Israel shows the way

The Knesset should teach our Parliament how to preserve national identity

Israel’s parliament passed a law designating the country as a Jewish state, whose official language is Hebrew.

The law specifies that only the Jewish people have the right to national self-determination in Israel, which is the only significant right denied the Arab minority making up 20 per cent of the country’s population.

Predictably the Arabs screamed apartheid, ghetto, oppression, genocide and all the usual buzz words, while the Palestinian chieftain Abbas promised never to recognise Israel as a Jewish state.

This is perhaps the only promise he can be confidently expected to keep, considering that most Arab organisations under his aegis are committed to wiping Israel off the map and killing every Jew there.

While the Arabs are incensed, I’m quietly envious. Here’s one country that won’t compromise her nationhood, identity and indeed language. What an excellent example for all of us to follow.

All sorts of elements go into defining national identity, but the most instantly obvious ones are the people’s names and the language they speak.

Thus we aren’t surprised to hear a chap named Jean-Marie speak unaccented French, but we’d be astonished if a native English speaker introduced himself as John-Mary. We’d expect a Sven to be taciturn and suicidal, while a Mario has to gesticulate wildly and pinch women’s bottoms on public transport.

National traits and stereotypes, silly as they often may be, are to be cherished because they typify national character. If we didn’t have different national characters, we wouldn’t have different nations – like Marx’s proletarians who, according to him, have no motherland.

The most vital – some will say the only – function of the state is to protect both the nation and its character. Hence, call me a crypto-statist but I’d have no objections to the state enforcing not only a single language but also some set of baby names typical of the nation.

The French used to do just that by refusing to let parents give their children any names other than those of Catholic saints or great people of the past (recognised as such in France).

A list of authorised names was helpfully provided, and couples insisting on naming their progeny Indira or Abdul ran headlong into the stone wall of a curt “ce n’est pas français, ça”. That was it. End of argument.

Mitterand’s socialist government put an end to that commendable practice in 1993, but some residual sanity was preserved. Names “contrary to the best interest of the child” still aren’t allowed, much to the chagrin of progressive parents desperate to raise children named Nutella, Strawberry or Zigzag (actual examples).

Before my libertarian friends talk state tyranny and parents’ rights, they ought to ponder that Mohammed, with various spelling variants, is the most popular boy’s name in Britain. (This fact is camouflaged by the trick of describing each different spelling as a separate name, rather than appropriately lumping them all together.)

And it’s not just ethnic but also whimsical names that abound.

For example, a friend of mine has a granddaughter named Inca Sky, and he didn’t even disinherit his daughter, which I would have done. A brief scan of names gaining popularity in England will reveal a fair number of Elektras, Flors, Teklas, Indias, Lukas, Lokis, Cosmos and even Tarkas.

The odd Tarka Jones would be funny, but a profusion of non-British names compromises a key aspect of national identity. I’d welcome a law saying that British subjects must give their offspring British names – which Mohammed, Aisha, Nguen, Chan, Natasha or for that matter Inca Sky and Cosmo aren’t.

Even more damaging is the government’s refusal to be bloody-minded about enforcing English as the only language in which official business is transacted.

Thus NHS documents are routinely printed in uncountable languages, to cater for patients who can’t understand the Anglophone warning that women in the last trimester of pregnancy shouldn’t box professionally, or some such.

The last time I looked, we paid the NHS £23 million a year to provide interpreters in 128 (!) languages for visitors and Her Majesty’s subjects who haven’t bothered to learn Her Majesty’s tongue. And a lot more millions to translate and print thousands of meaningless forms, questionnaires and leaflets.

I spent much of this summer in French hospitals, and I didn’t see a single sign or leaflet in any language other than French. Talking to doctors and nurses, I had to muddle through in my rather limited French, with no interpreting help on offer.

Yet a monoglot Frenchman presenting at an NHS hospital would be given an interpreter to communicate that pub grub has given him agonising stomach pains. And even speakers of more exotic tongues would be accommodated.

One gets a distinct impression that the government is actively trying to eliminate each tell-tale sign of Britishness in the name of multi-culti diversity. Yet a nation deprived of unifying elements has to be moribund, says simple logic.

Any sensible person, which description doesn’t include Israel haters, will realise that for the Israelis asserting their nationhood is a matter of life or instant death. That’s one house that won’t stand if divided against itself.

Unlike Israel, Britain isn’t in a permanent state of war, fighting for its survival every minute of every day. But that doesn’t mean that our nationhood isn’t in peril.

We’re unlikely to suffer instant devastation, but slow yet ever-accelerating attrition can do the job just as effectively. And that’s even if we can resist dissolving our statehood in some wicked contrivance, which seems increasingly unlikely.

France’s WC problems

Manny, with Brigitte about to join in

My subject today is France’s victory in the World Cup – not the hole-in-ground facilities still widespread all over the country.

The subject is worth covering because football transcends its visible aspect: 22 men running after and kicking a spherical object, swearing at the referee and rolling on the grass after scoring.

Rich countries use football as the circus complementing the bread; others, as its substitute. In either case, football has become the microcosm of life, a concave mirror showing society’s ugly or else silly reflection.

These days one hears calls for banning boxing because it brings out the worst in human nature. On that criterion, football should be not just banned but criminalised – and I’m speaking as someone who likes watching a good match.

For football provides an ideal arena for gladiatorial battles that have nothing to do with the game as such. One such battle is a spill-over from class war.

When political democracy became absolute and unchecked, it eventually penetrated every other area of life. What Tocqueville called ‘the tyranny of the majority’ now reigns supreme, with the majority imposing its despotic rule on the whole society.

Nostalgie de la boue now dominates public tastes: we’re all proles now. And those who really aren’t still try to fall in step.

People who ought to know better sport torn jeans and baseball caps worn backwards, patronise that blend of a Nuremberg rally and an orgy that’s for some unfathomable reason called music, adorn their flesh with tattoos and bits of metal – and become fanatical football fans.

La boue becomes a mire sucking society in, and football is part of that ecological contamination. The football pitch has become a battlefield of class war, and there’s no doubt which side is winning.

The losing side is made up of those who genuinely don’t care about football and snobs who look down on this quintessentially working-class game, while still wearing legible T-shirts and listening to The Urinals, The Wankers or whatever pop groups are called these days.

