Russia, the last bulwark of conservatism

Immanuel Kant, traitor to Putin

When it comes to Russia, the Right are wrong. That’s hardly surprising, considering that their views are informed by trained Putin trolls, and I don’t just mean RT.

Our own media do their level worst too, and one would think they’d know better.

Thanks to their efforts (voluntary or paid by the Russians, makes no difference), in some circles Russia enjoys the reputation of being what Peter Hitchens once piffily described as “the most conservative, patriotic and Christian country left in Europe”.

As a result, conservative, patriotic and Christian people in the West see the glow of affinity emanating from Russia and feel its warmth. Of course if they bothered to learn something about the place, rather than relying on dishonest, ignorant or in some cases deranged commentators, they’d know the truth.

But there are only so many hours in a day and life is short, as two oft-cited clichés go. Those good right-wing people have many other things to worry about, such as Islam, Brexit and the advisability of appointing Tommy Robinson as Secretary of State for Race Relations.

Since the need for acquiring new information has to be prioritised, they just gobble up the canned bilge pouring from our papers, nod and go on to more important things. Now what was it again that May gave away in her deal? Are we still allowed to keep Sussex?

God knows I’ve said enough about the pro-Putin effluvia over the years, but sometimes it’s just best to let facts do the talking.

A couple of them caught my eye, as an illustration to Russia’s conservatism and Christianity, if not her patriotism (about which later).

A recent study shows that the incidence of HIV infection in Eastern Europe is eight times as high as in the high-rent part of the continent. And Russia is responsible for 65 per cent of all such cases recorded in the region.

Now unlike, say, laryngitis, HIV infection is behavioural, reflecting as it does certain life choices. These can vary, but they all tend to spring from the kind of conduct that weakens the claim to conservatism and Christianity, if not necessarily to patriotism.

To soften the blow, the authors of the study hastened to add that in Russia HIV is mostly transmitted through heterosexual intercourse and drug addiction. You could see me wiping my brow and heaving a sigh of relief – that’s all right then, the country’s reputation is upheld.

Or perhaps not quite. You see, that Christian and conservative country doesn’t really care about, or look after, its drug addicts. Drug treatment facilities are scarce, and only about 10 per cent of even registered addicts ever see the inside of one.

As a result, over 70,000 of Russia’s 6 million addicts die from drug overdoses every year, and the average life expectancy of addicts is only just over four years. Similar numbers die from their affection for the national beverage or its surrogates unfit for human consumption, but that little problem at least bears the patina of long-standing tradition.

Yet it’s comforting to know that at least the third element of the Hitchens Triad, patriotism, is in rude health, and I use this adjective advisedly.

The authorities in Kaliningrad are mulling over the possibility of renaming the local airport after Immanuel Kant, who spent his whole life in that city when it was still Prussian and called Königsberg.

At that time neither Kant nor for that matter the city suspected that it was slated to change its nationality and acquire the name of one of Stalin’s principal butchers.

So much the worse for Kant, decided the local Russian patriots both categorically and imperatively.

For openers, they splashed a bucket of paint on the Kant statue adorning the city centre. Then, in an outburst of unrivalled Russian spirituality, they desecrated the philosopher’s grave.

Yet, since the word is mightier than a pot of paint, it’s only fitting that the patriotic outrage was then put on a verbal, or if you will philosophical, footing.

Since university is the likeliest place in which to find those who know their Kant from their syringe, the local institution of higher learning was appropriately chosen as the arena for scholarly debate.

Patriots, Christian, conservative or otherwise, looked at the starry sky above them and into the moral law within themselves.

So inspired, they inundated the proverbial groves with packs of leaflets in which Kant was, without a trace of casuistic equivocation or post-Cartesian dualism, described as an “enemy”.

“No more betraying the Motherland!” screamed the leaflets. “Cross yourselves the Orthodox way to banish the very name of this enemy, this German whose people have caused us so much suffering!”

Having thus held Kant personally responsible for all of Russia’s misfortunes and displayed a deep knowledge of history, the patriots so dear to Hitchens’s heart then explained that “Kant betrayed the Russian land that had accepted him.”

Hence the students were urged to “reject this accursed name”, thereby proving that they are “true Russians and not degenerates who have betrayed their Motherland.”

Don’t know about Christianity and conservatism, but patriotism is very much in evidence, so one out of three isn’t too bad. Up your thing-in-itself, you Kant!

Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of vodka!

Vlad Putin at yesterday’s press conference

Vlad ‘Morgan’ Putin can now list piracy on the high seas in his rapidly swelling CV.

However, unlike most of his predecessors in this time-honoured trade, the Botox Boy wasn’t after a pecuniary gain.

There’s no need for buccaneering exploits: he can get all the loot he needs by stealing nationally and laundering globally.

So, what’s he up to? First, the facts.

On Sunday, Russian ships shot up, rammed, boarded and seized three Ukrainian vessels sailing through the Kerch Strait from the Sea of Azov into the Black Sea.

Unlike Russia’s 2014 land grab against the Ukraine, this time Vlad’s spokesmen didn’t claim the assault was perpetrated by colliers, tractor drivers or soldiers on an R&R furlough.

There was no coy pretence that the attacking ships were trawlers fishing for mackerel. The piracy was committed by ships flying the ensigns of the Russian navy, which scores high on my scale of honesty but abysmally low on every other scale.

I realise how tactless it is to use the words ‘Russia’ and ‘international law’ in the same sentence (unless it also contains the words ‘breaks yet again’), but the inner integrity of the piece demands it.

Thus free navigation through the Kerch Strait was stipulated by the 2003 treaty signed by Vlad and the then Ukrainian president Kuchma.

According to that treaty, the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait are the joint territorial waters of Russia and the Ukraine, with both naval and merchant vessels of the two countries enjoying free navigation rights.

All disputes are to be settled peacefully through consultations and negotiations. Critically, the treaty doesn’t include a unilateral cancellation clause.

Yet even before Sunday, the Russians had been harassing Ukrainian ships sailing between the major Ukrainian ports of Mariupol and Berdiansk. (A brief look at the map will show that the Kerch Strait is the only route available.)

Hence the Sunday seizure was indeed an act of piracy and a blatant provocation of conflict. So far President Poroshenko has responded by introducing martial law in the 10 provinces on Russia’s border and appealing to the UN for help.

But the question remains: What’s Vlad up to?

My answer to that is a resounding “I don’t know”. One possibility is that he’s playing the old trick much favoured by evil rulers: using a foreign adventure to divert the people’s attention from the country’s economic plight.

There are signs in the polls that the rapidly declining living standards, which weren’t stratospheric to begin with, have somewhat doused the Russians’ affection for Vlad. His raising the pension age beyond the average life expectancy has had an especially sobering effect.

