In addition to his many sterling qualities, my friend Peter loves Mozart. So did Stalin and Beria, head of his secret police.
Yet in spite of this shared passion, never once have I heard Peter say anything nice about either chap. In fact, he loathes them and everything they stood for with the passion to be expected in any decent man.
For all her many fine qualities, my friend Daniele is a vegetarian. So were Hitler and Himmler, his head of the SS.
Yet in spite of this shared eating disorder, Daniele has never had anything nice to say about either villain. If asked I’m sure she’d express nothing short of revulsion for them.
This is natural. Both Peter and Daniele know that even as one swallow does not a summer make (or is it supper?), a single commendable commitment isn’t sufficient to chalk up either a despot or his state among the good things in life.
You’d think that all intelligent people would accept the general wisdom of this statement and apply it unfailingly to every particular situation. Well, if you think so you’re mistaken.
For recently I’ve met both in England and in France quite a few otherwise intelligent individuals who profess admiration for Putin’s Russia. Some have even converted to Russian Orthodoxy for that reason, or are contemplating such a step.
Why? Because they approve of Putin’s stand on ‘gay rights’. Shell-shocked by their own governments’ subversive slant towards homomarriage, they turn to Russia to find some residual sanity in the world.
The young editor of France’s only conservative magazine (which has once had my mug shot on the cover, I’ll have you know) told me at a party the other day that young French conservatives are confused.
They hate the rock into which France is calcifying so much that they don’t see Russia for the hard place that it is. “They like Putin because he hates gay rights,” said the editor. “So did bin Laden,” I replied. “Did they like him too?” “Well, they are confused,” admitted my young friend. “They don’t know where to turn.”
Our Home Secretary Theresa May is a professional politician. Therefore she has a weathervane’s certainty of exactly where to turn: wherever the wind is blowing.
That’s why she has decided not to hold a public inquiry into the 2006 murder of Alexander Litvinenko in London. Instead she has appointed Robert Owen, a senior judge, to conduct an inquest in camera.
Now at the time he was poisoned by polonium 210 Litvinenko, formerly Putin’s colleague in the KGB, was a British subject. His murder was the first ever case of nuclear terrorism, probably a harbinger of things to come.
There’s little doubt that the crime was committed by the Russians, in all probability by one specific Russian, another KGB veteran Andrei Lugovoi. In any case, anyone familiar with Russia’s decision-making process will know that such an action had to be ordered by Putin personally.
Lugovoi was promptly charged with murder but managed to get away to Moscow. Britain’s extradition request was dismissed out of hand and, to make double sure, Lugovoi was hastily elected to the Duma, where he now enjoys parliamentary immunity.
The exotic weapon that killed Litvinenko was unique, but this method of dealing with critics of Putin isn’t. At least 40 journalists and political activists have been murdered on Putin’s watch, many more maimed, tortured or imprisoned. Just a few days ago Alexei Navalny, Putin’s most vociferous critic, was sentenced to five years in prison on a trumped-up fraud charge.
Without splitting too many taxonomic hairs, a regime that handles dissidents in this manner is fascist. Add to this suppression of the free press, all-pervasive corruption and the dictatorial powers wielded by Putin, and the fascist glove begins to fit ever more snugly.
In the relatively recent past, any foreign power murdering a British subject, especially in Britain, wouldn’t have been regarded as a friend of ours. Its refusal to extradite the culprit would have been seen as sufficient grounds for severing diplomatic relations at least.
So what did our Home Secretary write to Judge Owen? “An inquest managed and run by an independent coroner is more readily explainable to some of our foreign partners, and the integrity of the process more readily grasped, than an inquiry, which has the power to see government material potentially relevant to their interests, in secret.”
If you can decipher Mrs May’s convoluted prose, which “foreign partners” do you think she means? Italy? Norway? But neither is implicated in the murder. Putin’s Russia is, and it’s her delicate sensibilities that our Home Secretary wishes to spare.
“It is true that international relations have been a factor in the government’s decision making,” she admitted rather superfluously.
International relations were also a factor in 1938 when Neville Chamberlain waved that piece of paper in the air. We all know what happened next – as a direct consequence of the attempt to appease a fascist chieftain.
Dare one say it, but perhaps our politicians would be on firmer ground if they occasionally treated British justice and Christian morality as “factors in their decision making”. Then fewer people would be confused in general and about Putin in particular.
If such, in Mrs May’s estimation, are our cherished “partners”, one wonders what her definition of an enemy would be. Any real conservative, would be my guess.