The winning line-up includes the proles, some real but most merely those aspiring to prolehood. By way of illustration, one can observe the magic phonetic transformation at the stadium turnstiles, for example.

The moment they cross that threshold, reasonably well-spoken public accountants instantly put on phony prole accents to declare their tribal association. They use those accents to communicate mostly in one short vocabule and its various derivatives. The mantra of f-words is their mutual recognition code, their Masonic handshake.

Since pandering to mass tastes is de rigueur for any modern politician, chaps like Tony Blair and Dave Cameron have to profess their passion for football, at least for as long as they campaign for office or stay in it.

You can safely bet that, until they settled on a political career, those public-school boys hadn’t known their reverse pass from a hole in the ground. The playing fields on which the Battle of Waterloo was supposedly won were used for cricket or rugby, not footie.

Regiments of pseuds thus provide encouragement for the indigenous masses who really do see football as the meaning of life. Football teams and their supporters become warring tribes, which is understandable: we’ll all fight for what we regard as the most important thing in life.

Hence regular skirmishes among supporters of different clubs, with fists augmented with razors, bottles, flying chairs and whatever else is on hand. Perfectly European chaps turn into warring tribes, like the Tutsis and the Hutus. They’re ready to kill and be killed for their preferred pattern of football strip.

This can’t fail to attract even broader masses of those who use football as merely a pretext, a thin excuse for sociopathic behaviour. A stadium or sometimes just the area around it is but a gathering point for morons seeking action.

They often use broken bottles to ‘star’ one another (if you don’t know what that means, you aren’t a football fan) without even knowing the score of the match in contention. Never mind the game, feel the pain.

Just as British louts seek an excuse for hooliganism, their French counterparts seek a pretext for rioting. A riot has become the French way of expressing publicly both joy and sadness. After all, what better way to vent deep emotions?

Hence the wave of riots engulfing the country after the French won the World Cup. Amazingly only two people died in the midst of the jubilation: one joyously jumped in a canal and broke his neck, the other celebrated behind the wheel and drove into a tree.

But there was plenty of non-lethal fun.

Even our sleepy village celebrated wildly, if non-violently. Children and some grown-ups draped themselves in French flags and stampeded the narrow streets, screaming: “On à gagné!!!” (We’ve won!!!)My bilingual wife remarked that Nous avons gagnéwould have been a more refined usage, but hey – at least no one got hurt.

Elsewhere things weren’t so harmless. A million revellers gathered in Champs-Élysées and ripped the street apart. Scuffles broke out all over the place, smoke bombs went off, rubbish bins were set on fire, shops were broken into and looted, windows were smashed.

The police responded with tear gas and water cannons – no outburst of public joy in France is ever complete without those. Outside the Périphérique and all over France it was even worse: cars were turned into bonfires, public fountains befouled, children run over – well, you get the picture.

The pseuds did their bit too, as best they could. And the French royal couple, Manny and his foster mother Brigitte, had to lead the way.

That’s why the final between France and Croatia was blessed by the presence of both Manny, with Brigitte in tow, and the Croatian president, her well-publicised jutting assets securely encased in a floral dress. When the final whistle blew, both Manny and Brigitte feigned earth-shattering ecstasy, undeterred by the equally put-on anguish of the comely Croat sitting next to them.

Now, pathetic though this is for a head of state, Manny is a youngish man whose youthful exuberance needs an outlet. But France’s First Foster Mother is 65 years old, an age that ought to confer a certain amount of dignity. Yet Brigitte was jumping up and down like a cross between a demented kangaroo and a teenage groupie on Ecstasy, her facelift in danger of unravelling.

She was trying to leap out of her short skirt revealing a pair of bony knees to her subjects and, alas, the rest of us. That made me regret that Croatia lost: the sight of their president performing similar callisthenics would have had some appeal.

At least the show is over for the next four years. We’ll be spared this particular spectacle, but I’m sure our leaders will think of something else.

Humble apology to the president

On behalf of all the commentators who were appalled by Trump’s prostrate submission to the Botox Boy, I’d like to apologise to the president.

I should have known better than rushing into print with words like ‘sycophantic’, ‘fawning’, ‘idiotic’ and others I’m now too embarrassed to recall and must never repeat.

True, I didn’t go as far as ‘treasonous’, an epithet favoured by some US senators, but what I did say was bad enough. Let this be a lesson to me: I must take the time to check all the relevant facts before calling people names.

In this case, the relevant fact is that President Trump didn’t mean to say the things that came out of his mouth. They were merely a slip of the tongue, or rather a series of such slips. What he meant was exactly the opposite of his recorded words.

Since I’m only a year younger than the president, I’m in complete sympathy with his predicament. I can testify from my own experience that, when a man reaches a certain age, his sclerotic brain can play cruel tricks on him.

Many a time, for example, I wanted to say “no, thank you” to a cold caller who had just interrupted my dinner. Instead I’d inadvertently utter something that would force Penelope to remind me yet again that I’m now supposed to be a British gentleman, not the Russian savage I was in my youth.

She’s particularly sensitive about my slips of the tongue when responding to telephonic salesman after one unfortunate accident. A chap wishing to discuss my financial situation rang during lunch, and I hastily suggested he perform an unlikely act on himself – only realising after I hung up that he was actually our bank manager.

It took Penelope half an hour of grovelling apologies to get back into the offended man’s good books, even though he should have been pleased by the implied compliment to his extraordinary endowment.

In the same vein, Mr Trump – who I now realise is a man of sublime intellect and unmatched probity – inadvertently left a key word out when replying to the question about Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election.

He meant – nay, desperately wanted – to say “I don’t see why Russia wouldn’t”. But his tongued slipped, and instead he said “I don’t see why Russia would”, changing the meaning ever so slightly.

Take it from me, that can happen to any man no longer in the first flush of youth. And since Mr Trump is even older than me, he proceeded to deliver himself of many more gaffes in the same press conference.

Thus, he said “Putin fights terrorism all over the world” instead of the intended “Putin promotes terrorism all over the world”.

“Russia is America’s good friend” instead of the intended “Russia is America’s implacable enemy”.

“We must seek a meaningful dialogue with Mr Putin” instead of the intended “The only language the likes of Putin understand is that of force”.

“Putin is a strong leader creating a good state” instead of the intended “Putin is a KGB thug creating a criminal state”.

And so on – it was one verbal lapse on top of another.