Generally speaking, the Russians possess a historically cultivated instinct to respond to official inquiries in the way they feel the inquirer will like. And most people can’t distinguish a pollster from a government official.

That’s why Putin’s approval ratings mustn’t be taken literally – and that’s even those few that aren’t demonstrably falsified.

Yet undernourishment has a way of making people go for broke, and Putin’s rating has dropped down to some 45 per cent, from a high in the mid-80s.

It’s not so much the absolute number as the underlying tendency that must be narrowing Vlad’s eyes even more than they’re already narrowed by Botox.

Clearly the Russians need a little jolt to make them see what’s good for them – and Vlad knows how to administer such stimuli.

After all, when he first found himself in the Kremlin his approval rating wasn’t just lower than low: it was nonexistent. No one knew him not only from Adam but indeed from Eve.

Vlad’s KGB training taught him to treat such PR problems head on. A few blocks of flats mysteriously blew up together with their residents (for the solution to the mystery, I recommend the book Blowing Up Russia, whose co-author Alexander Litvinenko suffered an extreme form of literary criticism), and the Chechens were blamed.

A short, bloody war followed, Vlad rode in as the national saviour, and he was on his way to becoming a global statesman. He thus has form in using military forays to whip up popular enthusiasm.

Yet the Sunday piracy may also have a more sinister meaning. It might have been the prelude to a full-scale invasion of the Ukraine, with potentially catastrophic consequences going way beyond the two countries involved.

Vlad may feel that the time has come to test the West’s resolve with a sabre slash, rather than a pinprick. In a fine tradition going back to that Gleiwitz radio station, Vlad’s Goebbelses have already accused Poroshenko of launching a bellicose provocation (declaring martial law in preparation for a possible Russian onslaught).

And Vlad himself had the gall to complain to his old friend Angie Merkel that he was “deeply concerned” with Poroshenko’s response to that little frolic. How dare those uppity Ukies even think about defending themselves?

The likeliest scenario is that Vlad is simply testing the waters, as it were. He wants to have another look at the West’s response before risking a headlong plunge.

To their credit, both Mrs May and her Defence Secretary pulled no punches in their condemnation of Russia’s new entry into the annals of international crime.

However, with all due respect to them, it’s the US response that really matters, which behoves the self-appointed leader of the free world.

If Russia is inching towards war step by step, each subsequent step must be discouraged immediately and in no uncertain terms because otherwise at some point it’ll be too late.

The fitting response would have been for the US-led NATO to state its commitment to defending the Ukraine against Russian aggression – and to punish the act of piracy by introducing, effective immediately, much tougher sanctions and possibly even threatening to disconnect Russia from the SWIFT system.

Details may vary, but the principle shouldn’t: if the history of aggressive evil regimes has taught us anything, that juggernaut must be stopped before it gathers full speed.

However, as if to vindicate Hegel’s pronouncement that the only thing people learn from history is that they learn nothing, the US response was tepid at best.

Nikki Haley, American ambassador to the United Nations, did say that Russian piracy was an “outrageous violation of sovereign Ukrainian territory” and “yet another reckless Russian escalation”. She also referred to “concerns at the highest level of the American government”.

However, the very highest level of the American government, in the person of Donald Trump, could offer nothing better than a damp squib.

“We do not like what’s happening either way,” he told reporters. “We don’t like what’s happening, and hopefully it will get straightened out.”

What does ‘either way mean’? That he isn’t sure who was to blame for the incident? That he sides with Putin’s Goebbelses in accepting it just might have been the Ukraine’s fault?

I especially like the second sentence, and I don’t just mean the illiterate use of ‘hopefully’. More baffling is the use of the passive voice.

How will it get straightened out? All by itself? Through Vlad’s good offices?

Such matters can only ever be straightened out actively, by a show of force and resolve, and Mr Trump has offered none so far.

I’m not going to delve into the peculiar relationship between Trump and Putin – let Special Counsel Mueller sort that out. Suffice it to say that Mr Trump is considerably more decisive when rebuking his allies than he is with the man who may yet plunge the world into a nuclear holocaust.

Since the president is notoriously computer-literate, perhaps he should Google the historical analogues to the situation at hand. By way of key words, I’d suggest ‘appeasement’, ‘Munich’, ‘to die for Danzig’ and ‘Gleiwitz’.

Meanwhile Vlad should order a nice black eye-patch for himself. One must always dress the part.

What on earth is a Europhile?

If you don’t love Junk, you hate Europe

I’ve never seen a political mess to match what’s going on in Britain today, and I lived in the US during Watergate.

The mess doesn’t even rate the soubriquet of crisis – it’s that much of a mess. And in all such situations language falls one of the first victims.

Suddenly conservatives, so called because they want to conserve something, in this case Britain’s constitution, are described as extremists, romantics or idealists.

Those who sling that kind of mud obviously see national sovereignty as an unachievable ideal – indeed making those who stubbornly cling to it wild-eyed romantics.

But British independence is no more unachievable or idealistic than, say, my becoming a British subject. After all, that’s exactly what I did become in 1992.

Analogously, it so happens that until that year Britain had indeed been independent for the better part of 2,000 years. If something exists for so long in reality, striving to restore it still may be foolhardy or anything else one cares to call it.

What it absolutely can’t be is romantic, unrealistic or unachievable. Those who cherish Britain’s constitutional integrity are more appropriately called realists, conservatives – or patriots, if you’d rather.

It’s a matter of semantics and therefore of clear thinking. By all means sling mud if you must, but do try not to sully yourself with the dirt of stupidity in the process.

Then there are people like Edward Lucas, who contribute the word ‘Europhile’ to the semantic gallimaufry – and to think that he’s one of our few columnists who think straight on Russia.

“I am a lifelong Europhile; my two sons work for Our Future Our Choice, the youth wing of the campaign for a second referendum, or People’s Vote,” he writes. “My heart swells with pride and sympathy.”

Mr Lucas’s heart should really swell with shame at this abject failure at parenting, but his offspring and how he raises them are his business. On the other hand, his debauchery of English hurts us all.

Mr Lucas reminds me of a friend with whom I sometimes have coffee after tennis. This nice Englishman also calls himself a Europhile (presumably to distinguish from my Europhobe), which to my pedantic ear sounds like he loves Europe.

Yet in all his 60-odd years he has only crossed the Channel a couple of times and not at all for decades. He doesn’t speak any continental languages, doesn’t know much of European history or culture and has no interest in European philosophy or religion.

In other words, his passion for Europe remains unconsummated, a bit like a man who loves women but has never slept with one. My presumptive hatred of Europe, on the other hand, manifests itself in peculiar ways.

I cross the Channel a dozen times a year, spend half my time on the continent – and tick all those boxes above that my friend would leave blank. Thus I feel justified in rejecting the charge of Europhobia and instead levelling it at my friend.

