“Why do conservatives fall for Putin’s lies?”

Edward Lucas, who knows the evil of Putin’s Russia for what it is, asks this question in the title of his recent article.

He then describes the demonstrably non-conservative features of that regime: “Conservatives are normally in favour of strong independent institutions. Russia has none. Conservatives like the rule of law. Russia runs by fiat. Conservatives like religious freedom. Russia persecutes religious minorities, notably the Salvation Army and the Jehovah’s Witnesses… [Then there are] the abominable conditions it inflicted on its workers, the grotesque inequality, the climate of fear and the lies about history belied all its claims to be humane or heroic.”

All very true, though I’d be tempted to add the systematic harassment and murder of political opponents, the nauseating totalitarian propaganda, the abolition of the free press, money laundering as the principal economic activity and many other aspects of the regime formed by a fusion of organised crime and history’s most diabolical secret police.

Put together, these make the question in the title difficult to answer, and Mr Lucas doesn’t really do so. Allow me to lend him a helping hand: they don’t. Real conservatives detest Russia’s kleptofascist junta as much as Mr Lucas does.

His question was made possible not by anything conservatives do, but by the semantic confusion about what conservatism is. The entire political taxonomy of modernity suffers from such terminological free-for-all, with political labels routinely designating concepts that are exactly opposite to the proper definitions.

Thus liberal gets to mean illiberal; democratic, non-democratic; tolerant, intolerant; social justice, social injustice; fairness, unfairness; comprehensive education, comprehensive ignorance; equality, inequality – and so forth ad infinitum, oxymorons galore.

The term conservative is routinely misused to describe radical ideologues mouthing nationalist (often racist) and right-wing (often fascist) slogans. As such, they’re similar to communists in that both are equidistant from Western conservatism.

Where semantic rigour reigns, a conservative is defined by what he wishes to conserve. Without going into more detail than this format allows, let’s just say that, in the West, this means preserving whatever good is still extant of Christendom (religion, culture, social structure and its political offshoots) while trying to bring back to life whatever has become extinct.

A political conservative understands the sinful nature of man, but loves him nonetheless; knows that man is fallible because he’s indeed fallen – but redeemable because he’s indeed redeemed; accepts, however, that some men are evil beyond redemption in this life; realises that liberty imposes tough responsibilities, but still cherishes it; appreciates the importance of a strong state, but is deeply suspicious of it; doesn’t equate strong with big; believes that power must be devolved to the lowest sensible level; given the choice, chooses individual over collective; distrusts irreversible changes; doesn’t form a strong opinion before he knows the relevant facts; doesn’t confuse patriotism with jingoism; appreciates that a country doesn’t have to be great, but does have to be good; loves his country, but not automatically everything it does.

Real conservatism comes from intuitive predisposition, not a political philosophy, much less an ideology. It’s a character trait more than a product of ratiocination. A real conservative may or may not be able to post-rationalise his intuition in philosophical, moral or religious terms, but both his success and failure in such an undertaking would be just that, post-rationalisation.

It’s obvious that such intuitive conservatives can’t possibly treat Putin’s kleptofascist junta with anything other than squeamish contempt. Conversely, if they do have warm feelings about Putin, they aren’t intuitive conservatives.

Instead they’re the kind of people who in Europe swell the ranks of chauvinist, neo-fascist parties, such as France’s National Front, Belgium’s Vlaams Belang, Greece’s Golden Dawn, Hungary’s Jobbik, Italy’s Forza Italia, Austria’s Freedom Party – and the groups Mr Lucas mentions: “the hard-right Alternative for Germany… the Sweden Democrats… the right-wing Fidesz party which rules Hungary, and the nationalist Independent Greeks…”

Closer to home, support for Putin within our misnamed Conservative Party mainly comes from those who detest our vacillating, spivocratic government and especially the EU. Like apophatic theologians, they proceed from negation, not affirmation – and like socialists, from hatred, not love.

Their ‘conservatism’ is a heresy, in the true meaning of the word. Most people assume that a heresy puts forth a wrong proposition, or at least one that contradicts the orthodoxy. However, most heresies aren’t wrong in their main belief. Where they err is in trying to assign an undue significance to one idea, passing a part for the whole.

Detesting our government is understandable, and hating the EU even more so. Yet an intuitive conservative would seek a solution within the traditional ethos of Christendom – not in fascism, which is as inimical to it as communism is.

One may say that these people simply don’t know the relevant facts, which is what many kind souls used to say about the pre-war admirers of Stalin or Hitler. In all such cases they don’t know because they don’t want to know. Their quest for truth is overridden by ideological fervour, which ipso facto disqualifies them as conservatives.

Or perhaps they really are ignorant of what Putin’s regime really is, which is fair enough. We all have lacunae in our education. Yet an intuitive, which is to say real, conservative would be aware of his ignorance and for that reason alone would refrain from forming a strong opinion on the subject.

So Mr Lucas can be reassured on this subject: conservatives see through Putin’s lies all right. If they don’t, they aren’t conservatives.

The Pope gets a bum rap

If you think this is yet another story of homosexual abuse within the Catholic Church, I hate to disappoint you. This time it’s the Pope who’s on the receiving end of abuse.

A couple of days ago my eye was drawn to headlines flashing across the Internet and social media: ANTICHRIST! POPE SAYS PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS IS DANGEROUS!

Now I’m not one of Pope Francis’s greatest admirers, and I become even less of one when comparing him to his predecessor, Benedict XVI. Rather than concentrating on matters of doctrine and ecclesiastical integrity, Pope Francis gives in too easily and too often to the temptation of supporting secular fads that are at best dubious and at worst pernicious.

Yet no priest, nor even a lay Christian, can possibly say what the headlines claimed His Holiness had said. For the phrase in the headline is effectively tantamount to disparaging prayer, a medium for establishing a personal relationship with God.

Thus the headline could be paraphrased to say POPE SAYS PRAYER IS DANGEROUS, which just can’t be true. The stench of a giant rat on a rampage is all too pervasive.

So what did the Pope actually say? Here’s the relevant passage:

“At times one hears someone say: ‘I believe in God, I believe in Jesus, but I don’t care about the Church…’And this is not good. There are those who believe they can maintain a personal, direct and immediate relationship with Jesus Christ outside the communion and the mediation of the Church. These are dangerous and harmful temptations. These are, as the great Paul VI said, absurd dichotomies… Remember this well: to be Christian means belonging to the Church.”