The onset of senility is hard to ward off, but Mr Trump must realise that’s what’s happening and learn to make allowances for it.

Again, I know exactly what he’s going through and can only hope that sharing my experience may help the greatest statesman the world has ever seen.

You see, Mr Trump is justly proud of his gigantic and razor-sharp intellect, which is why he dispenses with any written notes when speaking publicly. And I’m sure he could get away with it when he was young.

When I myself was young and, according to Penelope, still a Russian savage, I used to lecture on English literature off the cuff, without bothering to prepare any notes. Such self-confidence, which some of my colleagues described as arrogant indolence, was vindicated after a fashion then.

However, as anyone with access to YouTube can testify, whenever I speak publicly these days, I always use my trusted Mac laptop as a teleprompter. That way, when people take offence at what I say, which is often, at least it’s something I actually meant to say, not something I let slip accidentally.

I’m sure that, for all his bankruptcies, Mr Trump can still afford such a device and, if he can’t, one can be provided for him free of charge. He is POTUS after all.

That way, before each press conference, his advisers and speech writers can prepare the text of his replies to the likeliest questions, and they could even help the president rehearse reading from his Mac without losing eye contact with the audience.

So primed, he’ll never say “I’d rather talk to Vlad Putin than to Abraham Lincoln any sweet day” when he really means “There’s no point talking to Putin until Russia starts behaving in a civilised manner.”

There, Donald, hope this helps. We wrinklies must stick together – and actually accept that’s what we are.

And Don? Keep that lovely smile going. Sorry I said all those nasty things about you, mate. I for one should know to respect old age.

Tell me who your friends are

I especially liked the moment when the Botox Boy passed a World Cup football to Trump and said: “The ball is in your court”.

Trump accepted the gift gratefully and tossed it to Melania. Score another one for the extravaganza of political propaganda designed to boost the image of Putin’s bandit state.

Those who harbour doubts about the true political function of the World Cup ought to read the coverage it received in Putin’s poodle press. This, for example, is what his staunchest acolyte, the political scientist (!) and Duma member Sergei Markov, said before the England-Croatia semi-final:

“Whom shall we prefer? British slanderers and poisoners or Croatian neo-fascists? Both are bad. But still, the Russians dislike fascists even more than the British…” (In case you miss the reference, the British poisoned the Skripals and then slanderously claimed the Russians had done it.)

By agreeing to play political football with the Botox Boy, Trump effectively endorsed such statements for, whatever Putin’s dummies say, he’s the ventriloquist. He’s the one who opened the valve in the sewer of foul anti-Western effluvia.

Trump de facto endorsed the most hostile and belligerent anti-American propaganda that Russia has ever produced since Stalin’s halcyon days. Putin’s Goebbelses routinely and incessantly talk about turning America into radioactive ash and creating the ‘North American Strait’, meaning obliterating the land between Canada and Mexico.

It’s against that backdrop that Trump delivered the most fawning and sycophantic performance by an American president facing a criminal dictator.

(The important part is ‘criminal’ rather than ‘dictator’. Not every undemocratic state, say Franco’s Spain, is criminal in the same old-fashioned sense as Putin’s kleptofascist junta is. Dictatorship is a guarantee of evil no more than democracy is a guarantee of virtue.)

It was moral equivalence run riot. America and Russia, commiserated Trump, are equally to blame for the souring of relations. We’ve both made mistakes, he said.

It’s no wonder that his detractors and allies alike were up in arms. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said: “There is no moral equivalence between the United States and Russia, which remains hostile to our most basic values and ideals.”

Then again, Ryan has never taken any pains to conceal his distaste for the president. Not so his predecessor Newt Gingrich, who has always been Trump’s loyal ally.

Yet he too was appalled: “President Trump must clarify his statements in Helsinki on our intelligence system and Putin. It is the most serious mistake of his presidency and must be corrected – immediately.”

Gingrich was referring to the issue of Russia’s meddling in US presidential elections that – unlike any other crimes committed by Putin’s mafia – did come up during the post-summit press conference.

Fielding a question, Trump uttered a truly emetic statement: “I have great confidence in my intelligence people but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.”

In other words, our spooks can produce any intelligence they like but, if Putin says he didn’t do it, that’s it. Open and shut case. Mr Jones, did you kill your wife? No? Splendid. Case dismissed. Bang goes the gavel.

Why, Donald’s best friend even offered a joint investigation into the case of 12 Russian spies indicted for hacking in the US. That, according to Trump, is “an incredible offer.”

So it is, if we use the word in its literal sense. Incidentally, Putin made the same ‘incredible’ offer relating to the Skripal poisoning, which, to its credit, the British government dismissed with the contempt it deserved.

The offer would become credible if it came packaged with the magic word ‘extradition’. Without it, it’s yet another KGB ruse from the Botox Boy’s repertoire.

Trump has form in taking Putin’s word on vital issues. For example, last year he ignored the overwhelming evidence that not so much showed as proved that the Russians are behind Kim’s missile and nuclear programmes. Why such credulity? Because “I believe Mr Putin.”

The basis for this implicit trust isn’t immediately clear. Putin’s whole career is based on lies, as befits a career KGB man who made a painless tradition into international gangsterism on a scale never before seen in history – and I use these words advisedly.

Available in the public domain are reams of evidence, complete with countless document facsimiles, showing Putin’s personal links with all four major Russian mafia families, called ‘criminal groupings’ in Russia, from the time of their inception.

(The Russophones among you will find such documents on the site The rest may just enjoy the pictures.)

He’s the embodiment of history’s unique blend of organised crime and secret police, known as the Russian government. A government whose every action betokens its true nature.

Trump believes that Putin didn’t meddle in the US election. Yes, the Botox Boy did say he wanted Trump to win. So what? That doesn’t mean he tried to do anything about it.

This in spite of incontrovertible evidence that a whole troll factory was created in Petersburg specifically for the task of subverting Western politics.

There’s no prima facie evidence, however, of Trump’s complicity in any hacking or trolling. That most members of his original team have been shown to be acting on Russia’s behalf doesn’t ipso facto constitute such proof in any corroborative sense.

Yet Trump makes himself sound guilty by denying the very fact of Russia’s hacking and trolling, which has been demonstrated by masses of counterintelligence data. Moreover, he sees the gathering of such information as a deliberate effort to sour relations with Russia and perhaps impeach him into the bargain.

