done since the days of slavery.

The connection is rather tenuous because fried chicken is a staple in the Southern states of America. Anyone who has ever lived there, black, white, brown, yellow or polka dot, likes the stuff, to which I can testify personally.

I recall going to my local KFC for lunch at least once a week, partly for the food and partly for the girls who worked there. The interest wasn’t carnal but anthropological.

The young ladies were programmed to respond only to a specific set of verbal stimuli. Since at the time (mid-70s) I was new to the culture, I’d utterly baffle them by saying things like “I’d like two thighs and a leg, please, but not crispy”. An instant gap in communications would occur, only to be filled with a prescribed order: “D, all dark, original.”

The girl would jot my order down, after which her inner button would get pushed and she’d ask: “And what would you like to drink, sir?” Trying to save her trouble, I’d sometimes attempt to preempt that question by specifying “D, all dark original, nothing to drink”. “And what would you like to drink, sir?” she’d always ask, making me ponder the dehumanising effects of mass production.

Anyway, the point of this nostalgic digression is that I worked at NASA at the time, the only major employer in Clear Lake City, Tx, where those exchanges took place. Most of the people who worked there – and hence most of the KFC customers – were white. That unfortunate nativity in no way diminished their delight in the delicacy on offer.

Southern cuisine is a hodgepodge of culinary influences, Mexican, Creole, Cajun, Anglo, Spanish, German – and of course black. Fried chicken does have some weak association with black cuisine, but why is it racist?

Would a Scotsman be offended if shown eating haggis, a Jew depicted with matzo balls, a Frenchman with frogs or an Indian with Vindaloo? They’d just smile and move on. I bet British blacks don’t give two flying chickens about being portrayed with KFC products either.

No one is really offended, except the woke, predominantly white middle-class ‘opinion-formers’, who aren’t offended either, but have to feign indignation for ideological reasons, as a call to action.

In this case, action wasn’t late in arriving. The social media rained accusations of racism on Walker’s and even poor (figuratively speaking) Gary Lineker, who has never seen a woke cause he couldn’t love.

Even the diversity-oriented FOMO model agency that supplied the talent is appalled at this racial stereotyping, which is rich coming from a company built on racial stereotypes.  

The ad is likely to be pulled, whereas I’m going to register my disgust at this woke bacchanal by frying some free-range chicken thighs tonight. This though I’s white.

Confirmation bias, sexed up

‘Confirmation bias’ is a term psychologists use to describe a human trait we all share to some extent: seeking out data that confirm what we already know or believe.

Are half the young people this way inclined? Really?

Think of it as a filter in the brain through which all information passes. As a result of such straining, we accept that everything that confirms our current knowledge is proof, while everything that doesn’t is an exception.

However, most of us draw the line somewhere. When statistical data contradict too blatantly elementary common sense and the empirical evidence we’ve accumulated over a lifetime, we’re likely to reject them even if they seem to confirm our cherished belief.

At least that’s what sane people do, a category to which, on the evidence of his article It’s Clear Our Sexuality Isn’t Set in Stone, Matthew Parris doesn’t belong. Actually, Mr Parris’s own homosexuality seems to be perfectly lapidary, but, according to him, many more people than we realise are fluid in their proclivities, tending towards the same sex.

Some 10 years ago I found myself on the receiving end of homosexuals’ slings and arrows. Among many things they found infuriating was my statement that only just over one per cent of Britons are homosexuals. This was based on the largest survey I had seen, one conducted on 20,000 subjects.

Yet homosexual activists, who have a vested interest in exaggerating such numbers, insist that the real figure is 10 per cent. This is preached by the bible of Gay Pride, Peter Tatchell’s newspaper PinkNews.

My assailants didn’t cite any contradicting polls, but I’m sure they exist. I don’t know if they are as extensive and credible as the one I used, but this doesn’t really matter. Confirmation bias kicks in on both sides.

The figure of about one percent tallied with my observation and experience, whereas Mr Tatchell et al. were more comfortable with 10 per cent. The tenfold difference is huge, but not inexplicable. After all, if we decide which set of data to accept on the basis of our own experience, it’s to be expected that Mr Tatchell’s would differ from mine.

Mr Parris’s, however, must be startlingly different even from Mr Tatchell’s. In his article he quotes “figures [against which] we cannot argue”. What he means is that these figures support his confirmation bias so strongly, that he “cannot argue” with them.

However, since the unarguable figures he quotes aren’t just out in left field but out of the stadium, its car park and the immediate vicinity, I’ll argue against them – as will any sensible person of any of the 74 currently recognised sexes.

My hand is strengthened by a long experience of using market research. When my proposed ad campaigns were subjected to focus groups, I knew how easily the respondents could be manipulated.