But of course he and Mr Lucas neither mean that they love Europe nor that people like me hate it. They mean they love the EU and we don’t. Which is another way of saying they see no value to preserving Britain’s constitutional and political integrity.

Thus their Europhilia is neither cultural nor ethnographic, but political. Now I could offer quite a few terms to describe those who wish to undermine their country’s sovereignty and pledge allegiance to a foreign entity with no political mandate in Britain, nor any affection for it.

However, most of those terms would be incendiary, and my purpose today is to untangle the linguistic mess, not to singe it with fire. Suffice it to say that Mr Lucas confirms my cherished bias towards converts from the extreme Left: they can’t really convert.

One can change one’s intellectual opinions but not one’s gonadal temperament, and the Left-Right divide has more to do with the latter than with the former.

And then there’s another term that adds to the confusion: pragmatism. This word is supposed to distinguish the British from fiery continental ideologues.

The British deal with the world as it is, not as we wish it to be, or so the story goes. As applied to the sub-plot of Brexit, the story acquires new twists from both ends, Leave and Remain.

The latter sigh fulsomely and bemoan the unsolvable difficulties of Brexit. Yes, they say with differently human Blairite expressions, the referendum went the wrong way.

But that’s because the electorate had been duped into voting without first considering the insurmountable barriers firmly in place. Now we’ve had two post-referendum years, we’ve seen how high and infinitely numerous those barriers are.

So let’s be pragmatic about it: we can’t leave without a deal, and the deal Mrs May has managed to wrench out of the EU is rotten.

Hence, in our new pragmatic incarnation, we must either vote again and keep doing so until we get it right or, better still, forget the whole ungodly non-pragmatic mess and stay in the EU. The EU is magnanimous enough to take the prodigal son back into the family, having first spanked him pour encourager les autres.

These chaps forget to mention that all the mind-bending problems of Brexit are mostly of their own making. Such problems aren’t force majeure; they are products of wicked human agency.

At play here is the trick routinely uncorked by cynical political nonentities. First, they do something indescribably stupid or even seditious (destroy the economy, start a war they can’t win, enter into unconstitutional treaties or whatnot). Then they issue a call to the banners of pragmatism: yes, we’re in trouble, they say. Yet the world is what it is; we must learn to live with it.

But the world wasn’t what it is before this lot made it so. They couldn’t do things right and now they regret they can’t do things over. Hypocrisy comes together with cynicism to produce a foul result.

But Leavers, such as the ever-sage Stephen Glover, can also bandy pragmatism about with the best, or rather the worst, of them.

They converge with the Remainers in agreeing that we can’t leave without a deal, much as we’d want to. But do let’s be pragmatic about this: Parliament will never go along with no-deal, and time is running short.

Time wouldn’t be running short if we hadn’t wasted two years on Oliver Twist-like supplicancy, begging our European masters to be kind, whereas all they want is to punish us, discourage others and, ideally, torpedo Brexit.

A PM committed to Brexit, rather than to the warped ruling elite, could have invoked the Royal Prerogative, left immediately after Parliament activated Article 50 – and only then started negotiating ‘deals’.

Now those pragmatic Leavers jump through the same hoops as their Remainer friends from Groucho’s and the Arts Club, saying well, alas, the deal Mrs May has secured may be awful but it’s the only one on the table.

Either we go along with it or risk having no Brexit at all – with the extra benefit of getting the kind of Trotskyist government Mr Glover would hate, and Mr Lucas would have loved as a young man but not any longer.

Sorry, there’s so much more I could add, but the emetic impulse is getting too strong. Or, to put it in the idiom of my down-to-earth friends, this mess makes me want to puke.

The French started as they meant to go on

Protests against new diesel tax in Champs Elysées, Paris, yesterday

It’s tempting to say that the French have all the fun, but that’s not quite true.

We have our fair share too. But ours is sedate British fun, lacking the son et lumière pizzazz of barricades, tear gas, fires and stun grenades.

The French have all that and what do we get? Only dark hints that perhaps the Tory party has been living off the proceeds of prostitution.

And yes, Mrs May is always good value, this time tying her apron to our hearts with the same strings in a humbly triumphant Brexit letter. Looking increasingly like a Russian babushka at her samovar, Mrs May is proud of her unwavering fortitude that has secured, for some time at any rate, our grip on Merseyside, Shropshire and Chelsea Cloisters.

A bit tame compared to the show put up in the centre of Paris by the gilets jaunes, backed up by the CRS chorus line, wouldn’t you say? Billowing smoke, raging fires, cars overturned, shop windows smashed, barricades going up, clouds of tear gas – we’ve got a lot to learn from the French when it comes to urban entertainment.

When the British seek a redress of grievances, they write to their MP, swear, then go down the pub and have a pint. I don’t know what the gilets jaunes are on, but their protest is rather more robust.

Perhaps it’s time to disabuse the French of a widespread misapprehension. They always mock our class distinctions, juxtaposing them to the égalité boasted on their public buildings.

In fact, we have nothing even remotely approaching their cleft between the metropolitan, predominantly Paris, elite and the rest of the country.

No doubt that a grocer in Merseyside (which Mrs May’s formidable negotiating prowess has secured for Britain) lives a different life from the owners, and especially guests, of Chelsea Cloisters.

It’s also possible that he views them with seething resentment, while they view him with mild disdain. But such feelings are usually enveloped in a puffy fog of British placidity, rather than the red mist of French exuberance.

The Us-Them divide does exist, but it has neither the depth nor the width one observes in France. In this case, though the gilets jaunes aren’t the type of people I’d often see at my dinner table, they do have a legitimate grievance – or rather a legitimate pretext for the underlying resentment.

At a time when the price of crude oil has been going down, Macron’s government has steadily increased the price of diesel by 23 per cent, with another 6.5 per cent hike planned for January.

In addition, the epiphany that diesel fumes are more harmful than carbon monoxide after all has inspired Manny Macron to threaten phasing out all diesel cars within a couple of years, forcing the owners to buy newer and dearer vehicles.

Now about 77 per cent of all cars in France are diesel, which is, not coincidentally, the proportion of the French who support the protesters. What we observe here is a clash of aspirations.

The metropolitan elite so ably led and personified by Manny wants to save the planet. The rest of the French want to make ends meet. These are the two electrodes sending sparks all over France.

As someone who does most of his driving in provincial France, and in a diesel car at that, I can testify that, in the universal absence of public transport, one needs to do at least 1,000 miles a month there just to survive.

Thus the difference between the diesel price as it will be in January, 2019, and as it was in January, 2018, adds up to something like £40 a month – and that’s before new cars have to be bought. In a vast, rapidly depopulating countryside subsisting on peanuts this punches a gaping hole in people’s livelihood.