So fine, he believes the Botox Boy’s denials. But even so, is the US as guilty of the rift as Putin’s Russia?

Suggesting this, as Trump does, can be either idiotic or, as his critics insist, treasonous. Seeking, as I always do, to find a good side in people, I’d like to think it’s the former.

Such moral equivalence depends on stretching credulity to a snapping point. Does Trump also believe – as Putin’s media scream around the clock – that America is to blame for Putin’s attack on the Ukraine following his illegal annexation of the Crimea?

Was it America that shot down Flight MH 17, murdering 298 passengers and crew? Killed at least 10,000 people when pouncing on the Ukraine? Poisoned Litvinenko with polonium and the Skripals with Novichok? Laundered at least a trillion through US banks, and as much elsewhere? Inundated Western countries with spies and gangsters? Armed such rogue states as Iran and North Korea, along with terrorist organisations like Hamas and Hezbollah?

Trump likes to portray Putin as his fellow fighter against terrorism. Yes, and Herostratus is the patron saint of firemen everywhere.

The president could do worse than look at Putin’s 15-year career in the KGB. The Russian media portray him as a sort of Soviet Bond, an intrepid intelligence operative. He was nothing of the sort.

For the first 10 years of his employment Putin worked for the Fifth Chief Directorate, whose function was to squash dissent by developing a network of snitches and agents provocateurs. It was only after that stint that he, already a major, was transferred to the First Directorate (foreign intelligence) and posted to Dresden.

But he wasn’t a head of the KGB station there for the simple reason that there was no such thing. The KGB spied with East Germany, not against her, which is why it had not stations but representations there.

As the KGB representative in Dresden, Putin’s primary responsibility was to act as the conduit for the money, arms and logistic support flowing from Russia to a whole raft of terrorist organisations, from the Red Army Faction to the PLO.

Hence Putin had few global equals in the effort to promulgate terrorism – as he has none now. Claiming that this man is a reliable ally in America’s struggle against terrorism is like claiming that the Islamic State may help to promote religious tolerance.

When asked if he has a dossier of compromising material on Trump, Putin didn’t deny it outright. Instead he mumbled something to the effect that such trifles aren’t worth talking about.

Perhaps. But I’d like to hear another explanation for Trump’s disgraceful behaviour.

His impassioned fans point at the absence of any concessions to Putin announced after the summit. No sanctions have been repealed, no Russian spies exonerated, no foreign territory offered as a peace offer.

That’s true. But ‘announced’ is the operative word. We don’t know what was promised during the meeting between Trump and Putin behind closed doors.

But even if no future concessions were promised, it’s naïve to deny that the tone of international diplomacy matters. Had Trump been as critical of Putin as he was of America’s Western allies, this article wouldn’t have been written, and both his allies and critics would be spared the threat of apoplexy.

Trump’s sycophancy – even if unprompted by any blackmail – sends the kind of signals that are bound to embolden Putin. And his kleptofascist regime needs no encouragement.

If at first you don’t succeed…

Justine Greening: “Demanding a second referendum is the best thing I’ve done in many a year. Or rather the second best.”

…vote, and vote again. This is the message delivered urbi et orbi by Justine Greening, MP.

In Miss Greening’s view, since the Brexit deal pushed by Mrs May is a dud that satisfies neither the Leavers nor the Remainers, we should have a second referendum.

“The only solution is to take the final Brexit decision out of the hands of deadlocked politicians, away from the backroom deals, and give it back to the people,” she wrote in The Times.

Now Justine is a self-acknowledged Remainer. A few days before the 2016 referendum, she wrote: “My view, on balance, is that we are better off staying in the EU.” Assuming that her position hasn’t shifted since then, she must believe that a second referendum will go her way.

What if it doesn’t? What if the British people again vote to leave that abomination by the same or an even wider margin? Will she and her fellow Remainers accept the result? Or will they continue their underhanded sabotage?

Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of British politics will know that exactly the same issues will surface again. The apparat, to which Miss Greening is a faithful servant, will stop at nothing, no matter how dishonest or even treasonous, to stay in the good books of their fellow European apparatchiks.

What will happen then? Shall we be reduced to the level of inept pupils who have to re-sit their exams? Shall we be asked to vote again and keep doing so until we get it right?

The other possibility is equally fetching. What if the Remain vote carries the day the second time around? I’d suggest that the Leavers among us will be within their right to demand we go two out of three. And after that the losing side may demand best out of five and so on, ad infinitum.

A fascinating prospect, isn’t it? Of course this second possibility is unlikely: the charade will stop once the apparat has got the result it wants. But still, fair’s fair: if we’re now political children, we should play infantile games by infants’ rules.

And speaking of Miss Greening’s views on the referendum expressed a few days before it was held, this is what else she wrote: “It’s a one-off vote. There’s no re-doing it if we change our minds. We’re all going to have to live with the result…”

I realise that it’s not only tactless but downright daft to remind politicians of all those 180-degree turnarounds they perform within a short time. You don’t expect them to have real beliefs, principles or, God forbid, philosophies, do you?

Still, there’s something perversely satisfying in doing so. Since we can’t have any positive emotions about this pathetic lot, schadenfreude is the best we can do.

It has to be said with some chagrin that Miss Greening’s amoral cretinism stands out even against that human background. For example, when she was still Education Secretary, she came out as an open lesbian, a decision she described in glowing terms: “[It’s] the best thing I’ve done in many, many, many a year. And actually it gets better every day.”

Considering the catastrophic state of Miss Greening’s educational bailiwick, one would have been justified to expect her to do better things than owning up to a sexual perversion.

And even now, when she’s still an influential Conservative (!) backbencher, one would hope she could offer something other than open sabotage as a solution to the country’s political crisis.

No, Miss Greening, a second referendum isn’t “the only solution”. It’s no solution at all. Calling for it suggests that this objectionable woman is still disgruntled about losing her frontbench post when Mrs May unceremoniously threw her out.

Add to this her apparatchik longings coupled with a rather feeble intellect, and Miss Greening’s motivation is clear. Since a second referendum, whichever its result, will certainly lead to Mrs May’s resignation, Miss Greening will have her revenge. And if Britain stays in the EU, that’ll be a welcome bonus.

However, I do agree with two of her beliefs, one explicit, the other implicit. Second only to Major’s signing of the Maastricht Treaty, the ‘deal’ favoured by Mrs May is the most awful abuse of foreign policy in recent history – and I include Munich in this assessment.

