Is free market good?

Where are the fishmongers of yesteryear?

Of course it is. Unequivocally. Absolutely. Unreservedly.

All God’s children know that a free economy will outperform a command one every time, making people more prosperous and freer.

The devil’s spawn, communists, know it too. They just pretend to hate free markets for ideological reasons.

Now that’s rotten by definition. Any ideology is faith without God and thought without reason. Therefore, an ideology is always pernicious, even – and this is a key point – if we happen to agree with its central tenet.

For unequivocal, absolute and unreserved faith in free markets becomes pernicious too, if lowered down to the level of ideology. Suddenly we’re looking not at sound thought but at reductio ad absurdum.

This highlights the fundamental difference between conservatives and libertarians. And this difference doesn’t become any less fundamental just because the two groups share most of their ideas.

Both believe in individual freedom and property rights. Both are prepared to worship at the altar of free enterprise. Both want to reduce state power to the lowest sensible level.

And yet they’re as typologically different as different can be.

A conservative becomes one because of certain character traits, distrust of extremes being one, capacity for sound dispassionate thought another, tendency towards Christian love another still – this, even if he’s no churchgoer or indeed a believer.

As such, he’s not an ideologue, though at his best he may be a philosopher.

A libertarian, on the other hand, is an ideologue par excellence. He sees any moderation as apostasy, any deviation from his fiery beliefs as treason, any balanced thought as a sign of weak-kneed hesitancy.

Though he’s different from communists in everything he believes, temperamentally and, if you will, methodologically, he’s closer to them than to conservatives.

Allow me to illustrate. A week or so ago, I returned to London after three months away. Driving down my end of the King’s Road (both New and Old), I observed a scene that appalled me as a conservative, but one that would gladden the heart of a libertarian.

Until a couple of years ago, the King’s Road had been free of High Street chains, the Old end mostly, the New end entirely. At our, New, end every shop was a one-off, including a row of antique shops at the point where Old becomes New.

Then the commercial rents went up, or rather shot up. Overnight, individual shops began to go out of business one by one: they couldn’t cope with the rent hike. But national chains could.

At the Old end, one business whose rent wasn’t raised by much was the wallpaper shop Osborne and Little. As an inveterate believer in the good of human nature, I refuse to believe that their bit of good luck had anything to do with the scion of the Osborne family being Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time.

Now For Rent signs are all over the place, soon to be occupied by national chains. Many of the great antiques shops are boarded up, which is awful to see even though I could never afford to darken their threshold.

The libertarian would rejoice, or at least see nothing wrong in the development. The owners of the commercial properties exercised their rights within the framework of free enterprise. The properties are theirs, and they can set the rents at any level they wish.

The ideology was thus served. But was the good of the community?

If we define it in monetary terms only, then yes, probably. However, if we shift our vantage point, things appear to be less clear-cut. I’ll illustrate this on the example of food shopping, which is the only kind I ever do.

First, though a supermarket can offer a greater variety of food than a local butcher, fishmonger and greengrocer, the small shops generally offer better quality.

When old people complain that tomatoes have no fragrance these days and chicken no taste, they’re not just grumbling for the sake of it. And, contrary to the popular adage, nothing is worse than sliced bread peddled by supermarket chains.

Supermarkets have to buy centrally, which means that, say, fish would first be delivered to a central distributorship and only then taken all over the region. This normally takes several days, and by the time the fish reaches your frying pan it’ll have lost much of its taste, texture and nutritive value.

By contrast, a local fishmonger goes to a wholesale market at six in the morning, opens his shop at 10 and sells you fish caught within the last 24 hours.

He and his colleagues, dealing in other foods next door, thus offer a valuable service, which supermarkets can’t match. And even the price difference can be reduced in a variety of ways.

This brings us to another benefit of local shopping, one that goes beyond the freshness of the food you buy: the local shop provides a personal service.

The fishmonger knows his customers; they’re also his neighbours, occasionally friends. He is aware of what they like and what they can afford.

If some of them live in strained circumstances, he could perhaps charge them a little less, especially if they came in just before closing time. In addition, he’d be pleased to give them things like heads and bones for stock free of charge.

(Conversely, I know a fishmonger who always – objectionably!!! -overcharges customers who pull up in a Ferrari or a Lamborghini.)

Customers may still perhaps pay a little more than at a supermarket, but that could be worth it to those who’d rather be treated as individuals than as ciphers, and also to those cursed with sensitive taste buds.

Old people also used to look forward to their daily shopping outings as a chance to have a friendly chat with the owner and other neighbours who happen to be there at the same time.

In short, the local shops promoted the community spirit and a sense of togetherness – something one wouldn’t normally expect from a sprawling U-Save miles away. Add to this the better quality of their food, and we see a clear incentive to curb the natural tendency to monopoly so typical of big modern businesses.

The only way to stop this shopping landslide is for the local government to fix commercial rent rates, in ways in which residential rates are controlled in, say, New York.

A libertarian would throw his hands up in horror: this would be a gross affront to the ideology of free enterprise. A conservative just might be prepared to compromise his general principles for a particular benefit – he’s used to weighing things in the balance.

Hence the conservative answer to the question in the title is yes, usually. But he’ll refrain from obtusely insisting on yes, always.

P.S. Philip Collins, writing in today’s Times, takes exception to Lord Sacks’s equating Corbyn and Powell (see my article the other day). Powell, he says, was much worse. I’d suggest that such views are best aired in The Guardian or, better still, the Morning Star. Just to think that The Times used to be a conservative paper.

A storm in a B-cup

Alizé Cornet, striking a blow for women’s rights

The title reflects my wild guess of the size of Alizé Cornet’s breasts, which she didn’t really expose at the US Open tennis championship.

However, judging by the worldwide response she got, Mlle Cornet might as well have done just that.

What she actually did do was go to the dressing room between the sets and change her wet shirt for a dry one. However, when play resumed, Mlle Cornet realised she had put the new shirt on back to front.

Since the rules didn’t allow her to leave the court again, she nonchalantly took her shirt off and put it on the right way, exposing her sports bra in the process.

For that the umpire hit her with a code violation: the rules allow the men to change their shirts in full view of the spectators, but not the women.

It was as if Mlle Cornet had performed a slow, rhythmic striptease, with the male fans baying: “C’mon, baby, take it all off!!!”

The face value of the incident is next to zero. Yes, the letter of the rule was violated, but the circumstances were exceptional, and really – when all is said and done, it was no big deal.

Passers-by all over London are routinely regaled with the sight of female joggers wearing nothing but an identical garment above the waist. And a sports bra is positively chaste compared to the gowns worn by film stars and pop performers.

Anyway, Mlle Cornet objected to the code violation, and the organising committee sensibly apologised to her. Open and shut case, one would have thought.