But it’s not just the money that rankles, I’m sure. It’s the snide, patronising indifference to their plight that the people detect in the metropolitan bobos (bourgeois bohemians).

People may tolerate robbery, but they’ll never forgive contempt. And in Manny’s latest attack on their lives they detect both.

As to the manner in which such feelings tend to be expressed in France, the clue again comes from the slogan liberté, égalité, fraternité. (I think it would make more sense to replace egalité with Aligoté there, but no one has asked me.)

The triad serves as a reminder that modern France started life as a revolutionary republic, with barricades firmly encoded into her DNA. Such a genetic defect is impossible to cure or live down – it’s only sometimes possible to mitigate for a while.

This points at the fundamental difference between what I call (in my Democracy as a Neocon Trick) an organic state and one that’s an ideological contrivance.

To see which is which we can apply a simple test that would work in most cases: unlike the origin of a contrived state, the origin of an organic one can’t be pinpointed to a single historical event or, for that matter, any precise moment in time.

We can say with certainty that the American republic started in 1776, the French one in 1789, the unified German state in 1871, the Soviet one in 1917 (or more accurately in 1923, when the Soviet Union officially came into being), Israel in 1948 and so forth. But when did the English state begin? We can’t be sure.

The Norman conquest? Magna Carta? The Civil War? The Restoration? The Glorious Revolution?

Advocates of the primacy of any such event will present their arguments; we may agree with some and dismiss others. But the very fact that there are many such events vying for the honour, and that they’re scattered all over history, points at the organic nature of the English state.

It would take another, longer, book to establish the causal relationship between the national character of the people and the political dispensation they produce. And deciding which was primary and which was secondary would be even harder.

But it would take a frivolous interpretation of political history not to see the continuum uniting the Paris barricades c. 1789 with those c. 2018. And then perhaps we could ponder the long-term pernicious effect of all modern revolutions, regardless of how well they may seem to have turned out.

There’s always a price to pay in the end, political, cultural, civilisational. And human.

Can people vote for slavery?

The ABC of politics: Anything But Corbyn

If a democracy can elect a Marxist government, then there’s something fundamentally wrong with the democracy.

This conclusion may sound uncomfortable and politically suspect, but it has more to do with logic than with politics.

The very essence of Marxism is transferring power to the ‘people’, which is the Marxist jargon for a small group of bureaucrats running a tyrannical, omnipotent state.

However, grudgingly allowing that modern democracy has veered a long way away from the word’s etymological origin, even in its manipulated form it’s still rather different from Marxism.

Democracy isn’t exactly bondage, whereas, if Marxism is different from slavery at all, it’s only in legalistic technicalities.

We are therefore looking at a difficult paradox: democratic people may democratically vote for de facto putting an end to democracy. In other words, free people may opt for slavery and rape the spirit of the law without breaking its single letter.

It’s impossible to argue against such a possibility without also arguing against democracy, as it now is.

Note that so far I haven’t made a single political or indeed moral argument. I’m simply staying in the domain of logic, where it’s irrelevant whether we think Marxism is virtuous or evil.

What is relevant is that no viable system can have a self-destruct button to be pushed by majority decision. If it has such a button, and within easy reach, it’s no longer viable.

Hence the shelf of democracy must come with bookends, demarcating the allowable extension in either direction. Should such restraints be firmly planted, the electorate could still go wrong, at times terribly wrong. But it won’t be allowed to commit political suicide.

Such bookends, usually called checks and balances, can take different shapes. It doesn’t really matter which as long as the public’s ability to self-harm is securely kept within reasonable limits.

History provides ample empirical proof that, no matter how much we adore democracy of any type, it’ll ultimately fail in the absence of a clearly defined limit on its power.

Thus the perfectly democratic Athenian constitution of Solon didn’t last as long as the rather authoritarian Spartan constitution of Lycurgus, wherein the king was separated from his subjects by an aristocratic council. According to Plutarch, that council added stability to the commonwealth like the ballast in a ship.

In post-Hellenic Europe, it’s England’s constitution, developed over centuries from its medieval precursor the Witenagemot, that has provided the best balance among various mechanisms of government.

The royal power of the crown at one end, the elected power of the Commons at the other and the unelected power of the Lords as the mediator in between created by far the oldest and most successful constitution in the world.

England sometimes went tragically wrong, but there was enough margin of error built in for the commonwealth still to survive without abandoning too many of its basic principles. Democracy functioned because it wasn’t dogmatically democratic.

The very real danger that we’re likely to have a Marxist government within months, possibly weeks, is a tell-tale sign that the system has become irreparably flawed: its inner logic no longer works.

If we realise that the system is sputtering to a grinding halt, diagnosing the problem isn’t unduly hard. Obviously whatever kept the system ticking along come what may is no longer there.

Our democracy is no longer balanced. The bookends have been removed; the books have fallen down on the floor.

What we’re observing now is a result of the systematic constitutional vandalism perpetrated by successive governments, most prominently, though far from exclusively, by that led by Blair.

The House of Lords has been debauched to a point where it doesn’t, nor indeed is able to, counterbalance the elected power of the Commons, whereas the crown lost all executive power long ago.

Though Blair’s government is especially culpable in this perversion of the country’s entire political history, sniping at the hereditary chamber has been a popular sport for at least my rather long lifetime. (The temptation to say ‘for 200 years’ is strong, but I’ll desist for fear of sounding too controversial.)

The House is Lords is unelected and undemocratic, scream democracy hounds. Of course it is, should have been the proper reply. That’s its whole point, for unelected means immune to political pressures. The upper House is there to prevent the commonwealth from committing inadvertent suicide.

Alas, we’re no longer brave enough to proffer this reply. Hence, rather than empowering the people, democracy has become a deadly weapon in the hands of those who wish to empower a wicked elite, relying inter alia on an endless expansion of the franchise and systematic dumbing down of the populace.

The larcenous syllogism hammered into the increasingly ignorant heads of the electorate seems unassailable: democracy is uniquely good; democracy means one vote for every man, woman and increasingly child; ergo, any other mechanism of government is bad even if it’s only a part of the political mix.

One can remain unbiased and dispassionate only for so long, and at this point I’ll go so far as to say that the notion of a Marxist government ruling Britain isn’t just illogical but evil.

I hope there’s enough residual spunk and sagacity left among the British to prevent this catastrophe from happening. However, the destiny of a nation shouldn’t hinge on the tenuous hope that the electorate will stop just short of suicide.

There should be sufficient safety mechanisms built into the system to be activated automatically when self-destruction beckons. Yet such cut-off valves are manifestly missing in our democracy-run-riot.

If they still existed, we wouldn’t be anxiously checking the current standing of what has the rich potential of becoming the most evil government elected in a European country since 1933.

First strike and you’re out

More nuclear threats from Russia

For someone who knows Russia, no news about, or especially from, that country is really news.