It also ought to be clear to any serious observer that Mrs May is in over her head: she has none of the intellectual, moral and character qualifications for her job. If Miss Greening still held a cabinet post, she’d violently disagree with that, but I’m comforted by the knowledge that now she agrees.

Hence “the only solution” should be twofold. First, replace Mrs May with a real statesman qualified for the post.

Second, have him invoke the Royal Prerogative and, in compliance with the will of the people, get Britain out of the EU effective immediately. As I understand the constitution, the new PM would have no obligation to go to the Commons for this.

A perfect solution, isn’t it? Well, there’s an obvious hitch, or rather two hitches. One is to find such a statesman in Parliament. Two is to move him into that nice Georgian house in Downing Street.

Hence I realise that my solution is a pie in the sky: it’s not going to happen. But we must indulge our wild fantasies at times. Life would be too dull without it.

Even the pros can be cons

The way people, both in the street and in the press, talk about Donald Trump testifies to the proliferation of the most toxic fallout from that gross misnomer, the Age of Reason. Collapse of reason.

It’s not that people these days have less intelligence than they used to. I suspect that commodity is spread more or less evenly from one generation to the next.

It’s just that most people no longer base, nor argue, their views from the platform of reason. Typically, they are motivated by ideology, emotions or some other gonadic emanations.

Hence spittle-sputtering rants are accepted as a valid way of making a point. “I hate him because he’s hateful” or “I love him because he’s lovely” are seen as sufficient rationale for judgement, especially in the sphere of politics.

I’m not merely talking about public opinion, although that may serve as a useful indicator.

The problem is so widespread because those who form public opinion – journalists, broadcasters, politicians – seem to disengage their mental faculties even when they possess them.

Rather than enlightening the public, these professionals are conning it: even today’s pros are cons. And the public is easily conned.

This point was made on Sky News this morning by one broadcaster who’s an exception, a sixtyish peroxide blonde speaking in a pleasant north-country accent and sounding the way a nice cup of tea would sound if it could talk.

She complained that her listeners are so worked up about Trump that they spit in the face of God who gave them minds in the first place. “He’s a racist, sexist, misogynist” and so forth, the whole litany of self-righteous abuse gushes out.

“What’s your proof?” the cup of tea would ask. “Specifically about his being misogynist, for example?” “He abuses women!!!” “As much as, say, Bill Clinton? Or the whole Kennedy clan?”

The good woman wouldn’t say she liked Trump or agreed with anything he did or said. She’d simply ask for factual support, which would turn those frenzied harangues into sound arguments.

Yet she has found out that merely asking such questions exposes her to the volume of abuse that’s only a couple of decibels below that levelled at Trump himself. Well, if she thinks this is bad, she should look at the US scene.

I remember the time, 45 years ago, when I first came to the US and started reading American papers and magazines. Some of their writers were conservative (in the American sense of economic libertarian über alles), some neoconservative, some liberal (in the American sense of self-righteous socialist).

My temperamental inclination being what it is, I naturally gravitated to the National Review crowd, which was as conservative as one could get in the States and, at the time, as brilliant.

But even writers who espoused different philosophies tried to argue their case, using sequential logic and a broad base of evidence. And most of them, right, left or centre, wrote well, some extremely well. I might not have shared their views, but I appreciated their minds and craft.

That’s why reading US commentary on the current presidency makes me so sad. Professional writers, those who happen to disagree with some, or incomprehensibly all, of Trumps policies, make no attempt to put together persuasive arguments.

Instead they resort to hysterical harangues, the likes of which I never heard 40-odd years ago, or at least never read in reputable publications. Comparing Trump with Hitler has wide currency, for example, which goes beyond idiocy, approaching the domain of mental illness.

According to my New York friends, people in supermarket queues openly talk about murdering the president as the only way of preventing the USA from becoming like Nazi Germany. No wonder: with such opinion formers, what other kind of opinion could be formed?

Margaret Thatcher used to elicit similarly violent emotions, but at least they didn’t spill over into the mainstream press. Instead they were mostly contained within the proverbial groves.

Back in the late 80s, I recall, my American son did a semester at the LSE as an exchange student. On his first day, he saw a poster in the lobby, announcing a student debate. The subject was: “Resolved: this house will assassinate Thatcher”.

His sensibilities, at that time largely shaped by the old vintage of National Review, were offended: at Yale they expressed their political views, no matter how idiotic and extreme, in a more reserved fashion – at least publicly.

I’d like to say that Trump’s admirers make more sense, and perhaps they do. But only by a microscopic margin. Like the other lot, they won’t listen to any arguments, or even fleeting opinions, that contradict their burning passion.

It ought to be possible for heirs to the civilisation taught to think and argue by Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas et al to debate a proposition dispassionately and soundly.

Some such arguments would carry the day, some wouldn’t. But they would all be respected, rather than dismissed out of hand as emotive delirium with no intellectual component whatsoever.

Commentators, professional or amateur, should be able to analyse Trump’s presidency policy by policy, and explain cogently why they agree or disagree. On that basis, they could then pass judgement on this presidency overall, one way or the other.

But only on that basis. Anything else is pathetically unsound – and they aren’t even aware of this any longer. The litmus paper essential to intellectual tests is no longer in production.

The problem is that today’s lot aren’t really heirs to Western civilisation. The religious, cultural and intellectual ganglia tying modernity to that civilisation have all been snipped.

The assumption was that it would be possible to sever the roots of Judaeo-Christianity and still enjoy its cultural and intellectual fruits. The hare-brained hysterics of Trump’s fans and detractors alike prove it hasn’t worked out that way.

T.S. Eliot diagnosed the condition accurately: “If Christianity goes, the whole of our culture goes. Then you must start painfully again, and you cannot put on a new culture ready-made… You must pass through many centuries of barbarism.”

We are passing through the third such century. And there are many still to come.

Corbyn’s guide to education

Replace education with indoctrination, and what do you get?

Oh the times olden, before British education embarked on a steady course from being the envy of the world to becoming its laughingstock.

When teachers taught, rather than indoctrinated. When academic curricula featured mostly academic subjects. When young brains were taught to think rather than scoured of any such ability. When schools were schools, rather than laboratories for social engineering. When 25 per cent of the pupils were well educated, and the rest adequately trained for grown-up life.

