More from John ‘Maastricht’ Major

Haunted by nighttime images of europhobic ‘bastards’, Sir John is still fighting the battles of yesteryear.

With an in-out referendum wafting through the air, Sir John doesn’t like the smell of it. Britain, he warns, would pay a “severe price” for leaving.

Well, Britain is used to paying through the nose, not least thanks to the Black Wednesday fiasco of 1992 engineered by Mr Major (as he then was) when he led HMG.

Then his passionate affection for pan-European bureaucracy dragged Britain into the Exchange Rate Mechanism, as a prelude to joining the single currency. Money markets, however, wouldn’t wear it and Britain had to retreat, tail between her legs, shedding pounds every step of the way.

These days even the likes of Vince Cable realise what all sane people knew in 1992, that joining the single currency would have been catastrophic. We have money markets to thank for yanking Britain away from the precipice into which her PM was trying to push her.

The cost of Sir John’s panoramic vision is variously estimated at between £3.2 and £27 billion, with the actual number probably splitting the difference. Hence no one can question his expertise when it comes to paying a “severe price”.

In this instance the price wouldn’t just be denominated in currency, explains Sir John. Britain would be relegated to the lower leagues because “no nation can be great if it is inward looking and small minded”.

This is true, provided we don’t define such abominable traits the way Sir John seems to define them, as the desire to keep, or in this case regain, national sovereignty. Otherwise we run the risk of saying that Britain was “inward-looking and small-minded” when refusing to join continental Europe in 1940 and replace the pound with the single-currency Reichsmark. The RAF Fighter Command must have been full of eurosceptic “bastards”.

If Britain takes the suicidal step out of the EU, she’ll suffer the fate of Norway, something that according to Sir John would presumably be even worse than Black Wednesday. He calculates that, though refusing full membership, Norway is still paying 80 percent of its cost – without being able to influence EU decisions.

Sir John forgot to mention that Norway is subject to just one third of the regulations imposed on full EU members, but a man no longer in his first flush of youth can’t be expected to remember such trivial details.

By joining the EU, rather than merely the European Economic Area (EEA) she did join, Norway would no doubt be able to pull herself out of her present economic mire. As it is, she’s languishing at a per capita GDP of merely twice the EU average – who’s to say it couldn’t be higher still? Certainly not Sir John.

Norway’s GDP is growing at 2.75 percent a year (0.1 percent in the eurozone) – no doubt the growth would accelerate. Her unemployment stands at a whopping 3.25 percent (12.1 percent in the eurozone) – it would definitely go down to zero.

If I were Sir John, I wouldn’t mention Norway too insistently – this doesn’t conspicuously strengthen his case. However it’s true that Britain can’t follow Norway’s example blindly.

Even if we did do so and joined the EEA, our membership fee would go down to about $2 billion a year, from the current whole hog of £11 billion plus, not counting the cost of complying with asinine EU regulations. But Britain wouldn’t have to pay the EU a penny if she stayed out of the EEA altogether.

Instead, we could negotiate separate bilateral trade agreements with each EU member state – or with the EU at large when it finally becomes a single state de jure and not just de facto.

“In a world of seven billion people, our island would be moving further apart from our closest and largest trading partners, at the very time when they, themselves, are drawing closer together,” laments Sir John.

First, contrary to what Sir John may think, it’s possible to trade with other states without joining them in a political, or indeed economic, union. The wheels of trade ought to be greased not by ideology but by mutual benefit.

Considering that the EU enjoys a healthy (or unhealthy, depending on your perspective) trade surplus with Britain, her interests would be ill-served by taking a bolshie anti-British stance. And even if it did so, we could retaliate by countering their protectionism with our own, hurting them more than they could hurt us.

It could be made clear in no uncertain terms that, for example, any aggressive legislation aimed against the City of London would lead to countermeasures against German cars and French agricultural products (and I’m man enough to admit that I drive the former and drink the latter). I’m sure that Frau Merkel can do the sums, even if Sir John can’t.

Second, when trade in services is taken into account, over half of UK exports already go outside the EU, and the trend is towards an accelerating growth in this area.

Sales of British goods to the world’s fast-growing countries increased by more than 11 per cent over the last year. At the same time, British exports to the 26 European Union nations fell by 1.5 per cent. This even though our Asia-bound goods are counted as EU trade if they have an en route stopover at Rotterdam or Hamburg.

Even assuming that Germany and France can keep the EU afloat by continuing to trump economics with politics (and this is an unsafe assumption), the EU is not nearly as attractive a trade partner as, say, China, India, the USA and the Commonwealth.

As Prime Minister, Sir John has had his 15 minutes of fame or, to be more precise, infamy. As a private subject of Her Majesty, he should retreat into dignified silence – even if this means keeping to himself his yearning to become an EU citizen instead.

Cookery master class: unique sneak preview

Yet again I’ve been blessed with a rare scoop: the transcript of an upcoming cookery programme, pre-recorded but not yet aired and in fact still unedited. I hope you’ll appreciate it as much as I did.

“You’ve heard me say, well, you’ve heard me say lots of naughty things. For example, once I described food as a narcotic, didn’t I?

“I stand by this description. Food can get you as high as Gstaad, where I go every winter… It can give you a heavenly rush, it can make you feel and act brazenly sexy… Darren, keep that bloody camera off my arse for Christ’s sake! What are you trying to do, get us all sacked?..

“As a young, well, younger girl I had a crush on my maths teacher, a gloriously dishy and tasty man… as it were. And I remember him saying that if A equals B, then B equals A.

“So if food is a narcotic then a narcotic can be food, and today we’ll explore this proposition, probing deep, hard and long, just the way I like it…

“My American friends, well, those Americans who have become my amici by paying me oodles and oodles of their delicious dollars, like their hash browns.