They often tend to give answers that make them sound good or else those they feel the researcher would rather hear. Thus the list of questions, the way the researcher is briefed to pose them, the selection of respondents could all skew results in a desired way.

Hence I know to take surveys with a grain of salt and, ideally, a shot of tequila as well. Mr Parris’s experience must be different, which is why his credulity is almost touching.

Allow me to quote at length:

“… Respondents from each generation [of the four involved] were asked to say which of the following four groups they’d put themselves in: “‘Only attracted to the opposite sex’; ‘Mostly attracted to the opposite sex’; ‘Equally attracted to both sexes’; and ‘Mostly/only attracted to the same sex’.

“Brace yourself for the British result. Just over half (54 per cent) of the youngest generation said they were only attracted to the opposite sex. The older the respondents got, the less gay they declared themselves to be. The figure for Millennials was 60 per cent exclusively heterosexual; Generation X 76 per cent; and Baby Boomers 84 per cent.”

“Mostly, that’s good news,” says Mr Parris. The good news, according to him, is that almost half of young people aren’t exclusively straight. However, by any reasonable social, moral, aesthetic and demographic standards these findings would spell a catastrophe – if they were true to life.

But they can’t possibly be. The old statistical legerdemain has to be at play here, though not necessarily in any fraudulent way. It’s just that the younger people are, the more they’ve been subjected to unremitting woke propaganda of homosexuality, starting at kindergarten level.

They’ve been brainwashed to regard anyone who finds anything wrong with any ‘lifestyle’ to be almost as evil as a racist. And evil isn’t an image of themselves that most people are willing to project. Having homosexual tendencies is to them progressive, inclusive and, well, cool. Being staunchly heterosexual is, on the other hand, decidedly uncool.

“The US figures show younger Americans are even less likely (52 per cent) to say they only fancy the opposite sex,” rejoices Mr Parris. So everything is fine with the world.

Astonishingly, he knows that the results are unreliable: “These polls show that peer-group pressure can be an unconscious moulder of sexuality.” It can also be a conscious moulder of survey responses. But either way, Mr Parris is happy:

“We shall have many more gay and bisexual people in the century ahead. That’s fine. And perhaps many more trans people too… By social pressure, classroom pressure, media pressure and, yes, through mere fashion, we are moulding soft clay, not discovering some great shard of internal granite children are born with. The younger the person, the softer the clay.”

It used to be the Jesuits who said: “Give us a boy, and we’ll give you a man.” Now it’s the homosexuals. But, while my feelings about the situation are different from Mr Parris’s, I admire his honesty.

He openly and joyously agrees that ‘progressive’ activists are consciously, systematically and with a clear sense of purpose pushing youngsters towards homo- and transsexuality – and that without such pressures the results wouldn’t be as encouraging as the poll he cites. QED.

I’m a white man and I live every day proud that I am

Sounds jarring, doesn’t it? Not to say unpleasantly racist?

Of course it does. Someone who utters such a sentence has to look, sound and act like Tommy Robinson or, on the other side of the Atlantic, a Clansman.

Since I’m neither of those things, I never feel pride in my race, body shape, the colour of my eyes (green) and hair (these days mostly white and pink) or my shoe size. I’ve done nothing to acquire such characteristics and hence can’t take pride in any of them.

They aren’t achievements. They just are. Now, I may be proud about some of the books and articles I’ve written, some of the things I’ve understood or even, at a weak moment and to a much lesser extent, my reasonably successful advertising career.

These are all achievements, if not universally seen as such. Hence they are legitimate objects of pride, in the sense of self-respect, not hubris. Are you with me so far?

Well, in that case, what do you think of the footballer Marcus Rashford who currently stars in a TV commercial saying: “I’m a black man and I live every day proud that I am.”

Now, Marcus has a lot to be proud about: he became an England and Manchester United star when still a teenager, and his club values his services to the tune of over £10 million a year plus all sorts of extras. Even though I may think it ridiculous that our society prizes such a trivial skill so highly, it still constitutes a remarkable achievement.

Such things don’t happen by themselves even to gifted people. It takes hard work, single-minded dedication and sacrifice to turn talent into achievement, so Marcus does have a lot to be proud about. But his race?

Admittedly, he produced the ad in response to racist abuse he regularly receives on social – anti-social? – media. Countless morons, each probably looking, sounding and acting like Tommy Robinson, vent their richly deserved feeling of inferiority by insulting a successful, glamorous young man for being what they can never be.

The best response to such diatribes is, well, none – ignore the scum. Better still, Marcus could get off the social media altogether. God knows he doesn’t lack for company.