So it would have been in a sane world. In our world, however, connotation trumps denotation, and the connotation of this incident is, well, sexism. Though ranking below, say, homophobia, this is among today’s worst crimes against the prevailing ethos.

Thus Mlle Cornet retweeted Billie Jean King’s post condemning the “policing of women’s bodies” on court. The catsuit worn by Serena Williams at the French Open was much worse, added Alizé.

That much is true. Miss Williams’s suit revealed every detail of her ample secondary sex characteristics, and some details of the primary ones as well. That’s why the Roland Garros officials banned it for future tournaments.

Meanwhile the groundswell of protests was swelling to the sky. How come, went the outcry, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic are allowed to be bare-chested at changeovers, and women aren’t? Fair’s fair – either we’re all equal or we aren’t.

Pipe down, ladies. We are definitely equal – but we aren’t the same. Not yet anyway.

That rule does make sense. In our civilisation, a different significance is attached to male and female chests. Part of the reason is physiological: a woman’s chest is indeed her secondary sex characteristic, whereas a man’s chest isn’t.

That’s why exposing a woman’s chest in public is still regarded as indecent, but exposing a man’s chest isn’t. A man walking naked to the waist down King’s Road is guilty only of poor taste, while a woman doing the same thing would be guilty of a punishable misdemeanour.

I apologise for stating the bleeding obvious. My only excuse is that, in the madhouse called modernity, the old certitudes no longer apply, and nothing is obvious any longer.

That’s why the aforementioned groundswell has brought on its crest calls to change the code and allow women players to take their tops off at changeovers. Equality comes before sanity.

Now, unlike Mlle Cornet, some women play braless, a fashion started by Chris Evert back in the 70s. Over the years, tennis fans have been treated to many wardrobe malfunctions, with a woman’s breast(s) popping out of a low-cut top when she had to reach down for a drop shot.

Call me a sexist troglodyte, but I quite enjoy this added frisson, mainly because the women’s game is short of any other kind of excitement. And an exposed breast goes well with the orgasmic shrieks that are now par for the course in the women’s game.

Maria Sharapova’s screams, for example, reach 101 decibels on even routine shots. That’s roughly the noise an airliner makes at 1,000 feet when taking off. If she’s as loud during sexual intercourse, I can only congratulate her and her partner(s) – and commiserate with her neighbours.

However, I wonder if all those equality hounds would allow a braless girl to change her shirt in full view of the panting fans? My guess is probably not: even fanatical feminists can’t be as crazy as that.

Hence, if they want to change the offensive rule, the only way out is to obligate all female players to wear sports bras.

But wouldn’t that constitute ‘policing women’s bodies on court’ in Billie Jean’s jargon? I mean, men players are free not to wear jockstraps, although they do tend to prefer them to Y-fronts.

Modernity throws up interesting conundrums of conflicting pieties, don’t you think? With ‘throws up’ being the operative words.

How I got censored in France

Liberté, yes, fine, but only as long as you-know-who isn’t upset

As I write this, I was supposed to be talking about Putin’s Russia on the French station Radio Courtoisie.

That came about a few months ago, when I was contacted by a charming French journalist who had heard me speak on that subject at a conference in England.

The prospect of talking for 90 minutes in French was daunting because my command of that tongue could only charitably be described as uncertain. But I agreed to do it, especially since the musical interludes were to be provided by the sublime pianist Penelope Blackie (aka Mrs Boot).

When we met in Paris, my interviewer said she was envious of Britain, where it was still possible to express conservative views in all media.

The left, she said, had such tight control of the papers, broadcast media and publishing that many conservative books published by les Anglo-Saxons would never see the light of day in France.

As an example, she pointed at her heavily thumbed and bookmarked copy of my Democracy as a Neocon Trick, which she said was brilliant even though she disagreed with some of the points I made. The book, she lamented, ought to be widely read in France, but it would never be published.

Throughout she was using the term ‘right-wing’ where I would have said ‘conservative’, which is understandable. The word ‘conservateur’ isn’t much used in France, for obvious reasons.

A conservative is defined by what he wishes to conserve. Thus a political conservative wants to preserve (conserve) the country’s political system.

But what if the country is a revolutionary republic whose founding, and current, political slogan is liberté, égalité, fraternité? Replace the middle word with aligoté, I often joke to my French friends, and you’ll have a shot at conservatism.

The trouble with the word ‘right-wing’ (droite), which has much currency in France, is that it brings together under the same lexical umbrella people like me and the National Front types, whom I cordially despise.

Since my lovely and intelligent interviewer sounded like a run-of-the-mill British or American conservative, with a slight neo- tilt, I assumed that Radio Courtoisie was roughly in the same political band.

Anyway, the interview was recorded at the end of May and was scheduled to run today at midday, French time, and then again at midnight. I promptly told all my French friends about it, ordering them to listen on pain of death.

They all promised to do so, what with the fierce expression on my face. But, they said, they were surprised that Radio Courtoisie, which they described as ‘extreme right-wing’ and ‘pro-Poutine‘, would run my interview on that subject.

Knowing that I too am extreme right-wing to them, I was surprised. It’s all that political taxonomy, which in France is even more confused than here.

The National Front, which combines nationalism with socialism (a time-proven blend) is supposed to be extreme right-wing, as is someone who believes in upholding the traditional values of Christendom – which in politics means, among other things, a most non-socialist preference for a small state.

Anyway, having abandoned all hope of disentangling the French taxonomic cat’s cradle, I gave the interview, and my new friend insisted, over my objections, that it was very good. I thought my French was just awful, but that was amply offset by the brilliant musical interludes.

Late last night, my interviewer sent me an e-mail specifying the broadcast slots, and I was about to forward it to all and sundry in France. But then, seconds later, another e-mail arrived:

“I’ve just had a phone call from the Radio Courtoisie director and editor-in-chief Madame Dominique Paoli. She has decided to cancel the broadcast because it ‘contains violent libellous accusations against Putin that could draw the ire of the Russian embassy’.”

Now this isn’t the first time I’ve been censored, but never for that reason.

For ‘violent’ though my accusations against Putin might have been, they certainly weren’t libellous – for the simple reason that they were all true.

Read any of my articles on this subject, and you’ll get all the main points I made to Radio Courtoisie. Each one is amply documented in dozens of books and thousands of articles – to a point where they’ve all left the realm of opinion and entered one of hard fact.

One book I’ve just finished reading is Chris Unger’s House of Trump, House of Putin, which cites reams of evidence for every point I’ve been making for years.

Such as that Putin has created a gangster state that uniquely in history represents an organic blend of secret police and organised crime. I call that state kleptofascist, with an accent on the first part.