“I hope I’m not taking too deep a plunge, and all plunges must be deep, if I suggest that it’s only a piccolissimo step from hash browns to hash brownies.

“This is my first recipe today, and when you’re feeling a bit low on an overcast winter giorno, this will get you sky high.

“Like any sexy food designed to lift spirits and skirts… Darren, there’s no need to get that low, these morons are getting the message anyway… my hash brownies must start with fresh, organically grown ingredients.

“Mine come from this heavenly emporium, by appointment only, in the darling car park behind King’s Cross, just a few minutes by limousine from Chelsea…

“Darren, keep it on the ingredients, not my cleavage, for crying out loud!.. How much of this delicious spice do you need? Well, figure – some figures are stimulatingly voluptuous, wouldn’t you say? – on half a gram per gram of brownie. A hundred or so should get you duplex-high.

“Since this orgasmic ingredient isn’t soluble in water, you must mix it with alcohol, a 100-year-old Armagnac for preference… just so… and as you fold in the brandy, place your Meissen bowl on a gentle heat… not too furious or you’ll crack it… but then gentle and hot do go together… Keep it on my hands, Darren, you bloody oligophrenic retard, not my tits! This is a bloody cookery programme, not soft porn! We’ll do the tit shot later…

“There, now that you have the mixture perfectly homogeneous and orgiastic, you can mould it into any shapes, including some naughty ones… like so… Does this remind you of anything? M-m-m-m, makes one want to lick one’s finger… just so, oh yes…

“And this is it – bake at medium temperature for twenty minutes until the brownies are al dente crisp and enjoy in the company of friends, ideally those who play eclectic instruments professionally… Did I say eclectic? I meant electric, but then being a girl I sometimes get things wrong…

“My second ricetta today is for those nasty giorni when things really get up your nose… or rather when things getting up your nose don’t have enough of the desired effect…

“You remember I once said that my mouth can accommodate anything? Well, so can my nose… Darren, you bloody nincompoop, that’s not where my nose is… But sometimes your nasal cavity is best used just to inhale yummy flavours, not act as a receptacle. There are many other receptacles after all…

“Anyway, the only utensils you need for this drop-dead dish, and I only mean this figuratively as I hope you understand, is this slightly wanton and lascivious ménage à trois of spoon, fire and smoking pipe…

“This scrumptious powder comes from the same King’s Cross emporium I mentioned earlier, ask for Sergei and tell him I’ve sent you…

“Put about a gram of it on the spoon… I still use the silver one I was born with in my bocca… just so…

“Now flick your solid-gold Dunhill lighter and gently heat the underside of the antique Tiffany spoon until this delectable powder forms fine crystals… Mix the crystallised dish with a little flavourful ether, put it in your pipe, light it up and inhale the orgiastic smoke, taking care not to exhale for as long as possible… M-m-m-m… de-lish!

“Enjoy this heavenly repast with your friends and especially your children, it really brings families together… Come, darling, try this…

“Now if this won’t get your evening to a new high, I don’t know what will…

“Well, it’s basta for tonight. Grazie mille for your attenzione. Darren, do you still have that stock close-up of me in the shower? Well, cut to that and fade out, you proletario stupido, do I have to think of everything?”



Pope Francis, waxing Marxist

That His Holiness knows little about economics, and understands even less, shouldn’t be held against him. It’s not his field after all.

Alas, he insists on making resonant statements on economics that are as weak on intellectual content as they are strong on ideological bias. Reading his 224-page manifesto, one has to acknowledge sadly that his bias is Marxist, which is to say demonstrably unsound and potentially harmful.

If His Holiness isn’t careful this may backfire on his theology as well. After all, Christ himself accepted economic inequality: “For ye have the poor with you always…” Since then it has been understood that the Church’s mission isn’t to eliminate such inequality but to teach Christians that it’s trivial compared with the ultimate equality of all before God.

The Pope attacks “rampant capitalism” as the cause of inequality and therefore social unrest. Those who believe that economic growth will trickle down to enrich the poor are “naïve”, he writes. I’d call them observant.

It has escaped the pontiff’s attention that it’s precisely “economic growth encouraged by a free market” that has ever succeeded in making sure people aren’t deprived of what Dr Johnson called the necessaries: food, shelter, clothes and what have you. Comparing, say, West to East Germany or South to North Korea as trial cases in which cultural differences don’t come into play, the Pope could see that free markets not only make some filthy rich but also prevent most from being dirt poor.

Conversely, the more diligently are egalitarian principles applied to an economy, the more likely it is to spread real poverty, the kind defined not as some having less than others but as most having nothing at all. Attempts to force ‘equality’ on people have invariably made them equal only in a bread queue, concentration camp or executioner’s cellar.

Our poor, munching junk food in front of their flat-screen TVs, are unimaginably wealthy by the standards of most people living in countries pursuing economic egalitarianism – or any of those where markets don’t operate vigorously.

Rather than seeing societies in terms of hierarchies based on ranks (similar to the Catholic Church actually), the Pope clearly sees them the way Marx did, as battlefields on which two hostile classes fight it out until one of them is dead.

“Without equal opportunities,” His Holiness writes, “the different forms of aggression and conflict will find a fertile terrain for growth and eventually explode.” This is nonsensical, as the briefest of looks at any current conflict will confirm.

And how does he propose to equalise opportunities? Suppose a rich man can afford to send his son to a good school, rather than to an idiot-spewing, ambition-stifling comprehensive, while a poor man can’t.

Leaving aside the fact that free schools have become so describable precisely because of the destructive impulse injected into society by egalitarians, the only way to level the playing field would be to dispossess the rich man – and ideally to shoot him pour encourager les autres.