Yet one understands our media milliners’ need to flog old hats as scoops – same old, same old isn’t an approach likely to sell many newspapers.

However, sexing news up shouldn’t mean misleading the public, which line is alas overstepped much too often. Witness the title and opening paragraph of today’s Times article Russia Rewrites Nuclear Rule Book to Fire First.

And then: “President Putin would have the power to launch nuclear first strikes under plans approved by the Russian parliament.”

Amazing how many flagrant falsehoods a mere two sentences can contain.

A virginal reader coming to this item cold would be within his right to form at least two conclusions. First, that first strikes hadn’t been part of Russia’s strategic doctrine until this momentous decision. Second, that without the parliament’s approval Putin wouldn’t be able to launch one.

In the reverse order, Russia has no parliament in the sense in which a virginal Times reader understands the term, a sovereign legislative body passing all laws and holding the executive to account.

The Duma is neither sovereign nor legislative; it neither passes any laws nor holds anyone to account. Just like the Supreme Soviet was in the USSR, it’s a rubberstamping body created to dupe the uninitiated into believing that Russia is ruled by law.

Unlike the Supreme Soviet, it has the additional function of providing parliamentary immunity for international criminals, such as Alexei Lugovoi who murdered Alexander Litvinenko in what may be described as a nuclear first strike on Britain.

To eliminate that falsehood, the headline should have simply said “Putin may launch nuclear first strikes if he feels like it.”

That would have been a move in the right direction, but the other falsehood would still have remained. For the Soviet, and then Russian, military doctrine has always been based on an offensive first strike, with nuclear weapons if necessary.

And renouncing that possibility within the framework of various treaties has always been nothing but an exercise in deception, what the Russians call disinformation.

Every disarmament treaty either the USSR or its successor has ever signed has been a ruse designed to gain strategic advantage. The entire resources of that evil regime have always been dedicated to cheating on every such agreement, from SALT I and II to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty signed in the halcyon days of perestroika.

To its credit, the Trump administration didn’t get intoxicated on the heady brew of disinformation. Where the previous administrations were too cowardly to point at the ace sticking out of the cardsharp’s sleeve, the Trump lot did just that by announcing their decision to pull out of the INF.

They correctly stated that the Russians were deploying the very weapons banned by the agreement, which logically rendered it null and void.

Like the thief who screams “Stop thief!” louder than anyone else, the Russians upped the volume of their nuclear threats which already was deafening. An American withdrawal “wouldn’t be left without an answer from our side”, threatened the Botox Boy.

He then narrowed his fish eyes and gave the Russians the good news. In case of a nuclear holocaust they’d go straight to heaven, presumably bypassing purgatory.

The Botox Boy didn’t specify the number of virgins gagging for the righteous up there, but he did say that Russia’s enemies would go to hell without even enough time to repent their sins.

Having thus taken a page out of Islam’s book, Putin then explained under what conditions he’d push the button for a nuclear first strike. Russia, he said, would retaliate with nuclear weapons if attacked with “hypersonic and non-nuclear strategic weapons”.

Allow me to translate from disinformation into English. If NATO resists Russia’s aggression against Eastern Europe, specifically the Baltics, the Botox Boy will unleash hell.

For an F-22 fighter-bomber firing an air-to-ground missile at a Russian tank column advancing on Estonia may be construed to fall under the Botox Boy’s description of strategic weapons.

In case the meaning got lost in translation, the Russian government confirmed that the announcement should be taken as a warning to Eastern European countries hosting NATO bases.

“These countries should understand that we won’t simply look at that through our fingers – we will react,” said the Russian defence spokesman.

But the existence of those bases is in itself a reaction – to a growing Russian threat. All NATO installations in that region are strictly defensive, including that particular burr under Russia’s blanket, the nuclear shield in Romania.

Russia’s announcement is tantamount to a demand for the unilateral disarmament of Eastern Europe, starting with the three Baltic members of NATO.

Should NATO accede, it would have only two possible responses to a Russian aggression: an all-out strategic nuclear strike or surrender. Both would be catastrophic; neither is acceptable.

The Russians are screaming that NATO bases in Eastern Europe present a threat to them. I’d say they’re no more threatening than the shotgun I might keep under my bed. It’ll only ever get fired if my family is under attack. My good neighbours have nothing to fear from either barrel.

By his own admission, in his youth the Botox Boy was a “common street thug”. That he remains, in every word he utters and every action he takes.

Take it from someone who had to grow up surrounded by Russian street thugs: overwhelming force is the only language they understand. One  either outbullies the bully or falls victim to him.

I do hope NATO follows the first course, preparing, should the need arise, to thwart the thug with a punch on the nose. As part of such preparations, let’s abandon the silly pretence that we’re dealing with a legitimate country complete with parliaments, courts and generally good intentions.

Putin’s Russia is a criminal organisation functioning according to the laws of the mean streets. It should be dealt with as such.

Mafia don to lead FBI?

Al Capone was narrowly beaten by J. Edgar Hoover to the post of FBI Director. Wasn’t he?

An arsonist in charge of a fire brigade? A paedophile running an orphanage? A kleptomaniac managing a jewellery shop?

This may be preposterous conjecture. But these days reality outpaces fantasy by a wide margin.

To wit, Alexander Prokopchuk of Russia’s Interior Ministry is about to become president of Interpol.

Interpol boasts 192 countries as members, which by my calculations makes all of them. Its function is to pursue criminals who choose to widen their reach beyond one country, either to target pastures new or else to seek refuge.

When Interpol decides that a fugitive has a case to answer in his home country, it issues a ‘red notice’, which is a sort of arrest warrant that the host country may or may not wish to execute. Yet even in the absence of a red notice, the host country may honour a warrant issued by another Interpol member.

The organisation thus has a lot of power, which may be used, but as easily misused or abused. That’s why the selection of a president becomes a sensitive task, to be approached with much caution.

One must observe with some chagrin that Interpol bosses haven’t always been blessed with the high moral probity the post requires.

Thus from 1940 to 1942 that august organisation was led by SS Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich, who was out to eliminate not so much all crime as all Jews.

When his tenure was prematurely ended by a British grenade, Interpol was taken over by SS Gruppenführer Artur Nebe, whose approach to the Final Solution was hands on. As head of Einsatzgruppe B in Byelorussia, Nebe had supervised the murder of 45,000 in just two months of 1941.

He was still regarded as too lightweight for the post, and in 1943 the presidency of Interpol passed over to Gruppenführer Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Heydrich’s successor as head of the SD. Three years later this law enforcer was hanged at Nuremberg.

Fast-forward some 70 years, and the post of Interpol president is now vacant. Meng Hongwei, the latest holder, disappeared after being charged with bribery in his native China and is assumed to have resigned in absentia.

