Is you is or is you ain’t our future PM, Angie?

That Labour’s Deputy Leader Angela Rayner denies the very possibility of social mobility is par for the course. As a raving socialist, she has to believe in an ossified class structure.

Northern lass, gobbing off

Anyone born working class remains working class for life – that’s an article of faith for her ilk. Never mind that we could all cite numerous examples of people moving up or down the social scale. When ideology barges in, reality flees.

What’s rather odd in a socialist fanatic is her utter contempt for comprehensive education, which is an icon for every left-thinking person. Comprehensive education, she believes, means comprehensive illiteracy. It don’t teach nothing to nobody.

To be fair to the self-described “fiery, ballsy, gobby Northern lass”, she didn’t express either belief in so many words. Both, however, can be inferred easily and ineluctably from what she did say.

Angie seems to regard illiteracy as a virtue, a badge of class honour. And she practises what she preaches.

The other day she launched another one of her vituperative (if not exactly unfounded) attacks on Boris Johnson. “Was you there or not at the party?”, she kept repeating. In fact, her insistence on that usage throughout shows that it wasn’t an unfortunate slip of the tongue. She really doesn’t have a clue about the conjugation of the verb ‘to be’.

Amazingly her consistent solecisms drew a lot of criticism. Since I can’t imagine any tweedy member of White’s watching Angie’s BBC interview, the Twitted criticism must have come from her natural constituency.

That in no way mitigated her indignant response in the same medium: “I wasn’t Eton-educated, but growing up in Stockport I was taught integrity, honesty and decency. Doesn’t mater [sic] how you say it. Boris Johnson is unfit to lead.”

Now, integrity, honesty and decency aren’t recognised academic subjects. English is, and logic used to be. So it does ‘mater’ how you say it and spell it. Angie’s response is an illiterate non sequitur, even though I may agree with her conclusion.

As a gesture of geographical loyalty, Angie established her credentials by becoming a grandmother still in her 30s. She could use that fact to ward off any accusation of ‘poshness’ if she spoke grammatically. There’s no need also to sound like a Dickensian urchin.

Going back to my original two inferences, they seem to be unassailable.

First, Angie clearly believes that “growing up in Stockport” (that is, being working class) precludes any possibility of future advancement, social, cultural or educational. Second, she is effectively saying that no school below the level of Eton, and certainly no comprehensive school, can teach its pupils to say ‘you were’, rather than ‘you was’.

Now, I despise the very idea of comprehensive schools hatched by Angie’s ideological brethren. Yet even I have never launched such a scathing attack on this egalitarian nonsense. It’s true that most youngsters thus educated emerge as functional illiterates. But that doesn’t mean such an outcome is predetermined, inevitable or universal.

In fact, I know several Northern lasses who speak with faultless grammar, if with a slight regional accent. In fact, the husband of one of such lasses comes from a similar background, which doesn’t prevent him from speaking and writing some of the best English in these Isles.

I myself went to a school where most boys carried knives or knuckledusters and hardly ever had a square meal that would be recognised as such even in Stockport. Yet I knew how ‘to be’ conjugated when I was about 10. And oh, did I forget to mention that my school was quite a bit north of Stockport, in Moscow, where English was taught as a second language?

Here’s a harrowing thought: if a general election were held today, and if the current Labour lead in the polls were reflected in the number of seats, Angie would have a senior ministerial post. This obscenely illiterate class warrior would be in a position to decide how a great nation is to be governed.

Call me a reactionary, but when my wife Penelope was a little girl someone like Angie wouldn’t even have got a secretarial job in the City. This makes me question my previous sentence.

Just how great is a nation where such a nincompoop, long on ideology, short on brains, is allowed to get anywhere near Westminster as anything other than a tourist? Or, to rephrase perhaps more accurately, how long will such a nation remain great even assuming it still is?

Please don’t answer that. I don’t want to get any more upset than I already am.

Yes, Virginia, Andrew is a bad boy

With apologies to Jane Austen, it’s a law universally acknowledged that the likelihood of a man being sued for sexual assault is directly proportionate to the man’s wealth.

Those female chancers are easy to understand: what’s the point suing if the mark has no money? That’s why Virginia Giuffre must be commended for her common sense and a feel for arithmetic. She saw an opening and went for it.

Having said that, I could have done without her sanctimonious lies about wanting only justice, not money. She must have inhaled the zeitgeist through both nostrils and the words floated onto her lips as if by themselves. Justice for what exactly?

For Andrew having had sex with her 20 years ago when she was 17? So fine, that was under the age of consent in the US at the time. That cut-off point is now 16 in most states, so if Andrew had kept it in his trousers until 2018, when the change happened, he could then have had all the 17-year-old American lasses he wanted without any risk of prosecution.

It’s useful to remember yet again the difference between malum in se and malum prohibitum. The former is an act that’s bad in itself, such as murder, theft or burglary. The latter is an act that’s only bad because it’s prohibited, such as not wearing a seat belt, driving in a bus lane – or having sex with a 17-year-old girl well-versed in the amorous arts.

Let’s face it, Virginia wasn’t a daisy-fresh virgin taken advantage of by an old lecher. She wasn’t Katyusha Maslova to Prince Nekhlyudov in Tolstoy’s Resurrection. She was a regular visitor to Jeffery Epstein’s dens of iniquity, where she was passed from guest to guest like a relay baton.

Now she’s out for all she can get, which is money and ‘justice’. I’m sure if the first is right she’ll be happy to compromise on the second.

Andrew meanwhile has lost his HRH title, along with all his other honorary entitlements. He has been cut off from the royal family, and his life has been more or less ruined. That, in my view, should have happened a long time ago, Virginia or no Virginia.

In common with his ex-wife, late sister-in law and nephew Harry, Andrew belongs to the royal coterie seemingly committed to destroying the monarchy. Unlike, say, his elder sister, to say nothing of his parents, he doesn’t realise that his life isn’t entirely his own.

He was born to privilege, but also to a lifetime of duty – duty to his family, the dynasty and ultimately his country. Accepting the privilege while reneging on the duty is fundamentally dishonest and, in every other than the legal sense, treasonous.

Cavorting with the likes of Epstein and, much worse, Nazarbayev, swapping the door-opening power of his name for all those yachts, private jets and lavish parties with ladies of easy virtue was vulgar, louche and irresponsible. It was letting down his mother and her realm.