Yet not everyone can display such Olympian detachment. I myself have been known not to practise what I preach and respond to insults in kind (I’m quite good at that, but I’m not proud of it). So I could understand it if Marcus were to go on the kind of counterattack that’s his footballing speciality.

But instead he chose to respond to racism with racism of his own. Except that none dare call it that. We’ve all been house-trained to regard black bigotry as a justifiable expression of a genuine grievance. The word ‘racism’ doesn’t cross anyone’s lips.

Looking at the recent events in America, we readily describe as racist a thuggish group like Proud Boys (that dread word again), but not a thuggish group like Antifa. The sauce for the white goose isn’t sauce for the black gander.

These days everybody has to be proud of something, but boundaries do exist. Thus women are encouraged to be proud of being women, but a man proud of being a man is a misogynist and also, by inferential extension, probably a racist, homophobe, transphobe, a global warming denier and a Tory voter.

A word of avuncular advice to Marcus: don’t turn your race into a political statement and don’t be proud of being black. In return, I promise never to be proud of being white. That way neither us will be called a racist.

I’m sorry, comprehensive WHAT?

This little piece is dedicated to the cherished memory of Anthony Crosland, Labour Secretary of State for Education, 1964-1970.

Mowglis on the prowl

Early in his tenure, in 1965, he made a solemn promise: “If it’s the last thing I do, I’m going to destroy every fucking grammar school in England. And Wales, and Northern Ireland.”

To use Mr Crosland’s chosen socialist idiom, this spelled the dawn of a new era, that of comprehensive schools. As we speak, they make up 90 per cent of all schools in Britain, which means Mr Crosland fulfilled 90 per cent of his promise – a remarkable success rate for a politician.

Until then, Britain’s state education had been the envy of the world. Since then, it has become its laughing stock.

About 25 per cent of all children used to go to grammar schools, where they were educated very well. Some of the most erudite people I’ve ever met are grammar school alumni.

The second tier of schools were called secondary modern, and they mostly prepared pupils for the rough-and-tumble of quotidian life, equipping them with the essential knowledge and skills. The separation between the tiers was determined on the basis of 11+ examinations.

However, some children are late bloomers. In recognition of this observable fact, the system remained fluid, and the ablest secondary modern pupils were often promoted to grammar schools. Again, I know several quite brilliant people who made that shift to great effect.

Britain was then one of the best-educated countries in the world. However, good education that system might have been, but it was bad ideology. Mr Crosland and his fellow socialists hated it because it didn’t “hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal”, to quote from the founding document of the first modern, which is to say incipiently egalitarian, state.

Since the socialists ran the show even more then than they do now, they merged grammar and secondary modern schools together in the name of “comprehensive education”. The designation is half-right: it’s indeed comprehensive.

Over half a century later, Britain has succeeded in breeding two generations of Mowglis, deracinated creatures as thoroughly divorced from civilisation as Kipling’s lad raised by a pack of wolves.

The other day some kind soul shot a video of random youngsters, late teenage to early twenties by the looks of them, being asked the kind of questions that shouldn’t unduly trouble any school leaver. The youngsters represented the demographic and ethnic cross-section of our population. None of them looked mentally retarded.

To let you judge how successful Anthony Crosland’s mission has been, here’s a sample of the questions and answers.

“How many countries in the UK?” “One. The UK.”

“When did World War II end?” “1974.”

“Name the continents.” “London.” “I don’t know what a continent is.” “Spain?”

“What is the official language of the USA?” “American, innit?” “There isn’t one.”

“What’s the capital of America?” “New York.” “I don’t really know. Detroit?”

“Who bombed Pearl Harbour?” “Is it America?” “Where?” “Osama Bin Laden.” “Russia.”

“Who did the Americans beat in the Revolutionary War?” “Russia.” “Was it like East America against West America?” “Germany?” “France.” “Japan.” “Vietnam.” “It was Americans, innit?”

“Spell ‘unnecessary’.” “Bro, I can’t even spell it, man. You spell it.”

“What’s three cubed?” “Seven.”

If we define success as achieving the desired objective, then we shouldn’t describe comprehensive education as a failure. The socialists have produced exactly the result for which their levelling loins ached: a malleable, brainwashable herd ready to be putty in their hands.

But you know the scary thing? All those youngsters were of voting age. The country’s future – yours and mine – is in their hands. If you’re curious to find out what this future will be, move from Kipling to Huxley and Orwell.  

We need a global quarantine

The world is being threatened by a blight, and the only salvation lies in isolating its source. No, I’m not talking about Covid. Everyone is aware of that threat, even though not everyone draws the same conclusions.

The deadly menace in question is Putin’s Russia, and the real possibility that she might plunge the world into a nuclear holocaust. This isn’t scaremongering but a sober attempt to analyse the situation.