This isn’t to say that Gen. Prokopchuk’s career was as illustrious as Messrs Heydrich’s, Nebe’s, Kaltenbrunner’s or even Meng’s. It wasn’t. But he’s as unsuitable for the post as they were.

Gen. Prokopchuk began his career as part of the komsomol (Young Communist League) nomenklatura. The YCL was nominally under the Party aegis, but in reality it served as a hatchery of cadres for Soviet security services.

(The same system existed in Soviet satellites, which raises interesting questions about Angie Merkel, who held a nomenklatura YCL position in Leipzig at the same time a Major Putin was the KGB resident in Dresden, just 90 miles away. Alas, such interesting questions are never answered nor indeed asked, and I have to guess why the two are so pally, addressing each other by their first names and the familiar du pronoun.)

Three YCL apparatchiks, Shelepin, Semitchasny and Andropov, became KGB bosses, and many others also filled the offices of that sinister organisation or the Interior Ministry (MVD).

The KGB and the MVD always were communicating vessels, with personnel freely flowing from one to the other. Sometimes the KGB was institutionally part of the MVD, sometimes the other way around, and sometimes they were nominally separate. Yet, structural gerrymandering aside, Prokopchuk and Putin have much mutual affinity.

That any Russian official occupying an international post will do Putin’s bidding is axiomatic. Thus Prokopchuk’s presidency will effectively turn Interpol into an aspect of Russia’s hybrid war on the West.

The potential of using Interpol for nefarious purposes has been realised many times, not least, though not only, by Russia. This can be done by protecting those fugitives whom tyrannies wish to protect and especially by pursuing those whom tyrannies wish to pursue.

If the host country decides that the fugitive is being pursued for political reasons, the red notice may be ignored or even removed. Yet Interpol has been known to ignore political motives, and wicked regimes to disguise them.

Venezuela has form in pulling that confidence trick, along with Iran, Cambodia, Turkey, the Arab Emirates – and of course Russia, which has issued red notices on several dissidents and even managed to get Bill ‘Magnitsky’ Browder detained in Spain.

Putin’s men brazenly refuse to adopt even a thin veneer of political disinterest in hunting enemies of the regime and of the Botox Boy personally. In fact, their effrontery is so blatant that some US senators have demanded that Russia be banned from issuing red notices altogether.

Russia is at the moment the biggest international criminal. Not only has it elevated money laundering to its principal economic activity, but it also commits acts of terrorism all over the world, using even chemical and nuclear weapons.

As a backdrop to that, the Russians are waging a full-blown cyber war against the West, including inter alia the credible threat of sabotaging the UK’s grid, as they already sabotaged the NHS a couple of years ago.

Considering that Western countries contribute 74 per cent of Interpol’s budget, they could easily stop Putin’s accomplice from heading the organisation whose charter is to stop exactly the kind of crimes that are Russia’s stock in trade.

But I doubt they will. We in the West no longer have the testicular fortitude to face up to tyrants, even those who threaten us directly. Where there is no will, there is no way, if you’ll pardon the paraphrase.

P.S. Even conservative papers are now branding as extremists those who wish to regain Britain’s sovereignty. I’m surprised they haven’t yet coined the portmanteau neologism ‘Brextremists’. Missing a trick there, chaps.

Are Remainers fools or knaves?

Sir Max Hastings

Actually, you don’t have to choose. As Max Hastings’s article We’ll Pay for the EU Obsession of the Right demonstrates, one can be both.

Those Remainers who aren’t knaves are fools, a group defined in this case by its building impassioned views on a rickety intellectual foundation. I’ve never heard a single intelligent reply to the question of why we should remain in the EU.

French and German fans of that awful contrivance also display a deficit of intellectual rigour, and they too come up with spurious arguments.

But the aetiology of their malaise is different: they bear the scars of wounds cut into their psyche by two world wars, especially the second one. Still, I know some intelligent continentals who should know better than to let their lacerated hearts rule their otherwise functional heads.

Their British equivalents, such as Hastings, haven’t got even such a flimsy excuse for sounding silly on this issue – and especially for interweaving foolishness with mendacity.

The American writer Mary McCarthy once said about her colleague Lillian Hellmann that every word she ever wrote was a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘but’. Allowing myself the same soupçon of artistic licence, I can say the same about Hastings.

The payment for “the EU obsession of the Right” will, according to him, come in the shape of PM Corbyn. Considering that Hastings himself alternates his support between the Tories and Labour, he won’t find the charge unduly exorbitant, but he laudably rises above personal idiosyncrasies.

One can infer that, while the Right is in the grips of a mania, the Left (I include wet Tories under that rubric) are rationally dispassionate.

Yet, had Major’s mock-Tory government not dragged us into the EU and, earlier, Heath’s mock-Tory government into the EEC, the crazed Right would have to look for some other obsessions to pursue.

Anyone with an IQ even in high double digits would see a clear cause-effect here. Not being smart enough to realise that he’s signing his own intellectual death warrant, Hastings readily admits he himself was part of the cause:

“As an editor, I made a big mistake about Europe… . John Major… and the Foreign Office’s mandarins convinced us that our EU partners were not serious about pursuing political integration. Their insouciance about the Jacques Delors, Jean-Claude Juncker school of Europeanism was grievously mistaken, as was Britain’s brief adherence to the European Exchange Rate Mechanism, which some of us were also foolish enough to support.”

‘Some of us’ is a demure version of ‘I’. But the whole paragraph is staggering. For that ‘school of Europeanism’ is the only one, certainly the only one that matters.

Hastings claims he didn’t realise that the EU’s aim was to create a superstate. If he’s lying, which is likely, this is an exemplar of mendacity liberally laced with cynicism. If he’s telling the truth, he’s ignorant to the point of idiocy.

One can understand a leftie social worker saying something like that. But Hastings was at the time editor-in-chief of The Telegraph and had all its vast information resources at his disposal.

Hence he should have known that the single superstate had been inscribed on the EU banners since it had been but a twinkle in the eye of its founders, all those Monnets, Schumans, Gasperis and Spinellis.

My friends and I could cite those chaps’ writings chapter and verse back in 1992. And we all knew in 1990 that joining the ERM would spell an instant economic disaster. How come Hastings didn’t?

He describes those with more nous than he has as “a faction of fanatics” who came from the same group that had earlier supported “white Rhodesia’s rebel leader Ian Smith, a crusader for ‘civilised values’.”

This is written with the benefit of hindsight, which optic instrument should have prevented Hastings from putting ‘civilised values’ in quotation marks. For Smith’s values were indeed civilised compared to Mugabe’s – and I suspect most Zimbabweans would share this view.

Then comes real cloud-cuckoo-land stuff. According to Hastings those despicable fanatics duped the British public by lying that Brexit would solve every conceivable problem because they were all caused by EU membership.