This has been gleefully tried in half the world, with the inevitable outcome of a murderous tyrant squeezing his bulk into the seat vacated by the rich man. If the Pope has a different plan in mind, I’d like to hear it. Meanwhile suffice it to say that five millennia of recorded history have failed to produce one.

“As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets… by attacking the structural causes of inequality,” continues Pope Francis, “no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems. Inequality is the root of social ills.”

And there I was, thinking it was atheism, destroying our civilisation and bringing out the worst in human nature, already compromised by the Fall. His Holiness effectively, if one hopes unwittingly, joins Marxists in promoting envy as the principal social dynamic. Rather than telling people to thank God for whatever they have, he encourages them to cast a covetous eye at those who have more.

Anyway, exactly where in the world does he find the absolute autonomy of markets? All Western governments are busily destroying even their relative autonomy. In but a handful of countries the public sector, largely dedicated to promoting egalitarianism so dear to the Pope’s heart, already accounts for half the economy, give or take ten percent.

This undermines the markets, creating the worst poverty problem, not to mention a moral one: a vast increase in the number of the relatively poor living off state handouts. (Thus Burke: “the moment that government appears at market, the principles of the market will be subverted.”)

The Pope’s native country obviously didn’t imbue him with respect for free markets. Neither does he realise that the only way of promoting his egalitarian agenda is to make private property insecure. Yet secure property is a necessary, though not sufficient, remedy against tyranny.

His Holiness would serve the faithful much better if he told them that their lives should be guided by spiritual, not material concerns. Modern economies, he could say, place an unprecedented array of consumer goods at their disposal.

Some have access to more, some to less, but all have within their grasp what historically can only be seen as fairytale cornucopia. Therein lies the opportunity to have a materially easy life; but therein also lies the danger of leading a spiritually impoverished one.

Variously ingenious trinkets will never fill a spiritual vacuum, but that doesn’t mean that pursuing material comfort is wrong. What’s wrong is to do so at the expense of what really matters in life, thus creating a spiritual vacuum.

The life of the spirit won’t be jeopardised by either poverty or wealth – but it can be obliterated by a single-minded devotion to wealth, or for that matter by a single-minded (also destructive and doomed) devotion to ‘equality’.

Perhaps His Holiness could have quoted Aquinas: “There is not necessarily greater perfection where there is greater poverty; and indeed the highest perfection is sometimes wedded to great wealth…”

It’s St Thomas rather than Karl Marx who could provide a more reliable inspiration for a pontiff commenting on the economics of modern life. Marxist drivel is best left to the experts, such as EU officials or our own Ed Miliband. 

It’s the Church’s intrusion into secular affairs that partly caused the Reformation. Doing the same thing from a vulgar Marxist perspective can cause something much worse.

US diplomatic triumph in the Middle East

Iran cheers, Israel cringes, and the rest of us, those without an immediate stake in the matter, applaud Barack Obama and John Kerry for striking the deal of the century. Geneva has put Munich to shame.

The Geneva treaty makes a long-awaited step towards securing eternal peace not only in the Middle East but also in the rest of the world. After 14 centuries of conflict it appears that Islam and Christendom (as it used to be) have finally buried their hatchet.

Sorry to be using clichés, but I’m too overcome with emotion to look for less hackneyed phrases. In addition to joy and jubilation I feel a great deal of pride.

For I count myself fortunate in having been granted access to the actual text of the treaty, rather than the watered-down version released to the media. What is pleasing to see is that the whole world-saving process was free of ideological rancour, one way or the other.

Instead the text is drafted in a business-like manner, akin to parents specifying exactly how many brownie points children will receive for promising not to be naughty again and refraining from torturing that poor cat. The agreement has an eye-pleasing binary symmetry of Good Deed/Payment.

But judge for yourself. Here are selected excerpts from the text, as vouchsafed to me personally by a source that, in the good tradition of journalism, must remain unnamed (I’ll give you the faintest of clues though: his middle name is Hussein).

DEED: Iran promises not to enrich any more uranium to weapon-grade quality this month. PAYMENT: $1 billion.

DEED: Iran crosses her heart (in a manner of speaking) and promises to die, and please don’t stick a drone in her eye, swearing not to make too many nuclear warheads out of the uranium she has already enriched to weapon-grade quality. PAYMENT: $1 billion.

DEED: Iranian officials undertake not to make any more facetious suggestions that the Saudi national anthem should be called On the Sunni Side of the Street. PAYMENT: $1 billion.

DEED: Iran promises not to attach any nuclear warheads to her rockets for at least two (2) months. PAYMENT: $1 billion.

DEED: After this, Iran swears on Mohammed’s memory not to fire aforementioned rockets at any country other than Israel, and preferably not even at her unless the urge to do so becomes irresistible. PAYMENT: $1 billion.

DEED: Iran undertakes not to publish a cookery book titled Eating Shi’ite or, if she does so anyway, not to distribute it in Anglophone countries. PAYMENT: $1 billion.

DEED: Iran promises not to support Hezbollah, at least not so that the whole bloody world knows about it. PAYMENT: $1 billion.

DEED: Iran shall withdraw all, or at least most, copies of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, especially in the English translation, from both bookshops in the south-western part of Tehran. PAYMENT: $1 billion.

DEED: Iran shall refrain from blowing up any public transport in any Western capital before or during Christmas. PAYMENT: $1 billion, and Dave, you can bloody well chip in on this one.

DEED: Iran undertakes not to enter President Hassan Rouhani into the GQ Best-Dressed contest this year, leaving the field clear for Dame Edna. PAYMENT: $1 billion.

DEED: If Iran must launch a nuclear missile at Tel Aviv, and let the world know that the US Administration and President Obama personally are unequivocally opposed to any such action, Iran shall refrain from doing so on Barack’s watch. PAYMENT: $1 billion.

