Ignorance at its most dangerous

I’ve shamelessly stolen this title from Peter Hitchens’s piece because I can’t think of a better way to describe, well, Peter Hitchens.

Mr Hitchens watched University Challenge and was rightly appalled about the Reading graduates’ ignorance of Russia.

They “clearly had no knowledge of the Russian alphabet”, couldn’t identify a single Russian city on a map and “didn’t even know that St Petersburg is on the sea”.

The knowledge of the Cyrillic (not Russian, now we’re casting ignorance stones) alphabet doesn’t have much to do with anything. It’s possible not to know other alphabets and still escape accusations of ignorance. Does Mr Hitchens know the Chinese alphabet? Thai? Arabic? I know I don’t, and I like to think I’m not a particularly ignorant man.

But the rest of his point is valid, as is the observation: “This is normal among educated British people”. The alphabet apart, I doubt that not knowing that Petersburg is on the sea qualifies a person as educated, but the term does have many meanings, so let’s not quibble.

However, the epistemological aspect of it is worth discussing. Ignorance manifests itself in many ways, and unfamiliarity with elementary facts is only the most basic of them.

Knowledge isn’t a collection of data; it’s what happens as a result of collecting data. Just knowing the facts isn’t knowledge, it’s preparation for a trivia quiz, such as University Challenge (a fairly vulgar programme by the way, but that’s by the by.) Knowledge emerges after the facts have been processed, analysed and inwardly digested to enable the person to come closer to truth or, ideally, the truth.

By way of a simple illustration, before going on a motoring holiday in France, an Englishman would be well-advised to learn that in that country they drive on the right, not left. However, now he’s in possession of that fact, he still has to decide whether he’ll go along with the quaint froggish custom and not drive on the left. Unless he does so, he’ll remain ignorant – in the most dangerous way.

Mr Hitchens doubtless knows the ‘Russian’ alphabet, and I’m sure he can say “Hello, my name is Peter” in recognisable Russian. Moreover, I’m convinced he knows more University Challenge type of trivia about Russia than “is normal among educated British people.”

But that command of facts has produced no knowledge at the other end, as demonstrated by his concluding comment that, if those people are so ignorant, “how can so many of them have such strong opinions about the alleged Russian threat? I think it’s the ignorance that breeds the fear.”

Now I hope you won’t think me immodest if I boast that not only do I know the Russian language rather better than Mr Hitchens does, but I also have immeasurably more academic knowledge of Russia. In addition I have the native understanding of it, which is invaluable in the case of a country that makes a profession of being enigmatic.

And yet I regard Putin’s Russia as a deadly threat to Britain, and the West in general. First a few general points.

A major nuclear power that routinely murders or imprisons dissidents, suppresses free speech and runs a gangster economy is a factor of danger simply because of its malevolent presence in the world – and it would be even if it didn’t make any overtly aggressive moves.

When that country commits one act of aggression against its neighbours after another, explicitly threatens the integrity of NATO members and indulges in brinkmanship all over the world, it’s no longer dangerous just generally – it becomes so in a most palpable way.

When the same country opposes the West in every conflict around the globe, finances and arms the West’s enemies (some, like N. Korea with nuclear weapons and ICBMs) and conducts large scale electronic warfare aimed at subverting Western politics, it may provoke a global conflict at any moment.

Surely one doesn’t have to have Mr Hitchens’s self-proclaimed erudition to fear such things? And I haven’t even begun to talk about Russia’s massive rearmament programme, bringing on stream more and more rather diabolical weapon systems.

Yet not all threats presented by Russia are physical. Some are moral, produced by the toxic fumes emanating from its organic fusion of secret police and organised crime – the first such governing elite in history.

I realise that, as a communist well into his mature years, Mr Hitchens has a residual warm spot for the KGB or whatever it calls itself now. He sees nothing wrong in the fact that 87 per cent of the country’s government are unrepentant officers in history’s most murderous organisation.

I say ‘are’ rather than ‘were’ out of deference to Col. Putin, for whose strong, muscular leadership Mr Hitchens feels an almost homoerotic affection. “There’s no such thing as ex-KGB,” Vlad once said. “This is for life”.

This KGB government has fused itself with organised crime to transfer its ill-gotten gains to the West. The money stolen from the people, at least 20 million of whom live under the poverty line of £200 a month, then is laundered through Western banks.