(If you think that more than 25 per cent of all pupils are capable of high academic achievement, it’s clear that you’ve never stood in front of a classroom.)

Then, in 1965, came the Charge of the Left Brigade led by Education Secretary Anthony Crosland on his high horse. He rallied the troops by yelling: “If it’s the last thing I do, I’m going to destroy every f***ing grammar school…”

What followed was one of the rare instances of a Labour politician going on to do exactly what he promised. However, looking at young people today, one wishes Crosland hadn’t been so true to his word.

Half a century after the introduction of comprehensive ‘education’ Britain is firmly perched close to the bottom of every international table of literacy and numeracy.

Allow me to put this in the language even our youngsters can understand: most British pupils can’t read, write or add up. The only exams they do well in are pregnancy tests.

In common with all giant socialist projects, this one has achieved results that are diametrically opposite to the slogans. Rather than reducing social stratification, it has increased it no end.

Desperate to give their children any education at all, parents scrape together their last pennies to send their offspring to paying schools. Those children whose parents haven’t got enough pennies to scrape together, are left stuck in the social mire from which they’re unlikely ever to extricate themselves.

If grammar schools used to provide a social and economic hoist, today’s comprehensive schools are millstones around the neck of upward mobility. Children who leave school completely illiterate have nowhere to go but to the social – or prison.

Such are the educational achievements of soft, non-Marxist socialists. And, if you think things can’t get any worse, look at what’s coming in the near future, when the hard, Marxist left takes over.

No guessing is needed: our next PM, the Trotskyist leftie Corbyn, is as refreshingly honest about his intentions as his non-Marxist leftie precursor was way back when.

Jeremy is going to augment the current curricula, already heavy on condom studies and feather-light on academic disciplines, with such subjects as Trade Unions, Collective Action, Solidarity with Fellow Employees and – I’m guessing here – presumably Barricade Building and Firebombing Police Stations.

“Children should not only learn about trade unions and their rights at work,” explained the Trotskyist, “but should be fully equipped to exercise and develop those rights.

“Schools need to teach these values and together we can, and will, transform society so it works for the many, not the few.” Admirable self-confidence, that.

Any student of countries where such notions were put into practice will know exactly how the likes of Corbyn transform societies, using satanic brainwashing from cradle to grave as their weapon. They start by washing people’s brains and then quickly proceed to firing bullets through them.

But at least in the Moscow of my youth brainwashing came on top of teaching pupils how to read, write and even sweat over Newton’s Binomial Theorem (one of my numerous scholastic failures).

In Britain, PM Corbyn’s government will spread emetic Marxist propaganda instead of teaching even the three Rs, never mind Newton’s Binomial Theorem.

Pupils will learn about their rights at work without acquiring the basic skills to get work in a modern economy. That’s like learning gastronomy in the middle of a murderous famine (which, incidentally, is a universal agricultural consequence of Corbyn-style politics).

Britain at the moment resembles a ship heading for the reefs, with the captain screaming “Full speed ahead!” It’s to a large extent socialist educational ideas that have cast the ship adrift, while punching holes in the hull bottom.

For, softened up and dumbed down by two generations of comprehensive ignorance, British voters are perfectly capable of putting a ghoul like Corbyn at the helm. Indoctrinated in the wicked ideology of progress, they believe that any change has to be for the better.

When a demagogue like Corbyn truthfully promises to transform society, many jump up and salute without taking the trouble of pondering the shape this transformation will take.

The British are ready to emulate the Germans, circa 1933. We’re as fed up with our ineffectual, duplicitous, self-serving government as the Germans were with the spineless, decadent, incompetent Weimar Republic. Any change has to be for the better, doesn’t it?

I may be letting the side down, but I’d make a nonentity like Theresa ‘Brexit’ May PM for life if that’s what it takes to keep Corbyn out. I’ve already lived under communism, thank you very much.

Sciatica unites Europe

Junk. on one of his better days

European leaders have finally joined forces to achieve an elusive yet unquestionably worthy goal: keeping Jean-Claude Juncker upright.

The occasion for that show of unity was the gala dinner at the NATO conference in Brussels. It was there that Juncker – or Junk, as he likes to be called by his friends, among whom I proudly count myself – rallied the assorted presidents and prime ministers to a common cause.

When Junk turned up for the event, it became instantly clear to the august assembly that he was none too firm on his feet. Junk was walking in zigzags, stumbling, tottering and losing his balance.

When he got to the steps leading up to the podium, Junk provided a vivid illustration to Lenin’s brochure One Step Forward, Two Steps Back, which he considers essential reading. “Read your Lenin, Al, you old bugger,” he often tells me. “You’ll learn all you need to know.”

It was then that the European Rapid Reaction Force went into action. Presidents of Finland and the Ukraine, along with several prime ministers led by Mark Rutte of Holland, propped Junk up, gently pushing and pulling him in the right direction.

An unbiased observer wouldn’t have failed to notice that none of the men would have been able to do the job by himself. It took the combined efforts of most European leaders to propel Junk around. If there ever was a powerful argument for pan-European unity, that was certainly it.

As Junk explained later, his irregular locomotion pattern was caused by an attack of sciatica. He thereby made an invaluable contribution to both the aetiology and symptomatology of the condition.

In the former, he made a breakthrough discovery that sciatica is caused by the toxic substances added to Glenfarclas malt whisky, his favourite tipple. As with all such additives, the toxic effect is directly proportional to the amount consumed and the rate of consumption.

When taken slowly and in moderate quantities, Glenfarclas has no immediate deleterious effects. In fact, it may even confer some cardiovascular benefits. In that sense it’s like arsenic that, depending on how it’s used, may either kill or deaden the pain of root canal work.

However, drinking a full bottle of Glenfarclas after lunch at which two bottles of wine were consumed may indeed cause any number of undesirable side effects, such as indeed sciatica. As a lifelong champion of ‘elf and safety, I demand that Glenfarclas should henceforth carry a government health warning to that effect.

As to Junk’s contribution to the symptomatology of sciatica, medical science will be grateful to him for showing that the condition may cause zigzagging, stumbling, losing one’s balance, trying to topple over backwards, laughing uncontrollably and for no good reason, kissing everything that moves and babbling “Where’s that busty Croatian president? Boy, would I like her to preside over my face…”

As a side benefit, Junk has shown that costly medical research on multiple subjects is a waste of money and time. A properly conducted, rigidly controlled trial on a single volunteer can often suffice.