DEED: Even though John Kerry is half-Jewish, Iran promises not to call him ‘Jewboy’ ever again, and certainly not in any diplomatic situation. PAYMENT: $1 billion.

DEED: Iran shall scale down her uranium-enrichment activities, discontinuing them altogether when she has produced enough nuclear warheads for her purposes. PAYMENT: $1 billion.

DEED: Iran shall not support the ‘good guys’ (however defined) in Syria after they have won a decisive victory, and not in any demonstrative fashion until then. PAYMENT: $1 billion.

DEED: Iran undertakes not to use the billions earned so far to buy any nuclear warheads from the Russians or the Chinese, especially if she becomes capable of manufacturing her own. PAYMENT: $1 billion.

I’ve only highlighted the most salient points of this historic agreement that undoubtedly makes the world a safer place, and Iran a richer country.

I hope you’ll join me in extending heartiest congratulations to Barack ‘Just-Call-Me-Hussein’ Obama and John ‘No-Towelhead-Calls-Me-Jewboy-And-Gets-Away-With-it’ Kerry for this triumph of diplomacy. If Metternich, Talleyrand and Neville Chamberlain were alive, they’d be doffing their hats.

However, I’d cancel that Eilat holiday if I were you, Red Sea or no Red Sea. Just to be on the safe side.




Music doth proclaim Ed Miliband

If it’s true that, as Plato believed, music is the moral law, then Ed has to be among the world’s most immoral men.

He also has to be successful, as an invitation to appear on Desert Island Discs testifies. When one goes there, one has arrived.

For the uninitiated, the guest on this programme is asked to pick eight pieces of music he’d take with him to a desert island. The length of the sojourn isn’t specified, so the respondents have to assume they’ll be listening to their choices till they die.

In the old days, politicians didn’t hesitate to expose themselves to ridicule by choosing classical music only or predominantly, thereby confessing to being hopelessly out of touch with the electorate.

The late Enoch Powell, for example, was the last cultured politician we had. Actually his culture got him in a spot of trouble when he quoted Virgil’s remark about ‘the River Tiber foaming with much blood’ in the context of unrestricted immigration of cultural aliens to Britain.

The less erudite but more garrulous press immediately accused the well-read Tory not only of racism but also of somehow being complicit in the conspiracy to shed said rivers of blood.

Enoch’s DID choices provided more ammunition for his detractors: four of the eight pieces he chose were by Wagner. Now it’s my personal conviction that inordinate affection for Wagner is a reliable clinical symptom of madness. And even if a man isn’t mad to begin with, spending his life listening to nothing but Wagner would surely push him over the edge.

But at least Powell was honest about his tastes, quaint as they may have been. As today’s lot have neither his erudition nor his honesty, they use the opportunity to score political points.

The game-changing point that must be scored by any aspiring politician is one awarded for being a Man of the People. This means that no more than one classical selection is acceptable, and ideally none.

A Tory can just about get away with one (a hummable Mendelssohn song in Dave’s case), provided it’s not too posh. A Labour man can’t afford such elitism if he’s to retain any hope of high office.

In neither case do such political limitations impose a hardship. For whatever social background today’s leaders come from, culturally they’re as savage as your average White Lightning drinker. (You probably don’t know what that is, which speaks highly of you.)

So for them choosing popular tunes isn’t only expedient but also natural. What matters isn’t that they choose such tunes, but what tunes they choose.

Ed’s first choice was the South African national anthem. He’s prepared to listen all his life to these rousing words: “Nkosi sikelel’ iAfrika Maluphakanyisw’ uphondo lwayo, Yizwa imithandazo yethu, Nkosi sikelela, thina lusapho lwayo.” Is he going to sing along? One wonders.

His multi-culti credentials secure, Ed had to reaffirm his commitment to his own country (and her established religion), which commitment on the part of Ed’s family has at times been questioned. Thus he chose Jerusalem, the Anglican hymn in which William Blake promises to build said Jerusalem “in England’s green and pleasant land”.

On general principle, one rather doubts that this air strikes a familiar chord in Ed’s soul because he spent his childhood singing it on Sundays. I’m guessing here, but it’s just possible that Ed was restating his belief in responsible environmentalism, specifically the part of it sustained by green and unpleasant taxes.

Ed’s sensitive side is manifested by his choice of Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond. Obviously he went over the stock of British soupy songs and found them wanting. Good to see such discernment in our next prime minister. A note to Ed: make sure voters understand that the ‘hands reaching out and touching you’ aren’t your own.

Then there’s Je Ne Regrette Rien by Edith Piaf, which in this instance is designed to vent Ed’s innermost feelings to his Labour supporters. To wit: I don’t regret stabbing my own brother in the back and stealing the party leadership from him – and who are you calling Cain, you crypto-Tory you?

To communicate his populism or, what would be worse, his actual tastes, Ed also selected three pop pieces. Since I’ve heard of neither the songs nor their authors, I’ll refrain from comment – other than complimenting Ed on his political acumen and rebuking him for his underdeveloped musical sense.

But the last selection is perhaps the most telling: Ballad of Joe Hill sung by Paul Robeson. In case you’re unfamiliar with Paul Robeson, he was a black basso profundo.

The Times has also identified him as an American ‘civil rights activist’, which he was – in the same sense in which Pol Pot was a fighter for Khmer freedom.

Robeson was Stalin’s personal friend and a member of the American Communist Party, denied a US passport at a time Stalinism was frowned upon. In other words, he was an active supporter and promulgator of the regime that murdered millions of its own people and was trying to do the same to the rest of the world.

Does Ed think this is what being a ‘civil rights activist’ means? He may well do – they don’t call him Red Ed for nothing. In all likelihood, however, he was appealing to his core supporters, the unrepentant communists in the Labour ranks.