Money may not smell, if one believes Emperor Vespasian. But dirty money soils not only its owner but also its recipients.

Pecunia non olet being the only remaining faith among Western politicians, other than their own power, they close their eyes on their financial institutions and, by ricochet, their whole societies being turned into gangster molls.

They cordially invite Russian bandits (otherwise known as oligarchs) to their countries, rub shoulders with them at social dos, receive their campaign contributions and smooth their way into money laundromats.

At least the US Congress is beginning to do something about it, over President Trump’s objections. The Congress has authorised investigation into the provenance of some trillion dollars of purloined Russian money sitting in American banks. Those assets may well be impounded if the investigation shows they were indeed acquired by criminal means.

Western Europe, mainly Britain, happily lets Russian gangsters launder at least as much again through its own banks – ignoring the moral damage. And London has become a version of Chicago circa 1930, with some Russian gangsters ‘whacking’ one another, and Putin’s hit men ‘whacking’ some others.

I’m sure Mr Hitchens is aware of these facts. But that awareness has produced no knowledge, in its true epistemological sense. And this obtuse ideological ignorance is more dangerous than any other.

Manny wants to grab our assets

“But Manny, you haven’t tried to grab my assets for years,” smiled Macron’s foster mother Brigitte in that seductive way for which French women of any age are so justly famous.

“That’s because English assets are so much more tempting, maman” explained Manny, who’s known for his Anglophilia. Of course he’s also known for his fanatical Europhilia, and this passion easily overrides whatever mythical affection he may feel for England.

That’s why Manny has been issuing threats to Britain ever since the Brexit referendum, when he even wasn’t yet France’s president. One such was that, by leaving the earthly Eden of the EU, Britain would descend into Hades by becoming like Jersey and Guernsey.

Yes please, I wrote at the time. General prosperity, social tranquillity, top tax rate of 20 per cent, almost nonexistent crime – what Manny saw as a threat looked more like a promise to me.

But now that he has moved his foster mother into the Élysée Palace, Manny is threatening to go back on that promise by crippling the City of London. Though financial services aren’t quite as crucial to England as they are to Jersey, that square mile of our capital produces some 25 per cent of our GDP.

By way of punishing Britain, and also pour encourager les autres, Manny is threatening to limit British fund managers’ access to EU money. That would force a movement of assets away from the City and into Paris.

Considering that the City manages close to a trillion pounds’ worth of assets, the blow would indeed be heavy. But that’s where Newton’s Third Law comes in: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

England isn’t a schoolboy, as Manny was when he first met his foster mother. We don’t have to bend over and accept chastisement meekly just because 17.4 million of us have voted to reclaim our ancient sovereignty.

We can fight back by making Manny’s earlier threat real and turning ourselves into a giant Jersey, complete with no red tape and huge tax breaks for investors, both financial and, in our case, also industrial.

Manny and Brigitte should bang their heads together and figure out what would happen if foreign manufacturers paid a corporate tax of 10 per cent or less in Britain, as opposed to the 28-33.33 per cent rates that currently exist in France.

Actually, what would happen to some French manufacturers as well? Would they be prepared to punish their shareholders in order to punish Britain? Much as one is confident of French businessmen’s patriotism, somehow one suspects they’d be moving across the Channel en masse.

In short, Manny has been a naughty boy. However, he has earned a few merit points by announcing plans to stop Russian propaganda channels RT and Sputnik from spreading fake news, especially in the run-up to elections.

Marine Le Pen, that great champion of civil liberties (except for the Jews), threw her hands up in horror. Freedom of speech is sacrosanct, she screamed, and Manny is jeopardising democracy.

Le Pen’s party receives not only moral but also financial support from Putin, which diminishes the effect of her outrage. But, if we disregard the source, the underlying argument is worth a comment.

Freedom of speech isn’t a suicide pact. If an enemy wages information war against a country, that country is justified in trying to spike his information guns – even at some cost to free speech.

Let me put this in French terms, so that Marine can understand. France declared war on Nazi Germany on 1 September, 1939, but the guns stayed silent until 10 May, 1940. That period was known as the Phoney War.