See the difference? And see how abbreviated quoting can deceive without actually lying? “John can make any shop girl…” is a technically accurate but fundamentally mendacious way of quoting the claim that “John can make any shop girl laugh.”

The Pope reiterated fundamental Christian doctrine, defending it from attacks launched by various, mainly Protestant, heresies. For once, therefore, he was entirely within his remit.

The Reformation shifted the focus of life from the divine centre to the human periphery. When Luther declared that every man was his own priest, he unwittingly issued a licence for every man to be his own God.

He didn’t have the foresight to realise that marginalising the Church would ineluctably marginalise Christianity and adumbrate the first atheist civilisation in history.

For Christian communion isn’t just one between a believer and God but also one among all believers. Neither communion is possible without the mediation of the Church, which in effect means that without the Church Christianity isn’t possible as a religion.

It’s reduced to a quaint personal idiosyncrasy to be kept at bay from real life and only to be indulged in one’s spare time. By atomising worship and doctrine into millions of individual and inevitably divergent interpretations, the reformers pushed a button on a delayed-action bomb.

That device has now gone off to a shattering effect, ending not only the divine role of Christianity as educator, guardian of doctrine and facilitator of salvation, but also its vital secular role as a check on the power of tyrants.

It’s not coincidental that the first wholly atheist century, the twentieth, saw the rise of diabolical tyrannies never before seen in Christendom. In that one century more people died violent deaths than in all the previous recorded history combined. And only a fool will ascribe this mainly to advances on killing technology.

Tens of millions were dispatched by low-tech expedients long in the public domain, such as murder, execution, torture, neglect, artificial famines. The mass murders of post-Christian modernity came not from technological progress but from moral regress. And it takes an inert mind and staggering ignorance not to see a causal link between that and the decline of the Church as a dynamic moral, intellectual, cultural and social force.

The Pope is absolutely right to point out that the word ‘Christian’ means nothing outside the Church. Or rather the word can mean anything, which is actually worse than nothing.

One of the most grotesque example of such lexical versatility was provided by Leo Tolstoy, who in 1901 was excommunicated by the Russian Orthodox Church for his ceaseless, vituperative attacks on Christianity. Among other things, Tolstoy rejected the divinity of Christ, thereby, one would think, effectively excommunicating himself.

However, the writer responded with an open letter of protest to the Holy Synod, claiming that not only was he a real Christian, but that his Christianity was purer than anyone else’s:

“That I have rejected the church that calls itself Russian Orthodox is perfectly true… I’ve come to the conclusion that in theory the teaching of the church is a perfidious and harmful lie, while in practice it is a collection of the crudest superstitions and sorcery, hiding completely the entire meaning of Christian teaching… It is perfectly true that I reject the incomprehensible trinity and the myth, these days meaningless, of the fall of the first man, the blasphemous story of a god born of a virgin to redeem the human race… You say that I reject all the rituals. That is perfectly true… This [the Eucharist] is horrible!”

This shows that outside the Church Christianity can mean anything at all, including anti-Christianity. So, rather than sputtering spittle at the Pope and perverting his words, those anticlerical fanatics should try to understand what he meant.

On second thoughts, I doubt they can understand anything at all: they’re too busy expressing their religious individuality.

Danny Boy saves the world, again

If you wonder what’s wrong with modernity, just look at Daniel Barenboim. Danny, to recycle the title of Lermontov’s novel, is truly the hero of our time.

He’s a man of outstanding talent. Not for music qua music: Danny’s a boring pianist and a worse conductor. His real talent lies in the area of self-promotion, and there he has few equals.

Danny Boy has parlayed that gift not only into a monstrously successful career but, much more important, a celebrity status. He doesn’t fit my light-hearted definition of a celebrity (someone I’ve never heard of), but he does fit the more serious one: someone whose fame is totally out of proportion to his achievements.

That status confers certain entitlements, one of which is to pontificate on any subject in His Creation, confidently expecting an attentive and appreciative audience. That’s par for the course: a celebrity’s professional field is a small pond in which he is a big fish.

Music alone can’t contain Danny: he must come across as a saviour, just a notch or two beneath the Saviour. In that capacity he has already solved all the problems between Israel and the Arabs, by creating an awful orchestra with both Israeli and Palestinian musicians.

Its contribution to music has been close to zero, but the trick has worked wonders for Danny’s reputation. He’s now more than just a great musician (actually, quite a bit less, if you ask me). He’s the Apostle of Peace – this even though the amateurish music he extracts from his orchestra is neatly harmonised with the never-abating background noise of rockets exploding all over Israel.

Having sorted out the Middle East, Danny has decided it’s now Britain that’s in urgent need of saving, what with the catastrophe of Brexit looming large. To that end, he has further developed the recent trend of musicians rapping with the audience.

The occasion was provided by the Proms. Before regaling the public with his puny musical insights, Danny made a five-minute speech, shattering his own record of ignorant, bombastic inanity.

The trouble with the world in general and Britain in particular, he explained, is lack of education. Implicitly it was that lacuna that explained our otherwise inexplicable desire to be governed by our own parliament. If we were better educated, we’d see the light shining out of the EU’s good offices and Danny’s bad orifices.

Now, at the risk of sounding immodest, I’d suggest that my friends and I are immeasurably better educated than Danny in every relevant discipline – and yet we detest the EU. It may be a misguided, irrational feeling, but it’s certainly not one that springs from ignorance.

But hey, Danny is a celebrity, so he got his obligatory round of applause and pressed on. We’re all so blinded by narrow-minded nationalism and so irredeemably ignorant that we can’t think why we should belong to the same single state as the Greeks, Danes and Germans.

Actually, Danny didn’t explain why either. Perhaps he felt no explanation was necessary; some things just go without saying. Oh yes, here’s one reason: there’s such a thing as European culture.

It allows for some local particularism, but at base it’s the same for all. Thanks, Danny, for telling us. Nothing like stating the bleeding obvious to get the punters going.

Let me see if I get this right. The European Union is a purely cultural project, created to educate Europeans in the fine points of the arts. Since it’s synonymous with European culture, rejecting the EU is tantamount to spitting on Bach, Racine, Beethoven, Leonardo and Goethe.