I for one would love to see Ed actually marooned on a desert island and doomed to listen to his selections. Alas, I fear he’ll be moving to Downing Street instead.

Blue is the colour of this movie

Blue Is the Warmest Colour (La Vie d’Adèlein the original French) is a film so objectionable on so many levels that it’s no wonder it won Palme d’Or at Cannes.

Nor is it particularly surprising that film critics in all our papers are issuing girlish gasps of delight, especially those who aren’t themselves girls.

We have no film critics any longer, just film buffs incapable of considering a piece of celluloid as a work of art living in a broad cultural and aesthetic context.

The American critic John Simon was the last one capable of doing so, but he’s too old now. It’s a pity for he’d pan Blue Is the Warmest Colour.

Today’s lot don’t: for them it’s a masterpiece, an artistic triumph transcending cinema. Hardly any Anglophone critic has given the film fewer than five stars, and a temptation must have been strong to extend the rating scale just this once.

After all, not only is the film unremittingly graphic, homosexual and French, but it also touches upon things like the primacy of existence over essence. Characteristically, the concept is ascribed to Jean-Paul Sartre, with no apology made to Aristotle and the subsequent 2,500 years of thought. But then everyone knows that there’s no philosophy other than French and Jean-Paul is its prophet. Really, the French should stop teaching philosophy in school or at least keep it out of their flicks.

The film chronicles a protracted lesbian affair between Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos), a teenage schoolgirl, and Emma (Léa Seydoux), an older art student.

Both actresses really are superb, but it takes more than good acting to make a good film. The director Abdellatif Kechiche makes this point with practically every frame.

The age difference between the lovers would make Emma a criminal in Britain: when the two girls first engage in sexual acrobatics, Adèle is only about 15.

In France, however, 15 is the age of consent, which puts Emma on the right side of prison and the sex offender list. There are of course moral issues involved, but these days even implying that there just may be something wrong with homosexuality is so passé (not to mention borderline illegal) that the thought wouldn’t even cross my mind.

More important, the thought didn’t cross Kechiche’s mind and he treats the relationship as any old love story in which the participants’ sex is irrelevant. In an early scene, before Adèle has even gone further than a couple of saliva-swapping kisses, her classmates do abuse her as a ‘lesbo’, but Kechiche’s camera dismisses them as feral brutes.

Much has been written about the graphic consummation scene lasting 10 minutes or thereabouts. Some critics cite seven minutes, some eight, and I didn’t have a stopwatch handy. To their credit, some did mention that the scene is too long and really quite risible. I can testify that last night many viewers did laugh out loud watching the girls turning the old 69 into more like 4761 (69 squared).

Kechiche shot the scene with three cameras, which enabled him to film the whole romp in one continuous take. Normally, the actresses would have done only a little reciprocal munching before a break to set up new camera angles.

This would have taken 15 minutes or so, giving the girls enough time to catch their breath and brush their teeth. This way they had to go at it for a full 10 minutes each take, and there were lots of takes. That scene alone took 10 days to shoot, and I’m amazed the actresses weren’t left with incurable lockjaw.

According to Léa Seydoux, they weren’t actually doing it for real: both actresses were fitted with fake vaginas moulded into their own. This was the only compromise Kechiche conceded to what he doubtless sees as uncompromising realism, what a strict moralist would see as pornography and what I see as shocking artistic ineptitude.

Any serious artist would have delivered the necessary message in 30 seconds – this would have been not only better film but also better eroticism. It’s not only the devil but also art that’s in the detail, but Kechiche’s idea of detail is to show a freely flowing gallon of snot in a lovingly lingering close-up.

In fact, I’m surprised snot didn’t get a billing in the credits, there’s so much of it gushing throughout the three-hour film. Any kind man would have given Adèle some pseudoephedrine early in the first reel, but one can understand Kechiche’s reluctance to do so. Without a steady flow of mucus his bag of artistic tricks would have been well-nigh empty.

Rarely does one see a director so thoroughly devoid of any sense of balance, structure and rhythm. One gets the impression the film, which took almost six months to shoot, went so far over budget that there was no money left for a decent editor.

Any half-competent cutter would have treated the film as three hours of raw footage, a sort of first draft. He’d then cut it down to a lean 90 minutes, accentuating the relevant, plot-developing, character-defying details and downplaying the rest.

As it is, we’re left with three hours of one tedious close-up of running noses after another. Every scene goes on until the viewer (well, this viewer) is utterly bored and mildly nauseated. Every scene is treated as equally important, which to a man of taste would mean that none of them is important at all.

This, and not just the graphic sex scenes, is what makes Blue Is the Warmest Colour truly pornographic. Add to this the pseudo-philosophical pretentiousness that has become the hallmark of so many French films, and one can understand the admiring gasps of our critics.

The poor sods really don’t know better – and why would they? Where could they find the requisite taste and judgment in a culture that makes I’m a celebrity… get me out of here its towering achievement? Don’t answer it.

Back in the USSR: Putin twists the Ukraine’s arm

It was a done deal. The Ukraine would join a trade pact with the EU as a run-up to full membership. All she had to do was release the imprisoned ex-Premier Yulia Timoshenko and ink would go on paper.

Angela was happy, her Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle was ecstatic, so was his husband. President Victor Yanukovych was happy too, even though that bitch Yulia almost defeated him in the 2010 elections.

Victor clapped her in poky after that and now he’d have to let her go, supposedly to Germany for medical treatment. What’s wrong with Ukrainian prison doctors? Anyway, Angela is welcome to her. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

That’s a small price to pay for becoming Angela’s full-fledged partner in Europe. If Angela’s love is contingent on Yulia’s release, Victor wouldn’t quibble. After all, he’d no longer be Russia’s stooge. He, Yanukovych, has come a long way from his humble beginnings.