Could France have been accused of abusing free speech if she jammed Nazi propaganda broadcasts during the Phoney War? Of course not: propaganda is as much of a weapon as cannon and tanks. (I realise Marine could give a different answer to that question, what with her manifest attraction to strong foreign leaders.)

If that was the case then, it’s 100 times truer today, when the information weapons at the tyrants’ disposal are so much more sophisticated. Marine must realise that, though she correctly identifies Putin as her friend, whatever is left of the free world sees him for the implacable enemy he is.

Western democracies have laws governing political campaigns, their financing and use of media. Putin’s kleptofascist junta consistently tries to subvert that process, by dumping a torrent of fake news in support of its preferred candidate, typically one of neo-fascist leanings, like Marine.

It’s the government’s duty to defend the country against this kind of enemy action, and Manny is absolutely right in doing just that. I’d block Russian channels altogether, not just during election campaigns, but, as Thomas Jefferson put it, “Half a loaf is better than no bread at all”.

To sum up, Manny’s report card shows an F (with conduct marks) for his ill-advised threats against Britain and an A– for his understanding something Marine, and her like-minded friends in other countries, don’t: Putin’s Russia is the West’s enemy and should be treated accordingly.

I wonder if Brigitte agrees with my rating of Manny’s performance. Possibly not: for all I know, she may mark him down deliberately, for the sheer pleasure of whipping that cane out.

Another winter, another NHS crisis

According to Mrs May, there’s no crisis – there are only a series of challenges. According to Labour spokesmen, there’s indeed a crisis, and never mind semantic tricks.

Both are right: the current crisis gripping the NHS is indeed made up of many challenges.

One is that ambulance services can’t cope with the number of calls: a former paratrooper, 61, died from a heart attack yesterday because an ambulance took over 90 minutes to arrive. The NHS duly issued an apology to the family, and I’m sure the family accepted it graciously.

Patients already in hospitals typically find themselves on gurneys in corridors until they’re discharged. That happens quickly because, like beds, gurneys don’t grow on trees.

To ease that crisis – sorry, I mean to respond to that challenge – the NHS has cancelled all non-essential operations. That’s either a sound idea or a monstrous one, depending on the definition of ‘non-essential’ – and one suspects the NHS definition is rather broad.

Much of the pressure comes from the flu epidemic borrowed from Australia. Flu jabs administered by the NHS to wrinklies are proving useless. Perhaps they’re really meant as crypto-euthanasia, which would be consistent with the way socialist Leviathans tend to resolve crises and respond to challenges.

Indeed, NHS spokesmen routinely site ‘our aging population’ as an inordinate weight being placed on the frail shoulders of the NHS. That’s a problem for which euthanasia offers the most immediate solution, which had been known even before the arrival of the NHS.

The good socialist G.B. Shaw, for example, believed in involuntary euthanasia, otherwise known as mass murder. According to the writer, anyone (presumably other than himself) reaching 70 should justify his existence. Those who couldn’t do it to Shaw’s satisfaction would get the chop.

I don’t know what he meant by justification, but, at a guess, man being created in the image and likeness of God didn’t come into it. You may think I’m going off on a tangent, but today’s advocates of euthanasia do use the plight of the NHS as one of their arguments.

Euthanasia aside, arithmetic suggests that an aging population must stretch any health service. After all, the longer people live, the more of them become patients.

However, no spokesman on either side has so far expanded that irrefutable argument to include immigrants, of whom there are a better part of four million in London alone.

Surely this has to be a factor, now we’re talking numbers? Apparently not, and nor can it ever be: anyone who does such sums is a fascist, xenophobic, misogynist, racist, homophobic and socially unacceptable reactionary.

However, when it comes to NHS funding, neither side demurs from using numbers as the slings and arrows they fire at each other.

The NHS is underfunded! scream Labour chaps. We’re spending more on the NHS than ever before! respond their Tory counterparts. That’s not enough! counter the Labour spokesmen. We’d spend much more! Billions, trillions more! The NHS is already the biggest employer in Europe – we’ll make it the biggest in the world!

For once, I agree with Labour. The Tories aren’t spending enough – because there’s no such thing as enough. When a series of numbers is vectored towards infinity, a higher number always exists, and Labour are proving this maxim with unfettered brilliance.