Andrew may not be the sharpest chisel in the box, but a man figuring in succession to the throne doesn’t have to be either an intellectual or a Mastermind contestant. He must, however, be a man who never forgets his mission in this world.

Andrew is among those few royals who seem to suffer from amnesia when it comes to that mission. He probably doesn’t even realise the damage he has done to the royal family and hence our constitution.

I hope the Queen doesn’t come to his rescue at pay-off time. Let him fend for himself, see how he gets on without his hand in her piggybank.

He and Virginia deserve each other. Too bad she’s already married – they could make such a lovely couple. A girl who used her body to get ahead in life and a man who did the same with the position to which he was born.

I only wish our papers stopped catering to the voyeuristic, onanistic instincts of their readers on the current scale. Their coverage of Andrew’s saga is worse than Page 3 in The Sun, featuring topless Playboy-type lovelies. At least those photos don’t encourage hypocrisy and self-righteousness.   

British politics and French culture

The English constitution adopted its modern shape in 1688, and all subsequent changes have been mere embellishments or, these days, corruptions.

By contrast, France has had 14 different constitutions during the same period, which is hardly surprising. She has been ruled by several monarchies (constitutional or otherwise), an ad hoc revolutionary committee, a Directory, a military dictatorship, an emperor, five different republics and, from 1940 to 1944, by the Nazis, first de facto and then de jure.

Given such a kaleidoscope, one can understand why politics has a different role to play in both countries – and why so many French thinkers, including some pernicious ones, have admired Britain’s political dispensation.

Britain may not have pioneered all of such political virtues as constitutional monarchy, inviolable property rights, division of power, independent judiciary and parliamentarism, but she has certainly shown how successfully they can work in a modern context. (She has also shown how thoroughly they can be debauched, but that’s a separate subject.)

That’s why, when one ponders Britain’s contributions to our civilisation, politics springs to mind first. Britain is defined by her politics – and political thought – more than by anything else. Even the country’s religion is fused with politics, which a state religion always is by definition.

That doesn’t mean Britain has nothing else to boast about. Since I don’t see culture as a competitive sport, I wouldn’t want to join a cultural tug-of-war with the French or anybody else. Suffice it to say England has much to be proud of, especially her great language and the literature it has produced.

Yet the English en masse aren’t proud of their language and literature, nor culture in general, as much as the French are proud of theirs. As well they should be: during the Middle Ages France was the cultural centre of Europe.

Even Gothic architecture is a misnomer. It was first created in Île-de-France, and at that time it was called opus Francigenum. Since then French architecture, as it should be more appropriately called, has dotted not only the French but indeed the European landscape with unmatched masterpieces.

That alone would be enough to foster national pride, but there is so much more: literature, music, painting, philosophy and of course the French language. Even though it has ceded its international dominance to English, the French still cherish it and try to maintain its purity. They don’t succeed as universally as they’d like but, unlike the British, they do make the effort.

Yes, their cultural pride is justified – but their cultural nationalism isn’t. As any other kind, this type of nationalism is an attempt to compensate for being underappreciated. Hence it’s always comparative: nationalism is self-assertion at the expense of others.

It’s not just saying “our country is great.” It’s also saying “our country is greater than any other.” When this mode of thought is applied to culture, it’s indeed turned into a competitive sport and consequently vulgarised.

This tendency is observable in France, where, in the absence of an historically stable political arrangement, culture becomes the key marker of national self-identification.

It’s against this background that one can understand the attack launched on Macron by the Republican challenger Valérie Pécresse. Manny, she said, didn’t call for the national (global?) celebration of the 400th anniversary of Molière’s birth.

Such negligence, according to her, was tantamount to treason. Manny betrayed French culture, which is to say France. For Molière, fumed Mme Pécresse, left “an indelible imprint on universal culture”.

Now that’s like a British prime minister being accused of ignoring the anniversary of Magna Carta and not even knowing where Runnymede is.

I know it’s counterproductive to draw parallels with Britain, but can you imagine one British politician accusing another for not venerating some Restoration playwright, say William Congreve? It’s easier to imagine a British politician who thinks restoration comedy is a botched up remodelling job on his conservatory.

I found Mme Pécresse’s diatribe quite endearing – until she insisted that Molière was the French Shakespeare or, if you’d rather, the French Dante. That’s where cultural pride ended and cultural nationalism began.

Molière was an excellent writer, but comparing him to either Shakespeare or Dante is silly. France may be a founder, some may even insist on the founder, of Western culture. But she has produced no literary figure comparable to either Dante or Shakespeare. In any case, usually it’s Racine, not Molière, who is mentioned in that context, with perhaps more justification, but still far from enough.

It’s that difference between national pride and nationalism again. It’s one thing to say, correctly, that Molière is an excellent French playwright. It’s quite another to claim he was a universal genius simply because he was indeed a French playwright. I for one love his plays, but he’s really closer to William Congreve than to William Shakespeare.

There, I said I didn’t see culture as a competitive sport, yet here I am, awarding points and prizes. If that’s what I’m doing, I’m sorry. That isn’t my intention at all.

It’s just that I despise nationalism as much as I respect patriotism – and I’m aware of the difference. That France hasn’t produced a Shakespeare or a Dante is no shame. She has produced enough of everything else to make ten other countries proud.

There are perhaps more great Romanesque and Gothic churches within an hour’s drive from us than in all of the British Isles. Just yesterday we visited, for the umpteenth time, the sublime 12th century abbey at Vézelay, and the photo above, with my bulk strictly for size reference, is testimony to the grandeur of France.

The abbey is where Romanesque meets Gothic and God meets man. We gasp every time we see it, especially in winter, when the basilica and the crypt are empty.

With such truly universal glory to be proud of, why would anybody wish to indulge in petty nationalism? Oh well, nowt as queer as folk, as they say upcountry.   

Which France do you mean?

I must be a slow learner. We’ve been spending a lot of time in France for the past 25 years, half the time for the past 17 (just under, Mr Taxman, relax).

How much DO the French love their state?

Yet only the other day did I understand something vital about that country: France doesn’t exist as a single entity. There are two Frances, not one, each with her own personality.

I saw the signs much earlier; I just couldn’t synthesise them into general understanding. At first, I was simply satisfied with observing the differences between the English and the French.

