Sing if you like high taxes

Thou shalt pay higher taxes for I am the State thy Lord

It’s refreshing to see how ecclesiastical and secular lefties agree on most things, these days even including the nonexistence of God. And they talk nonsense on most things, most emphatically including the economy.

Starting with ecclesiastical drivel, last month the Archbishop of Canterbury established an ironclad link between taxes and happiness: the higher the former, the greater the latter.

In his previous life in the oil industry, His Grace must have met multitudes who tossed and turned through the night because their taxes were too low.

My experience is rather different. In fact, I’ve never met anyone who desperately wanted to pay more tax, while I wished I had a tenner for each person I’ve known who moaned about taxation.

But we aren’t talking empirical evidence here. We’re talking ideology, and neither facts nor economic theory applies.

Trying to elucidate the issue, His Grace only succeeded in obfuscating it: “Prosperity depends on the security and quality of work, and the balance of work and life, the quality of our relationships, and not just about the amount of income we receive… .”

One would expect our prelates to phrase more precisely. Prosperity is indeed all about money, that’s what the word signifies. What Welby means is quality of life, which indeed isn’t all about prosperity.

But let’s not be pedantic: the man is speaking from the heart, so his semantics gets blurred. But how would higher taxes contribute to a better quality of life and hence happiness?

Funny you should ask: “Public safety and security, clean air and beautiful natural environments, public parks and spaces, arts and culture, the sense of belonging to a community – these are all important contributors to individual wellbeing…?”

Amazing what things the state can achieve by extorting even more money from people. I’m particularly interested in how high taxes would improve arts and culture.

Looking at the kind of art the government finances through the good offices of the Arts Council, one gets the distinct impression that the arts would benefit tremendously if all state funding were withdrawn – especially since most of it promotes things like rap, ‘conceptual’ art and multi-culti effluvia.

Then again, the people who contribute most to the Exchequer are already robbed of over half of their income. What proportion would satisfy the Archbishop’s quest for happiness? Eighty per cent? A hundred?

Here he gets hit by the Laffer Curve that shows that higher tax rates don’t necessarily produce higher tax revenues. If our eudemonic government raised the marginal rate to the 100 per cent His Grace apparently prays for, it would derive the same income as with a zero per cent rate: zilch.

Anyway, re-enacting the Sodom story, could His Grace produce one righteous man who’s desperate to see his taxes going galactic, as opposed to merely stratospheric? If he can, I may spare Lambeth Palace sulphuric destruction.

Now as far as I know, Oliver Kamm hasn’t yet been ordained. That doesn’t prevent him from writing gibberish with the same air of ex cathedra authority.

There’s good news and bad news about Ollie. The good news is that he has stopped writing about grammar, which puts a smile on the face of those who take English seriously. The bad news is that he’s now writing about business instead, which puts a scowl on the face of those who take economics seriously.

This time Kamm spies with his little eye that the housing market has slowed down, which means that “far from assisting an efficient economy, the British housing market is an impediment”.

If a 3.3 per cent annual growth is seen as an impediment to an efficient economy, our whole economy is an impediment to itself because it hardly ever grows at that rate.

However, Kamm’s beef is about the plight of young professionals who can no longer afford houses because housing prices outstrip incomes. That confuses me no end.

Why is he then upset about the slower growth in the housing market? The slower it grows, the faster young people’s salaries will catch up. There, problem sorted. And negative growth would be best, wouldn’t it, Ollie?

If he’s at sea over the problem, he hits the rocks at full speed over the solution. That, according to Kamm, would be to charge a capital gains tax on the sale of the primary residence.

This measure would cure the economy of all its ills because it would promote “intergenerational equity”. Translating it into the language even I can understand, the wrinklies have it too easy.

They buy their two-up-two-downs dirt cheap, then sell in their dotage 50 years later and roll in clover on the huge proceeds. Hit them with, say, a 20 per cent CGT, and young people will no longer be priced out of the market.

My confusion deepens. A CGT would make selling a house less lucrative, wouldn’t it? If my understanding of human nature is correct, some crumblies who would otherwise want to sell would then refrain from doing so.