We’re spending four billion more, say the Tories. We’d spend six billion more, reply their opponents. Well, we’ll see your six billion and raise you two. Oh yeah? We’ll see your eight and raise you three… This is the kind of poker in which no one ever calls – the chips keep piling up, but the game never ends.

Neither player will ever call by stating the truth: the NHS doesn’t work because it’s a giant socialist enterprise based on the unworkable and corrupt idea of universal equality. It doesn’t work for the same reason no giant socialist enterprise has ever worked.

Fans of the NHS will point out that it has been in existence for 70 years, and for the first 30 or so it worked well. Perhaps. Benign socialist projects usually take some time before their congenital defects come into play. But sooner or later they will.

Financial demands on medicine grow exponentially not just in absolute but also in relative terms. Some things, such as drugs, surgical and diagnostic techniques, and medical equipment, simply cost more in relation to income than they used to.

An organisation can only cope with such problems if it has a lot of flexibility and freedom of movement built in. This is precisely what any socialist project, and especially the NHS, lacks by definition. On the contrary, the structure steadily grows more rigid, unwieldy and top-heavy – all innate characteristics of socialism.

If in the past a hospital was run by its head doctor and matron, with a bookkeeper stuck into a dusty office somewhere in the basement, today’s NHS hospital boasts a regiment of useless, sponging bureaucrats.

Hospitals have to cut the number of beds to accommodate the six-figure salaries of all those facilitators of optimisation, optimisers of facilitation and directors of diversity. Socialist bureaucracies work primarily for the benefit of the bureaucrats – these are the spots that the NHS can’t change by its very nature.

The back-breaking efforts of its overworked doctors and nurses, no matter how heroic and self-sacrificial, will never be enough to plug the widening holes. That’s why so many frontline medical professionals leave the NHS and emigrate – they go to places where the socialist millstone will be removed from their necks, or at least lightened.

This is what no politicians will ever say. Government, which is to say socialist, propaganda over 70 years has turned the NHS into a sacred cow that can be milked but can’t be slaughtered. A politician who as much as hints at privatisation, even partial, will keep his job for only as long as it’ll take the media to report his gaffe.

And so it goes, from one crisis/challenge to another. These will never end – they’ll keep getting worse no matter how much money is thrown down the black hole.

At some point, a meaningful change will be forced on the NHS, which sooner or later happens to all socialist projects. They self-destruct, taking many innocent bystanders down with them.

There, I’ve already broken my New Year resolution not to play Cassandra. But this prediction isn’t so much guesswork as a dead certainty. Sorry about the pun.

Money can’t buy you taste

The other day I mocked the unspeakably vulgar way many women dress these days, which admittedly was an unsportingly large target to aim at.

However, the questions I strive to answer begin not only with ‘What’, but also with ‘Why’. The target then becomes harder to hit.

But it’s worth a try for, as Plato postulated, the small things we can see give a clue to the big things we can’t see. And, in our thoroughly politicised world, nothing is bigger than politics.

Hence it’s appropriate to remark that political democracy fosters majority rule in everything except politics.

This isn’t as paradoxical as it sounds. For politics in democracies, including Britain, isn’t about the demos ruling. It’s about the demos tricked into believing it rules.

The actual power resides with the apparat, no matter how many or few parties it comprises. And the apparat always places self-perpetuation at the top of its priorities.

Therefore it jealously guards its bailiwick against alien trespassing. An outsider has little chance of slipping through the vetting net cast by party selection committees. And, as Trump is finding out in the US, if one does get through, the apparat joins forces against him irrespective of his party affiliation.

In Britain, the Tory machine is geared to filter out any parliamentary candidate who could be described as a conservative in any real, as opposed to virtual, sense. While a Labour victory is regarded with relative equanimity as only a temporary setback, a real conservative may well endanger the apparat itself.

Conservatism is consequently ostracised, and the demos, in whose name the apparat supposedly governs, is denied a choice of political philosophies. At best it can choose among various shades of apparatchik socialism, from the scarlet red (destroy Britain completely – today’s Labour) to the light pink (okay, preserve some of it for the time being – today’s Tories).

Such is the real situation, but our comprehensively ‘educated’ masses settle for make-belief and swell with pride over being politically equal to anybody. In fact, they’re only equal to one another, not to the demiurge apparat looking down on them from its Olympian height.