There are many – in fact I can’t think of another two neighbouring nations that have so little in common. This, though during large swathes of history France owned much of England and vice versa.

Look at the country roads, for example. In our neck of the French woods, many roads stay ramrod-straight for miles, as if someone had put a ruler on the map and drawn a line (actually, someone did). In England, on the other hand, most country roads are practically labyrinthine, especially in Devon.

Why? Because right of way was left out from the French Declaration of the Rights of Man. In England private property was sacrosanct. If an owner didn’t want to sell a parcel of his land to the government, that was it. If the government wanted to build a road, it had to go around, not through, his holding.

No such problems in France: landowners could be ‘repossessed’, as the French inaccurately refer to confiscation. The rights of the state trumped property rights, and the owners were obliged to accept whatever the state was willing to pay for their land, usually, I suspect, a fraction of the market value.

For someone imbued with the English sense of justice, this is egregious. For the French, explained my good French friend, that’s par for the course.

“The English,” he said the other day, “regard the central state as a factor of at least potential oppression. In France, the people adore their central state. In the old days the kings protected the people from the local barons, and the warm glow of gratitude was inherited by the subsequent republic.”

Since by then we had gone through several bottles of decent Burgundy, I didn’t feel like pressing for a debating victory. Otherwise I could mention that the French butchered their king with considerably greater enthusiasm than the English beheaded theirs.

Or, closer to our time, that the French start building barricades the moment the government does something they don’t like. In the 35 years that I’ve lived in London, I’ve witnessed two riots. In Paris, that’s the annual average, which hardly betokens the behaviour of people passionately in love with the state (and I’m not even counting the non-riotous demonstrations).

In any case, I knew that all my French friends are enthusiastically, philosophically dirigiste. They see nothing wrong in an omnipotent central state assuming powers that conservative Englishmen would regard as despotic.

Another close friend, a lovely man in every other respect, even adores Putin because he personifies the notion of a strong, imperial government. My objections that so did Hitler never make a dent in his statist ardour.

It follows naturally that all my friends without exception are Euro-federalists. That stands to reason: if they see a big state as ipso facto good, then the bigger, the better seems to be the only logical conclusion. And states don’t get much bigger than the one the EU sees in its myopic, jaundiced mind’s eye.

You’ll have noticed that I keep talking about my friends, who are all well-to-do, extremely well-educated, multi-lingual, aged late-40s to mid-70s, politically Gaullist (which in France is right of centre), typically with a financial or legal background. A pre-selected group, you might say, and you’d be right.

But in all the decades of French living, I’ve talked to many other people as well: barbers, car mechanics, plumbers, electricians, farmers, butchers, neighbours, tennis players (I don’t know what most of them do, but they don’t resemble my friends at all) – well, you know.

And these people are much closer in their views to their English counterparts than they are to my French friends. They treat the government with suspicion at best, antipathy at worst.

They detest the EU – to the point that Macron is convinced, with good reason, that France would vote for Frexit given the chance (which is why she’ll never get that chance). Fiercely independent economically, they resent any state interference. Their views on immigration are close to those of Marine Le Pen (if not quite her father’s).

So on, so forth – the difference is striking. Now, it’s ill-advised to generalise on the basis of one’s personal observations. Still, my experience is extensive enough to afford me some leeway in that undertaking.

Since Descartes postulated that all true knowledge is comparative, I’d be betraying my French friends if I didn’t take his idea on board. Hence I’m comparing not only one group of Frenchmen to another, but also all of them to their English equivalents.

And in my 35 years as Her Majesty’s subject, I’ve never observed such a sharp divide, nay chasm, separating the Weltanschauung of different classes. Some Englishmen are conservative, some aren’t. Some are Leavers, some Remainers. Some opt for individual liberty before collective security, some don’t. Some are woke, some aren’t.

Yet from what I can see, such beliefs, or if you will character traits, are spread evenly throughout the whole population. Whatever the national spread is statistically, it’ll be roughly the same across all social groups. In that sense, the classes are closely integrated.

In France they manifestly aren’t – this though Britain is supposed to be a class-ridden monarchy and France an egalitarian republic. In fact, she is so egalitarian, so committed to the égalité emblazoned on the façade of every public building, that one is justified to maintain that there exist two Frances, not one.

Another observation – take it for what it’s worth. The French Revolution abolished all titles of nobility for a while, whereas in England they are very much extant. And yet titled French people seldom let one forget who is a count, who is Madame la baronne, and whose title is older.

By contrast, the titled English people I’ve met never flaunt their pedigrees – and they certainly don’t patronise, say, their servants they way the French so often do. Some even commit blue-collar crimes: a young English lord I know once did a year in prison for knocking off a convenience shop.

I’d suggest that the French are more class-conscious not in spite of their revolutionary republican constitution, but specifically because of it. They overcompensate, which is a natural human response to deprivation.

Still, as I always tell my dear French friends, their country can be forgiven everything for her wine and cheese – not to mention her founding role in Western culture.

P.S. Speaking of the French Revolution, it not only abolished aristocratic titles, but also decriminalised incest. That touch of libérté will soon be reversed, with sex between next of kin to be outlawed. That’ll destroy sex life in my part of Le Pen-voting France, where long winter nights are cold, and where men tend to be stronger and faster than their sisters.

Jury out?

Melanie Phillips has written a superb article, Perverse Jury Verdicts Reveal Moral Confusion. Since both this subject and Miss Phillips are close to my heart, I have to add my penny’s worth to her thoughts.

The perversions that drew her ire are acquittals of vandals and hooligans supposedly acting on their political conscience. Miss Phillips mentions several such verdicts, starting with the four Bristol thugs who pulled down the statue of the slave-trader Ed Colston.

Then last April a jury acquitted – ignoring the judge’s direction – six Extinction Rebellion fanatics who vandalised the Shell building in London. And last month another jury acquitted six other climate activists who had obstructed the Docklands Light Railway.  

“It appears from these verdicts,” writes Miss Phillips, “that the ‘conscience’ of the jury supports inflicting harm if its members agree with the political cause behind such acts.”

Her conclusion can’t be faulted: “This cannot be fixed by simply changing the law. It requires instead a so far nonexistent determination by society’s leaders to address the rot they have allowed so widely and deeply to penetrate into the cultural core.”

That’s where Miss Phillips leaves off and I’d like to pick up. First, by saying that the jury system is fundamental to the English Common Law, which in turn is the skeleton of our body politic, legal and social.