To wit: last week Russia’s Foreign Minister Lavrov, an old KGB hand, threatened that Russia was ready to cut ties with the EU, and the West in general, should serious sanctions be imposed. However, Western commentators failed to pay due attention to the threat, especially its last sentence. This is what Lavrov said (the emphasis is mine):

“We do not want to be isolated from global life, but we must be prepared for this. If you want peace, then prepare for war.”

When the Russian government was asked to clarify the last sentence, Putin’s spokesman Peskov explained that Lavrov didn’t mean that the way it sounded. He simply meant Russia should hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

That’s not giving Lavrov the credit he deserves: he uses words precisely and advisedly. His message is indeed a not-so-veiled threat of war.

When Russia dismissed contemptuously the EU’s threat of sanctions over the poisoning and then imprisonment of Navalny, she was sending a coded message that today’s Alan Turings failed to decipher.

They interpreted it as Russia’s movement towards self-isolation. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. Putin’s Russia, just like Lenin’s and Stalin’s, doesn’t want to isolate herself from the world. She seeks to remake it in her own image.

To that end, Russia systematically undermines the post-war world order based on international law, respect for human rights and a lattice of treaties. This system is far from perfect, and it leaves much room for abuse. But at least it establishes a framework within which countries may be brought to account without resorting to military force.

As the unwarranted invasion of Iraq in 2003 showed, some Western countries may practise a rather selective approach to international law. Yet that’s widely seen as an aberration, a regrettable deviation from the norm. This implies that a norm exists.

But not for Putin’s kleptofascists. They strive to plant a bomb under the West, and they rate their chances of success quite high. Hence their new-found respect, not to say admiration, for Hitler and Mussolini I wrote about the other day.

Like those gentlemen, Putin wants to create a new world order, one cleansed of any commitment to legality, non-violence and human rights. His rhetoric resembles Hitler’s almost verbatim.

Hitler ranted about the humiliation of Versailles and how the plutocratic, decadent, soulless West stamped Germany into the dirt. Putin’s equivalent is a stock phrase he has been uttering for at least the past 15 years: Russia must get up from her knees.

The cause of said genuflection is identified as the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, “the worst geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century”, as Putin describes it. Worse, in other words, than the two world wars and the Bolshevik revolution that proceeded to murder 60 million people.

And the agent of Russia’s kneeling shame? Why, the plutocratic, decadent, soulless West of course. After all, historically all Western aspirations can be reduced to one: bringing Russia to her knees and keeping her there.

The logical reaction to such beastliness is counterattacking the West with the objective of blowing up its world order. To that end Russia is assuming the role of a schoolyard bully who abuses bespectacled teachers’ pets, brushing aside their protests with “Oh yeah? So what are you gonna do about it?”

What are you, Mr West, going to do about Russia turning into a global Mafia state? Laundering trillions through your own institutions? Corrupting your politicians and indeed political systems? Annexing, against every international law, the Crimea, along with large chunks of Georgia and the Ukraine? Conducting a brutal campaign in Syria? Poisoning and otherwise dispatching people, including Western citizens, on your territory? Using nuclear and chemical weapons to do so? Ignoring your international laws? Imprisoning anyone Russia wishes despite loud protests all over the world?

Nothing? Well then, that proves that the rickety world order so dear to you is tottering. One slight push and it’ll collapse altogether.

The nature of the push isn’t hard to predict. When Putin and his gang decide that the West is sufficiently enfeebled and demoralised, Russia will test the waters by attacking a Nato member, most probably one of the Baltics.

It’s possible that a one-off use of tactical nuclear weapons will act as a question posed to the West: Are you ready to risk an all-out nuclear conflict? You are not? Splendid. So this is how it’s going to be from now on. We say jump, you ask how high.

Such is the implicit message of Lavrov’s threat. And it’s important to understand that the Russians aren’t bluffing. Threats of nuclear war, which they issue with monotonous regularity (“We can turn America into radioactive ash” and some such), aren’t PR bluster. They are statements of geopolitical and military doctrine.

For, unlike Nato, the Russians abandoned the concept of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) even before an obscure KGB colonel emerged as the Supreme Leader. Since the late stages of the Soviet Union, Russian strategists have believed that a nuclear war was possible to fight and win.

As a child growing up in a violent neighbourhood known as Russia, I learned that the only response a bully understands is a punch on the nose or, better still, a blow with half a brick. You can’t talk a bully into changing his ways. You can only force him to conduct a cost-benefit analysis and conclude that he’d be better off leaving you alone.

Extrapolating that childhood experience to the situation in hand, the West must send a message of strength. Yes, we may be plutocratic and decadent, but don’t test our resolve. We still have enough left to face up to geopolitical bullies.