However, though denied real political power, in every other area the majority rules  with relentless despotism. The sham equality of political democracy steadily gains in reality the farther away it veers from politics.

Politically, the apparat has replaced an organic hierarchy with a contrived one. As collateral damage to that process, organic hierarchies have collapsed in every other walk of life.

Deprived of real political equality, the demos makes up for it by enforcing equality in areas hitherto governed by hierarchies of taste, learning and intellect. Decisions in all such areas have been implicitly put to a vote, with the majority carrying the day.

Voting is a show of hands, each holding a wad of cash. The 12,000 prepared to pay for Wembley Arena tickets to a concert featuring tattooed, drug-addled plankton easily outvote the 500 attending a chamber concert at Wigmore Hall.

This isn’t to say that at some point in the past there existed a golden age of refined tastes and high thoughts. In this world we aren’t blessed with earthly perfection.

However, until relatively recent times, refined tastes and high thoughts set the tone. The tasteless and thoughtless majority was welcome to indulge itself, but it was prevented from imposing its will on society at large.

These days, though the majority’s political power is illusory, its power to impose its crude tastes is absolute. This is exerted either directly or indirectly.

For example, the anti-musical cretin howling nihilistic lyrics all the way to the bank before courageously dying of AIDS or drug overdose has spun a whole industry around himself. That industry has become a giant dwarfing real music and imposing its own mentality on it.

If in the past tastes were formed by sublime musicians, perceptive critics, music-loving impresarios, patrons who were often musicians themselves, and an aesthetically educated public, today’s classical scene is shaped by the same crass, tasteless commercialism that’s part and parcel of pop.

As a result, classical music has collapsed as a serious art, one that perhaps better than any other expresses the spirit of our civilisation. There’s no point striving for excellence if the paying public can’t appreciate it and could easily be offended by it.

Serious music demands a serious effort from the listener, not just the performer. And the modern public doesn’t want to make such an effort – it’s after easily digestible entertainment. Today it may get this from a Beethoven symphony, tomorrow from rap. There’s little fundamental, as distinct from technical, difference any longer.

Thus it’s almost impossible to hear a proper classical performance, a state of affairs of which I was reminded at Christmas when attending a production of The Magic Flute at Vienna’s Staatsoper, one of the world’s premier opera houses.

Neither the orchestra nor the singers produced a subtle musical phrase in the whole evening. None of the singers had a voice that would have been regarded acceptable 50 years ago – and this is the norm, not an unfortunate exception.

If a drugged, vaguely satanic AIDS sufferer has become the paragon of today’s music, the hooker is now the paragon of women’s fashion. “What the hell happened to allure? The accentuated, but hidden?” asked a reader in response to my piece the other day.

Accentuating by hiding? Next thing you know he’ll demand subtlety and taste, and then we’re all in trouble.

Even little girls, never mind their mothers and elder sisters, today dress with the sartorial elegance hitherto only found among ladies plying their trade in London’s Soho, Paris’s Rue Saint-Denis or Amsterdam’s red-light district.

My problem with that sort of thing isn’t so much moral as aesthetic. Never mind allure: the sight of bluish, goose-pimpled slabs of cellulite spilling, top to bottom, out of hooker dresses can turn one off not only sex but even food.

There’s nothing wrong with women sporting décolleté dresses on formal occasions, and I for one happily steal stealthy looks. But the hooker ideal creates a gravitational pull attracting even women reading TV morning news.

There isn’t much wrong with their flesh – in fact, they’re evidently selected mainly if not solely on that basis. But neither they nor their paymasters realise that the same openness and transparency that are appropriate at eight in the evening come across as gross at eight in the morning.

As ladies in the aforementioned urban areas can attest to, money can buy you love, if the term is used in a narrow sense. But money can’t buy taste – vulgarity is the merchandise it’s really after in today’s world.

Hot and cool: high fashion comes to UK

From our fashion correspondent Giza Shagg: The world of fashion gasped with delight and awe this New Year’s Eve, when celebrated designer Ima Slagg introduced her 2018 collection.

Following the resounding triumph of her travelling show Dress for Excess, the consensus in the industry is that never before has Britain been treated to such a radical reassessment of the very notion of taste and probity.