Second, it may well be that trial by jury can no longer serve the cause of justice in Britain. It can’t survive as an instrument of justice in the absence of a broadly based group of people who understand what justice means.

That’s demonstrably not the case, judging by the number of acquittals prompted by the mantra “it’s all society’s fault”, references to the defendant’s impoverished childhood or race – and of course to his political motives, frequently viewed as being somehow more noble than depoliticised brutality or vandalism.

A jury system can’t function properly in the absence of a vast pool of citizens who, even without any legal training, understand the meaning of such concepts as law, crime, justice, punishment – and that’s to begin with.

For such understanding can’t be inhaled from ambient air. It has to be informed by a deeply ingrained, almost intuitive command of such concepts as good and evil or, at a pinch, their secular reflections, right and wrong.

In other words, there has to exist in society a moral system shared by most and accepted by all as absolute and inviolable. Yet it’s not immediately clear how a purely secular country can create such a system. For anything like that to appear, a society has to be glued together by a powerful adhesive – and a widely shared desire for rapacious consumption doesn’t seem to do the trick.

Citizens of an almighty materialist state lose the capacity for being just that, citizens, in the sense in which, say, Plato and Aristotle understood the term. Real citizenship presupposes individual liberty based on individual responsibility for one’s actions. It also involves an ability that’s practically extinct in today’s West: correlating one’s individuality, as expressed through words or deeds, with public good.

And even that isn’t all. People must also see how they and their time fit into their national or, even broader, civilisational continuum. In practical terms, they have to know without having to think about it that a law that has been on the books for a millennium must be treated at least with respect, ideally with reverence.

The absence of all such lovely things is exactly “the rot” that has “deeply penetrated into the cultural core”. And Melanie is right that our leaders show no determination to expunge the putrefaction. They can’t – they have the next election to think about.

A chap preaching that eating human flesh is wrong will never seduce an electorate of cannibals. If people have been brainwashed in moral and intellectual perversions, these have to be accounted for and catered to.

In the examples chosen by Miss Phillips, our population at large has been conditioned to view the world, both synchronically and diachronically, strictly in terms of economic, racial and sexual equality, with an extra layer of commitment to stopping climate change – something that no society in the 5,000 years of recorded history has managed to do.

Sensible people do exist, but not in numbers large enough to make it statistically probable that they’ll find their way to jury service. This means that, in a society lacking a moral and therefore intellectual core, jurors are overwhelmingly likely to be weathercocks turning in the winds of prevailing fads.

Hence it’s not any old political motivation that’s seen as extenuation in our courts, but specifically the kind consonant with the current cults. Let’s say, by way of illustration, that I find both our secular saints, Mandela and Tutu, objectionable.

Mandela was a communist and a murderer who rose to the leadership of the ANC. On his watch, his minions killed, looted and tortured on an industrial scale. And Tutu threw his weight behind every woke cult in Satan’s creation, which he successfully combined with virulent anti-Semitism.

Still, the thought never crosses my mind to abuse sculptural or pictorial representations of either gentleman in any manner. But suppose it did? What if I got tried for pulling down Mandela’s statue in Parliament Square? Do you think any jurors in the land would acquit me on the grounds of my sincerely held political convictions?

All this leads to the conclusion Melanie didn’t reach, leaving that to her readers’ own imagination: given the current conditions, the jury system can no longer work as an instrument of justice.

Much as it pains me to say so, it ought to be replaced by bench trial. That wouldn’t guarantee that justice will be done either, but the odds would improve. Even though judges are subject to the same general trends, there are still enough of them out there who know and respect the law, putting it above their own predilections.

But don’t ask me how such a transition could be achieved. I don’t know. But I do know that something must be done if the rule of law is to survive.   

I’m one in a million

This isn’t a hubristic boast based on some achievement. It’s just that I added my signature to the million-odd others under the petition to strip Tony Blair of knighthood.

Cesare Lombroso would have had a field day with Blair’s face

Actually, if there were a petition to have him publicly eviscerated, I’d sign it too. I’d even volunteer to perform the procedure myself if I could hone a kitchen knife sharp enough.

I don’t know if Blair was the worst prime minister we’ve ever had. He’d be right up there among other contestants for that accolade, but he wouldn’t be the only one. Yet he is by far the most revolting creature to occupy that office, and there no other contestants need apply.

Looking at his life, one could be forgiven for thinking he has dedicated it to damaging Britain as much as he could. That commitment shines through his career before, during and after his tenure as PM.

His youth was spent serving Britain’s enemies by agitating for the CND, a transparent Soviet front. There he mastered the art of using radical politics as a steppingstone to the heights of career climbing.

Blair was a Trotskyist in those days. That means he shared Leon Trotsky’s plans for the world, which revolved around the axial idea of densely covering the whole globe with concentration camps, execution sites and hard-labour colonies.

“I came to socialism through Marxism,” he’d write later, getting his readers into the maze of finely nuanced terminology. At the centre of the maze is the fallacy that, while all Marxists are socialists, not all socialists are Marxists. In other words, Marxists don’t mind murdering millions to enslave the world, while socialists would rather achieve that end without democide.

When elected to the Commons in 1983, Blair delivered a speech, explaining that “socialism corresponds most closely to an existence that is both rational and moral”. That, I suppose, explains why every country that has tried it in earnest ended up impoverished and tyrannised.

On the plus side, our Tony didn’t believe a single word he was saying. He didn’t care two flying hoots about rationality, morality, socialism or anything else other than Tony.

In the early eighties, his career was best served by socialist cant. Later, when he had to appeal not just to Labour members, but to the country at large, he affected respect for free enterprise. If his own interests had called for raising his arm in a Nazi salute, he would have done that too.

Blair was, and still remains, the quintessential modern hero: an important nonentity. Politics to him was nothing but politicking, an activity that requires much animal cunning but no real aptitude for statesmanship. He succeeded because people have been trained to accept make-believe as real, appearances as substance, slogans as thought.

Virtual reality barged in, cruelly relegating the actual kind to the lower leagues. Hence the rising of virtual stars, short on real qualities and attainment, but long on the ability to create a self-aggrandising image. As one such, Blair is a typological equivalent of Kim Kardashian, not of Margaret Thatcher.

