London’s burning

With anger, that is. The city has been paralysed by a giant agitprop exercise, the three-day cycling extravaganza RideLondon.

This is yet another instalment in the propaganda campaign that may be less sinister than the Nuremberg rallies of yore, but is as shrill and persistent. The aim is to elevate cycling to a high moral plateau, a sort of ersatz sainthood.

To that end, 100 miles of London roads, along with 10 bridges, have been closed to normal traffic, stranding millions of Londoners and reserving the thoroughfares for 100,000 participants in yet another pagan rite of modernity.

Now if anyone wishes to join the human herd shilling for locomotion assisted by two wheels rather than two legs or six cylinders, then by all means he should be free to do so. Collective passions aren’t always attractive, but they may be indulged, provided – and this is a critical proviso – this isn’t done at other people’s expense.

Some causes may justify making thousands, probably millions, of people prisoners in their own homes, but cycling isn’t one of them. Those who want to parade their social conscience should do so in the country, where they’d cause less disruption to normal life.

Yet when modernity gets on its high horse, or in this case bike, reason need not apply. Thus cycling has claimed something to which it isn’t entitled: moral ascendancy.

It has taken a place next to wind farms, solar panels, public foreplay with trees and hoodies, not smoking, not driving after a pint, not using private medicine and other merit badges of PC modernity.

Overnight a Londoner riding a bike to work stopped being a miser willing to risk his life to save a few pennies, or else a health freak prepared to die for stronger leg muscles, or perhaps an impatient chap outracing a bus in rush-hour traffic. He’s now a secular saint doing his bit for environmental and personal health.

Whenever their PC button is pushed, our brainwashed masses respond with a surfeit of enthusiasm and a shortfall of reason. Thus it never occurs to them that cycling offers no environmental benefits over public transport: those trains and buses are going to run anyway, so what’s a few passengers more or less? Of course, if most people cycled to work there would be fewer buses and trains, but even cycling fanatics don’t claim such a development is likely.

Also, the ubiquitous bicycle lanes in our streets suffocate traffic, thereby increasing air pollution considerably more than replacing a few of those bikes with cars would do.

The health benefits of cycling in cities must be juxtaposed with the thousands of accidents involving cyclists every year, hundreds of them fatal. It’s not for nothing that the staff of London’s St Thomas’ Hospital refer to cyclists as ‘organ donors’.

We should acknowledge an obvious fact: our major cities aren’t designed for cycling. London isn’t Amsterdam, where traffic crawls along the canals at a snail’s pace.

We have more drivers, more opportunity to drive at the speed limit and more lorries whose drivers are often unsighted. Hence the only way to reduce the number of cycling deaths is to reduce the number of cyclists. Instead the government is doing all it can to pushbike more people in harm’s way.

Cyclists contribute nothing to the upkeep of the roads they use. They don’t have their bicycles registered and insured. (The insurance premiums would be prohibitive, what with cycling presenting a higher actuarial risk than driving. It’s not just cyclists themselves who are at risk, but also drivers who often have to swerve to avoid adding another pair of kidneys to the St Thomas’s organ bank.)

Cyclists get away with disobeying traffic rules. How many times have you had to jump out of a cyclist’s way on a pedestrian crossing? How many of them have you seen running a red light or going hell for leather on a pavement?

Also, any London driver knows that the need to watch out for cyclists popping up all over the place is stressful, and stress is known to increase the number of accidents. Yet no matter how egregiously a cyclist flouts the rules of the road, any collision between him and a car is automatically treated as the driver’s fault.

A driver is an offence to PC sensibility, whereas a cyclist is a boost to it. That’s why the government, enthusiastically abetted by our subversive mayor, is driving sensible Londoners to apoplexy by granting freedom of the city to an infuriating pagan rite.

The claim is that this annual event has contributed £82 million to London’s economy over the last four years. Even if true, which I doubt, this isn’t a sufficient excuse.

Modernity in general is obsessed with arithmetic, which has replaced theology, ethics and philosophy as the key determinant of public life.