This doesn’t quite explain how that great culture got to be created in the first place: after all the EU only graced us with its presence in the second half of the twentieth century. By then all those great names Danny dropped to prove his point had already created European culture in conditions of shameful parochialism. How they must have suffered.

Having thus negotiated his way through the maze of cul-de-sacs in which European culture bumped heads with the European Union, Danny pointed out that there’s another diabolical force at play here: religious fundamentalism.

Presumably it’s for that reason that the British voted to regain their sovereignty. It’s not only ignorance but also religion that’s to blame.

Now which religion would that be? Britain does have a state religion, but it would be a bit of a stretch to describe it as fundamentalist. And it would be even more of a stretch to believe that the British are so impassioned by the 39 Anglican Articles that they want to have nothing to do with those continental Lutherans and Papists.

That is, it would be a stretch for anyone other than Danny. He’s a celebrity, remember? He can mouth any cretinous drivel and still be hailed as a quasi-messiah.

How does such a transparent nonentity get to be so smugly self-important? The answer lies all around you: it’s called modernity.

Having lost one God, we’ve decided to settle for thousands of idols, and perhaps we are indeed so ignorant as not to realise that we got terribly short-changed. So here we have one such idol, mouthing gibberish and finding a receptive audience.

I suppose it’s futile to hope that Danny will ever shut up. He’s a celebrity – so no one will get him out of there.

There’s nothing to negotiate

The Brexit farce continues, with both sides pretending they’re negotiating a mutually beneficial settlement.

In fact, they resemble two people talking in a bugged room. They say something innocuous for the microphones, while conveying the real messages with scribbled notes, winks and nods.

The EU wants not an equitable deal but to stop Brexit, ideally de jure, but at a pinch de facto. Their aims are both pecuniary (they want our money) and punitive (they want to punish us).

Like the Soviets, who killed anyone refusing to share their view of a bright future, the EU has to stamp out apostasy pour encourager les autres.

They want to be in a position to teach all those Greeces and Italies a lesson: “See what happens when you want to leave? You pay a huge exit fee, while still obeying all our laws and keeping your borders wide open. You lose your vote and a lot of money without gaining anything in return.”

This is par for the course. Anybody who understands anything at all about the EU will know that this wicked contrivance is acting in character.

Like the Prussians using their Zollverein to bribe or bully other German principalities into a single German state, the EU has a clearly defined objective: a single European state. This end doesn’t just justify the means, but makes them irrelevant. Whatever works.

Yet the other party, the British government, doesn’t want a real exit either. By the British government I don’t necessarily mean just the cabinet or even Parliament. I use the term to describe our governing elite, which also includes some businessmen, but above all the media.

They form a uniform entity with interchangeable parts. Witness the ease with which our journalists become politicians (William Rees-Mogg, Nigel Lawson, Johnson, Gove,) and vice versa (Parris). This is reminiscent of the Soviet nomenklatura, with, say, a deputy minister of fisheries drifting on to become a magazine editor, then an ambassador, then chairman of the football association.

Unlike the Soviet nomenklatura, however, our politico-journalistic elite widely practises the kind of nepotism that’s more readily associated with hereditary monarchies.

Just think of the Kinnocks, the Benns, the Milibands, Harman/Dromey, Hames/Swindon, Balls/Cooper, the Gummers, the Hurds, the Rees-Moggs, the Dimblebies, Muir/Macintyre, Purves/Heiney, Wagner/Gilbert, Vine/Gove, Moran/Paphides, the Waughs, Mounts, Johnsons, Lawsons, Rifkinds and so on ad infinitum.

Since corporate loyalty within our elite isn’t enforced with bullets, it’s not wholly homogeneous. Jacob Rees-Mogg, for example, strikes me as a thoroughly decent sort. Yet there’s no need to kill men like him. It’s sufficient to marginalise them, using them to express token dissent to maintain an illusion of pluralism.

However, an illusion it is. The elite, spearheaded by the top two ministers May and Hammond, wants to undermine Brexit as much as Merkel and Juncker do, and just like them they’ll use underhanded methods to do so.

However, they lack even the power of their puny convictions: they won’t come out and say this is what they want. Instead they pretend to be complying with the will of the people and Parliament, while exchanging their winks and nudges with the EU.

Being career windbags, they release hot air into the atmosphere in the hope of creating a credible mirage. A mirage, however, is just that. It’s virtual, not actual, reality.

It’s virtual reality that there may be fine gradations of Brexit, from hard to soft and everything in between. In actual reality, there are only two possibilities: in or out.

Even though I oppose direct democracy by plebiscite on principle, the powers that be evidently don’t. So we had our plebiscite, the people had their say and then Parliament did as well. Once that happened, there’s really nothing to negotiate.

All HMG has to do is announce that we’re leaving, effective immediately. EU laws summarily become null and void within Her Majesty’s realm, and she regains her full sovereignty exercised through Parliament. Since the EU Charter to which we ill-advisedly signed up stipulates a two-years’ notice, we’re prepared to pay a sum equal to our net contributions over that period, and not a penny more. Thank you and good-bye.

That done, there will still remain some technicalities to sort out, although they’re nowhere near as complex as they’re portrayed. After all, we can simply revert to the pre-Maastricht arrangements.

Hence EU citizens will be welcome to visit Britain without a visa. If they wish to stay, the decision to admit them will be up to us and not to any supranational setups that should have no jurisdiction over our ancient constitution.

As to trade, Britain did rather well in that department for centuries before the EU, or indeed the Zollverein, was even a twinkle in any German eye. It never occurred to, say, Pitt or Disraeli that Britain would have to dissolve her sovereignty in order to trade with Europe.

A series of trade deals could be worked out, provided both sides proceed from good faith. Since we know that the EU won’t, they’ll try not to deal but to punish, on the assumption that they hold all the trumps.

Not quite. We have the odd ace up our sleeve too, such as the threat of turning Britain into an offshore haven. A year ago Manny Macron  threatened that Brexit would turn Britain into a larger Jersey, to which my answer is a resounding yes, please.

We could lower income and corporate taxes, cut through red tape and create irresistible conditions for foreign investment. In fact, in one of her speeches Mrs May hinted at this possibility – it never occurred to the poor dear that such things ought to be done not in extremis but as a matter of course.