The West in general and Nato in particular must issue an unequivocal statement of unity. As its essential part, they should put Russia in quarantine, a present-day cordon sanitaire, refusing to deal with her on any level until Putin’s kleptofascist junta has begun to behave in a civilised way.

Putin isn’t a gambler – he won’t embark on a military adventure unless sure of victory. It’s the crutch of that certainty that the West must kick away.

Worryingly, no hint of such a response is discernible. When the Russians curtly told the EU where it could stick its notions of human rights, the reply came in the shape of sanctions against four (!) Russian officials who hardly ever leave their country anyway.

Such meekness can only embolden the bully, encouraging him to escalate his assaults. When that time comes, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Help! I’m a victim of serial crimes

“Being offensive is an offence,” says the slogan inscribed on the banners of Merseyside Police. The statement sounds so tautological that it isn’t immediately clear why it had to be made. Of course being offensive is an offence, what else is new?

Somebody call the cops: I find this sight deeply offensive

But that’s not what they mean. The offence they have in mind is a criminal one – a crime, in other words.

Fine. The law is the law, and those Liverpudlian cops follow the guidelines laid down by the Crown Prosecution Service.

However, even though we must obey all laws, we should still be free to regard some of them as unjust. To avoid such an accusation, a law must as a minimum clearly define the boundaries of a proscribed crime.

Thus murder is an arbitrary taking of a human life, theft is stealing someone else’s property, rape is having sex without permission, perjury is lying under oath and so on. But what does “being offensive” mean?

Surely this crime can’t be defined objectively; an element of subjectivity has to creep in: one man’s offence is another man’s compliment. True, says the CPS. So, to eliminate all doubt, it helpfully defines an offence as anything anyone takes as such.

That’s where the word ‘injustice’ has to cross anyone’s mind. For this law leaves Her Majesty’s subjects powerless and rightless, while empowering law enforcement to a degree hitherto deemed an exclusive property of totalitarian tyrannies.

Potentially this law can criminalise every one of the 53 million adult Britons. After all, all of us may say things that could conceivably offend someone, especially at a time when even complimenting a female colleague on her appearance may be seen as a misogynistic attack on womankind.

Still, dura lex, sed lex, as the Romans used to say: the law is strict, but it is the law. But surely the fundamental principle of British jurisprudence is that any law, strict or otherwise, is the same for all.

Hence, my friends and I also have a right to feel offended, thereby finding ourselves on the receiving end of a crime. Well, this is a right I wish to exercise now, speaking for myself and most of my friends. Here, in no particular order, are the offences some or all of which I suffer every day:

Tattoos and facial metal; pop music of any kind, especially rap; pop music of any kind, especially rap, being performed in concert halls and at the Proms; conceptual art, especially Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin; Lang Lang, Yuja Wang and other such non-musicians; most of modern architecture; being frisked at airports, especially by men; actors playing women, actresses playing men and blacks playing whites in the theatre.

Strident atheism; insistence that all religions are equally good or equally bad; belief that Darwinism is anything more than a theory; strident feminism, championing of LGBT rights, environmentalism – in fact, strident anything; Greta Thunberg; anyone who takes her or ‘climate change’ seriously; materialism; the expression ‘our planet’; men born as women impregnated by women born as men; abortion; modern philosophers, especially if French; Richard Dawkins; most of current literature and all of current poetry.

Left-wing politics, philosophies, aesthetics – in fact, left-wing anything; unchecked democracy; tyranny of any kind; my life being affected by a state predominantly staffed with self-serving morons.

Belief that, if people are equal before the law, they are equal in every respect; the word ‘diversity’ as it’s currently used; feminism; contempt for spiritual and intellectual authority; belief that every opinion is equally valid, indeed egalitarianism of any kind.

Woke people and their beliefs; suppression of free speech, especially as enunciated by decent people; systematic undermining of Britain’s constitution and the English Common Law; Tony Blair and every member of his cabinet, especially Peter Mandelson; Jeremy Corbyn, every member of his shadow cabinet and every supporter he has ever had; John Major, David Cameron, Theresa May and other non-Tory Tory wets; the EU and everything its stands for.

Putin’s Russia and especially her Western ‘useful idiots’; jingoism or any other form of militant nationalism; London having become a giant laundromat for Mafia money, especially Russian; Britain’s strategic industries falling under foreign control, especially Chinese, Russian, Arab and EU.

I could extend this list tenfold, but this should suffice to get the point across. Which is that my friends and I are grossly offended countless times every day of our lives. And yet there’s nothing we can do about that.

The state first expands the boundaries of “being offensive” no end to enforce its woke despotism and increase its power, but then narrows them to constriction when it’s conservatives who are offended.