Our government is chosen by the arithmetic of elections and governs by the arithmetic of focus groups. Success in life is measured in arithmetic terms, with a property speculator seen as more successful than a brilliant theologian. Quality of life is measured arithmetically. The number of computers per household is seen as an important factor, while the quality of the books in the same house isn’t.

How do you measure the impotent rage of millions of Londoners against a few million pounds here and there? Especially considering that the amount mentioned is trivial in a city whose annual budget is £16 billion, much of which is wasted on hare-brained schemes and general incompetence?

Does anyone realise what an affront to freedom this spectacle is? No, of course not. Freedom has no arithmetic equivalent, which means it has no value.

Let’s talk education, Manny

Manny Macron’s decision to discuss global education with the West Indian singer Rihanna has made me feel ashamed of myself.

Before Manny showed the way, Rihanna wouldn’t have been my first choice of interlocutor in such a conversation. In fact – and it pains me to admit this – she wouldn’t have made the list of choices at all.

This only goes to show what a hopeless retrograde I am, how deeply in the thrall of my snobbish prejudices. After all, we’ve known since the eighteenth century that vox populi is in fact vox dei. In other words, it’s Almighty God himself who speaks through the millions of Rihanna admirers around the world.

Since she’s chosen by God, questioning her qualifications to expound on any subject is therefore sheer blasphemy. By contrast, Manny and his foster mother Brigitte are obviously better attuned to divine messages than I am – which they showed by welcoming Rihanna to the Elysée Palace.

To put me to shame even further, and also to teach me a thing or two, they’ve sent me the transcript of the discussion, which I’m happy to share with you.

Manny and Brigitte: Bonjour!

Rihanna: What a gwaan?

M: Oh, we’re bien, thank you. Now I ‘ear you ‘ave been named the 2017 ‘arvard University ‘umanitarian of the Year.

R: Yah mon. Tis big ting for me.

B: Felicitations. Manny knows all your songs, don’t you Manny?

M: Oui, Maman.

B: What’s your particular favourite, Manny? You know, the song I made you learn by heart last night?

M: Zat goes like zis: Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?// Thou art more lovely and more temperate.// Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,// And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.// Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,// And often is his gold complexion dimmed;// And every fair from fair sometime declines,// By chance or nature’s changing course untrimmed…

R: How di boy deh ah act so doltish? I don’t even know dis crap.

M: What did she say, Maman?

B: She said you’re un con. Stupide. Zat’s what I made you learn two days ago, but no? What was on that sheet of paper I gave you hier soir?

M: Oh oui, Maman, ‘ere it is: “Can we burn something, babe?// And I’ll run for miles just to get a taste// Must be love on the brain// That’s got me feeling this way, feeling this way// It beats me black and blue but it fucks me so good// And I can’t get enough// Must be love on the brain, yeah…”

R: Yu done know, mon.

B: Isn’t zat charmant? Zis must be taught in all French schools. Non, in all schools of ze world. I’m a teacher myself, moi-même.

M: A great teacher, Maman. Je me souviens… I still remember zose leather trousers you wore when you first walked into our classroom…

R: Respect, mon. Dese are da big tings.

B: My trousers weren’t big. Zey were quite tight, but no?

M: Zat’s why I remember, Maman.

R: Lookinh sharp, Bridge. Now mek wi reason education?

B: But of course, let’s talk education by all means. As one educator to another, how can we help your cause, Rihanna?

M: How can I help, Maman! I’m ze president.

B: Oh ferme ta bouche, mon petit. Shut up and listen, no talking in class… or at ze palace for zat matter. So Rihanna, chérie, how can we help?

R: Paypa, mon.

M: Paper? Papier? Do you mean money?

R: Yah, mon. Frackles. Bills. Paypa. Money for my education fund for developing countries. Do yu ting, mon.

M: Oh, sans problème. Zere’s plenty of money still left in ze defence budget…

B: Ferme ta bouche, mon petit! Our top general has already resigned because of your budget cuts…

M: But Maman, l’education globale is more important than defence. Don’t worry, Rihanna. We’ll find ze money.

B: On your tête be it, mon petit.

R: Tenk ya, mon.