This provides a telling response to all those naysayers who claim that the EU is useless. True, its benefits aren’t instantly apparent. But that doesn’t mean they are non-existent.

Hence we must all be grateful to Junk for making this seminal, if inadvertent, contribution to medicine on behalf of the EU.

And speaking of the EU, another news item caught my eye. On his visit to Britain (against which all the decent people of the world, along with Messrs Corbyn and Sadiq, are protesting vigorously and vociferously), President Trump has seen fit to deliver himself of totally unfounded statements that will forever compromise the special relationship.

It pains me to have to repeat them, but I must. Trump has uttered words to the effect that:

a) soft Brexit is no Brexit, b) it’s not what the British people voted for, c) Theresa May has destroyed Brexit and ignored the will of the people, d) Britain is in turmoil as a result, e) by exiting the EU without really leaving it, Britain is killing stone-dead her chances of getting trade deals with non-EU members, specifically the US, f) Britain is losing her culture because of mass immigration.

Like all decent and other people who protest against Trump’s visit to Britain (yet saw nothing wrong with visits by such worthy luminaries as Ceaușescu, Xi, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia et al), I find Trump’s statements deplorable, unwarranted and unhelpful.

And, what makes them even worse is that every one of them is true.

When my friend Junk dries out… sorry, I mean recovers from his painful condition, I’ll seek his counsel on this matter. I tried to do so this morning, but all I got from him was “Call that Croatian chick for me, Al. You know, the one with the big…”

Trump has a point, but…

Two points, as a matter of fact.

First, all NATO countries do display criminal negligence in their defence policy, relying on the US to protect them against the Russian threat.

Why should America foot a disproportionate part of the bill? Trump’s question is legitimate, and one can only be amazed that no previous US president asked it with the same forcefulness.

Of course, Trump is being slightly disingenuous there. He knows that some of America’s defence spending is actually a payment for her playing the role of global leader. When the British Empire was cast in that role, Britannia didn’t rule the waves for free either.

Yet the T in NATO stands for Treaty, and any treaty is a contract. A contract always involves terms and conditions with which all the parties must comply for it to remain valid.

One such term is that all NATO members must spend at least two per cent of their GDP on defence. Sure enough, the US pays roughly double that. However, of the 28 other NATO members, only the UK, Greece, Estonia and Latvia meet that requirement, just.

The UK apart, but only slightly apart, the other four dutiful members hardly represent a formidable military force. But all other NATO members are in default of the contract.

Trump is demanding that they raise their expenditure to the same four per cent that the US spends. This may be fair, but it’s utterly unrealistic – that’s like demanding a million-pound ransom from a hostage who lives in a bedsit. But the stipulated two per cent is indeed a must.

However, Germany, NATO’s richest European member, spends a pathetic 1.24 per cent. Then of course she faces exorbitant bills to accommodate all those millions of Muslims who bring welcome cultural diversity to Europe.

Trump is right to point this out, as he’s also right on his second point: Germany’s dependence on Russia. I don’t know if Germany is totally controlled by Russia, as Trump claims, but she’s certainly greatly controlled.

How can it be otherwise if Germany gets 70 per cent of her gas courtesy of Gazprom (one of whose employees is Germany’s former chancellor Schroeder)? And this percentage will go up even further in two years, when the new pipeline comes on stream.

Now energy, quite apart from its immediate use, is a strategic commodity. At wartime it becomes as critical as any weapon system, even more so. If Britain had depended on Germany for much of her energy, we’d have had a swastika flag flapping over Westminster in 1940.

It’s such strategic considerations, rather than just the billions flowing into Putin’s coffers, that should concern Trump.

But then the president sees life mainly in financial terms, just as he sees foreign policy as merely a series of deals to strike. There’s nothing to be done about that; a man in his 70s isn’t going to change the philosophy of a lifetime.

“What good is NATO?” asks Trump, and this is a valid question to which there’s only one possible answer, one I offered above. NATO’s principal role is to protect the West against the Russian threat.

The West’s commitment to NATO is thus bound to hinge on how clearly and realistically it perceives the Russian threat. If they regard it as non-existent, one can’t blame European governments for their reluctance to shell out billions for protecting themselves against nothing much.

If there’s no threat, then it’s much more important for any German government to spend money on enabling Germans to retire on practically their full pay. Pensioners vote; tanks don’t.

It’s reasonably clear that Merkel doesn’t see Putin’s Russia as a threat. But does Trump?

Here we again re-enter the murky waters of Trump’s relationship with Putin. These waters may never become limpid because a US president has enough power to side-track an investigation into his affairs, even if he can’t stop it altogether.

However, it’s still possible to get to the bottom of at least some areas. One such is the profits Trump derived from Russia, and these were sufficiently large to invoke words like ‘kettle’, ‘teapot’ and ‘black’ whenever he accuses Germany of living off Russia’s gas.

Trump’s son Donald Jr., who in the run-up to the election had regularly shuttled between New York and Moscow, clarified matters a few years ago, when he happily admitted that “… Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets… We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”

On record, Trump tried to negotiate huge property development deals with the Russians some 10-15 years ago, but nothing much came of it. He did get a few million for organising a beauty pageant in Moscow and building a golf course or two, but such amounts would hardly have constituted ‘a disproportionate section’, nor really ‘a lot of money pouring in’.

So where did the ‘disproportionate section’ and ‘a lot of money’ come from? From off-record deals, obviously.

One can only guess there, although some researchers, such as Yuri Feltshinsky (Litvinenko’s co-author), add a fair amount of substance to the guesses by providing much circumstantial evidence of how laundered Russian cash saved Trump from his latest bankruptcy.

Yet staying in the realm of facts, Trump is on record regularly expressing his admiration for Putin – and the president isn’t on record saying one bad thing about him.

Whether this comes from genuine admiration or something underhanded is interesting but irrelevant. Both are equally reprehensible.

It’s also a fact that the Russians pumped a lot of money and effort into trying to boost Trump’s presidential campaign.

Whether or not that had any appreciable effect is open to question, but the effort itself isn’t. And the gangsters manning the Russian government and ‘parliament’ are also on record cracking champagne and dancing in the aisles on hearing the news of Trump’s victory.