Personally, I’d rather be called a fatso (rude but accurate) than hear yet another diatribe against everything I hold dear or be unable to escape the degenerate din of pop excretions everywhere I go. And yet I may have some recourse against the former but none at all against the latter.

The CPS and other such setups don’t understand that debauching the law this way will render all laws inoperable. Laws don’t work when they are only feared, but not respected. And to be respected, they have to be respectable – which they increasingly aren’t.

Are you a racist or an anti-racist?

I grew up under a totalitarian regime I hated. I now live in a country I love. So much more upset I get when the latter starts to resemble the former.

Is Oxford University turning students into Mao’s Red Guards?

The nature of totalitarianism is often misunderstood. The word typically evokes images of execution cellars, torture chambers and concentration camps. And true enough, totalitarian regimes seldom fail to furnish such visual aids.

But these are their means, not their ends. Their most perfidious – and effective – work is done not with guns, truncheons and barbed wire, but with mass, unremitting propaganda. For totalitarians don’t just want to change politics. They want to change man.

Since we are all sinners, there is always room for change and improvement, that’s for sure. However, such latitude is normally found at the periphery of human nature. Its core remains stubbornly constant, which drives totalitarians up the wall.

They become bitterly disappointed with people, and killing them all begins to sound like an attractive idea. But that happens when totalitarianism reaches its peak. After that, down is the only way to go.

This is the common feature of all totalitarian regimes, but they all differ in the tempo of different phases. The more ambitious and impatient they are, the sooner does the final, violent stage arrive. Thus the Soviet and Chinese communists began to murder people en masse within days: their ontological objectives went so far against human nature that they got frustrated quickly.

By contrast, the Nazis took several years to realise they had to up the scale of their violence. Until then they relied mostly (though not exclusively) on inculcating their Weltanschauung through propaganda and education. To that end they conscripted all the media, educational curricula, public forums – everything they thought could help them change human nature irreversibly.

Totalitarian regimes usually fail, but they never fail, well, totally. Even if they can’t create the New Man, they can still invert the old certitudes. What emerges at the other end is any number of individuals with their moral sense numbed and their brains scoured of independent thought. This does a lasting damage to society, and it always survives the physical demise of the totalitarian regime.

My contention is that all modern regimes, whatever their self-identification, are innately if latently totalitarian, differing only in their means, not their ends. When a modern country identifies itself as a liberal democracy, totalitarians have to proceed more slowly, subtly and surreptitiously than they did in, say, Russia or China. But they do proceed.

Alas, most people miss the early tell-tale signs and, as with tuberculosis, when the symptoms become intolerable, it’s usually too late to do anything about it. One such symptom is a key difference between the demands imposed by authoritarian and totalitarian regimes.

The former demand passive acquiescence; the latter, enthusiastic support. They equate passive acceptance with active resistance and punish it accordingly.

This brings us to Oxford University, one of the world’s oldest and most venerable such establishments.

One can detect that it increasingly sees its role not as an educational institution, but as a hatchery of a New Man indoctrinated not just to accept totalitarian tyranny but to promote it with youthful vigour. In that it’s not markedly different from the Soviet universities of my youth.

A case in point is St Hugh’s College, the alma mater of Barbara Castle, Theresa May and Amal Clooney. As if that alone wasn’t enough to besmirch its reputation, St Hugh’s has introduced an unalloyed, clearly enunciated totalitarian agenda. (To be fair, Christ Church, Balliol and Somerville aren’t far behind.)

Students are “expected to make time” to attend the It’s About Race indoctrination event. There they are shown a slide show whose main point is that simply not being a racist is no longer enough. Students must be anti-racists, which presumably means fire-eating BLM activists.

The slides demand a “commitment to action” and ask point-blank: “What is your individual contribution/commitment/pledge to tackle inequality and racism?”

Not having attended the event, I don’t know if the slide show specifies the kind of contribution/commitment/pledge that would be deemed satisfactory. However, my Soviet experience standing me in good stead, I can make a few suggestions.

One contribution/commitment/pledge should be to take part in a BLM riot, or ideally organise one. Merit points may be awarded for each window broken, shop/car/cop set on fire, white pedestrian harassed or, better still, beaten up.

Another contribution/commitment/pledge could be to report to the police anyone making a racist statement, or one that can be interpreted as such. Special attention must be paid to anyone telling jokes that start with “An Irishman, a Jew and a black man walk into a pub…”

Yet another contribution/commitment/pledge could be to abuse verbally, or ideally physically, anyone caught reading such blatantly racist tracts as Huckleberry Finn, Gone With the Wind, The Merchant of Venice, Othello – or any other books failing to win the anti-racists’ approval.

The contribution/commitment/pledge might rate higher marks should such books be then tossed into a public bonfire.