He came to power in 1997, having invented a chimera called New Labour (Labour pretending to be something else) and a very real technique others called spin. Tony (never a formal Anthony – a man of the people, he, a lad next door) could spin anything with the legerdemain of a crooked croupier able to stop the roulette ball on any number he wishes.

During his 10 prime-ministerial years, Blair finally acquired a broad canvas on which he could paint a pornographic picture of himself fiddling with spin while Britain burned. The damage he caused is incalculable, and the criminal war in Iraq is only the most visible outrage.

Willingly playing poodle to George W Bush, “Yo Blair” volunteered to apply his spinning talents internationally. One thing he spun was the fake ‘45-minute dossier’, stating on falsified evidence that it would take Saddam that length of time to hit British targets in Cyprus with WMDs.

No such weapons were discovered after the US and Britain lost hundreds of soldiers deposing Saddam, killing over a million Iraqis and causing one of the most catastrophic demographic shifts since 1945. As a minimum, we’d expect an abject apology from Blair – if not to all of us, then at least to the families of the 185 Britons killed in Iraq and 456 in Afghanistan.

Instead we got more spinning bluster. Yes, acknowledged Blair, we went into that war on false pretences. But never mind, “the world is better off without Saddam Hussein”.

Is it indeed? Tell it to the millions who fled their homes – and to the Europeans who then had to accommodate those refugees, legitimate or otherwise, in their countries. Tell it to the Syrians suffering untold miseries as a direct result of that action. Tell it to all of us who had to pay – and are still paying – for that foray, foolhardy at best, criminal at worst.

It’s not just the war either. PM Blair left no turn unstoned, starting with the economy. In the fine tradition of all Labour governments, New or Old, he increased public spending from 39.9 per cent of GDP to 48.1. Taxes went up as did borrowing, which came precious close to beggaring the country towards the end of Blair’s tenure.

In parallel, he encouraged his chancellor Brown to dump Britain’s gold reserves when the price of that commodity was at a 20-year low, leaving the country even more at the mercy of currency speculators. That was less damaging than his predecessor’s ruinous attempt to get the pound into the ERM, but only Brown managed to keep Blair from going Major one better, or rather a million times worse.

Tony, partly nostalgic for his Trotskyist globalism, but mostly eager to secure a pan-European stage for him to act on, desperately tried to replace the pound with the euro. That would have tied Britain to that wicked European contrivance with barely breakable tethers, causing a disaster both economic and political.

Blair could also do constitutional vandalism with the worst of them. He attacked the hereditary House of Lords with youthful gusto, successfully reducing it to a militantly politicised body and a trading floor of patronage and handouts. (He also politicised and thereby debauched our civil service, which used to be the envy of the world partly because of its apolitical nature.)

He then tried to abolish the position of Lord Chancellor, in existence since the Conqueror. Yet even Blair had to realise that it was impossible to snip every synapse of that constitutional ganglion.

He did much better trying to loosen the ties making the Kingdom united, divesting too much power to devolved administrations and capitulating to the IRA in Northern Ireland. That last disgrace, known as the Good Friday Agreement, delivered Westminster seats to the mass murderers Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness (who, to their credit, refused to take Blair up on his generosity).

Some 20 years ago, our top spun out of Westminster and started building his own evil empire, exchanging his Westminster connections for hard cash. There was no despot criminal enough for Blair not to love him, provided the cheque didn’t bounce.

I mentioned yesterday that Blair made millions helping Kazakhstan’s dictator Nazarbayev spin his bailiwick into some sort of legitimacy. After Nazarbayev’s troops fired at a peaceful demonstration in 2011, killing 17 officially and more in reality, Tony trained his paying friend how to talk to Western audiences.

Tell them this, he advised: “These events, tragic though they were, should not obscure the enormous progress that Kazakhstan has made”. I’m surprised Nazarbayev needed that advice – that’s what all Stalinists say. “Yes, he might have killed millions, but look at [a long list of bogus achievements].”

Blair also helped Nazarbayev secure a beneficial deal with the EU, where some residual gratitude for his devotion still exists. In that spirit, Blair came precious close to treason by training Macron how to torpedo Brexit, thereby siding with a foreign government against the British people.

On and on our top continued to spin, buzzing all over the wicked regimes of Asia and Africa. Azerbaijan, Kuwait, Mongolia, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam and many others eagerly poured millions into Blair’s coffers, making him easily the wealthiest retired politician in history. Not a single friend of Britain in that lot, and quite a few sworn enemies.

All in all, I had to join that supplication to Her Majesty, begging her to correct the unfortunate oversight of bestowing the Order of Garter on that spinning top. Let Blair enjoy his millions – unless of course that public evisceration is on the cards. But do let’s agree that there’s nothing knightly about this amoral nonentity.

Remember Budapest, 1956, and Prague, 1968?

Excellent. How about Chechnya, 1999, Georgia, 2008, the Ukraine, 2014? Well, in that case, you remember that the quisling government officials of all those countries put down popular uprisings by inviting Russia and her satellites to invade.

Vlad-bey, new sultan of Kazakhstan

Congratulations. You have better memory than the leaders of just about every Western government, who are falling all over themselves trying to ‘understand’ Putin and find an ‘accommodation’ with him.

At the moment, they aren’t even doing that, since few of them understand what’s really happening in Kazakhstan. When they look at the map, their eyes slide from that vast space (larger than Western Europe) to a smaller one, the Ukraine.

Is the Russian invasion of Kazakhstan a prelude to a larger-scale invasion of the Ukraine? Is it merely a diversion manoeuvre? Or is Putin hoping to use Kazakhstan as a pretext to withdraw from the Ukrainian borders without losing face?

Good questions, all of them. So good in fact that no one knows the answers. Not the US, not Britain, possibly not even Putin himself. So let’s concentrate on what we do know.

Most people have heard of the Goldomor (Holodomor in Ukrainian) of the early 1930s. That was the time of an artificially created famine, when millions of people were didactically starved to death for failing to grasp the benefits of collectivised agriculture.

Less known is that Kazakhstan was also on the receiving end of that genocidal treatment. Over two million Kazakhs died then, which put the two Russian colonies in the same boat floating on waves of resentment.

There used to be much goodwill towards the Russians in both places, especially in the east of the Ukraine and the north of Kazakhstan. That largely evaporated in the malodorous miasma rising from the millions of corpses.