If the EU wants to start a trade war, we aren’t exactly defenceless. Alas, rather than communicating this point in no uncertain terms, our governing spivs collude with the EU to make Brexit disappear into the smokescreen of hot air they call negotiations.

There’s nothing to negotiate. The proposition is strictly binary: Britain is either sovereign or she isn’t. And the second possibility looks much more likely.

The dialectics of English dialects

Oliver Kamm’s ignorance of his chosen subject, the English language, continues to astound me. Rather than learning the basic concepts of linguistics, he simply applies to language the same relativistic multi-culti standards he applies to everything else – with predictably risible results.

In his latest article Ollie defends Angela Rayner, the shadow education secretary, against accusations of thickness based on her Mancunian accent: “A speaker’s accent is totally unrelated to their intelligence.”

Anyone who follows a singular antecedent with a plural personal pronoun should be forbidden to pronounce on English, or indeed anything else, on pain of corporal punishment.

This of course comes from the politically motivated campaign to abolish masculine pronouns altogether. But an explanation isn’t an excuse: it’s incumbent on a writer to protect language against perversions, not to trail in the wake of any cretinous fad.

However one defines intelligence, be it simply IQ or intellectual attainment, of course accent has nothing to do with it. It does have something to do with the speaker’s social, cultural and educational background though. The accent acts as a calling card.

Kamm’s tumble into inanity has an accelerator built in: the farther he falls, the thicker he sounds. “Almost all of us have an accent,” he writes, “that is tied to a particular region.”

That simply isn’t true. Though one of the most brilliant men I know speaks with a Yorkshire accent, most of my friends speak without any geographical peculiarities whatsoever – they enunciate their sounds in accordance with the generally accepted (received) pronunciation used by most cultured Englishmen.

Someone with a good ear may be able to tell what kind of school this or that chap went to, but I defy anyone to do a Dr Higgins and pinpoint the part of the country any of them come from.

That falsehood was essential to Ollie because without it he wouldn’t have been able to make a startlingly ignorant point that has more to do with his politics than with any knowledge of the subject: there is no standard. We all speak in dialect:

“In reality, standard English is merely the regional dialect that got lucky, being associated historically with the wealth and power of London and thereby crowding out other varieties of the language.”

As someone who in his impressionable youth had to spend sleepless nights cramming for an exam in the history of the English language, I can offer Ollie a piece of avuncular advice: don’t go there.

Let’s just accept that all languages develop a standard, non-dialectal pronunciation one way or the other, with some dialects persisting in their particularism. The standard is usually based on the way people speak in the capital, but not invariably so.

Standard French, for example, developed some 100 miles south of Paris, in the Loire Valley, and standard Russian was formed on the basis of Moscow at a time when Petersburg was the capital. Without venturing into a linguistic thicket where it’s so easy to get lost, let’s just say that it’s not only “wealth and power” that forms a phonetic standard.

Speaking of English specifically, London had been the centre of “wealth and power” for centuries before it exercised its magnetic pull on other dialects. Even in the eighteenth century regional varieties were perfectly normal. No one in London looked down on Dr Johnson because he spoke with a Lichfield accent.

And when the good doctor compiled the first dictionary of the English language, he didn’t include any phonetic indications because he regarded those as strictly individual. In other words, the “wealth and power” of London hadn’t yet produced phonetic uniformity even though it had been England’s capital since the Romans.

In any case, to advance his credentials as a language guru, Ollie ought to learn the difference between an accent and a dialect. For there’s more to a dialect than just pronunciation.

A dialect is a deviation from a widely accepted standard, and it also reveals itself in localised grammatical structures and vocabulary. Hence it’s sheer ignorance to say, as Ollie does, that: “Everyone has an accent; and everyone also has a dialect.” Regarding standard English as a dialect is logically false, which Ollie inadvertently proves in his next statement:

The Times is written entirely in dialect. The dialect we use is standard English… Because standard English is so widespread, it’s essential to know its grammar and conventions, even if it’s not the dialect you use with family and friends. But a dialect is what it is – just one among many dialects and several different languages native to these islands.”

Standard English can’t by definition be a dialect: if it were, it wouldn’t be standard. Since even Ollie can’t help using the S-word, it follows logically that a dialect is a deviation from a standard.

English needs a non-dialectal standard more than other languages. This relatively small island boasts 50 major dialects, and God only knows how many minor ones. London alone has five different accents, practically more than Russia has in her entirety.

Some of those dialects are so different that speakers of standard English have difficulty understanding them. For example, my wife, who grew up in Exeter, couldn’t as a girl understand farmers from five miles away. And to this day she asks me to translate whenever she hears a heavy Glaswegian or Geordie accent.

It’s as if God has done his Babel trick in England: “Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.”

Under such circumstances, standard English is not only a cultural indicator but an essential adhesive of a nation. And make no mistake about it: this invaluable factor of unity is reeling under the blows delivered by multi-culti egalitarians like Ollie.

They promote dialects not because they cherish the rich history of the English language but because they need a battering ram of class war. They hate ‘toffs’ (to whom they themselves belong) and everything about them, including their cultured accents.

The Ollies of this world may just succeed in destroying standard English; they’ve made giant strides already. But there will be collateral damage: English culture, possibly even English nationhood.

The EU’s trusted servant

Tony Blair, easily the most revolting personage ever to disgrace 10 Downing Street, has taken over Britain’s foreign policy.

Having supposedly conducted talks with EU leaders, he has found out they are ready to meet Britain halfway – make it three quarters of the way, just to make sure there’s no Brexit. I understand how they feel: being hard up, they’re desperate for our billions.

But that’s the only thing I understand. First, in exactly what capacity has Blair negotiated with foreign powers on behalf of Great Britain? Who authorised him? He isn’t even an MP, much less a member of the government.

I thought he was too busy shilling for every bloodthirsty tyrant on earth, with the possible exception of Kim Jong-un. Actually, if I were Kim, I’d feel slighted: “What am I, chopped dog’s liver?”

Having conducted those, mildly speaking, unethical talks, Blair has brought us some good news, like a dog fetching a pair of slippers in its mouth. The EU, he says, is ready to reform.