The highest accolades should go to the contribution/commitment/pledge to drag the recalcitrant non-racists among the students and faculty before an anti-racist tribunal and force them to recant publicly, ideally on social media.

You may think I’m taking a bilious mickey, but in fact I’m dead-serious. I simply can’t imagine what other kinds of contribution/commitment/pledge would satisfy the flaming woke conscience of Oxford administration and trustees. I’m open to suggestions though.

Who could make you a better person in a couple of hours?

A tough question, that. Forgetting a religious Damascene experience, you’d be hard-pressed to name someone who could have a powerful meliorative effect in such a short time.

Yet Polly Vernon of The Times has been so lucky. She finishes a long interview by saying that her subject “leaves me with a truly unfamiliar emotional aftertaste: an urge to try to be a better person”.

Now, I have little interest in either Polly or The Times. I am, however, keenly interested in the times I live in, and this interview goes a long way towards telling me everything I wish to know.

Before I name the man possessing such magic powers, let me highlight some of the salient points singled out by Polly. To begin with, he is a thinking man’s role model, which has to mean he himself is a thinking man.

He is a vegan who drives an electric car and represents an “elegant strain of political activism” focused on LGBT issues and unlimited abortion.

He has introduced “a collection of clothes… all made from organic, recycled and/or repurposed materials and using transparent chains of production.”

He speaks in slangy clichés, “peppers his sentences with phrases like ‘bit and bob’.” [It’s actually bits and bobs, but then English isn’t his first language.]

He is in favour of “transparency, the ethics, sustainability…”

In general, he has “a strong moral stance” and he really “loves clothes”.

His musical tastes run towards “hip-hop”, whatever that is.

He loves Camden Town because “It’s so bohemian. And it’s so punk.” And also because “So many people not really caring, just wearing what they wanted and not listening to anyone else. I was like, yeah, I want to do the same.”

He thinks that “having a feminine side as a man is always so important in order to be happy.”

Polly wonders “if it all gets a little exhausting – all this caring, all this learning and all these deep, meaningful conversations…”

He’s well-informed, which has had a formative effect on his personality: “I used to do so many things before that I don’t do now, because I didn’t have the information.”

Oh well, I won’t keep you on tenterhooks any longer. The interviewee was Héctor Bellerín, the Arsenal right back Polly describes as “a thinking man’s footballer”.

Now, for the outlanders among you, The Times has traditionally been seen as the voice of the Tory establishment, perhaps a step closer than The Telegraph to the middle of the road.

I realise that Polly’s idiotic musings aren’t a statement of the paper’s editorial position. However, Times editors can’t be let off the hook quite so easily. They read the 3,000-word piece, found it good and interesting, saw fit to expose their readers to the views therein.

Hence the editors regard as intellectually valid Polly’s idea of a thoughtful man who can act as an agent of anyone’s self-improvement. They look at Héctor and that’s what they see.

I see something else. Standing before me is a heavily tattooed illiterate moron wearing pimp clothes, sporting two earrings and spouting woke rubbish on every subject dear to the hearts of our opinion-formers in Notting Hill and Islington.

If I had to spend several hours in his company, the effect would be not so much meliorative as emetic. He isn’t a human being; he’s a jukebox loaded with every woke platitude extruded out of the bowels of modernity.

Push the right button, and out comes ‘vegan’, ‘feminist’, ‘LGBT activist’, “women’s right to abortion’, ‘punk music’, ‘fashion sense’, ‘electric car’, ‘caring’, ‘sensitivity’, the lot – just look at the words I’ve highlighted.

In 1840 Lermontov published one of the best pieces of prose in the Russian language, the novel A Hero of Our Time. The eponymous hero, encapsulating the key aspects of his time, was a jaded, cynical, emotionally impotent aristocrat ready to hurt anybody and even risk his own life in search of elusive thrills.

I’d suggest that a book written on the same subject today should have Héctor Bellerín as its main protagonist. He is a true hero of our time – the ideal the Polly Vernons of this world see in their minds’ eye.

God save us from strong leaders

Our cretinous Putinistas (names available on request) cite the KGB colonel as the archetypal strong leader Britain desperately needs.

‘Brilliant man’ meets ‘top-class politician’

My stock reply to such longings is that we don’t need a strong leader. We need a strong society.

The two concepts are inversely proportionate: the weaker a society, the greater its need for a strong leader. A strong society will tick along nicely, and few people would even wonder whether their leader is weak or strong.

For example, I doubt that many Victorian Englishmen would even have been able to name their prime minister, never mind assessing his fortitude. Retrospectively, only professional historians would be able to judge today the relative strength of, say the Earl of Derby and the Earl of Aberdeen.