All Soviet republics, not least Russia herself, suffered untold misery at the hands of the Soviets. Yet it could be argued that the Ukraine and Kazakhstan suffered perhaps even more than most.

Their populations offered much stubborn, if hopeless, armed resistance. The basmachi liberation movement in Central Asia, including southern Kazakhstan, lasted for 20 years after the 1917 revolution, and it took the Red Army to quell it.

Ukrainians also fought against the Bolsheviks for several years after the revolution and, amazingly, for a decade after 1945. Their guerrillas were prepared to take on the might of the Soviet Union and die in the attempt.

That spirit has never quite gone away. I remember visiting Kiev in 1967, where my Ukrainian colleagues, all of them perfectly bilingual, insisted on speaking Ukrainian to me as a gesture of defiance to their Soviet masters. What I lost in comprehension they gained in national pride.

I also visited Almaty roughly at the same time, when my relation was the manager of the opera house there. Since that position put him into the rarefied atmosphere of the local elite, we were invited to a bash at the country house of a local bigwig, second secretary of something or other.

Yet even he, a Moscow appointment, made a point of flaunting Muslim paraphernalia (like introducing his several wives as cousins or nieces). A Muscovite had to be shown what’s what, and never mind the bigwig’s impeccable communist credentials.

When a pressure cooker is at a maximum setting, it doesn’t take much to cause an explosion. And that appliance has been bubbling in Kazakhstan for decades.

For at least three of those, until a few days ago, the country was ruled by Nursultan Nazarbayev, the jewel in the crown of Tony Blair’s evil clients.

When the USSR was still in business, Nazarbayev was a full-time functionary in Komsomol (Young Communist League). Though officially a junior branch of the Communist Party, Komsomol was in fact the breeding ground for the KGB. Interestingly, most Russian ‘oligarchs’, especially the original ones, come from the same background.

In 1990 Nazarbayev was appointed president of the republic, just in time to see the Soviet Union fall apart. He then proceeded to create a curious cocktail of a Stalinist dictatorship, Muslim sultanate and Mafia family.

Kazakhstan was richly adorned by Nazarbayev’s portraits and statues, while he and his family were getting rich on a scale that would have put Harun-al-Rashid to shame. I shan’t bore you with many details, but one is worth mentioning.

Nazarbayev appointed his son-in-law as head of the customs service and border troops. As such, he exacted duties from Chinese lorries carrying goods to Russia. There were about 1,000 of them every day, each paying $10,000. That’s $10 million a day that went straight to the Nazarbayev clan.

At the same time he maintained friendly, if rather subservient, relations with Russia, whose mafioso practices he was successfully emulating, though adding a few unmistakably Muslim touches. Kazakhstan joined the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), then the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) and, critically, Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO).

Whatever their declared mission, all those setups were created to keep in place the skeleton on which the flesh of a Russian empire could grow in due course. Meanwhile, Nazarbayev became one of the world’s richest men, never forgetting to send little tokens of his appreciation to the capo di tutti capi in the Kremlin (this Italian term describes their relationship quite accurately).

Against that background, the Kazakhs were getting more and more impoverished, with prices going up, the value of their wages going down, and taxes being squeezed out of them at an accelerating rate. Hence the first outburst occurred in 2011, when the people took to the streets.

In the good Soviet tradition, Nazarbayev issued a shoot to kill order. His stormtroopers promptly fired at the crowd, killing 17 officially and Allah only knows how many in reality.

Tony Blair helped him spin that atrocity internationally, but nationally it set the tone for all subsequent discourse between the people and their government. Elections were held in name only, dissidents imprisoned or worse, free information suppressed – there was nothing Putin could teach Nazarbayev.

Then, in 2019, when Nazarbayev was getting on a bit, and the unrest in the country was growing, he relinquished his presidency, becoming instead the éminence grise of the government in his new capacity of Chairman of the Security Council for life. The new president, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, was to Nazarbayev what Medvedev was to Putin – a lapdog happily doing his master’s bidding.

Meanwhile, the people seethed and finally they had had enough. Over the past year, the price of LNG, which powers most private cars in Kazakhstan, doubled. That was the last straw. Another explosion occurred, this time on a massive scale.

Most of the demonstrations were peaceful, but not all. Armed rioters occupied and trashed several government buildings, including the capital’s administration, courthouse, airport and the headquarters of the Committee for National Security.

Tokayev delivered a speech claiming that the culprits were 20,000 bandits specially trained by, or possibly coming from, some unidentified foreign power. He offered no evidence whatsoever for either the number of those paramilitaries or their provenance. Suffice it to say that even the government TV channels disputed those data.

On the basis of those lies, Tokayev ordered his troops to fire at will, which they did, killing hundreds if not thousands (reports vary).  He then ordered the Internet to be cut off, which meant most Kazakhs lost access to their banks.

Then Tokayev appealed to the CSTO for help, begging for a foreign invasion. Putin and his poodles obliged with indecent haste, with 2,500 heavily armed Russian paratroopers landing in Kazakhstan, supported by contingents from Putin’s client states Armenia and Kirghizstan.

The claim that the CSTO is acting according to its charter is another lie. The organisation was created to thwart foreign invaders only, not to help Kazakhstan fight the Kazakhs. Thus, when Armenia was losing her war with Azerbaijan, her government also asked for CSTO’s help, but was turned down.   

That, however, didn’t prevent Armenia’s PM Pashinyan from now sending a token contingent along for the ride, thereby enabling Putin to claim it was the CSTO, not just Russia, that committed this act of aggression.

Now, even Lukashenko, whose power hung by a thread in 2020, after yet another stolen election was followed by a popular uprising, didn’t ask for a CSTO invasion. The events in Kazakhstan are sui generis in that they mark yet another milestone on Putin’s road to mayhem.

Not only is the invasion criminal in itself, but it sets, or rather revives, a precedent for new, greater crimes. The pattern was first established in 1939, when the Soviets formed a bogus Finnish communist government, which then asked the Red Army to invade.

As a student and admirer of Stalin, Putin has learned his lessons well. He is setting up future developments along the same lines, with ‘friendly’ governments of the former Soviet republics to be formed in Moscow. They’ll then beg Putin to restore order in their countries, with any independent national governments seen as factors of disorder.

Every time that happens, Western leaders can be counted on to express ‘deep concern’, offset by a parallel ‘understanding’ of Russia’s problems. They don’t realise, or rather pretend not to, that the only language that international thugs, such as Putin, understand is that of force.