Actually, the beginnings were more than just humble: young Victor had two felony convictions to his name. The first one was for ripping fur hats off people’s heads as they were doing their business in unheated public lavatories. The second one was less Baroque: a straightforward armed robbery.

That background is slightly unorthodox for a European leader in the making, but hey – who hasn’t done silly things in his youth? And Victor has more than made up for his youthful indiscretions. These days he calls himself Professor Yanukovych, though he still has difficulties spelling the title in his native Russian (he favours the ‘proffesor’ version).

And now he’ll sit as an equal at the Brussels round table – how good is that? Alas, good things in life sometimes turn out to be illusory.

On 9 November, Yanukovych was summoned to a meeting with Putin, held in secret at Novo-Ogaryovo, Putin’s (actually the government’s, but let’s not split hairs) estate near Moscow.

Both statesmen are comfortable with the concept of clandestine meetings, Putin thanks to his former capacity as KGB spy runner, Yanukovych thanks to his former capacity as petty criminal. That the meeting had taken place was only announced two days later. The outcome of it was made clear yesterday.

Rather than signing a trade pact with the EU, the Ukraine will enter a customs union with Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus. The hydrocarbon leash on which the ‘former’ Soviet republics have been held has now been shortened.

No doubt Putin learned the customs-union trick from the Germans on whom he used to spy when young Victor was still nicking hats from defecators. It was by using the Zollverein, customs union with other German states, that Prussia successfully united Germany under her aegis in 1871.

Now Putin is using the same stratagem to rebuild the Soviet Union, whose demise was, according to him, the greatest tragedy of the twentieth century. Considering that more people were killed in that century than in all the previous centuries of recorded history combined, the claim sounds slightly bizarre. But the man is entitled to his own opinion.

The fact is that all ‘former’ Soviet republics are securely attached to Russia by economic ties, especially by the umbilical oil pipe, which is why the ‘collapse of the Soviet Union’ was allowed to happen in the first place – indeed was actively promoted by both the communist party and the KGB.

Yanukovych has explained to the upset Europeans that he had no other choice. Over several years it would cost the Ukraine $500 billion in lost Russian trade, not to mention the $100 billion cost of complying with EU regulations.

“For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest,” says the book Putin has held in high esteem for the last few years. Suddenly, the agenda of Novo-Ogaryovo emerges out of the fog of mystery.

The ex-Premier Timoshenko is doing time for having entered into an extortionate gas deal with the Russians. She was subsequently charged with corruption, and no doubt she was guilty – either in the traditional kick-back sense or more likely because, desperate for votes in the predominantly Russian east of her country, she made the Ukraine pay for her electoral success.

Now Vlad probably told Vic that, if the Ukraine still wanted Russian hydrocarbons, she’d have to pay not just through the nose but also through every other orifice in her body. The EU isn’t going to be much help, Vic, you know that.

As to the billions in Russian trade, they’d vanish and how does Vic propose to replace them? Vlad no doubt tried to put this as gently as possible, but Ukrainian goods aren’t exactly, how will he say this without offending Vic, of pan-European quality.

The French and the Germans aren’t going to queue up for them even if Angela and François tell them to do so, the bastards are too hoity-toity for that. The Russians are different: most of them are half-starving, so they’ll gobble up anything. Moreover, many Ukrainian products are made specifically for the Russian market and to Russian specifications.

The Ukraine is poor, but there’s poverty and there’s famine. Remember the 1930s, Vic? Yes, Vlad’s historians still insist that millions of Ukrainians didn’t starve to death then. But that doesn’t mean they won’t this time. And what’ll happen to your electoral chances then, Vic?

All it takes now is for Paul McCartney to attend a Kremlin reception and sing his immortal hit ‘Back in the USSR’. At the subsequent banquet, Yanukovych could serve at the tables, perhaps assisted by Peter Hitchens and other Western admirers of Putin.


The level of parliamentary debate rises up to the nose

As a seasoned debater, Dave has learned the most important trick of all: steer clear of any serious discussion of policies whenever possible – and always when TV cameras are rolling.

One tosses a stone at one’s opponent’s policies and suddenly the projectile comes back with interest. One can easily be found out, what?

Let’s say one accuses a Labour frontbencher of an inordinate affection for high spending financed by borrowing. A perfectly valid point, that, but does that uncouth prole concede it?

Does he bloody hell. Instead he has the gall to come back with “Oh yeah? ‘Ave you looked at your own policies lately, mate?” or whatever uncouth proles say under such circumstances.

The honest answer would be no, one hasn’t, but honesty isn’t the best policy, not in Parliament. So it’s better to stick to what at Eton they call ad hominems. The more lightheartedly offensive the better.

The kind of ad hominem doesn’t really matter. Take yesterday’s session for example. The Reverend Flowers is much in the news as a user of cocaine, crack, crystal meth, cannabis, ketamine, GHB (mental note to oneself: not to be confused with GBH) and what have you.

Mind you, high as this ex-Chairman of the Co-Op Bank rose in business, he was only a lowly councilman in the Labour party. Still, too good an opportunity to miss. Every line snorted by a Labour chap, no matter how lowly, can become a clever line in Dave’s capable.

So when Miliband mentioned his tax plans, Dave seized the chance. “That is not a policy; it is a night out with the Reverend Flowers.” That toadie Osborne laughed hysterically, as if he’d just broken another chair on a Bullingdon outing. Job done.

Then came the turn of Michael Meacher, a former Labour minister who looks like a retired Edwardian parson. He dared ask Dave about Britain’s levels of business investment, low by international standards. Bloody cheek!

But Dave knew how to cut the wrinkly down to size. He was on a roll: “I can only conclude that the Right Honourable gentleman, too, has been on a night out on the town with the Rev Flowers and that the mind-altering substances have taken effect.”