Slagg clothes are designed for women as they are, not for the anorexic waifs some other designers wish them to be. The epitome of chic modernity, a Slagg woman is comfortable in her skin – so comfortable in fact that she hardly needs any other garments.

The understated elegance of Miss Slagg’s creations happily coexists with a subtle sensual appeal and daring disdain for inclement weather. “This winter we’re all Slaggs at heart,” commented Vogue fashion columnist Maxima Logorrhoea.

“And Slaggs we’ll remain. After this, it’s impossible to go out without Slagg’s clothes. If you drink too much, you should wear too little – the industry owes Ima for this insight.”

“I’d feel naked without my Slagg dress,” echoed Maxima’s Cosmo counterpart Chlamydia Case. “Come to think of it, I feel naked in it,” she added with a seductive smile. “But that’s fine. We must always remember the first commandment of refined taste: If you’ve got it, flaunt it.”

“Too sensual? What a load of tosh,” added Harper’s Bazaar fashion editor Candida Albicans. “Women have repressed their true selves for too long. It’s time we let our femininity hang out, time we took pride in what we are, what we do – and also where and to whom we do it.”

Our photographers have captured the triumphant march of Slagg’s clothes through the country, especially its northern part.

A woman must have a stomach for Slagg’s clothes, and this model is happy to provide visual proof for this observation to the unbridled enthusiasm of fashion critics. The little black number will never be the same again.
Sequins are back – and front. Few commentators realise that before attaching sequins to the fabric, Ima Slagg preheats them. Combined with internal warming, this obviates the need for overcoats even in the bitter cold.
Bringing up the rear of the crowd, this stylish trouser dress is the shape of things to come in haute couture. Note the casual, unobtrusive elegance of the garment that tantalises without overtaxing one’s imagination.
Slagg clothes encourage a sense of freedom. While making a compelling fashion statement, they in no way restrain a modern woman’s ability to engage in most strenuous public activities.


Is she or isn’t she wearing a skirt? As these fascinated observers can testify, an arresting feature of Slagg designs is the mysterious allure they confer on today’s elegant women.
A Slagg woman’s skirt can slide up at the drop of her knickers. That’s why Ima artfully incorporates underwear into the overall ensemble. Note how this model’s knickers match her off-the-shoulder blouse to create a sense of chromatic harmony.
Titular queen of British fashion, Ima Slagg always keeps abreast of today’s refined tastes. Her jump suit is designed for a woman ready to jump into anything and onto anybody.
Many viewers of the Slagg show couldn’t contain their enthusiasm for the new collection. “The writing is on the wall,” was the gushing comment of one of the admirers.

Ima Slagg is a designer for our time, a sartorial comment on modernity. Ima refuses to see progress strictly in scientific and technological terms. To her, aesthetics progress as rapidly as material innovations, and in her able hands the former may even outpace the latter.

Fashion makes a statement, it’s a woman’s way of screaming defiance at the male-dominated world. And a Slagg woman will never hide her femininity. “I’m a modern woman – and proud of it,” she announces thunderously. “Take me or leave me, and make bloody sure it’s the former.”

Let’s hear it for strong leaders

Vlad Putin is the strong leader we so desperately lack, according to some of my Right-thinking readers. Strength is a quality they admire more than anything else in a leader, brushing aside snide remarks coming from cynical naysayers.

Those usually feature a rota of strong leaders who nonetheless failed to earn universal admiration. Depending on the naysayer’s frame of reference, he may start with such undeniably strong leaders as Alaric, Attila the Hun and Genghis Khan, or simply limit himself to more up-to-date figures, such as Stalin, Hitler and Mao.

Those animadversions typically cut no ice because true love can’t be affected by incidentals. We like for something; we love in spite of everything. And those Right-thinking chaps love Vlad with all their hearts.

Therefore, I hold no hope that, by mentioning a few current achievements of Vlad’s reign, I’m going to change anyone’s lovelorn mind. What follows is merely to keep the record straight.

Let’s start with one of those innocent details where the devil resides. Russia is gearing up for this summer’s World Cup, and Samara is one of the cities where football will be played. Since Samara’s existing stadium isn’t up to scratch, a new one had to be built.