The gangsters were in for some let-down because neither they nor perhaps even Trump himself appreciated the constitutional limits on presidential power in the US. Thus Trump has been unable to repeal anti-Putin sanctions, as he promised to do during the campaign. But he did make the promise.

Dipping into even murkier waters of the What If? genre of geopolitics, we might go all the way and ask all sorts of unpleasant questions.

What if Trump indeed isn’t an entirely free agent? What if his threats to dismantle NATO have an ulterior motive? What if the deal he seeks to strike with Putin will involve dividing the world into spheres of influence, the way Hitler did with Putin’s role model Stalin?

Trump’s têteàtête with Putin on Monday may answer those question, or then again it may not. But don’t think for a second we have no reason to worry.

P.S. Two excellent reasons to support Trump’s visit to London: Jeremy Corbyn and Sadiq Khan. They both protest against it.

Learning English as first language

As I write this, our papers are bursting at the seams with encomia for Gareth Southgate, the England manager.

These are largely merited, although my preference would be to tone them down a bit. After all, it’s only football, not a breakthrough in the treatment of cancer.

But I generally keep such misgivings to myself, realising that no treatment of cancer would ever cause such a riot of mass hysteria. Panem et circenses, and all that.

When I say that the encomia are largely, as opposed to totally, merited, I specifically have one praise in mind, that Southgate is a refined, cultured individual.

It would be amply appropriate if qualified with “…for a footballer”. With that relativist proviso, Gareth is indeed a paragon of culture.

He sports sharp three-piece suits in fashionable colours (although, and this is unforgivable, he wears a belt rather than braces under his waistcoat), sports no visible tattoos, speaks in a comprehensible accent and manages to string words together without linking them with the f-word and its derivatives.

Actually, it’s possible for a man to be cultured and still swear a lot. I’d go so far as to say it’s a prerequisite, but here I may be influenced by the Russian quip “even though he swore a lot, he wasn’t a man of culture”.

What is absolutely impossible for a cultured man to do is commit the kind of solecisms that abound in Southgate’s speech. I do mean the kind of solecisms, not simply misusing words every now and then.

Show me a man who claims he never misuses a word and I’ll show you a self-obsessed boaster. We can all get careless and use a wrong word (mea culpa, although I can always use my accident of birth as an excuse).

But only a linguistic lout will ever misuse a word because he wants to sound ‘posh’ (using this word without at least implied quotation marks isn’t posh). This is a dead giveaway of an ignoramus with pretensions of upward cultural mobility.

Asked before the World Cup how his players would respond to racial abuse from the crowd, Southgate replied, “The idealistic response would be to walk off the pitch…”

He clearly thinks that ‘idealistic’ is the ‘posh’ version of ‘ideal’. It isn’t. The two words are cognates, but then so are ‘dish’ and ‘disk ‘or ‘shirt’ and ‘skirt’. They do mean different things though.

That wouldn’t be worth mentioning if this minor matter didn’t reflect a major sociocultural trend: compulsive, increasingly compulsory, egalitarianism. In this, language is only an indicator, but a reliable one.

When I worked in advertising, I used to take notes of my colleagues’ solecisms and malapropisms – and bear in mind we’re talking about professional communicators here.

I heard (and saw) them use ‘erstwhile’ for ‘esteemed’, ‘appraise’ for ‘apprise’, ‘risqué’ for ‘risky’, ‘simplistic’ for ‘simple’, ‘a priori’ for ‘in advance’, ‘effect’ for ‘affect’, ‘masterful’ for ‘masterly’, ‘complimentary’ for ‘complementary’, ‘eminent’ for ‘imminent’, ‘cryptic’ for ‘short’ – well, I don’t intend to burden you with my whole list.

These aren’t careless errors of cultured men. It’s linguistic and cultural louts stealing words that belong to others and then triumphantly flaunting them in front of the rightful owners.

Occasionally, pedant that I am, I’d point out that, say, ‘masterful’ isn’t the same as ‘masterly’. This invariably ran into an indignant response: “What difference does it make? Language is just a means of communication.”

Well, language is a means of communication, but it isn’t just that. I wouldn’t raise that point though, knowing I’d lose my audience – and probably my job.

Instead I’d say: “Precisely. That’s why words should be used in their real meaning, to make sure communication isn’t misleading. In this case, a presentation can be masterly and it can be masterful. I don’t know which you mean; your communication has misfired.”

This would have earned me the reputation of a stuck-up w*****, except that I slyly protected myself by being good at pool and swearing with some creative neologistic flourishes each time I missed a shot.

Because I couldn’t drink five pints of lager at lunch, that didn’t quite make me one of the lads, but at least it offered some social protection.

In the past, cultured people spoke in a cultured way and uncultured people spoke in an uncultured way. For there’s only one way to learn a language properly, whether one is born to it or not: voracious reading of good books over a lifetime.

Cultured people did that, and linguistic precision came as a bonus. Uncultured people, which is to say the majority, didn’t do that, and bad usage came as a consequence.

Lexical and grammatical properties were clearly signposted, and little trespassing ever occurred: the uncultured masses (with notable and welcome exceptions) felt no need to better themselves culturally. In fact, they looked down on toffy-nosed speakers, a sentiment that truly cultured people didn’t reciprocate.

Then, with the advent of compulsive egalitarianism, came the misapprehension that all people are created equally well-spoken and endowed by their creator, that is Darwin, with the inalienable right to mangle English as they see fit.

There are noticeable differences of course, but different no longer means better and worse. Any way of speaking is deemed to be as good as any other.

Anything people say is correct because they say it. This has become the linguistic ideology preached by even supposedly educated commentators on language (Oliver Kamm of The Times is a bright example).

Actually, this isn’t so much an ideology per se as an ideological subset, part of the systematic and deliberate  lowering of cultural standards to the lowest and commonest of denominators. This tendency is sometimes described as ‘prole drift’, though I wouldn’t dare use such an elitist and discriminatory term.

Having got this off my chest, I’m going to join 30 million other British fans in cheering Gareth’s team on in the World Cup semi-final tonight, screaming “Ingerland!!!: at an unresponsive TV screen.

Idealistically, we should win the whole f***ing thing.

P.S. At least Gareth isn’t as bad as French football commentators, who insist on using phrases like grosso modo, a priori and in extremis every two minutes. This has an opposite effect to the one desired.