Deport the unvaccinated

No, I don’t advocate such a measure, this though I do think that anti-vaxxers are being both silly and asocial.

Manny is beautiful when angry

But it’s not what I think that matters, is it? It’s the deep thoughts of our leaders that carry serious weight, because their musings, unlike mine, can be translated into policy, and policy into action.

And Manny Macron has come precious close to proposing the punishment in the title above. No, he didn’t say that in so many words. Yet he did say that the unvaccinated Frenchmen “aren’t citizens” because they are acting irresponsibly.

Now, if acting responsibly were a conditio sine qua non of citizenship, most people I know, including yours truly, would become stateless before reaching the legal drinking age and certainly thereafter.

Who among us has never smoked, drunk to excess or driven dangerously? I bet every reader of mine has committed at least one of these indiscretions, and the worthiest among them must have been guilty of all three. There you are then. If you were French, Manny wouldn’t regard you as a citizen.

That statement of dubious legal value is a follow-up to the campaign against vaccine shirkers that Manny inaugurated the other day.

At that time he decided to add a touch of vox populi to his vocabulary. Hence Manny stated in no uncertain terms his intention to “piss off” the unvaccinated. That’s how the papers translated his colloquialism, but the French word he used, emmerder, is stronger, what with its excremental, rather than merely mingent, derivation.

The French papers are arguing whether or not it’s seemly for a president to use street jargon ex cathedra, which isn’t a debate I’m going to join – other than saying that we’d all be infinitely better off if our leaders abused their office with swearwords only.

What’s of greater interest is how French doctors responded to that call to arms. A large group of them signed a petition demanding that unvaccinated Covid patients be denied access to ICUs. Since those asocial vermin have only their own irresponsibility to blame, let them croak. See if French medics care.

This is a recurrent motif in the medical circles of various countries, including Britain. Until now it has usually involved smokers, with some NHS doctors refusing to treat them for pulmonary diseases.

One would be interested to know how such principled physicians reconcile that proposed policy with the Hippocratic oath they all took. I already know it’s irreconcilable with logic.

If self-inflicted diseases disqualified patients from treatment, we’d have to exclude smokers suffering from emphysema or lung cancer, drinkers afflicted with liver problems, overweight people with hypertension or diabetes – and let’s not forget athletes seeking treatment for injuries.

Add to this bad drivers who hurt themselves, clumsy construction workers who fall off scaffolding, swimmers bitten by sharks… I don’t want to let my phantasy run wild, but you get the picture.

Doctors take the oath to treat people in distress. Sanctimonious self-righteousness isn’t, as far as I know, an essential job qualification.

I’d rather doctors just swore at the unvaccinated, not withheld treatment – especially from those needing intensive care. Refusing to admit them to an ICU is practically tantamount to pronouncing a death sentence, and I don’t think that falls into the medical remit.

Having said all that, I do think anti-vaxxers should suffer the consequences of their folly. In that spirit, I’d ban unvaccinated athletes from competitions, especially those where the risk of spreading the virus is high.

Just look at our Premier League, where matches are being postponed en masse because many teams simply run out of players. Yes, ban the holdouts from playing by all means and, if such is your wont, swear at them, even in a language worse than Manny’s.

But taking away their access to proper medicine or, for that matter, rescinding their citizenship is immoral and despotic. Actually, these are two of the adjectives richly merited by most governments. Inane is another one.

How I became a girl magnet in my dotage

My advice to my fellow wrinklies and crumblies: don’t despair. You too can become a sex god by following my example.

Your declining looks should be no obstacle to beefing up your score of lifetime amorous conquests. Just listen to me and you’ll do fine. More than fine, actually. Young women will pursue you as aggressively as in your youth you pursued them.

Pursuing is what I had to do quite a bit of when I was young and on the make. Since my short, solid frame (sometimes compared to a most unflattering garden structure) didn’t instantly recommend me to young girls’ fantasies, I had to do some work. Not always a lot, but some.

Well, no more. In the past 10 years or so, just when my interest in such adventures has waned, women have been pursuing me with unrelenting gusto. And I can tell you how that change came about.

Ten years ago I started putting my articles on Facebook, which instantly began to attract swarms of girls, most of whom didn’t seem to be my natural target audience. The minimum requirement for my readers is that they should indeed be able to read.

Yet most of those nubile lasses didn’t look as if they satisfied that requirement, even though they looked eminently capable of satisfying many others. Never mind – every day I’m contacted by dozens of such girls, each wishing to become my friend.

Judging by their messages and attached photographs, the kind of friendship they evidently have in mind won’t be based strictly on a leisurely exchange of thoughts and witticisms over a cup of tea. The friendship they offer in such a forthright manner is more sensual, not to say erotic or even – if some of their selfies are anything to go by – gynaecological.

I wonder what attracted them. My photograph? It’s doubtless flattering, but I still can’t be confused with George, or for that matter Amal, Clooney. I’d like to think that the young ladies were seduced by the style, wit and intellectual content of my prose, but that would be too presumptuous and hubristic.

One way or another, the propositions are so numerous that I can’t respond to every one individually. Nor do I wish to subject any of the young ladies to personal rejection. I remember from my younger days how traumatic that could be.

So my response has to be collective, if no less heartfelt for it. Girls, I wish I could accommodate your youthful urges, but I’m just too busy with my Rs: writing and reading, though shunning rithmetic. Moreover, I’m married, which doesn’t allow much leeway for non-stop assignations.

Accept therefore my apologies and a very respectful no in response to your flattering offers. Do keep trying though: my circumstances may change, and you never know your luck.

One request though: by all means send me selfies of your delicious bare flesh and Botoxed lips, but please refrain from trying to seduce me with closeups of your open pudenda. Call me old school or faddy-daddy, but they don’t arouse me or, if they do, it’s only in a wrong way.

So there you go. If you feel more vigorous and less squeamish than I do, join Facebook. It’ll make the wildest of your dreams come true, provided you have the energy, desire and – most important – a few quid burning a hole in your pocket.

Go for it, and do mention me in your prayers. I am, as a Bill Murray character says in one of his films, a facilitator of your dreams. And while you are at it, offer a prayer of gratitude for Facebook, the provider of this invaluable service.

P.S. I’ve attached some of the more sedate photos of my would-be friends.