The real objective of Russia’s ruling elite (82 per cent of which are KGB/FSB – this according to Putin’s favourite sociologist) is to plunder Russia’s natural resources and park the loot in the West, having first laundered it through thousands of shell companies.

Putin, who has been in cahoots with several Russian mafia groups since the time he held the modest post of St Petersburg’s deputy mayor, effectively provides protection (krysha in Russian) for the international gangsters in exchange for their unwavering loyalty and astronomic kickbacks. Those who withhold either end up in prison, exile or six feet under.

That has made Putin the world’s richest man but, for him and his accomplices to be able to keep up the good work, he has to hold on to political power. Should they lose that, they’d also lose their riches – along with their liberty and possibly lives.

Hence the fascistic methods Putin uses to bolster his power. These include naked aggression against neighbours, unprecedented in post-1945 Europe; harassment and assassination of political opponents at home and abroad; suppression of freedom of the press and assembly; a concerted effort to undermine the West by waging hybrid war on our institutions and elections.

This is accompanied by the most nauseating propaganda this side of Dr Goebbels, aimed at highlighting the grandeur of Imperial Russia under both the tsars and the Bolsheviks. Russian TV stations, along with troll and bot factories employing thousands, inundate the West with fake news aimed at destabilising our governments and institutions.

None of this is libellous because all of it is true. But Radio Courtoisie isn’t after truth any more than our own ‘populista Putinistas’ are.

The part of their ruling that I find most telling is their reluctance “to draw the ire of the Russian embassy”. Russian embassies represent a government subjected to severe economic sanctions throughout the West, a government whose top functionaries have been barred from entry into civilised countries.

Whence the fear of upsetting them? This becomes reasonably clear if one looks at the station’s stated editorial policy. That is aimed at bringing together all the strains of France’s political right, from the Gaullists to the National Front.

In English terms, that’s like marrying Mrs May and Nick Griffin, with Tom Robinson acting as best man. Not exactly one of those marriages made in heaven, is it?

In such a cocktail, it’s always the strongest and most virulent taste that ends up dominating all others. That’s why – I’m guessing here, but it’s an educated guess – Radio Courtoisie probably leans towards the NF, which socialist heresy, incidentally, isn’t on the right at all.

And the NF lives securely in Putin’s pocket, with the funding for Marine Le Pen’s latest campaign having come from that bottomless pit. It’s one of those fascisoid groups around the West assiduously cultivated by Russian intelligence that correctly sees them as a disruptive and malevolent presence.

So I suppose my interviewer was right when saying there’s no freedom of speech in France. I should have listened more attentively.

The Rabbi got it wrong…

…and Enoch Powell, regrettably, got it right

Speaking to the left-leaning magazine the New Statesman, Lord Sacks, former Chief Rabbi, called Jeremy Corbyn an anti-Semite.

That’s stating the blindingly obvious, but no one can make startlingly original observations all the time. Repetition, after all, is the mother of all learning, and it’s about time people learned what a hideous creature the Trotskyist Labour leader is.

But then Lord Sacks undid his good work by equating Corbyn’s disgusting, spittle-spitting harangue with Enoch Powell’s 1968 speech.

Characteristically, Lord Sacks followed the good leftie tradition of referring to that oration as the ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech.

Powell spoke of the dangerously divisive potential of mass immigration of cultural aliens. Being a classically educated man, he quoted a passage from the Aeneid in which Virgil prophesied a civil war and “the river Tiber foaming with blood”.

Of course, the left throughout the West sees itself as a sort of foster father who owes unlimited loving care to his ward, the whole Third World. The underlying emotion isn’t so much affection for other civilisations as detestation of their own.

It’s the wolf of hatred in the sheep’s clothing of love.

They usually express that animus as opposition to ‘the establishment’, refusing to acknowledge that it’s they themselves who’ve become the establishment. Iconoclasm lives long after all icons have been smashed.

What the lefties see in their crosshairs is traditional Western civilisation, and they correctly sense that a huge influx of people at best indifferent to it can be the bullet that brings the enemy down.

Like all destructive leftie ideas, this one has been elevated to the level of a piety. Those who disagree are thus seen not as interlocutors, nor even as opponents in a debate, but as infidels and therefore foes.

Powell was the first prominent politician who refused to profess that faith. Instead he showed it for the awful cult it really is, which earned him the undying hatred of true believers, of whom Lord Sacks is evidently one. This is what he said:

“The recently disclosed remarks by Jeremy Corbyn are the most offensive statement made by a senior British politician since Enoch Powell’s 1968 ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech. It was divisive, hateful and like Powell’s speech it undermines the existence of an entire group of British citizens by depicting them as essentially alien.”

With all respect due His Lordship, he’s talking through his hat, and I take pride in using the more polite version of this idiom.

Corbyn, who has never seen a Muslim terrorist he couldn’t love, nor an Israeli he couldn’t hate, has made dozens of statements that even his close allies construe as anti-Semitic.

Simply criticising Israel doesn’t earn that distinction by itself: as all political entities, Israel is open even to bitter criticism. I know quite a few Jews, and gentiles who don’t have an anti-Semitic bone in their bodies, who have severe reservations about some of Israel’s policies.

But they understand and carefully observe the distinction between Israelis, Zionists and Jews. People who, like Corbyn, see those words as fully synonymous are always, without a single exception, anti-Semites.

The specific remarks that angered Lord Sacks this time were patently ridiculous and demonstrably untrue. Jews, said Corbyn, may be born in Britain and yet fail to understand British irony.

Anyone who has ever talked to a British (or just about any other) Jew for five minutes will know that Corbyn’s statement has no basis in fact. Hence it was dictated by blind hatred, or some other equally despicable emotion.

For the comparison between Corbyn’s invective and Powell’s speech to mean anything other than reaffirmation of a piety, Lord Sacks ought to be able to show that now, 50 years after the Virgil quote, there exists no group of British citizens that is “essentially alien”.

Alas, he won’t be able to do that. Whole Muslim communities in most British cities, especially up North, aren’t just ‘essentially alien’ but aggressively hostile to Britain.

When on 7 July, 2005, Muslim suicide bombers targeted the London transport system for attacks in which 58 people were killed and more than 700 injured, thousands of British Muslims, most of them born in this country, danced in the streets with unbridled joy.

To give them credit, they eschew parochialism and react with the same exuberance to similar atrocities committed in France, the US or elsewhere in the West.

To give them even more credit, many of them practise what they preach by themselves becoming suicide bombers or, if they fancy marginally longer careers, ISIS militants.

Whole areas of Britain are governed by Sharia law; children – native-born Britons! – go to Islamic schools, where they are taught that all whites are racists.

Many of them don’t ever realise that Britain isn’t a Muslim country quite yet. All they know is Islam, and they have no white friends or classmates.