That’s the way to field such queries. Business investment, low, high, average, who the hell cares? Certainly not Dave. He does know, however, how to score points.

That particular point got disallowed though. The wrinkly screamed bloody murder to the Speaker about Dave’s little quip, describing it as “unjustifiable, rude and offensive” and, well, unparliamentary.

It was time to backpedal a little. “I made a light-hearted remark,” smiled Dave. “If it caused any offence, I will happily withdraw it. I think it is very important that we can have a little bit of light-hearted banter, and a sense of humour on all sides.”

At which point the shadow chancellor Ed Balls screamed, “Have you ever taken cocaine?” But because he never got up from his seat, Dave felt justified in ignoring the question, as he always does.

Look, what was he supposed to say? “What, a member of Bullingdon’s taking cocaine? How preposterous can you get?” No one would have believed it, and anyway it’s best not to remind the proles of one’s own status in life.

Anyway, Dave has had to grapple with this question for years and he has never deviated from his original line: “I did lots of things before I came into politics which I shouldn’t have done. We all did.”  And that includes you, Balls.

Get it? ‘Before I came into politics’! So on the one hand Dave modestly hints at the remote possibility of youthful indiscretions, while on the other strongly implying that as a politician he has been whiter than… well, cocaine.

So what if he was almost expelled from Eton for smoking dope? That was then and this is now.

As to dealing with Ed Balls, Dave has that down pat too. Whenever that lout opens his mouth to heckle, Dave dismisses him as a Tourette’s sufferer. Works every time, as do various sparkling witticisms based on Ed’s surname.

All in a day’s work. His statesmanship done for this week, Dave goes back to Number 10 to chillax with Sam, whom one presumes he lovingly calls ‘the girl with the dolphin tattoo’.

When Sam dozes off, he spends a few minutes sketching a few witty retorts for future use. For example, when the issue of hunting next comes up, which it’s bound to, Dave will say, let’s see, oh yes, “I realise that the Right Honourable gentleman is more familiar with a different kind of horse. The kind he calls ‘H’, what?” Brill!

And there’s more mileage in Flowers yet. It’s not just drugs, it’s also homosexual porn and trysts with rent boys. Let’s see: “What Flowers did to those rent boys, the Right Honourable gentleman will do to the economy.” Yes, that could work. Anyway, it’s the one for tomorrow.

Dave smiles and dozes off next to Sam. His conscience is clear and he sleeps well. He knows he’s doing his best for Britain. 


An argument in favour of nude priestesses

Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, laments that the Church of England is just “one generation away from extinction”.

The reasons for this are, according to him, mostly demographic: old church-goers are dying out without being replaced by an influx of youngsters.

The derivative problem is, according to him, mostly financial. As parishes are growing smaller, so are their revenues. The cost of maintaining church buildings, however, is stubbornly going in the opposite direction. This, says Lord Carey, threatens the existence of our national Church.

Though this analysis is somewhat lacking in depth, it does lead to an unequivocal conclusion. In order to survive, the Church must attract more young worshippers.

This is no mean task, which is illustrated by the grandson of a friend of mine. The boy was asked in class to supply a word, starting with an ‘a’, that describes someone who neither believes nor disbelieves in God, but just doesn’t know.

Without a moment’s hesitation the boy blurted, “Anglican, Miss!” The boy’s reply was telling, if technically incorrect.

So how does Lord Carey propose to combat this image of Anglicanism, filling the churches and thereby the coffers of the national Church? What according to him is the crux of the problem?

Simple. Anglican services are ‘too boring’. Again the conclusion offers itself: make them less boring and youngsters will flock in.

Lord Carey didn’t define ‘less boring’ but, considering his own liturgical preferences, to him ‘less boring’ probably means less orthodox.

Well, the Church is making giant steps in that direction already, what with ordaining female clergy, using crass versions of scriptural texts, blessing same-sex marriages and consecrating women bishops, coming soon to the diocese near you.

Alas, such measures haven’t produced a stampede of new communicants: Anglican congregations are running at half the numbers they had in the ‘60s. Unless the Church puts more bums on pews soon, before long there won’t be any bums left and consequently no pews.

Clearly, drastic measures are in order: we must make church-going fun, to compete with the fun offered on pop-music and porn websites. Hence my modest proposal.

What if not some but most vicars were female? And what if they all celebrated mass wearing their dog collars and nothing else? Suddenly we can all see boys rushing in just to hear a naked woman saying, “this is my body…”

Now, scanning the photographs of some of our women vicars, one may feel that their nudity may have the opposite effect. But not to worry. Suddenly a massive existential problem has been reduced to a small technical one.

All the Church has to do is ordain women mainly on the basis of their vital statistics. Never mind the theology, feel the flesh.

Can’t you just see those boards on churches’ façades? “The Rev. Jane Doe, 38-24-38, nude mass, evensong to the biggest hits on the chart.” If you were a teenager passing by, wouldn’t you be curious to see what’s going on inside? QED.

Not sure about this idea? No problem; I have many others. For example, A.N. Wilson puts the diminishing attendance down to the observable fact that young people no longer believe in the Incarnation of Christ.

From his narrow perspective he sees this as a serious drawback. However, it instantly becomes less problematic if we look at it merely from the standpoint of increased attendance, not theological rectitude.

Here the market-survey techniques currently being pioneered by the Catholic Church will come in handy. The purpose of market surveys in the commercial, and now also ecclesiastical, world is to identify what the potential customers want and give it to them.

In this instance, if youngsters don’t believe in the divinity of Christ, just take it out of the liturgy altogether. Jesus has already become a superstar, so why not turn him into just a pop star to attract those self-abusing youths? No reason at all.

A nude female vicar could impersonate Mary Magdalene, while a similarly unclad vicar could do her husband, a writhing, dancing, singing Jesus. Draw youngsters in? You could charge admission and get away with it.