According to the reports, Rihanna made the following statement immediately after the meeting: “I’ve just had the most incredible meeting with the president and the first lady. They were incredibly welcoming to us. We focused on the topic of education from a global aspect. And I’m so inspired and impressed with Mr Macron’s leadership.”

So am I. And so, I’m sure, are the French. It’s thus inexplicable why Manny’s popularity has dipped more than any other president’s at this stage of his tenure. Must be something wrong with the polls.


At least he isn’t boring

Much as I hate finding myself on the same side with assorted lefties and neocons, I don’t particularly like Donald Trump.

I find him vulgar, boorish, smug, narcissistic and amazingly ignorant for someone who went to good schools.

His propensity for marrying Eastern European girls of easy virtue is quite pathetic too, as is his taste in clothes, food, architecture and just about everything else.

One also wonders what kind of traits of character and intellect have had to come together over a lifetime to produce Trump’s facial expressions, some of which make him look like a Mussolini impersonator.

More substantively, if there’s any truth to the accusations of Trump’s collusion with Putin, I think he ought to be not only impeached but also publicly flayed, eviscerated and quartered.

However, most Americans don’t seem to mind boorish vulgarity in their leaders. Neither do they see anything wrong with a First Lady who used to make a living as an ‘escort’. And Trump’s plebeian tastes must positively endear him to the country where wearing baseball caps and eating junk are practically synonymous with patriotism.

As to Trump’s Russian contacts, I’m convinced he’s no more blameless than most of his entourage. Yet my feelings are neither here nor there: such things need to be not felt but proved, and so far they haven’t been.

Hence both my distaste for Trump as a person and my suspicion of his complicity in unsavoury dealings with Russia can be relegated to the status of a parenthetical phrase.

Once they’ve been safely tucked away there, one can then look at what Trump actually does, which is a more reliable way of judging a public official. And most of what he does or tries to do is unobjectionable, even though the way he goes about it tends to be amateurish.

For example, taking the US out of the Paris climate deal is unequivocally commendable on many counts, not only economic and scientific, but also moral. (I wrote about this on 14 June, so I shan’t repeat myself.)

More recently, banning transsexuals from the military was another sane step, if taken in an insane environment. It’s indeed insane to expect the armed forces, by definition the least liberal part of society, to indulge the kind of perversions that a few years ago were unthinkable even in the civilian world.

It’s useful to remember that it was as late as 2011 that the US admitted even open homosexuals to military service. It had been felt until then that a soldier making passes at his comrades just might undermine the unit’s morale.

The Roman army had a different view on this matter. There the feeling was that sexual bonds between legionnaires might provide a useful boost to normal soldierly camaraderie. But we’ve come a long way since paganism, although we’re definitely reverting.

Trump exercised his prerogative as Commander-in-Chief, and he did the right thing – if for wrong reasons. Instead of saying honestly that boys who were recently girls shouldn’t serve in the military for reasons of both morality and morale, he cited a purely financial rationale. This was weak: the US army currently spends three times more on Viagra than on providing transsexual services.

Of course one could suggest that the army shouldn’t pay to strengthen GIs’ erections either, unless it can be shown that their martial spirit goes up pari passu. But that’s a separate argument.

Trump’s desire to stem illegal Mexican immigration can’t be faulted either. I’m not sure that building an equivalent of the Great Wall of China is the best solution to this problem, but there’s no gainsaying that a problem does exist.

Perhaps a better solution would be increasing the number of officers currently patrolling the border, from the current inadequate number of one per 10 miles. But at least Trump recognises that something needs to be done, which is more than one can say for most of his political opponents.

Another good law Trump tried to get through Congress was a repeal of the hideous Obamacare. This was defeated in the Senate yesterday by a vote of 51 to 49, with three Republicans joining all the Democrats, and the deciding vote cast by the cancer-stricken John McCain.

In common with other neocons, Mr McCain viscerally hates the president, which is an understandable feeling to have. What is less commendable is the concomitant opposition to everything Trump proposes, just because it’s he who proposes it.

Mr McCain’s explanation of his vote is feeble both intellectually and morally. The gist of it was that the bill didn’t go far enough.