They go with their parents to mosques and Islamic Centres, where they are indoctrinated in the jihadist, which is to say anti-British, ideology – with no cultural counterweight on offer.

Therefore, while Corbyn’s musings were nothing but a vile diatribe, Powell’s speech was prophecy. Moreover, it was a prophecy that has come true already or at least shows every sign of doing so in the near future.

True, the River Thames isn’t yet foaming with blood, but one has to be an inveterate optimist to deny that such a development is possible.

When millions of people hate the country of their birth and are prepared to undermine it by every means possible, a civil war isn’t just possible but likely. All it takes is for the concentration of aliens to reach a certain critical mass, beyond which an explosion is unavoidable.

Oh well, there I go again, arguing with lefties against my better judgement. That never works: one does all the thinking, and they make all the noise.

How politics destroys police

“I want to be a social worker when I grow up.”

The two words are cognates, coming as they do from the same Greek root. But, looking at today’s West, and especially Britain, you wouldn’t know it.

Politics, the correct variety, puts handcuffs on our police, reducing their numbers and curtailing their ability to do what they’re there for: fighting crime.

The ensuing statistics are highly predictable: the crime rate goes up. When the number of British policemen on the beat was reduced by a third, violent crime went up 21 per cent last year.

Moreover, only 13 per cent of police time is spent on investigating crimes. The rest of the time is more profitably devoted to ‘support functions’, ‘community work’ and, as an afterthought, chasing speeders.

The courts do their bit by refusing to send down thousands of criminals, including multiple recidivists, or at best passing derisory sentences. This admirable cooperation between the various branches of law enforcement has made London one of the most crime-ridden capitals in the West.

Now I’ve tried to argue at various venues that the government is thus in default of one its few inherently legitimate functions: protecting law-abiding citizens. One such venue was the BBC TV morning programme, where I was collectively outshouted on two separate occasions.

This, along with many similar experiences, has made me realise that it’s impossible to argue about law enforcement.

For a meaningful argument, as opposed to a slanging match, to take place, the two sides have to proceed from the same, or at least roughly similar, metaphysical premise. If they don’t, a brawl is possible, but an argument isn’t.

For example, one can’t argue against abortion from the sanctity of human life if one’s opponent insists that human life is no big deal. Likewise, one can’t argue against demographic Muslim colonisation, if the other chap likes the idea of Britain becoming predominantly Muslim in a few decades.

Now there exist hundred of opinions on justice and law enforcement, but only two principal metaphysical premises.

Premise 1, which is my starting point, is that our whole civilisation is based on the concept of individual sovereignty.

Unlike the originators of the words ‘police’ and ‘politics’, we believe that, because every human being is created in the image of God, he’s endowed with certain rights based simply on his being human, rather than on his origin, wealth or achievement.

But all rights come packaged with responsibilities. Every human being is also endowed with free will, enabling him to make a free choice between good and evil. Making that choice is his responsibility and no one else’s.

We also recognise with chagrin that, as a result of that little indiscretion in the Garden of Eden, man is fallen and therefore fallible. That’s why, left to his own devices, he’s at least as likely to make a wrong choice as a right one. Yet his will remains free in either case.

Hence, whenever he chooses evil over good, he must bear consequences for going wrong. The consequences take the shape of punishment commensurate with the crime. That’s the essence of justice.

It’s to serve justice by administering such punishment that we have police, judges and prisons. Such institutions have a two-fold purpose: punitive and, derivatively, deterrent.

You’ll have noticed that Premise 1 has distinct Judaeo-Christian overtones, and most people these days don’t believe in either part of that combination.

That, however, is irrelevant because the whole Western system of justice rests on the metaphysical foundations of Premise 1. The presuppositions that follow from it have for two millennia been shared universally, with no competition anywhere in sight.

Such competition exists now, as metaphysical Premise 2.

According to it, man is created in the image of the ape, rather than God, and I compliment those who believe that on their capacity for frank self-assessment. Thus man is just another animal, although marginally smarter than others.

Just as a cat is morally neutral, so is man. He’s born perfect and, according to Rousseau, tautologically perfectible. And if he doesn’t end up good, it’s society’s fault.

Hence a man’s choices in life are dictated not by his free will, which doesn’t exist anyway, but by his environment. The tougher the environment, the less free he is to make his own choices.

Now it’s hard not to observe that most crimes are committed by uneducated people who grew up in poverty, usually without the presence, or even knowledge, of their fathers. Such people are from an early age exposed to drugs, alcohol and violence.

Therefore, it’s really their environment that turns them into criminals. Hence, it’s the environment that needs punishing, not the poor victim of his circumstances.

But, since it’s impossible to punish the environment, most criminals should go scot-free and fall into the tender embrace of social and community services.

On those rare occasions when such environmental victims have to be sent down, authorities should realise that prisons are above all educational, rather than punitive, institutions. They’re there for the benefit not of the good people on the out, but of the (temporarily) bad people in.

The success of the penitentiary system is determined by its ability to rehabilitate criminals. If the judge feels that this or that defendant won’t emerge from incarceration a better man, he won’t pass a custodial sentence – even if the poor victim boasts a dozen similar convictions.

As you can see, the two premises, and the presuppositions resulting therefrom, don’t have a single common point on which they overlap. They can’t be reconciled; one or the other has to emerge victorious.

Looking at the appalling growth in crime plaguing the West, especially Britain, which premise do you think dominates today’s system of justice? (No prizes for guessing.)

Lefties get Franco in the end

Spain’s socialist government has decreed that Francisco Franco no longer deserves to have his remains interred in the Valley of the Fallen memorial.

I’m surprised it has taken them so long. For lefties of all hues reserve their most virulent hatred for the man who saved Spain from Stalin, thus becoming the first leader to stop communist evil by force.

Fair enough, none of his portraits depicts Franco with wings on his back. God knows he was no angel, far from it. In fact, he was quite a nasty bit of work.

Then again, I can’t think offhand of a single successful general in history who would pass muster when held to the moral standards of a Mother Teresa. Some callousness of soul is to be expected in men who don’t think twice before sending hundreds of thousands to their death.

For example, Napoleon and Wellington routinely had POWs slaughtered in cold blood, which doesn’t prevent them from being revered in their countries (the former less universally).

And neither Charles Martel nor Jan Sobieski was your typical Sunday school teacher, and yet they’re fondly remembered for having stopped Europe’s worst pre-communist blight.

The left play the moral game with marked cards. While holding those they hate to absolute moral standards, they’re lenient when it comes to judging their own kind.

I once knew a Labour activist – a generally nice English woman – who held annual parties to celebrate the birthday of Lenin, the syphilitic ghoul who founded the most murderous state in history and pushed the world into a fetid hole that still hasn’t quite been filled.