Sorry for being so flippant. The alternative is too distressing: having to remind the Church of what it’s for.

Still, for old times’ sake, one could mention that the purpose of a church is to preach Truth, bringing people together in communion with God and assisting their salvation.

All should be welcome to come in, and the clergy, indeed all Christians, are duty-bound to invite all. But the invitation must be based on the appeal of Truth, not on vulgar tricks borrowed from mass marketing, pop music and whatever secular fads are currently in vogue.

The early Church didn’t draw pagans in by promising that their time-honoured practice of human sacrifice could continue. It didn’t seek popularity by encouraging licence, perversion and good-natured agnosticism.

Instead the Church simply said, “This is Truth – take it or leave it.” Enough people took it to build on the foundations of this Truth the greatest civilisation the world has ever known.

We must all lament that the situation has changed and most people are deaf to Truth. Such people must be taught or, failing that, pitied. But they must not be tricked by vulgarising Truth and thus turning it into a lie.

If this means reduced congregations and smaller revenues, then so be it. Two millennia ago the Church managed to shine the light of Truth out of Roman catacombs and Mediterranean barns. Quality attracted quantity, turning the Church into the dominant institution of the West.

The answer to the Church’s problem isn’t less orthodoxy, but more. Truth isn’t a weathervane turning whichever way the wind is blowing. It’s immutable, uncompromising and non-negotiable. One only wishes that more of our prelates understood this.

How to get a head in Syria

Al-Qaeda warriors for Allah in Syria have apologised for cutting off and then displaying a wrong man’s head.

A right head would have been one belonging to a Shiite member of Assad’s troops. The wrong head belonged to a fellow Sunni militant who had the misfortune of being wounded and consequently not coherent enough to identify himself properly when his fellow fighters for democracy arrived on the scene.

One of them immediately pulled out a knife and cut off the wounded man’s head, as one does. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, his fellow democrats were able to film the grinning executioner holding up the severed head by the hair. They then broadcast the video for the delectation of likeminded viewers.

That’s how they found out they had made a mistake: one of the viewers recognised the face as belonging to one of the good guys (as seen from his vantage point). To their credit, the beheaders acknowledged the mistake and asked for ‘understanding and forgiveness’.

Commenting on this development, a witty American reader of mine was laudably magnanimous: “Please, no apology needed,” he wrote. “Think nothing of it. Honest!” (The same man has decorated his car with a bumper-sticker saying, “Don’t blame me, I voted Chalcedonian.” That made him my friend for life.)

For myself, I was happy to see that some young people in the world still have manners. Our own yobs never say sorry for anything they do, although they generally tend to stop just short of decapitation.

As to the ‘understanding and forgiveness’ requested by the al-Qaeda chaps, I’m not sure how eagerly it’ll be proffered. You see, to err may be human, but to forgive isn’t always an automatic response on the part of Muslims, especially those who are more bellicose than average. An eternal vendetta for many a generation is something that comes to them much more naturally.

On that general observation the beheader would be well-advised to lie low for a while. An extended while, actually, ideally for life. Even then he’ll be constantly looking over his shoulder, which is guaranteed to give him neck pains.

However, much as I’m concerned about his wellbeing, I also have other concerns that take priority. Such as the plight of the Royal Marine sergeant who has been convicted for shooting an al-Qaeda militant badly wounded in an attack on the Marine’s base.

A few days ago I complimented the sergeant on his erudition, albeit displayed in a rather eclectic style. As he was about to shoot the prisoner, the Marine waxed Shakespearean, with a twist: “Shuffle off this mortal coil, you c***. It’s nothing you wouldn’t do to us.”

I’d suggest that the second statement has been vindicated by our apologetic Muslims. In fact, the Marine could have gone even further by saying that what ‘you would do to us’ would be much, much worse.

In fact, he had seen many a tree decorated with the body parts of his comrades, many of the parts severed before the men were dead. Al-Qaeda democrats do go in for such exhibitionism big time, and viewing their handiwork is bound to have devastating effects on anyone raised in a different culture.

Two wrongs don’t make a right and all that, but if there ever were mitigating circumstance to a killing, the sergeant’s case has them galore. ‘Mitigating’ doesn’t mean ‘exculpating’, and he ought to be punished for acting the way he did.

But punishing him with a life sentence, the maximum his offence can carry, would be an act of gross injustice. People who fight savages should not themselves become savage, but it’s utter folly to demand that they not make a step or two in that direction.

Any warfare hardens the heart, and this kind of warfare can well turn it to granite. Our top generals understand this, which is why they’re begging the tribunal for mercy to the Marine (and his young family, who may lose their sole source of income).

We should all pray for it, hoping that ghastly political correctness hasn’t yet reached our military. I do say my prayers – but I’m not holding my breath.

P.S. And speaking of apologies, a young Polish sculptor in Gdansk made a powerful sculpture of a Soviet soldier raping a pregnant Polish woman while holding a gun to her head.

During the night the young man placed the sculpture next to the monument of a Soviet tank, which celebrates the liberation of Poland from the Nazis. Come morning, the sculpture was removed, but not fast enough to escape the attention of the Russians.

Their embassy demanded an apology, which was meekly offered. Yet the Poles would have been within their rights to tell the Russians to perform a ballistically improbable act on themselves.

That the Soviet ‘liberators’ raped millions of German women of all ages is a fact universally acknowledged. Less known is the equally verifiable fact that the ‘liberators’ also raped every woman on the way to Germany – in western Russia, Belorus, Czechoslovakia and of course Poland.

They then raped the whole country by inflicting upon it the red version of slavery in place of the brown one. I think the Poles should withdraw their apology and restore a sense of balance by reinstating the sculpture.