Provided, of course, we agree to stay in the EU – despite the unequivocal results of the referendum and the parliamentary vote to enact Article 50. This was one of the few occasions when popular sentiment and legislative action were in accord, but neither means anything to Blair. He wants to sabotage both by hook or – to stay in character – by crook.

In spite of himself, he then drew an implicit but valid parallel between the EU and the Inferno. If we decide to debauch people and Parliament, he promised, the EU “will comprise the inner and outer circle”. Not being burdened with excessive erudition, Blair was probably unaware of his unwitting Dantesque analogy, but it still rings true.

In other words, someone high up in the EU has promised Blair that this infernal setup would now do what it steadfastly refused to do before the referendum: modify its bossy centralism. If they indeed promised that – and Blair has been known to lie through his teeth whenever it suits him – they’re dissembling.

In the past they stated their position with both frankness and loyalty to their founding principles. The odd, purely cosmetic, concession notwithstanding, the EU is about creating a single European state, complete with every attribute of statehood.

This objective was formulated by Jean Monnet in 1943, when Germany’s previous attempt to unify Europe was still under way: “There will be no peace in Europe if the states are reconstituted on the basis of national sovereignty… The European states must constitute themselves into a federation.”

This, explained Monnet, could only be accomplished by subterfuge, in circumvention of both popular sentiment and legal procedure: “Europe’s nations should be guided towards the superstate without their people understanding what is happening. This can be accomplished by successive steps, each disguised as having an economic purpose but which will irreversibly lead to federation.”

Why not just say what you really want? If a Fourth Reich, with France playing lickspittle to Germany and everybody else to both of them, was so attractive, surely people wouldn’t have to be tricked? All it would take is a simple explanation of the fine points for the Europeans to jump up and salute.

“Rational consideration of the options would sensibly include the option of negotiating for Britain to stay within a Europe itself prepared to reform,” continued Blair.

“The European leaders, certainly from my discussions, are willing to consider changes to accommodate Britain, including around freedom of movement. Yet this option is excluded.”

That’s right, it is. That’s what voting is for. You discuss all sorts of options, then call for a ballot and one option emerges victorious to the exclusion of others. I know it’s a difficult concept for someone like Blair to grasp, but that’s how it works.

Abandoning the single market would be “damaging” for Britain’s economy, according to the man who has singlehandedly brought the EU round to the idea of reform.

Well, not half as damaging as his premiership was, I dare say. His government inherited a robust economy and proceeded to turn it into a basket case. Nevertheless, his concern for our, as opposed to just his own, economic wellbeing is touching. Still, perhaps we should just muddle through on our own, eschewing a poisoner’s advice on antidotes.

In his beneficence Blair wants to give the British people a chance to change their minds. “As we know more about what Brexit means, our will changes,” he says.

But we already know everything there’s to know: Brexit means recovering our sovereignty from the likes of Blair and his fellow European spivs. That’s the simple truth. But Blair and his EU friends don’t want it. They want their lies to be more palatable, easier for people to swallow.

We need, he says, a “proper debate about the options before us”. Exactly what was improper about the years of debate that eventually led to the referendum? That the wrong side won? And Tony, let me repeat in simple words even you can understand: There. Are. No. More. Options. The people. And. Parliament. Have. Spoken.

If this is too difficult, ask Brigitte, your little friend Manny’s foster mother, to explain this to you. She’ll be happy to oblige.

At the end Blair said something true, reversing the habit of a lifetime: “Europe knows it will be poorer and less powerful without us.”

It certainly does. That’s why it enrols unprincipled saboteurs like him to do its bidding. Founded as the EU is on a lie, it needs all the liars it can get.

Let them eat the Human Rights Act

If you still think political conservatism is alive in Britain, read Daniel Finkelstein’s article in The Times.

Fink, as he styles himself when writing about football (wouldn’t be my first choice of a pseudonym, but there we have it), starts out by offering an unimpeachable premise: “One of the key attributes of being a British conservative is standing up to populist enthusiasm when it threatens limited government, individual rights, due process and the rule of law.”

Yes, but how best to achieve such desiderata? It’s in answering this question that Fink shows his uncertain grasp of conservatism.

According to him, the Conservative Party should adopt “a practical rather than ideological approach to leaving the European Union” and “drop its opposition to the Human Rights Act”.

The first proposed step, bandied about by all visceral Remainers, is important in its connotation, not denotation. For what they mean is that we should bang the EU door but then stay inside.

‘Practical’ to them means Britain continuing to pay billions into the EU coffers, admit an unlimited number of immigrants and still fall under the jurisdiction of various EU laws spearheaded by the Human Rights Act and the ECHR.

One wonders why bother leaving at all. The only effect of such practicality would be Britain failing to regain much of her sovereignty, while losing even the pathetic 1/28 of the voice at the EU table.

Anyway, if Fink wants to stay in the EU, de jure or de facto, he’s entitled to that view. He’s even entitled to put forth arguments in favour of the Human Rights Act. However, passing them for the voice of conservatism is sheer larceny.

We need the HRA, says Fink, to protect our property against requisition, similar to what Hugo Chávez perpetrated in Venezuela and Jeremy Corbyn would do in Britain given the chance.

In other words we need the EU to save us from ourselves. This implies that until 1998, when Britain signed up to the HRA, property in the country had been at the mercy of sticky-fingered tyrants with requisition on their minds.

Yet the rights of Englishmen is a notion predating the HRA by some 800 years and, apart from Henry VIII’s raid on the monasteries and some seventeenth-century excesses, one can’t recall offhand too many instances of property left unprotected by Britain’s own laws.

Our constitution is arguably the best and certainly the longest-lasting the world has ever seen. Over, say, the past century Britain’s record on human rights stands up against any other EU member, including the EU powers that be, Germany and France.

Germany… well, we know all about her. And the French will insist they have the rule of law, but that’s not exactly true. What they have is the rule of lawyers.

Unlike English Common Law, based on precedents accumulated over centuries, the French practise positive law, one imposed by the state. These incompatible legal systems are vectored in opposite directions: from bottom to top in Britain, from top to bottom in France.

When French kings ruled by divine right, they didn’t need much legislative activism. The need only arose with the advent of perverse politics inspired by the Masonic slogan of liberté, egalité, fraternité.

Lacking an organic claim to legitimacy, the revolutionary government – and all its kaleidoscopically changing successors – drowned the population under a deluge of laws.