Like Martel, Sobieski and perhaps even Wellington, Franco was his country’s saviour, more so than the Reconquista hero El Cid. The Spanish should pray to his memory – except that the people who hate him typically don’t pray.

A realistic assessment of what Franco did for Spain, what any statesman does for his country, is impossible without a certain dose of moral relativism. That involves analysing the situation as it was then, weighing the pluses against the minuses.

I’d be inveighing against Franco myself had Spain c. 1936 faced the choice between him and the aforementioned Mother Teresa. But it didn’t.

The choice was between Franco and Stalin (as at first represented by a Popular Front government), and only a moral compass placed next to a powerful magnet would point at the latter as the better option.

The way history is taught these days, not just paid-up lefties but even reasonably non-ideological people see the Popular Front as a valiant attempt to save Europe from fascism, rather than what it was: a Komintern attempt to deliver Europe to Stalin.

The Communist International (Komintern) was a giant spying and sabotage network created and run by the NKVD, as the KGB/FSB was then. Rather than opposing fascism as such, it was after replacing its brown variety with the red.

Of course, the lefties brand as a fascist anyone they dislike. Yet judged by dispassionate criteria, Franco was no fascist. He was a traditional God and country monarchist, and I’m not sure he knew exactly where one ended and the other began.

He saw his beloved Spain being annihilated by the typological equivalents of the cannibals who had already gorged themselves on Russia’s blood, and decided to do something about it.

The government of the ‘Spanish Lenin’ Largo Caballero plunged the country into a blood-soaked chaos, unleashing the darkest creatures lurking in the swamp of hatred.

The creepy-crawlies saw an opening, crept out and began to murder priests, rape nuns, loot monasteries and private estates, threatening to turn Spain into a Russia of 20 years earlier.

Leftie thugs were harassing conservative MPs, politicians and journalists. Even now you’ll see Calvo Sotelo streets in many Castilian cities, named after the leading conservative politician kidnapped and murdered by the socialists.

It was that crime that triggered the military coup led by Franco, who at the time was the governor of the Canaries. He landed on the mainland with a small force and began to seek allies everywhere he could find them.

Thus he became allied with the Falange, whose founder José Antonio Primo de Rivera was murdered by the lefties at the cusp of the Civil War, and whose remains lie next to Franco’s in the Valley of the Fallen.

The Falangists were indeed fascists, whose ideology was patterned on Mussolini’s rather than Hitler’s. And when the Civil War started, Franco gratefully accepted help from both Mussolini and Hitler.

That doesn’t make him a fascist, any more than Churchill’s and Roosevelt’s wartime alliance with Stalin makes them communists. Desperate times, desperate measures and all that.

The same retrospective romantic benevolence that’s still offered the Popular Front extends to the loyalist forces during the Spanish Civil War. This includes Stalin’s shock troops, the International Brigades, put together by NKVD recruiters, commanded by Soviet officers and using hundreds of Soviet tankmen and pilots.

Their rank-and-file were 35,000 ‘useful idiots’ from all over the world, tricked into believing that Stalin’s cause was just. More than 2,000 of them were British, as opposed to just 12 fighting for Franco, mostly in the Carlist ranks.

The International Brigades arrived when Franco’s march on Madrid was diverted by his sentimental desire to relieve the siege of the Toledo Alcázar, a military school where a handful of starving cadets led by Colonel Moscardó heroically held off loyalist troops for three months.

The Republicans took Moscardó’s son hostage and threatened to execute him if the Alcázar didn’t surrender. This they did, after a dignified phone conversation between the two, in which Moscardó told his son to render his soul to God and die like a patriot.

When Franco heard the story, he turned off the Madrid road and went to the Alcázar’s help, a noble gesture that prolonged the war by a couple of years. The International Brigades had time to land and shore up Madrid’s defences.

Step by step the Soviets came out of the shadows and took direct control of all republican forces. Following their fine tradition, they immediately started purging their own side of all those who were anything other than Stalin’s stooges.

Altogther the Red Terror claimed about 200,000 lives, although the socialists characteristically underestimate that number to 50,000, to make it tally with the number of people executed by Franco.

One of the better-known victims of the Red Terror was the politician and academic José Robles, close friend to Ernest Hemingway and John Dos Passos, both shills for the republican, which is to say Stalin’s, side.

It was that murder that led to Dos Passos’s gradual conversion to conservatism. Hemingway, on the other hand, didn’t have such compunctions and continued to do the Soviets’ bidding for the rest of his life.

Franco was smart enough to accept German and Italian help on credit, making repayment contingent on his victory. That gave the fascist dictators a vested interest in Franco’s success, something that Stalin didn’t have on the other side.

As payment for his services, Caballero’s government transferred 73 per cent of Spain’s entire gold reserves to the Soviet butcher. That operation was supervised by NKVD Colonel Orlov, the same man who tortured and murdered Robles (along with thousands of others).

Stalin thus happily abandoned the republicans when he decided to seek an alliance with Hitler – the Nazi-Soviet Pact was signed four months after the end of the Spanish Civil War.

Franco was happy to trade fascist salutes with Hitler, but he balked at trading favours. Not only did he not enter the Second World War on Hitler’s side, but he even refused the Nazis the rights of passage to Gibraltar.

But he fought the Civil War with brutality, often matching the republicans in that respect.

Risking another charge of moral relativism, I’d say that our judgement of internecine brutality has to depend on who fell its victims. A good friend of mine, a prominent Catholic who’s quite a bit less conservative than me, put it in a nutshell.

Had I lived at the time, he said, I’d have regretfully supported Franco because the other side were killing Catholics. He didn’t add that Franco, on the other hand, was killing communists, but I filled in that blank. Most of Franco’s victims weren’t exactly like Federico García Lorca.

Before he died in 1975, Franco had provided for orderly transition to constitutional monarchy. Yet Spain is now governed by heirs to Largo Caballero and Juan Negrín, in collaboration with the EU.

They’ve expunged the years 1936-1939 from Spanish history books and museums. Now they’re throwing Franco’s remains out of the memorial he shares with 35,000 casualties of the Civil War – who died to prevent Spain from becoming something like Romania.

Mr Duke, meet Mr Corbyn

Grand Wizard: “Well done on Jews, Jeremy. But what’s that about liking muzzie-wuzzies?”

Hatred of Jews makes for natural bedfellows. It’s that common denominator to which all the scum of the world is reduced – as new accolades for Jeremy show.

We all like to have our innermost thoughts endorsed by intelligent and accomplished people. Hence, when publishers submit my books to peer review, I only pretend to protest (“I’m peerless” is the usual tongue-in-cheek line).