“While the amendment would have repealed some of Obamacare’s most burdensome regulations,” admitted the oncological patient, “it offered no replacement to actually reform our health care system and deliver affordable, quality healthcare to our citizens.”

Well, one has to start somewhere. Just because a three-star dinner isn’t available, a hungry man shouldn’t turn down a sandwich.

It’s no bad thing to reverse what the senator himself calls “Obamacare’s collapse, including in my home state of Arizona where premiums are skyrocketing and health care providers are fleeing the marketplace.”

As to providing “affordable, quality health care”, good luck with that. In this world we aren’t blessed with perfect systems in general, and perfect healthcare systems especially.

I’d say that the US system, as it was back in the ‘70s and ‘80s when I was one of its users, was better than anything European socialism has produced – and certainly better than Obamacare can ever disgorge.

Madcap litigiousness and unchecked greed on the part of both medics and pharmaceutical companies have made it prohibitively dear, but transplanting European-style socialism so dear to Obama’s heart clearly isn’t the answer. Trump may not have provided one either, not to McCain’s satisfaction, but at least he’s trying to do something.

And he isn’t a crushing bore, unlike most US and European politicians. He probably won’t achieve much – the bipartisan establishment he evidently despises wouldn’t let him even if he could. But he does have some entertainment value, which is better than no value at all.




Management reserves the right to deny access

One can see that sign on the doors of bars and retail outfits all over the world. Yet, according to the EU, Britain isn’t entitled to the same leeway.

Mrs May’s plans for criminal checks on European citizens hoping to stay in Britain have made EU negotiators roll on the floor frothing at the mouth. There will be no Brexit talks, they scream, unless Britain stops discriminating against continental criminals.

Admittedly, that group does suffer from discrimination. Why, some members of it are occasionally even locked up for years. Though it pleases a life-long liberal like me to see that this tendency is on the wane, it hasn’t yet been completely eradicated.

However, this form of discrimination still tends to be accepted, with reservations, even by life-long liberals. We accept that the state largely derives its legitimacy from protecting law-abiding citizens from criminals.

Such protection has two aspects: punishment and prevention.

The former is fairly straightforward, or rather was before life-long liberals decided that punishment ought to be replaced by some kind of awareness course and group therapy.

Prevention is more involved, touching upon, as it does, aspects of education, social work, family policy, economics and so forth. However, in any sane society – and in any sovereign country – difficulties arise only with home-grown criminals, actual or potential.

With foreign miscreants, the problem becomes as simple as truth itself: keep them out if they’re still out, throw them out if they’re already in.

That’s where the familiar sign one sees on bars and shops comes into play: the definition of sovereignty includes control over the country’s borders. That means the country’s government deciding who can come in and who can’t or, for those who’re already in, who can stay and who can’t.

Sorry to have to enunciate such elementary truths, but those EU chaps don’t seem to get something that has for centuries gone without saying. So allow me to paraphrase, in simple words.

Leave to stay everywhere in the world has always been contingent on certain qualifications. These vary from country to country.

For example, when I myself was an immigrant, some 44 years ago (and doesn’t tempus bloody well fugit?), the UK hardly admitted any Russians at all. And Commonwealth countries like Canada, Australia and New Zealand had age and profession qualifications. Hence a young computer programmer was welcome, while an old film critic wasn’t.

Where all of them converged was in routinely turning away those with criminal records. The shared feeling was that there was enough trouble as it was, without importing foreign murderers and thieves.

At the same time the native countries of such personages understandably wished to get rid of them. The opportunities to do so increased in direct proportion to the volume of emigration.

When thousands of Cubans welcomed the 1959 advent of social justice by fleeing in every way possible, Castro saw the chance of ridding his country not only of dissident intellectuals but also of common-or-garden criminals. Thousands of them were tacitly encouraged to leave Cuba, mainly for Florida, where they continued to ply their trade in both an organised and haphazard fashion.

Learning this valuable lesson from their Cuban comrades, the Soviets played a similar trick in the ‘70s and ‘80s, when hundreds of thousands were magnanimously allowed to leave the communist paradise for the capitalist hell.