Since 1789 France has had 17 different constitutions, spawning thousands of laws. Most of them come from the fecund minds of avocats who bang their clever heads together to devise legislation supposed to hasten the arrival of paradise on earth, which so far has been late in coming.

By contrast, English Common Law has over centuries built a solid capital of justice. We’re currently living off the interest, rapidly frittering the principal away. But at least there’s some left, and that’s what we must strengthen and build on.

English Common Law can protect us, as it has been doing for centuries. We have no need for any EU guarantors of the rights of Englishmen. The European Human Rights Act is no more synonymous with human rights than the European Union is with Europe.

According to Fink, the only alternative to EU protection would be a British Bill of Rights. However, he laments, “The Tories have never had a coherent plan for a British Bill of Rights or anything approaching the unity with which they need to proceed. So why not admit that this has been a blind alley?”

So admitted, as directed. This is indeed a blind alley. For we don’t need another Bill of Rights any more than we need the HRA. Though such a constitutional document wouldn’t be issued by foreigners, it would be inspired by the spirit of positive law, which has a distinctly alien, continental flavour.

Anyway, we already have one Bill of Rights, passed in 1689 as a result of the Dutch occupation known as the Glorious Revolution. Having another one would be tantamount to a tacit admission that there was something wrong with the first Bill. So there was, plenty, and England has never been the same thereafter.

But at least it could be argued then that the Glorious Revolution represented such a tectonic constitutional shift that its legal aspects had to be summed up in a written document. Nothing like that is happening now – in fact Britain has moved towards reclaiming her ancient constitution, freeing it from the yoke of European legalism.

When new laws are redundant, they’re harmful. Lucius Cary, 2nd Viscount Falkland put this epigrammatically: “When it is not necessary to change, it is necessary not to change”.

But then, unlike Fink, he understood the nature of England’s constitution. And, as he proved in 1643, he was ready to die for it.

The apple and the tree

Many proverbs exist in both English and Russian, though the latter tend to express the same idea more violently or, to be kind, dynamically.

Thus the English “let bygones be bygones” becomes “whoever remembers the past, may his eye be gouged out”; “the pen is mightier than the sword” comes out as “that which is written with a pen can’t be chopped out with an axe” and so forth.

But the one about the apple not falling far from the tree is exactly the same in both languages, hinting at its universal truth. If further evidence of this universality is needed, just look at Donald Trump Jr., the apple, and his father, the presidential tree.

It increasingly appears that the principal gardener of that orchard is Vlad Putin, making sure the apple tree grows to luxuriance and bears much fruit.

The tree has never bothered to conceal his admiration for the KGB thug, which, though unfortunate, doesn’t legally fall into the category of impeachable, much less criminal, offences. Whether there’s something else going on is debatable but, as the Russian proverb goes, “He who isn’t caught isn’t a thief”.

Still, though prima facie proof of some shady dealings is lacking, indications are thick on the ground. For example, a couple of years ago the apple, that is Don Jr., said casually: “… Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets… We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”

‘A lot of money’ is a relative amount: what’s a lot of money to me is loose change to either Donald. But the first part of the statement bears more scrutiny than it has so far received. After all, the Trumps run not a corner shop but a vast global empire worth billions. Yet the official records of its activities in Russia don’t show “a disproportionate cross-section”. All they show is a few golf courses.

‘A disproportionate cross-section’ could then only have come from activities that don’t appear in the official records. For example, financial insiders cite huge swathes of Russian financing that reach Trump having first been laundered through brass-plate offshore banks.

I don’t know if there’s any truth to this, but what’s undeniable is that Trump admires Putin and in many ways sees him as his role model. In common with many of our own so-called conservatives (in fact Putin’s useful idiots), he sees in Putin qualities that he himself would like to cultivate, those that set him apart from wishy-washy political professionals.

Putin, he once said, “has been a leader far more than our president [Obama] has been.” Well, Donald, it’s easier for Putin. He doesn’t have to mess around with things like Congress, fair elections, independent judiciary or free press.

The KGB thug, Trump added, “has great control over his country”. That much is true, though Putin still falls short of the standards established by his idol Stalin. But he’s getting there, and one would think that a US president would be at least ambivalent about such criminal achievements.

Of course Trump himself does have to contend with the above-mentioned constraints, which is why his admiration for the world’s most dangerous regime has to be leavened with caution.

For example, he hasn’t been able to lift US sanctions against Russia, as he promised during the campaign. Yet on the other hand he hasn’t imposed any new sanctions in spite of the overwhelming evidence of the Russians’ hacking sabotage of the very political system of which Americans are so proud.

Yet on balance he clearly regards Putin as a friend, which perception that career KGB spy runner cultivates by pandering to Trump’s well-known narcissism. Trump himself provided evidence of that by saying: “I think when he calls me brilliant I’ll take the compliment, ok?”

It’s in this context that yet another scandal involving Putin and Trump’s entourage should be viewed. For about a year ago, shortly after the tree secured the Republican nomination, the apple met Putin’s unofficial emissary, the lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.

Through her Putin promised to provide some ‘dirt’ on Hillary Clinton, thereby improving the tree’s prospects of being transplanted to Pennsylvania Avenue. Now on the surface this seems par for the course. There’s nothing wrong in seeking a competitive advantage in a political campaign – generally speaking.

But speaking particularly, there’s something shady about accepting such help from a foreign power – and there’s something downright tenebrous in accepting it from a hostile foreign power.

It would be tedious to cite yet again reams of evidence showing that, like in the days of the Cold War, Russia still regards America as Enemy Number One. The tone of state propaganda to that effect is getting shriller by the minute, only matched by the thunderous sounds of Russian sabre-rattling.

In any case it doesn’t take great geopolitical nous to realise that, when a government almost wholly made up of KGB officers makes such an offer, it’s a pro for which it’ll expect a quid. “You’ll owe me one,” in the language of both spy runners and property developers.

How the Russians described that outstanding debt is anyone’s guess. But rest assured they did describe it.

That the tree may be diseased and its fruit rotten is shown by Junior’s subsequent lies when queried about the meeting. Veselnitskaya, he said, only wanted to talk about Americans adopting Russian children.