I did protest for real, however, when a publisher wanted to have my book peer-reviewed by the Stalinist historian Eric Hobsbawm. “I wouldn’t shake his hand,” I said, “and I certainly don’t value his judgement.”

That’s why I sympathise with Jeremy, whose heart-felt sentiments about the Jews have been warmly endorsed by such authorities on the subject as David Duke, ex-Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, and Nick Griffin, former head of the British National Party, both convicted felons.

I can just see Jeremy mutter “With friends like these…” Indeed, in any normal political environment, an endorsement from such odious figures would spell a kiss of death, although I’m not sure a) how normal our political environment is and b) to what extent Comrade Jeremy appreciates such niceties.

Jeremy won those plaudits for his 2013 speech in which he, in common with most virulent anti-Semites, used the words ‘Zionists’ and ‘Jews’ interchangeably, the trick I remember well from the Soviet papers of my youth.

Now I know Jews who aren’t Zionists and Zionists who aren’t Jews. I’m sure so does Jeremy, but he doesn’t let empirical evidence interfere with the call of his heart.

Then again, unlike Jeremy and his peers, most people believe that the Holocaust did happen. That being the case, even chaps who can’t contain their anti-Semitism in public stop short of denouncing Jews qua Jews, correctly perceiving that this would be in rather poor taste.

However, referring to Jews as Zionists opens the floodgates: Zionism is an ideology, and therefore open to criticism. Yet it’s not, in civilised society, open to suggestions that Zionists drink the blood of Christian babies as their beverage of choice. I know it’s a fine line, Jeremy, but it shouldn’t be crossed.

Now that we’ve established that anti-Semitism is impervious to empirical evidence, let’s also agree that it’s equally immune to reason. Jeremy, who, truth to tell, isn’t the brightest spark on any subject, proved that by explaining what’s wrong with Jews… sorry, Zionists.

The trouble with Zionists, aka Jews, explained Jeremy, is that “they don’t study history and, having lived in this country for a very long time, probably all their lives, they don’t understand English irony”.

Even Jeremy would have realised how stupid that sounded had he given himself the trouble to think about it for a second. After all, Jewish scripture, which we call the Old Testament, is to a large extent an account of Jewish history.

Hence one can say that Jews are perhaps the only people who are doctrinally obligated to study ancient history. And, having acquired that habit in childhood, they naturally segue into indulging an interest in more modern history as well.

Jeremy’s other charge is just as idiotic – or would be if his brain, rather than his viscera, had been engaged. For Jews are more capable of irony, including self-irony, than just about anyone else in the world – with the possible exception of the English, who could claim parity.

That’s why the stand-up comedy scene in the US is dominated by Jews, and, though that’s not quite the case in Britain, here too Jews are disproportionately represented among comedians.

Off the top, one could mention such illustrious practitioners of the genre as Bernie Manning, Ron Moody, Peter Sellers, Marty Feldman, Alexei Sayle, Sacha Baron Cohen, Matt Lucas, David Baddiel – just tell me when to stop.

If anything, one could more readily accuse Jews of overusing irony, but that’s a normal defence mechanism for people who used to live in countries where the attitudes now championed by Messrs Duke, Griffin and Corbyn were the norm.

When Jeremy made those incisive comments, he was sharing the podium with a Palestinian terrorist, whose sense of irony Jeremy contrasted favourably with anything Jews could muster – and that’s even though English wasn’t his first language.

Not having had the pleasure of meeting that gentleman, I’m in no position to dispute Jeremy’s assessment of his talent for irony. On general principle, however, one suspects that the most ironical statements he has ever uttered are “Death to America!”, “Kill all Jews!” and “Allahu akbar!”. But I may be wrong.

Unlike, in Mr Duke’s expert opinion, Jeremy. Commenting on Jeremy’s proposals to end what he called the “stranglehold of elite power and billionaire [Jewish, if you require a translation] domination over large parts of our media”, Mr Duke tweeted: “He’s right, you know.”

Mr Griffin added his penny’s worth of encouragement too: “Go Jezza!” He will, Nick, take my word for it. No antidote for the venom of anti-Semitism exists, especially when it’s coming out of a man’s ears.

I may be maligning my friend Jeremy. Rather than being a cretinous bigot, he just may be the smartest political operator out there.

His anti-Semitism may be a clever ploy to deflect public attention from his economic policies, which, if enacted, would beggar Britain in a matter of weeks. Actually, scratch that.

If Jeremy is ever elected PM, Britain would be beggared even before he moved his cherished Trotsky portrait to 10 Downing Street. Foreign investors would all leave instantly, fearing likely nationalisation.

Perhaps, having analysed the situation with the benefit of his gigantic intellect, Jeremy decided that it would be better if his detractors spent their slings and arrows on his anti-Semitism. This would act as a useful smokescreen for his other ideas, which otherwise wouldn’t stand a moment’s scrutiny.

As an aside, it’s interesting that Jeremy’s new friends David and Nick are described as far right. Yet Jeremy, as even his friends would agree, is undeniably far left.

There’s something terribly wrong with our political taxonomy if they are seen as occupying opposite ends of the spectrum. But that’s a separate subject.

Prague Spring and Moscow summer

Prague, August, 1968. Lest we forget.

People like anniversaries, so here’s another one: 50 years ago this week Soviet tanks drove into Prague.

Their tracks stamped into dirt the human face the Czechs wanted to put on communism (the official term was ‘socialism’, but ‘communism’ was what the Russians and their satellites meant).

The attempt was doomed to failure: human and communism just don’t belong in the same sentence. However, the Czechs felt they as sovereign people had a right to find that out for themselves.

It took 200,000 Soviet soldiers and 2,000 tanks to explain the error of their ways. Considering that in June, 1941, the Nazis managed to rout the Red Army with only about 3,000 tanks, and that the Czech army had been ordered not to resist, the Soviets took the threat to their supremacy seriously.

I was a young student in Moscow at the time, and I still remember the shock, not that I had any illusions about the kind of country I lived in.

The Soviets had form in that sort of thing. In 1953, they crushed an uprising in East Germany. And in 1956, at the height of Khrushchev’s ‘thaw’, they staged a repeat performance in Poland and – most spectacularly – in Hungary, where they drowned a popular revolution in blood.

But I was a child then, and so was post-Stalin Russia. We had the credulity of children, and it made sense to us that, as Pravda explained, the Soviet Army had only just beaten NATO to it, what with NATO (especially German!) troops poised at the Hungarian border ready to pounce.

Soviet propaganda repeated the same lines in 1968, but that time no one believed them, at least no one I knew. Even though the ‘thaw’ was a distant memory by then, we had tasted a tiny sip of freedom and got intoxicated on the heady liquor.