Among those hundreds of thousands were thousands of bandits, thieves and rapists, many of whom actually hadn’t wanted to leave. However, the Soviets outlined the available alternative so vividly that the criminals’ original reluctance vanished. Off to America they went, where the overworked Immigration Service allowed many of them to slip through their fingers.

The US was thus blessed with the arrivals of two mafias, first Cuban (mainly in Florida), later Russian (mainly in New York). It pains a life-long liberal like me to admit this, but something similar is happening in the UK.

While the supposedly invaluable contribution EU migrants can make to our culture remains a thing of the future, their contribution to the crime rate is very much a fact of present life. EU immigrants, most of them from Eastern Europe, are convicted of 700 crimes every week, this on top of the thousands of crimes that go unpunished and often uninvestigated.

One would think that vetting potential new residents would go a long way towards reducing these numbers. Moreover, such vetting isn’t only the right but indeed the duty of any sovereign state.

There’s the rub: Brexit or no Brexit, the governing elite of both the EU and, as increasingly becomes evident, the UK don’t really want Britain to regain her sovereignty, including control of her borders. We’re denied the rights routinely claimed not only by other countries but also by bars and retail establishments.

The effrontery of those spivs is most refreshing. For example, Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt says: “The European Parliament will remain vigilant regarding citizens’ rights and will continue to push for full rights for EU citizens in the UK.”

The European Parliament can push for anything it wants within its own jurisdiction. That won’t include post-Brexit Britain, or for that matter any other sovereign country. With such countries the EU can’t push – it can only make polite requests, which are up to the countries’ discretion to grant or not.

“It is a core mission of the European project to protect, not to diminish, the fundamental rights of all citizens,” continued that misguided Guy.

Could have fooled me. The core mission of the European project is to create a single, unaccountable European state with an unlimited mandate to bully its constituent members. The rights of citizens are routinely trampled underfoot, especially when said citizens vote the way guys like Verhofstadt decry.

That happened in France, Portugal, Ireland and everywhere else where signs of national dissent were discerned. Now guys like Verhofstadt conspire with our own spivs to perpetrate the same debacle on Britain, by overturning or at least neutering the Brexit referendum.

For telling Britain that she can’t decide whom to admit is tantamount to saying that, Brexit or no Brexit, Britain will never become a sovereign nation again.

If we can’t even refuse the honour of acting as dumping ground for the EU’s human refuse, it’s not immediately clear why we voted to get out in the first place. That, as far as guys like Verhofstadt are concerned, is the whole point.

No more need for peeping, Tom

Ever since Lady Godiva added a whole new meaning to bareback riding, it has been known that boys will go to extraordinary lengths to catch a stealthy glimpse of naked female flesh. (From what I’ve heard, girls are less compulsive about their voyeurism, though the condition does exist.)

Stealth is no longer necessary. A chap can simply declare he’s now female, and the doors of women’s bathhouses, dressing rooms and lavatories will be flung hospitably open.

And if he’s older, he may also wish to satisfy his curiosity in more palpable ways – opportunities now abound. For the government plans to remove even the present risible barriers from the path to gender-bender equality.

One such extant barrier is the need for a doctor to diagnose ‘gender dysphoria’ before sex change is authorised. Dysphoria means dissatisfaction with life, and one would think no medical qualifications are necessary to diagnose this condition.

Such dissatisfaction is an ever-present human condition, and I don’t know anybody who doesn’t suffer from it to one extent or another. Some people are dissatisfied with their families, some with their careers, some with their finances – and evidently some with their sex.

Of course modernity easily oversteps the line separating eudemonic from demonic, and the human herd has been brainwashed to demand happiness as of right. A normal reply to such a demand would be “go home and sort yourself out”.

But our times are far from normal, and every quirk has to be medicalised. Hence fancy terms like dysphoria, or in this case ‘gender dysphoria’. In fact, if any medical discipline tangentially touches upon this condition, it’s psychiatry: men who want to become women or women who want to become men are obviously unhinged.

Whether or not they can be treated is open to debate, but what’s clear is that in any sane society their psychoses wouldn’t be indulged. Sorry about your unhappiness, old boy, but learn to live with it. People throughout history have had to suffer much worse misfortunes than that.