If Junior had done his homework, he could have come up with a lie more plausible and less crude. For, following the Magnitsky Case sanctions imposed on Russia in 2013, the Russians banned Americans from adopting their orphaned or abandoned children.

Hundreds of those poor souls had been saved by Americans from neglect, appalling abuse, hunger and illness – often death. Yet the Russians decided to punish Americans to make sure no more children would be saved. This decision was accompanied by disgusting propaganda to the effect that American foster parents typically sell Russian children for body parts or else take sexual advantage of them.

Not only is Junior amoral, he’s also ignorant. But anyway, the lie was exposed and he had to admit that foster care wasn’t really the topic of his chat. But the admission didn’t come all at once: like a criminal interrogated by a policeman, Junior has only been owning up to things the investigator could prove.

Thus yesterday he released the e-mails he exchanged with Russian officials to set up the meeting. Their e-mail to him says that some mysterious “Crown prosecutor of Russia” [there’s no such post there, unless I’ve missed Putin’s accession to the throne] “offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father”.

And “This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr Trump.”

Junior replied: “If it’s what you say, I love it.” In exchange for what was a question he forgot to ask.

The meeting was cosy: just Natalia, Junior and his two chaperones, the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort, then campaign manager who has since resigned under the weight of his own intimate dealings with Putin’s kleptofascist junta.

All this may be no more sinister than sheer ignorance and amateurishness on the part of Trump and his retinue. However, though each scandal of this nature may not be sufficient to bring Trump down, their cumulative effect just might.

In any case it takes inexcusable nonchalance to feel there’s nothing to worry about. There is, and not just for the tree and its apple.

Gee… no, G20

There’s something about those summits that brings out the worst in politicians, not that it’s ever deep beneath the surface.

First, Trump had a long talk with Vlad, half of which was devoted to the delicate subject of Russian hacking. Vlad assured his friend Donald that no attempt had been made to affect US elections by that expedient. That’s all right then, nodded Trump. A KGB officer would never lie.

He then proposed to join forces with Vlad to create a cyber security zone, which is like putting a pathological arsonist in charge of the fire brigade. The idea was so palpably asinine that Donald promptly abandoned it the next day, with his fellow Republicans screaming abuse and screwing their index fingers into their temples.

Then Brigitte’s foster son took the stage. When Manny was elected president of France, I desperately looked for something decent hiding behind his veneer of self-important, jumped-up nonentity.

At first, the search was rewarded: unlike Fillon, who respected Putin’s leadership qualities, and Le Pen, who was kept by Putin like a two-bit whore, Manny was mildly critical of the KGB gangster.

But then they met at the G20 in Hamburg and sparks flew. One of them ignited Manny’s hitherto pent-up desire for an open dialogue with Putin. For Manny’s eagle eye discerned kinship and commonality of interests.

In a subsequent interview he first warmed up by reiterating his commitment to stopping both terrorism and global warming. There’s no point fighting one without fighting the other, Manny said, clearly implying a causal relationship.

He didn’t explain which caused which, but then there was no need: Prince Charles once traced the roots of Muslim terrorism to global warming. One would think that as a republican Manny wouldn’t feel duty-bound to repeat all the drivel uttered by our royals, but perhaps he’s a vicarious monarchist at heart.

Or else he misunderstood what Brigitte had told him to say. Pay attention in class, Manny, or you’ll be marked down.

Having thus spun two seemingly unrelated issues, Manny continued on the subject of terrorism. The thrust of his oration was the same as in every speech by Trump: without Putin’s help the West is helpless. This premise is false on more levels than one can find in Trump Tower.

First, if the combined military might of the West is insufficient for exterminating terrorists and punishing their supporters, we might as well all pack up and go home: the West is no more.

Second, Putin’s kleptofascist junta itself presents the greatest terrorist threat to the world. Its rabid attack on the Ukraine alone has produced more victims, by an order of magnitude, than all the recent Muslim shenanigans in Europe combined.

But it wasn’t the Ukraine alone. True to its KGB roots (85 per cent of Russia’s ruling elite come from that background, according to official sources), the junta pounces on everything and everyone vulnerable, be it Chechnya or Georgia, Syria or any meaningful political opposition, whose members are routinely murdered not only in Russia but also abroad.

Most critical, Putin’s junta is indulging in the kind of brinkmanship all over the world, most spectacularly in the Middle East and the Baltics, that has made nuclear holocaust more likely than at any time since the Cuban crisis.

Therefore seeking Putin’s help in fighting terrorism is like asking Kim Jong-un to support nuclear non-proliferation, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to promote religious tolerance or Dr Shipman to advise on care for the elderly.

But Manny doesn’t realise this. Neither does he realise that every word he uttered in that interview blithely repeated Putin’s own propaganda:

“What inspires Putin to act? The desire to revive the image of a strong leader capable of holding his country in his hands.”

To bring Stalin back as a role model, in other words. Here Manny isn’t far wrong: rather than the murderer of 61 million of his own subjects and enslaver of the rest, Stalin is being extolled in Russia as an effective, if at times stern, manager, the father of his people and the victor in the great war (which he himself started as Hitler’s ally, but that part of it isn’t emphasised). Plaques to the memory of one of history’s most evil men are being restored all over Russia, his portraits adorn hundreds of rallies, panegyrics to him are heard on every Russian TV channel.

One would think that the president of a country that has liberty inscribed on its escutcheon would respond to this development with something other than affectionate understanding. But do let’s proceed to the next couple of sentences.

“Russia herself is a victim of terrorism. He [Putin] also has on his borders rebels and brutal religious groups threatening the country. That is his main concern, in Syria included.”

The first sentence is absolutely right. Russia is indeed a victim of terrorism, and has been since 1917. It’s the terrorism perpetrated by its ‘strong leaders’, whose fine legacy Putin is seeking to develop.

As to the rebels, Manny was presumably referring to the victims of two centuries of Russian brutality in North Caucasus, with the most recent, and some of the worst, crimes committed by Putin’s own troops. And it takes some dialectical chicanery to link those few remaining resistance fighters to Syria, where Putin is clearly fighting not terrorists but the West.

“Putin’s task,” continued Manny in the same vein, “is to revive Great Russia, which to him is essential to his country’s survival. Is he seeking to weaken or destroy us? I don’t think so.”