My guess is that few of today’s Englishmen have even heard of those two gentlemen. Yet most Russian schoolchildren know quite a bit about the two tsars reigning during the same period, Nicholas I and Alexander II.

They’d probably even tell you that Nicholas, who suppressed the December uprising, was stronger than Alexander because the latter was a weak-kneed liberal who loosened the reins and pushed the button for the revolution half a century later.

This isn’t because Russian children are better-taught than their English counterparts. The reason for the educational gap is that the personalities of Victorian PMs mattered much less than those of the Russian tsars. The English society was strong; the Russian one wasn’t.

If you accept this premise, then the Russian society today is as weak as it gets. Hence the growing public yearning for a strong leader, although the adulation of the present one is noticeably subsiding.

Pari passu, the nostalgia for strong leaders of the past is growing. For example, the typical assessment of Nicholas I and Alexander II above is strictly a new phenomenon. In my day, the former was regarded as the devil incarnate, while the latter was seen as marginally less evil than most other tsars.

The closer to our own time, the more revisionist do Russian homespun historians become. Thus Stalin is making a strong come-back in popular mythology. Rather than a monster who murdered tens of millions, Stalin is now seen as a Strong Leader (always implicitly capitalised).

He was a father to his people and, as such, sometimes had to spank them when they got out of line. But that was necessary, for without a strong hand on the tiller Russia couldn’t have stayed the course to imperial greatness. Other than that, Stalin was an administrator of genius and, above all, He Won the War (initial caps are again de rigueur).

Statues of Stalin, kept in warehouses until recently, are beginning to see the light of day all over the country, though as far as I know not yet in Moscow. Moscow is playing catch-up, but it’s about to narrow the gap.

The Duma is debating the possibility of restoring the Dzerjinski statue to its erstwhile place in Lubyanka Square, in front of the KGB/FSB headquarters. The Pole was the founder of that organisation’s precursor, the VCheKa.

In that capacity he was the architect of Lenin’s Red Terror, when the number of victims went into seven digits first, eight later. In addition to being a blood-thirsty ghoul, Dzerjinski was also corrupt: he took vast bribes to let some aristocrats, even a few minor members of the royal family, escape to Finland.

This combination of monstrosity and corruption formed a fine tradition that’s maintained by today’s heirs to Dzerjinski, emphatically including those in the government. Thus their posthumous affection for the Pole is understandable.

Stalin and Dzerjinski were the Strong Leaders Russia couldn’t do without – such is the official line. That’s more or less par for the course. However, the longing for such figures is now beginning to extend to Hitler and Mussolini.

Now that’s odd, in a country that lost the better part of 30 million people fighting the Nazis and the fascists. It’s even odder in a country that uses victory in that war as its redemptive ideology, superseding all others.

Hubris leads me to think I know all there is to know about Russia, and nothing that happens there can possibly surprise me. However, I must admit to being caught off-guard by some of the noises emanating from Putin’s principal propagandists.

Thus Vladimir Soloviov, whose talk show has monopolised the prime time on Russia’s main TV channel, recently praised Hitler for his bravery during the First World War, which just may offset some of the things he did in the Second.

Another major political commentator explained that: “We must distinguish the Hitler of before and after 1939. Had he stopped at the Anschluss of Austria, Sudetenland and Memel, he would have gone down in his country’s history as a top-class politician.”

This is consonant with the official reassessment of the Soviet-Nazi Pact, which until a few years ago was seen as rather embarrassing for Russia. Now it’s being portrayed as a great coup of Stalin’s diplomacy, buying the Soviet Union an extra two years to prepare for war.

Actually, time was on Hitler’s side, and the gap in armaments between Germany and the USSR narrowed dramatically between 1939 and 1941. Had Stalin bought another couple of years, and continued to supply Germany with vast quantities of strategic materials, the Nazis would have had an overwhelming technological superiority, probably including the atom bomb.

But the technicalities are now a moot point: the Pact has acquired a moral dimension. If Hitler was nothing but a great politician until 1939, then a treaty with him was indeed a masterstroke. Conveniently forgotten are little things like concentration camps, suppression of civil liberties, eugenics, Kristallnacht and the Nuremberg laws, but then who can remember such trifles.

Mussolini is faring even better. The same Vladimir Soloviov has made a film about the fascist dictator in which Il Duce emerges as, well, the Strong Leader Russia needs.

A review of the film pointed out that “Mussolini was a brilliant man who gave the world a third way, which Russia is partly following”. This last part can’t be faulted for factual accuracy – Russia indeed is following the fascist path, with an extra money-laundering aspect.

One might, however, argue with the moral assessment of that fact, but preferably not in Russia. Today’s heirs to the Strong Leaders of yesteryear take a dim view of dissent.