Everyone detested what the Soviets had done. Everyone admired the five heroes, who staged a pro-Czech demonstration in Red Square, carrying posters “Freedom to you, freedom to us”. Everyone lied about regretting not having been there with them.

It’s hard to recall such unanimity among the normally fractious and argumentative Russian intelligentsia.

Our customary disdain for the Soviets was replaced by passionate hatred, and there was no going back. After 1968 anyone expressing sympathy for the invasion, or indeed for the regime in general, would have suffered social ostracism.

Half a century has passed, and the Soviet Union is no more, at least not its nomenclature. Yet the present government has exhumed its remains and is trying to perform the miracle of resurrection.

Putin’s criminality is different from the Soviet kind, but just as flagrant, perhaps even more so. One could argue it’s more dangerous for being more perfidious and better equipped technically.

Putin’s state is history’s unique blend of secret police and organised crime, morphed into one another. It’s the only truly gangster state in that, with a single-minded focus, it pursues globally the ends regular gangsters pursue locally.

This state has no real ideology as such, but it desperately needs to sow chaos and discord in the West, creating troubled waters in which the global mafia can then profitably fish.

At the same time Putin’s junta needs to consolidate its home support, and that’s a challenging task in a pauperised country most of which lives below third-world standards.

As part of that two-prong strategy, Putin is reviving the imperial idea made up in equal parts of its tsarist and Stalinist constituents. This has been the hallmark of Putin’s 18 years in power, and the volume of propaganda to that effect outdoes by a huge margin everything I remember from the ‘60s.

It’s only in that context that the latest statistics released by Levada-Centre may be understood. The question put to the casualties of Putin’s propaganda war was simple: How do you feel about the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia?

The first finding is quite interesting: only 32 per cent of Russians have ever heard of the event.

Selective teaching of history is nothing new in those parts, but one is still amazed at the collective numbness of curiosity. A leisurely stroll through the net would have been most enlightening, but enlightenment doesn’t seem to figure prominently on the Russians’ list of priorities.

Of those educational overachievers who’ve heard of that monstrous event, those who approve of it outnumber those who disapprove by a margin of almost two to one (36 to 19 per cent), while 45 per cent don’t know one way or the other.

Remarkable though such statistics are in absolute terms, they are even more instructive comparatively. For the same question was put to the Russians in 2003, just three years into Putin’s tenure.

At that time 32 per cent of respondents condemned the invasion, as opposed to a mere 19 per cent today. The tendency is unmistakable: more and more Russians feel their country is entitled to use tanks as a means of controlling the post-Soviet space.

Those who live in that space tend to hold a different view, which is why Eastern European countries rushed to join NATO and the EU the moment the door was cracked ajar. My guess is that they’d have happily joined the Ku-Klux-Klan if that had kept the Russians at bay.

Yet Putin’s hybrid war, one of those rare wars fought by one side only, is a juggernaut trampling over Europe, and the rest of the West too, come to that.

Current leaders of some Eastern European countries, such as Hungary’s Orban and Czechia’s Zeman are Putin’s agents in all but name – if they aren’t, it’s hard to imagine how differently they’d act if they were.

And, much more dangerously, President Trump seems to recognise at least tacitly that the post-Soviet space is Russia’s natural sphere of influence.

Whenever he takes time off from training for gurning competitions, Trump drops broad hints that he wouldn’t mind giving his role model Putin a free hand there, in exchange for some nebulous considerations.

He ought to chat to those who lived in Prague during that August 50 years ago. Talking to Hungarians who remember 1956 wouldn’t go amiss either, but their number is dwindling.

We live in dangerous times, and the sooner we recognise that, the better. And – with all the deference towards those who rightly deplore Islamic crimes and geopolitical spread – the main source of danger sits in the Kremlin.

That’s a good thing to realise when remembering the awful fiftieth anniversary of the Prague Spring invasion – and how it’s seen in Moscow this summer.

Trump’s truth vs the truth

No, Donald, Mrs May was talking about strengthening the ties. not lengthening them.

The president’s lawyer Michael Cohen is about to go to prison for fiscal crimes committed while paying off Trump’s whores.

That seems to be the female type the leader of the free world favours both on a one-off basis and in more permanent arrangements.

However, I hasten to reassure Trump fans, preference for ladies of easy virtue, or bad taste in general, doesn’t constitute a criminal offence. If it did, the length of Trump’s ties and his tendency of topping a business suit with a baseball cap would put him in prison for life.

(America seems to be peculiar in that many scions of rich families, born with a silver spoon stuck into various orifices and then getting the best education money can buy, can still emerge with the manners, tastes and grammar of a lout. Trump is far from unique in that respect – there’s evidently a social premium attached to being prolier-than-thou there.)

By itself, the whore incident falls into the ‘boys will be boys’ category – a billionaire businessman, especially one running for president, isn’t going to do his own dirty work. If some talkative slut needs shutting up, one of his flunkies will happily act as an intermediary.

Alas, the incident doesn’t stand by itself. Cohen testified that Trump had instructed him to pay off the ladies specifically to affect the outcome of the presidential election. Moreover, the pay-off had violated campaign funding laws, which is undeniably a crime.

However, wonders Cohen’s lawyer Lanny Davis, “If those payments were a crime for Michael Cohen, then why wouldn’t they be a crime for Donald Trump?” Exactly. And I’m sure he isn’t the only one asking that question.

However, it’s what Davis said next that may well make Trump revise his teetotalism and break out a bottle of cheap bourbon (I assume his taste in food and drink parallels his taste in women):

“Mr Cohen has knowledge on certain subjects that should be of interest to the special counsel and is more than happy to tell the special counsel all that he knows.”

That suggests that part of the plea bargain deal Cohen struck included his willingness to cooperate with the Mueller investigation into the links between the Trump campaign and Putin’s junta.

Those links, continued the lawyer, were “not just about the obvious possibility of a conspiracy to collude and corrupt the American democracy system in the 2016 election, which the Trump Tower meeting was all about, but also knowledge about the computer crime of hacking and whether or not Mr Trump knew ahead of time about that crime and even cheered it on.”

Trump is so thoroughly surrounded by a sea of dirt that it’s impossible for him to remain pristinely clean. The sea is engulfing one of his associates after another.

Michael Flynn, his first National Security Adviser, has admitted to lying to special investigators about his conversations with a Russian ambassador in December 2016. He’s cooperating with the special counsel.

Trump’s foreign-policy adviser George Papadopoulos, who has pleaded guilty to a similar charge, is also cooperating.

Altogether, some 30 American and Western nationals have been indicted during the course of the Mueller investigation – on top of 25 Russians, who make up the numbers nicely, even though they’ll never be extradited by Putin.