Great Russia means Stalin’s Russia, which inexorably follows from every word coming out of the mouths of Putin’s propagandists and his own. How this is essential to the country’s survival isn’t instantly obvious. It’s easier to imagine how rabid attacks on the whole civilised world may put Russia in existential danger.

Also, unlike the economy, geopolitical power is a zero-sum game. If en route to becoming great again Russia gains more of it, the West will have less. The West will thereby be weakened vis-à-vis its deadliest current enemy. But I do agree that Vlad doesn’t wish to destroy the West: he and his fellow gangsters need a secure laundry for their purloined billions.

And the upshot of it, Manny? “Vladimir Putin has his own take on the world.” [That’s for damn sure.] “He thinks that to him Syria is a vitally important neighbour.” [The last time I looked at the map, Russia and Syria aren’t exactly neighbours, but perhaps Manny, being a socialist, uses the word dialectically].

“What can we do? Cooperate on Syria to fight terrorism and find a true way out of the present crisis. I believe this is possible.”

Gee, Manny, a few more performances like this, and Brigitte will send you to bed without supper. Use your head, lad, concentrate – and do your homework.

What part of sovereignty doesn’t he get?

Sir Vince Cable, who’s likely to become the next leader of the oxymoronic Liberal Democratic Party, thinks Brexit may never happen because Parliament isn’t unanimous on the issue:

“I think the problems are so enormous, the divisions within the two major parties are so enormous… I can see a scenario in which this doesn’t happen.”

Allow me to translate. Sir Vince and his fanatically pro-EU party don’t want Brexit to happen and will do everything in their power to make sure it doesn’t.

Fair enough. That’s why we have political parties, to put forth an argument and defend it by political means.

Political no longer means reasonable of course: modern politics originally inaugurated in the name of reason has perhaps contributed more than any other field of endeavour to debauching reason to a point where it has become a whore to short-term expediency.

Sir Vince, miraculously regarded as the pulsating intellect of the left, proves this observation with room to spare.

If he used his brain, or indeed had one in any other than the purely physiological sense, he would have asked himself to think of a single issue in the history of Parliament on which the two major parties weren’t divided both between each other and within themselves.

He’d further inquire inwardly where in our constitution, unwritten and so much more effective for it, it says that issues of national import must be decided by unanimous vote. Had he asked those questions, Sir Vince would have exhausted his vaunted brain power so much he wouldn’t have been able to proceed to the really serious issues.

Such as, what is the nature of our constitution? How does democracy by plebiscite fit into it? After all, the nature of parliamentary democracy is such that people elect their representatives to make serious decisions on their behalf.

It’s understood that, even before the advent of comprehensive non-education, our masses weren’t able to figure out the pluses and minuses of, say, deficit versus surplus budgets. That’s why they relied on their betters to do it for them.

And of course now, when the masses can’t figure out the change after handing out a quid for a 74p item, the arguments against direct democracy (or indeed any other, but let’s leave that aside for now) become not just compelling but self-evident.

That’s why I was always opposed to a Brexit referendum: I have principled objections to that form of government. Given the wrong confluence of economic indicators and force majeur events, people would be perfectly capable of voting to sell themselves into slavery or to slaughter every first-born boy.

Yet my opposition doesn’t matter one iota. The powers that be, those that had been put into their posts by the electorate, decided that a referendum was just the ticket to decide whether we were going to keep our ancient constitution or surrender it to become a province in Greater Germany, otherwise known as the EU.

The powers that be didn’t make that decision because they desperately wanted people to have their say. They have a most refreshing contempt for the people this side of Notting Hill and Islington, a sentiment that was extremely rare before the triumph of modernity.

Both major parties, with notable exceptions within each, wanted the referendum because they were desperate to stay in the EU and were smugly confident the people would vote that way. Well, they didn’t.

Now what? Either we accept this method of government or we don’t. Since we demonstrably do, we therefore accept the result of a referendum whether we like it or not. “Tu l’as voulu, George Dandin”, as Molière said, meaning put up and shut up.

However, having lost the fair fight, spivs like Sir Vince want to steal victory in an unfair way. The possible tricks range from filibustering to coming up with quasi-legal snags, from using our predominantly pro-EU media to deliberately and mendaciously perverting the very concept of Brexit.

The concept is simple. It boils down to one word: sovereignty. Do we wish to retain it or vest it with the good offices of heirs to the post-war fusion between Nazi and Vichy bureaucracies?

There’s really no compromise possible: either our sovereignty lives or it dies. I think it should live, and I’ve presented endless arguments to that effect. Sir Vince and his jolly friends think it should die – but they don’t come out and say it honestly, much less put forth any arguments in defence of this proposition.

They just try to subvert the issue by sidetracking it into unrelated incidentals. Thus Sir Vince says: “People will realise that we didn’t vote to be poorer, and I think the whole question of continued membership will once again arise.”

First, Parliament has voted to turn Article 50 into law, which means we’re obligated to leave the EU within two years. At issue now isn’t just the debatable plebiscite democracy but the iron-clad parliamentary sovereignty, the cornerstone of our constitution.

Second, since the issue is sovereignty, it’s for richer or for poorer. Any decent person would rather be poor but free than rich but enslaved. Of course, as a socialist, Sir Vince is conditioned to think of life in purely materialist terms, and more power to him. But this line of thought is at odds not only with our constitution but indeed with the very essence of Western civilisation.

I sincerely doubt that the average voter, or even Sir Vince who reportedly needs two chairs to contain his giant intellect, is capable of analysing economic ups and downs with sufficient precision to figure out what causes what.

Our economy may well thrive post-Brexit, or it may take a dive. In either case, both sides will resort to the post hoc, ergo propter hoc post-rationalisation, and both will probably be wrong.

Because our economy is fundamentally unsound, Brexit or no Brexit, the phoney prosperity of the last couple of years will come to an end soon. Yet it’s emetically dishonest to tie this possibility, or indeed reality, to Brexit.

Britain could have conceivably kept her empire and much of its riches had she let the Germans have their way in their previous attempt to unite Europe. Yet Churchill didn’t suggest that option. Instead he said: “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.”

Then the British thought that was a good offer. These days they listen to cardsharping nincompoops like Sir Vincent, who look for loopholes to undermine what the country fought so valiantly for 77 years ago: her sovereignty.