P.P.S. Speaking of prostitutes, I’d happily add my name to the 750,000 signatories of the petition to revoke Tony Blair’s knighthood. Anybody know how I can do that? 

“Sir, we know our will is free, and there’s an end on it”

Thus, according to Boswell, spoke Dr Johnson in response to some specious statement. Our great savant clearly didn’t anticipate the arrival of Edward O Wilson two centuries later.

Edward O Wilson, RIP

Prof. Wilson, who died at 92 on Boxing Day, wasn’t exactly the founder of sociobiology, as some describe him. But he certainly was its tireless populariser and glorifier.

His original field was myrmecology, the study of ants, and he made seminal contributions to that science. How seminal, I can’t judge. But judging by the 150-odd scientific prizes Wilson won, he was highly rated by his fellow professionals.

Being a rank amateur, I’m more interested in the second phase of his career, when he extrapolated onto humans his knowledge of ants. Essentially, he found that all animals, from ants to us, have their behaviour not only skewed but indeed predetermined by heredity.

Free will is then a dangerous illusion propagated by the likes of Dr Johnson, ignoramuses who had never studied the social behaviour of ants. And they get their cue from religion, that dangerous exercise in deception.

“So I would say that for the sake of human progress, the best thing we could possibly do would be to diminish, to the point of eliminating, religious faiths,” Wilson said in 2015, displaying refreshing ignorance about the history, and also the meaning, of progress.

Prof. Wilson didn’t suggest expedients by which that laudable end could be achieved. Experience, however, suggests that the best, if short-lived, way of eliminating religious beliefs is to eliminate religious believers, but to his credit Prof. Wilson advocated no such measure.  

He famously used a photographic simile to make his point. A man’s personality, and consequently his behaviour over a lifetime, he explained, is like an undeveloped photo negative. It contains the whole picture, with no detail omitted.

In the course of his life, a man may develop all of the negative, some of it or none of it – but he can neither add anything to it nor take anything away (Wilson was writing in the pre-Photoshop days). He thus added his name to the list of determinists who have had a founding, and pernicious, effect on modernity: Marx, Darwin and Freud.

When Wilson first unveiled that theory in 1978 he became a target for vicious attacks from the Left, especially ‘progressive’ students. They were appalled by any suggestion that human behaviour is in any way affected by biology.

They gobbled up Marxist determinism, hailed Darwin’s and especially welcomed Freud’s because it dealt with their itchy naughty bits. But Wilson’s genetic determinism smacked of racism too much for their liking.

Wilson himself never even hinted at the possibility of some races being inferior to others, but the noses of enraged youths possess nothing short of bloodhound acuity. Prof. Wilson started to be cancelled long before the term was coined.

He was a Nazi, personally responsible for genocide! A racist! A eugenicist! So screamed those progressive students, as they picketed Wilson’s lectures. “Racist Wilson, you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide,” sang the chorus of young firebrands.

One girl emptied a jug of water over the scientist’s head, and I’m only amazed he was never subjected to a less symbolic but more wounding attack.

For it’s an article of faith for the progressives that every person starts out as a tabula rasa, on which economics and sociology then scribble their messages – and progressives have been known to kill defending their right to that patently unscientific opinion.

Now, I don’t mind dismissing scientific theories, but dismissing scientific facts betokens the kind of stupidity that doesn’t even merit a refutation. That we are all, to some extent, a product of heredity is one such fact, and one doesn’t have to be a scientist to know it’s true.

But ‘to some extent’ are the operative words. To claim that we can’t act against our genetic predisposition isn’t just to deny our religion. It’s to deny our humanity.

Wilson’s determinism reduces people to puppets whose wires are pulled by their ancestors’ traits, or else to fish swimming in their genetic pool and lacking both the need and the ability to come up for air.

It’s from this intellectual premise that one could launch a devastating attack on Wilson’s soulless determinism. Accusing him of genocide is so perverse that it’s hardly sporting to aim one’s slings and arrows at those who mouth such gibberish. They should be told to shut up and stay silent until they’ve extricated their brains from the cesspit of bubbling emotions.

Yet it’s that unsporting target that Daniel Finkelstein has picked in The Times. Wilson, he writes, “was achingly, obviously right. How likely is it that human beings are the one species whose capacities and behaviour aren’t largely influenced by biology? If every other animal’s behaviour demands an evolutionary explanation, how can it possibly be that ours does not?”

Do you notice a copout? Wilson didn’t just maintain that our capacities and behaviour are “largely influenced by biology”. According to him, they are so influenced wholly.

That is a folly as glaring and, if you will, ‘progressive’ as the insistence on the genocidal nature of genetics. This folly springs from the materialist obscurantism involved in treating man as just another animal.

An animal man may be, but he is “achingly, obviously” not just an animal. Unlike a cat, a dog or for that matter an ant, man isn’t a walking replica of his genetic make-up. He is “achingly, obviously” endowed with faculties that transcend materialism.

Christianity uses terms like ‘soul’ and ‘free will’ in this context, while neuroscientists prefer talking about consciousness. They have spent untold billions in any currency you care to name on all those Genome Projects and Decades of the Brain, trying to find a material explanation for that extra-material factor – and predictably failed.

If anything, they’ve uncovered new barriers on the way to that destination. It was like a desert mirage: the closer neuropsychologists got to the oasis of knowledge, the farther it moved away.

Tarred as they are with the brush of our materialist, deracinated modernity, those scientists resort to the cardsharp’s trick of saying that yes, unfortunately they can’t yet prove that consciousness has a purely material explanation. But since we all know that’s the case, they’ll find the truth sooner or later.

The only thing they’ve found so far is that sometimes their scanner screens light up, and sometimes they don’t. It’s political bias, not scientific integrity, that prevents them from acknowledging that Dr Johnson, unburdened as he was by oscillographic technology, was right in his a priori statement.

Lord Finkelstein is commendably merciless to those brainless youngsters who didn’t see much difference between Wilson and Hitler. Yet he doesn’t realise that, by accepting the premise of man being just a bigger ant or a cleverer ape, he is one of those ‘progressives’ in every way that matters.

“We must defend good science against bad politics,” he writes. I agree. So do let’s start by defending good common sense against crude, hare-brained, demonstrably defunct materialism. As exemplified by Edward O Wilson, his gonadic detractors – and Lord Finkelstein.