Such a natural response is no longer an option, and out come scalpels, hormone treatments, electrolysis and whatever else is needed for the nutters to be mollycoddled. But at least now it takes a diagnosis and subsequent observation for two years before a boy has something hacked off or a girl something sewn on.

No longer. Under the government’s plans anybody will be able to ‘self-identify’ as belonging to a sex other than the one stated in the birth certificate. No medical tests and observations are necessary. And, to avoid any confusion, the birth certificate will be changed accordingly. Never mind the chromosomes, feel the whim.

The plans haven’t specified whether a simple declaration will suffice or the dysphoric person will actually have to go the whole hog. I suspect it’s the former – hence the endless possibilities for potential Peeping Toms or even rapists.

Predictably, the move is being spearheaded by Minister for Women and Equalities Justine Greening, who has never seen a perversion she couldn’t love, nor many she hasn’t practised. According to her, “This government is committed to building an inclusive society that works for everyone, no matter what their gender or sexuality and today we’re taking the next step forward.” Yes, to perdition.

The very existence of such a post in a Western government is a clinical symptom of collective insanity. Or so one might think. However, in a modern Western government this post isn’t merely possible but indeed crucial.

For equality, moronically understood in the Enlightenment sense of economic, social, political and cultural uniformity, isn’t just the most important desideratum of modernity. It’s rapidly becoming the only one.

That the concept is based on delusions and lies doesn’t matter. In fact, this provenance makes it even more appealing to a civilisation based on the fallacy of inherent human goodness, the same for all.

Anyone whose brain hasn’t been castrated by this wicked ideology will know that the illusion of equality may only have some validity in new-born babies. The moment babies grow up and start making moral choices and enunciating thoughts, they stop being equal.

Some of their moral choices are right, others are wrong. Some of their thoughts are intelligent, others not so much. Some of their acts are commendable, some less so – and some others may be criminal.

At that point people are stratified into multiple layers, and they’re no longer equal. An idiot isn’t equal to an intelligent person, nor a criminal to a law-abiding citizen, nor an ignoramus to a savant, nor – relevant to this subject – a madman to a sane person.

A society that insists on disregarding this transparent truth is itself mad, that much is clear. What interests me, however, isn’t the diagnosis but the aetiology of this particular disease.

The whole ethos of Western modernity is defined by middle-class sensibilities, unrefined and unchecked by the intellectual and moral authority of religion. Left to their own devices, the middle classes naturally gravitate to uniformity.

For intrinsic to a bourgeois is the smug belief that everyone either already is or at least desperately wants to be like him. He himself is the apex of creation (in which he doesn’t believe), meaning anyone inhabiting the infra range below him must be pulled up and, more important, anyone residing in the ultra range above him cut down to size.

Hence, when these people say equal, they really mean the same. They yearn to eliminate the entire pecking order of morality, intellect, attainment, education or, in this case, sanity. I think I’m simply wonderful, you think you’re Napoleon, and we’re both equally entitled to our opinion.

Freedom of choice is thus elevated to an improbably high perch. Since all choices are deemed equally valid, they must all be on the table. A boy who wants to become a girl only has to say that’s what he needs for happiness.

Since happiness is his inalienable right, he’s free to make whatever consumer choice modern science provides. I want a new car, you want a pair of red socks, they want a Mediterranean cruise, he wants a new set of genitalia. All choices are equal because all people are.

And not just people. Animals are now supposed to have rights too, and some of them, such as primates, equal rights to humans. Before long a campaign against speciesism will gather speed, at which point a man may demand to be turned not only into a woman but, say, into a golden retriever.

As far as I know, such a feat is so far beyond science, but not for long. That’s what progress is all about: everything becomes possible sooner or later. And anything possible is equally valid, isn’t it?

A time can’t be far in the future when former sales managers will grow tails and start drinking from puddles, humping table legs and chasing cats. All men are created equal and each is endowed with equally inalienable rights to pursue happiness as he sees fit.

This isn’t reductio ad absurdum. It’s the world we live in.




“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.