Some of the Trump entourage may not have been charged with the specific offence of election tampering, but they are still Putin’s agents in all but name.

Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chairman, has been found guilty of a whole raft of pecuniary crimes, all of them springing from his efforts either to launder the payments he received from Russian gangsters, such as Yanukovych and Deripaska, or to evade paying taxes on them.

(Manafort, incidentally, spent some of his loot on buying things like python coats and ostrich jackets – exactly the sort of garments favoured by Russian nouveaux riches gangsters. Though Trump displays his rotten taste differently, I wonder if he chose Manafort because he detected a kindred spirit.)

Trump’s reaction to the simultaneous convictions of Manafort and Cohen resembled a needle stuck in a rut of a broken LP: “Where is the collusion? You know, they’re still looking for collusion! Where is the collusion? Find some collusion. We want to find the collusion.”

Well, give it time. Seek and ye shall find, says the good book, and Mueller is certainly seeking. He has already found the second best thing: the intimate links of Trump’s confidants and family members with the Russians.

So far he hasn’t subpoenaed Trump himself, and the president is in no rush to testify. In that connection, his personal lawyer Rudi Giuliani, made several astonishing statements.

Trump, he said, shouldn’t testify because he might be “trapped into perjury”. The interviewer suggested that the best way to sidestep that trap is to tell the truth, but Mr Giuliani disagreed.

“Truth”, he said, “isn’t truth”. That statement sounds positively Orwellian, but Mr Giuliani didn’t mean it that way.

It’s just that, according to him, former FBI director James Comey may say one thing, Trump another and, if Mueller chooses to believe the former, there’s the president, done for perjury.

I find it astounding that a US President and his counsel may have such little faith in the American legal system. Surely it takes more than one word against another to convict anyone of perjury?

Such charges won’t stick unless supported by evidence and testimony of multiple witnesses. Hence Trump’s fear of persecution is one step removed from taking the Fifth, which isn’t an option a president can exercise with political impunity.

Truth, Mr Giuliani, is truth, and it will out. Trump may avoid criminal charges, but I’d be surprised if he served out his term. As Richard Nixon could have told him, it’s hard to withstand a congressional investigation backed up by near-unanimity in the press.

If Trump is guilty, he should go, though I for one would be sorry if that were to happen. The American, and Western in general, political establishment needs shaking up, and Trump is doing just that.

However, if one-tenth of the allegations made in Chris Unger’s book House of Trump, House of Putin are true, our hero isn’t fit to occupy a political office. Even his fitness to remain at large is in doubt.

The president is screaming “witch hunt” at an ever-increasing pitch. Then again, who but the witches would shout that the loudest?

Knives, lyes and motorbikes

Let’s imitate God and ban knives

Ban them all – and I’m petitioning the government to that effect. You’ll definitely join in once you’ve learned these harrowing facts.

But first a fact to be proud of. As a passionate Londoner, I take pleasure in every achievement of my city, even those that might strike some as dubious.

Thus I’ve long found it annoying that, though London has for years led New York in most crime categories, those brash New Yorkers could still boast a higher murder rate.

I’m happy to report that this is no longer the case. Ever since handguns were banned in 1996, the murder rate in London has been climbing steadily, until our capital has finally pulled ahead of New York.

We now have Johannesburg in our sights, so those South Africans don’t have long to rest on the laurels of their wreaths. The murder rate in London is growing at 12 per cent a year – take that, New York and J’burg.

Now that getting a firearm has become harder (though buying a South London barman a pint is a good start), knives have moved to the forefront of killing implements.

In the year to March 2018, 40,147 people were stabbed in Britain. Cold steel has thus replaced firearms as a means of controlling inordinate population growth. And there I was, thinking that banning handguns would enable every Briton to die a natural death.

One’s pride in such achievements is slightly dampened by the realisation that shivs are rather old hat. People have been using them since time immemorial, at least since Abraham pulled a knife on his son.

On the other hand, disfiguring attacks with household detergents, such as lyes and acids, are rather new, at least when launched on the present British scale.

Britain comfortably leads the rest of the world in the rate of acid attacks and, much as one sympathises with the plight of the mutilated victims, this is yet another glorious achievement.

Many of such attacks are launched from motorcycles. Ride-by splash-ups have become popular, which is good news for the manufacturers of both motorcycles and domestic cleansers.

The rest of us, however, may regard such statistics as lamentable – that is, once we’ve contained our pride in our country’s accomplishments. For it’s sometimes disconcerting to see so many people disfigured with chemical compounds, stabbed, slashed or disembowelled.

One might think we have a bit of a social problem there, further augmented by a lamentable failure of our law enforcement.

If so, how do we solve such problems? The short answer is, we can’t.

The longer answer is that any attempt to do so would run into the stonewall of accusations of racism, xenophobia, elitism and possibly even Islamophobia (I’m not sure where homophobia fits in, but it must somehow).

For, it pains me to report, such acts aren’t typically committed by tweedy, clubbable gentlemen. Most of them are perpetrated by young chaps securely protected by the above-mentioned stonewall.

Hence the solution offers itself: ban the items in the title. Admittedly, there will be some practical hitches to overcome, but that’s nothing that British ingenuity, honed by decades of progressive legislation, can’t handle.

How, I hear you ask, will it be possible to cook without easy access to knives? I had to think about this long and hard, but then – Archimedes in his bath, Newton with his apple – the solution came to me in a flash.

The purchase of kitchen knives must require a professional licence, only available to purveyors of food: chefs, butchers and fishmongers. Knives not in use must be kept in padlocked cabinets.

When buying a piece of silverside at, say, Tesco’s, a customer can tell the butcher how the meat will be cooked. The licensed professional will then cut up the beef to the specified requirements. The resulting meal may then be consumed using plastic cutlery or, better still, fingers.

How, I also hear you ask, will people be able to clean their floors and other dirty surfaces if household detergents are banned? By posing this question you’ve instantly branded yourself as a hater of tradition.

For the answer is: the same way your grandmother (okay, great-grandmother) did it: tucking the hem of her skirt into her belt, getting down on her hands and knees in front of a bucket of soaped water and scrubbing the floor. Then getting up and using the same liquid to clean the kitchen counter and, while at it, house pets.

As to motorcycles, banning them is even easier. Who needs personal transportation anyway when Britain boasts such an advanced system of public transport?

Our trains, for example, are justly famous for encouraging a relaxed attitude to getting to work on time, while our buses vindicate the Roman injunction festina lente (make haste slowly).

Obsession with punctuality is a major source of stress, and curing this problem is yet another area in which Britain excels.

The aforementioned petition is available on the website of The Charles Martel Society for Multiculturalism, of which I’m the founder, president and so far the only member. Or rather it will be available there once I’ve got around to registering the website.