Hastings’s outlook is much more panoramic: This country cannot again have an effective and creative government until we restore a consensus that politics is rightfully about many things, on most of which compromise is indispensable, rather than about one thing, deemed by true believers to be an absolute.”

Fair enough, some people I know do hang much of their political life on the single peg of Brexit.

It’s even true that compromise is indeed indispensable on many things. Yet Hastings doesn’t seem to realise that national sovereignty isn’t one of them. Either we’re governed by laws passed by our own parliament or we aren’t. It’s as stark as that.

Yes, the issue that should have been simple has been encumbered with all sorts of superfluous addenda, most of them economic.

But those who refuse to compromise the uncompromisable do some of the encumbering only in response to those like Hastings who try to torpedo Brexit in every possible way.

It’s they who, from the moment the referendum was announced, have been screaming that the Leave vote is tantamount to an economic disaster the likes of which Britain has never known.

Leave the loving care of the EU and we’ll starve in the dark, with no medicines to treat us, no transport to take us places, no fuel to heat our houses. We’ll become worse off than the Zimbabweans, and our wives will leave us for swarthy foreigners with vowels at the end of their names.

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, said Newton. People who really only want to restore our ancient – and historically the world’s most successful – constitution have been forced out of the main battlefield and into skirmishes at street corners.

“Yet the principled issue of sovereignty would never have sufficed to enable the right to seize the reins: immigration, and immigration alone, could do that. The indulgence displayed by the liberal elite towards a vast influx of newcomers licensed by Tony Blair transformed a manic faction into a mass movement,” is Hastings’s take on the events.

Yes, after decades of socialist propaganda masquerading as ‘comprehensive education’, many Britons tend to regard things like freedom and sovereignty as abstractions having little to do with real life.

And yes, the easiest way to offset the subversive sabotage perpetrated by the likes of Hastings was to invoke the damage done to British identity by an influx of alien, mostly Muslim, colonisers.

But “the vast influx… licensed by Tony Blair” (for whom Hastings voted) was made possible by the EU with its free movement of people, most of them in the direction of the British social services.

“If this story ends in a tragedy [of Corbyn’s victory] which blights the lives of our children, as seems not unlikely, the career nostalgics of the Tory right will bear much of the responsibility,” concludes Hastings.

No, they won’t. All of the responsibility will be borne by Hastings et al, who first dragged Britain into that corrupt, mendacious arrangement and then have been trying to subvert every effort at getting out.

Will the US lose its next war?

The West c. 2018 isn’t Prague c. 1968

It may, if you believe the report issued by The United States Institute of Peace.

The US, says the report by this federal outfit, “might… lose a war against China or Russia. The United States is particularly at risk of being overwhelmed should its military be forced to fight on two or more fronts simultaneously.”

The document outlines several possible scenarios. First, there’s China attacking Taiwan. And Russia goes China one better: it can hurt America in two ways.

It could invade the Baltics, NATO members all three of them. Or it could paralyse the US infrastructure with cyber attacks, which may or may not be followed by an assault on the Baltics.

Then there’s North Korea, which may attack its South neighbours, threatening to launch nuclear ICBMs on American cities should the US interfere.

And let’s not forget Iran that’s about to develop a nuclear capability, if it hasn’t already, which it may use for aggressive purposes.

Any of these scenarios have a whiff of doomsday about them, and some or all of them happening at the same time considerably more than just a whiff.

Yet I don’t think the danger is as imminent as all that.

This isn’t to say the fears are unfounded. Far from it: every possible flashpoint the USIP identified is real and smouldering. It would be irresponsible of the US and NATO not to prepare for any eventuality both physically and morally.

Moreover, either China or especially Russia definitely may play out one of those scenarios and drag the US into a war. But I think they’d lose.

Si vis pacem para bellum, said Vegetius – if you want peace, prepare for war. And prepare we must, reversing two decades of demob happiness following the ‘collapse’ of the Soviet Union.

That euphoria was encouraged by frivolous commentators, mostly of the neocon persuasion. A particularly inane academic actually declared that history had ended: liberal democracy had triumphed, the forces of evil had capitulated. End of story, end of debate – end of history.

Well, history has restarted since then, as it did when Hegel made a similarly empty boast after Napoleon’s victory at Jena – as history always does. The forces of evil, correctly identified by the USIP, are back and more menacing than ever.

Hence there’s little doubt that America’s military capability must be built up to the Cold War level at least, relative to the strength of any potential adversaries.

There’s even less doubt that Trump is right: other NATO members must match American military spending as a proportion of GDP.

However, provided we aren’t irresponsibly complacent, I don’t think either Russia or China, or even both of them together, could defeat NATO.

It’s not that I question the statistics presented by the USIP. Even though America’s military expenditure is greater than Russia’s and China’s put together, the combined might of those two evil empires does look formidable on paper.

However, wars aren’t fought on paper. Even in our time of sci-fi Star Wars, they’re fought by people killing other people. And the West does it better than the East.

One example illustrates this point. When Germany attacked the Soviet Union on 22 June, 1941, calculations similar to those produced by the USIP would have suggested that the Wehrmacht would be instantly routed.

The Soviets had a threefold advantage in tanks in the immediate theatre, and a sevenfold one overall. Moreover, the quality of those tanks was incomparably better in every category – and the categories represented by Soviet T-34s and KVs didn’t even exist in the German panzer force.

Soviet artillery was a generation newer than German. The Soviet air force of 10,000 warplanes was bigger than the Luftwaffe, and held its own in quality. And of course the numerical strength of the Soviet army was unmatched.

Moreover, the Soviets had practically endless reserves of both manpower and materiel. Their tank factories in particular were churning out monsters faster than the rest of the world combined.

And logistically the Soviets enjoyed the benefit of fighting on familiar terrain and without the need to stretch their supply lines.

In short, rather than enjoying a three-to-one superiority recommended by military science for a successful offensive, the Wehrmacht was severely outgunned and heading for perdition – or so the proto-USIP would have maintained.

What followed instead was history’s greatest military debacle. The Soviet regular army was wiped out within days, with the Germans taking 4.5 million POWs in the next six months and getting to admire the Kremlin through their field glasses.

The most important reason for that was that the German army was Western and the Soviet one wasn’t.

Stalin’s hordes were made up of reluctant slaves driven by murderous and incompetent slave masters. They were treated as a herd, fought like one and ran like one.

Hitler’s army, on the other hand, was an army of citizens, who happened to live under a despotism at the time, but who nevertheless retained the Western military tradition of citizen-warriors.

Their rank-and-file and NCOs, to say nothing of officers, were encouraged to display initiative and improvise under pressure. By contrast, even Soviet generals couldn’t on pain of firing squad react to a rapidly changing situation without a direct order.

The Germans were commanded by generals like Rundstedt, educated at two academies, who had commanded a corps during the Great War.