Funds were allocated and, in the good Russian tradition, equably divided among the offshore accounts of everyone involved in the project. That being par for the course, there were no repercussions, and a new batch of cash arrived.

This was properly used to buy the requisite construction materials – which too were instantly pilfered. Eventually, however, the construction did start, way behind schedule. There was every danger that the stadium wouldn’t be ready for the summer kick-off.

That’s where the strong leader rode in and saved the day. Vlad rang the contractor and, after impugning his mother’s sexual morality, told him in his Stalinesque manner: “If you blow the deadline, I’ll slap you in pokey.”

Stalin would have said “I’ll have you shot”, but Vlad is trying to get in touch with his feminine side. Now imagine, if you can, any Western leader credibly making the same threat to a general contractor.

May? Macron? Merkel? No way. Even Vlad’s strong friend Donald would fall short. You see, those countries anachronistically cling to the notion of due process. No matter how strong their leader is, he can’t imprison people on his say-so. So draw your own conclusion about Russia while I move on.

A few days ago, an explosive device went off in a Petersburg supermarket. Though no one was killed or badly hurt, an investigation was in order.

But strong leaders won’t be held back by such time-wasting formalities. Practically before the police arrived on the scene, Vlad declared the explosion an act of terrorism and ordered his special forces not to take any prisoners. “Liquidate the bandits on the spot,” barked the strong leader.

This was an equivalent of Vlad’s earlier promise to “whack’em in the shithouse”. However, even forgetting due process, there are a couple of problems with issuing such orders.

First, a terrorist ‘whacked’ in public facilities or elsewhere will fall not only dead but also silent and therefore unable to lead investigators to his accomplices. And then, of course, special forces encouraged to shoot suspects without trial may just expand their remit a wee bit and whack a few people whose only crime is disliking the strong leader.

The interesting thing is that many Russians are sure that Vlad himself ordered the explosion, the better to rally the populace.

Vlad has form in that sort of thing, having consolidated his position in 2001 by having several apartment blocks blown up. (For details, I recommend the book Blowing Up Russia, co-authored by Alexander Litvinenko, whose literary exploits won the Polonium Award from a grateful Vlad.)

Now I have no idea whether Vlad was involved this time. Actually, I suspect not. But let’s just note that the aforementioned weak leaders May, Manny and Angela were never subjected to such ugly suspicions after terrorist acts in their own countries. Ever wonder why?

Moving right along, an open season on Russians who fail to admire the strong leader as much as Peter Hitchens does is continuing in full swing. Quite a few anti-Putin activists have been bagged in the run-up to Christmas.

One such, Vladimir Ivanyutenko, was attacked outside his house in Petersburg. The attackers first Tasered him, then stabbed him several times. Before losing consciousness, the victim whispered “NOD” (a pro-Kremlin gang). He’s now fighting for his life in intensive care.

In Krasnodar, another activist, Andrey Rudomakha, was beaten up with a knuckleduster. He’s now in hospital with a serious concussion and broken nose. His crime was photographing seaside palaces belonging to Putin’s billionaire cronies.

The journalist Vyacheslav Prudnikov was shot several times near Rostov. The attacker specified that the punishment was inflicted for Mr Prudnikov’s anti-Vlad articles.

Alexei Stroganov, member of the democratic opposition, was hit on the head with a steel pipe. He died recently, having spent two months in a coma.

A steel pipe saw the light of day again, when Nikolai Liaskin, head of staff to the opposition leader Alexei Navalnyi, was hit on the head twice. He’s in hospital with a bad concussion and cranial trauma.

The journalist Vladimir Shchipitzyn was attacked in his own doorway. An unknown man first blinded him with a pepper spray, then hit him with a knuckleduster several times and put the boot in when the victim was writhing on the ground. “Don’t write any more f***ing s*** about good people,” advised the attacker, “or next time it’ll be worse.”

Ivan Skripnichenko was keeping vigil next to the Kremlin, on the spot where the opposition leader Boris Nemtsov had been murdered. Ivan was beaten up by a man shouting: “So you don’t like Putin?” A week later Skripnichenko died from his injuries.

And so it goes, on and on, strong leadership at work. You know what? I’d rather stay in a country where leadership is weak. Those who feel differently should move to Vlad’s bailiwick. I’d be curious to know how they’ll feel about strong leadership a month or two later.