Facing him at Kiev was a two-million-strong Soviet army group led by the barely literate Gen. Kirponos, who had been an orderly during the Great War and then a political commissar under the Bolsheviks.

That clash could have had only one outcome. The Germans took 600,000 prisoners (one of them my father) in that battle, and that’s by the official Soviet estimate.

One would have expected that Soviet soldiers, who were defending their country against a foreign invader, would display the sturdier morale. Yet the reverse was true.

The slaves didn’t want to fight for their masters and surrendered en masse, often fully armed and to the sound of regimental bands. Furthermore, over a million of them ended up fighting on Hitler’s side – a unique event in Russian, or any other, military history.

The Soviets were eventually made to fight by extreme violence. “There are no Soviet POWs,” declared Stalin. “There are only Soviet traitors.” Their families, explained Stalin’s henchman Zhukov, would be either shot or starved to death.

In the first days of the war, Soviet planes, rather than fighting the Luftwaffe, routinely strafed columns of Soviet POWs trundling into German captivity. And frontline troops were driven into battle by another uniquely Soviet feature of warfare: ‘blocking units’ of security troops machine-gunning retreating soldiers from the back.

God only knows how many were killed that way, but the official count of Soviet soldiers executed ‘judicially’ stands at 154,000 (the Nazis executed merely 8,000 of their own). Add to that number those shot out of hand, and we’ll realise that the Soviets inflicted on their own troops greater casualties than the US army suffered altogether.

This is here to stress the fundamental difference in military doctrine – in the very concept of war as an extension of civic ethos – between East and West. This explains why the West has ultimately won every conflict with the East, reversing any temporary setbacks.

The gap in the quality of human material between NATO and Russia is probably narrower now than it was between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.

The West has grown softer, and the Russians en masse don’t hate Putin as much as the Soviets hated Stalin. But a gap still remains – as it certainly does between NATO and China.

When push comes to shove, I don’t think the impoverished Russian masses (75 per cent of Russians are poor or destitute) will want to die in apocalyptic numbers for the yachts and palaces of the Putin gang – and the Chinese will feel the same way about Xi.

Barring an all-out nuclear holocaust whose consequences no one can predict, I’m convinced that the West will repel any aggression by Eastern powers. Yet I hope this won’t be necessary.

War can be prevented by arming the West to the teeth – even at some cost to our welfare hand-outs and foreign aid to assorted tyrannies, including those that threaten us.

Even more important, the West must demonstrate firmness and resolve, for anything less may indeed spell disaster.

No May in December

“Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May”

Mrs May should paraphrase Louis XIV’s famous pronouncement and declare “le cabinet, c’est moi”.

In her case it wouldn’t be an affirmation of autocracy, but simply a statement of arithmetic fact. Two cabinet minsters have resigned this morning, followed by a school of small fry.

Another day of this, and Mrs May will have no one but herself to talk to at cabinet meetings. That, I suppose, will be the only understanding and sympathetic audience she’ll be able to find anywhere this side of Mr May.

Since I don’t think our constitution provides for such a solitary experience, Mrs May is politically on her last legs – because her Brexit deal doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

The resignations of Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab and Works and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey suggest that the PM just may have been too hasty when she announced yesterday that the cabinet was behind her.

By the looks of it, the cabinet is way ahead of her in the rush to the door. Or perhaps ‘way ahead’ is wrong: I can’t see how Mrs May can possibly hang on. The requisite letters from Tory MPs to Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee, are streaming in, and a vote of no confidence beckons.

As a veteran of political rough-and-tumble, the PM may hang on to power for a week or two, but not for much longer.

Pragmatic Tories among as, such as Stephen Glover, the sage of The Daily Mail, who voted Leave, and Daniel Finkelstein of The Times, who voted wrong, defend Mrs May by saying that, yes, the deal she negotiated is flawed.

But, they sigh, it’s the best deal on the table, and anything else would be much worse. So let’s support the Prime Minister who’s doing her best.

Pragmatism is indeed an essential characteristic for a Tory, but not when it comes in conflict with fundamental principles. Marshal Pétain, for example, was another conservative guided by pragmatism.

Collaborating (the term he first introduced) with the conquering Nazis was doubtless the pragmatic thing to do. Alas, it clashed with enough basic presuppositions to earn the good marshal a death sentence, commuted to life imprisonment.

This despite his reputation as the heroic victor at Verdun and the nation’s saviour in the Great War. Unlike Pétain, Mrs May hasn’t won any major battles I can think of, so her position is even shakier.

However, the risks are smaller: we have no death penalty on the books and, even if we did, Mrs May wouldn’t deserve it. Her only crime is finding herself catastrophically out of her depth.

However, I may agree with Mr Glover and Lord Finkelstein that the supine surrender negotiated by Mrs May is indeed the best deal anyone could get.

For there are no good deals to be had when what’s being negotiated should be non-negotiable: the nation’s freedom and sovereignty.

The two gentlemen I mentioned both seem to think that a no-deal exit would be catastrophic for Britain. I disagree.

Yes, we might suffer some economic discomfort for a while, and I personally would suffer more than most, what with my spending half my time (and money) in the eurozone and constantly travelling back and forth.

But our economic losses would be minor compared to those Britain suffered defending her freedom and sovereignty during Germany’s previous attempt to unite Europe.

It’s guaranteed that 700,000 won’t die fighting, nor will our cities be devastated by the Luftwaffe, nor will we have to beggar ourselves in exchange for American largesse. We won’t have rations based on dry milk and swedes. Our supplies won’t end up on the bottom of the oceans courtesy of U-boats.

No deal is the only good deal. Nothing else will regain Britain’s full sovereignty – and this is what the issue is all about, or should be.

Once we’re well and truly out, then by all means let’s talk deals. For now let’s not get too gloomy with our predictions.

Of course, the eurospivs will do all they can to make our life a misery in the aftermath of a no-deal exit. But there’s only so much they can do.

International trade is governed by WTO rules, and I doubt the EU would want to leave that organisation just to spite Britain.

And their threats of closing the Channel ports, barring British planes from landing in the EU and blocking British exports ring hollow.

Put together, such measures are tantamount to an economic blockade, which since time immemorial has been treated as a casus belli. And if those EU chaps don’t believe me, they should ask the shadow of Napoleon. See you at St Helena, gentlemen.

But I’m running ahead of myself. First things first. Let’s get rid of Mrs May and the other cabinet Quislings, and replace them with politicians more attuned to our ancient constitution.

Meanwhile, congratulations to Mr Raab and Miss McVey. Resigning on a matter of principle isn’t something I thought our politicians were capable of.

Of course, it’s possible they only acted out of a realistic assessment of the way the political cookie crumbles, which ability is perhaps the second best thing. One way or the other, my hat’s off. And I never even wear a hat.