That means fewer, rather than more, houses will go on the market. Since Ollie hasn’t yet repealed the law of supply-demand, housing prices will then go up, making them even less affordable for the struggling Yuppies.

I wonder if Ollie has ever wondered why property inflation has outstripped money inflation by a factor of 10 over the past 70 years or so. It does pay to look at historical trends if one seeks understanding.

Logic suggests that people have more trust in property than in money as a guarantor of their future.

That hasn’t always been the case: money used to be quite reliable. A baby born in 1850 with a solid middle-class income of £500 a year, could live his whole life in reasonable comfort even if he never made a penny of his own.

That’s because £100 in 1850 equalled £110 in 1900, a negligible inflation of 10 per cent over half a century.

Conversely, £100 in 1950 equalled £2,000 in 2000 – a wealth-busting inflation of 2,000 per cent. To take another currency as an example, in the last 100 years the US dollar has lost 95 per cent of its value, a marginally better, though still abysmal, performance.

That means that most baby-boomers had to invest their earnings aggressively, not to see them turn to dust. Hence the huge demand for bricks and mortar, with a concomitant rise in prices. It’s that law of supply-demand again that Ollie still hasn’t got around to repealing.

So money inflation promotes property inflation. But what promotes money inflation?

In his book The Time of Turbulence, Alan Greenspan put it succinctly: “[Prof. Arthur Burns of Columbia University]… went around the room asking, ‘What causes inflation?’ None of us could give him an answer. Prof. Burns… declared, ‘Excess government spending causes inflation!’.”

This is actually axiomatic. But where does the government get the wherewithal for its excess spending? Three sources: printing, borrowing – and taxation, all of them inflationary.

Hence the higher taxation that Welby desires and Kamm proposes will achieve exactly the opposite purposes to those they claim to yearn for. Seems incongruous, doesn’t it?

Well, yes. But only if we forget that, when the lefties demand higher taxation, their purposes aren’t ameliorative but punitive. They want to punish those who seek greater independence from the state’s tender mercies.

Whether they wear cassocks or suits is immaterial. They’re all cut from the same cloth.

How cartwrights become Luddites

Progress, when pursued without prudence

Siegbert Tarrasch (d. 1934) was a great chess player who loved his paradoxes.

One of them was that there’s no such thing as an unequivocally good chess move because, to take control of new squares, a piece has to relinquish control of some old ones.

Could this be a cautionary tale about not just chess but any kind of progress? For nothing in this world comes free, and progress is no exception.

I’m specifically talking about scientific and technological progress because, unlike any other kind, it’s real and observable.

Nineteenth century Luddites certainly felt that the price of progress was too steep. Those textile workers had spent years learning their craft – only to be replaced by machines serving the god of productivity better.

Quite a bit of violence followed, and one can understand both sides. Nor was the problem limited to textile workers and England – in fact, the etymology of the word sabotage goes back to a similar conundrum in France at the same time.

The god of productivity is athirst, and his thirst must be slaked. Since greater productivity usually involves more product being produced with less effort, it stands to reason that the higher the productivity, the lower the demand for workers.

A Ford assembly line in Dagenham produces more vehicles per unit of time than the number of carriages crafted by cooperatives of cartwrights and wainwrights of yesteryear.

Thus the latter two crafts were first marginalised and then wiped out. So what did those newly unemployed tradesmen do?

What did chandlers do after most candles had been replaced with light bulbs? What did all those people do after their jobs had fallen victim to progress?

Let’s just say that their plight was eased by the slow tempo of change. Cars didn’t replace carriages overnight; it must have taken at least a generation.

That was enough time for an old cartwright to tell his son that perhaps now wasn’t a good time to pursue the family trade. People won’t be riding in carriages for much longer, lad, they’ll be getting into those new-fangled noisy and smelly things. Let’s think what else you could do.

Also, all such changes happened at a time of unprecedented industrial expansion, when more and more hands were needed to perform myriads of simple operations. So whatever pain was caused was mitigated.

What’s happening now is altogether different. To mention but one small thing, technology, in the shape of kitchen appliances, washing machines, answerphones, vacuum cleaners has well nigh destroyed a major source of living for the lower classes: domestic service.

In the past even middle-class families routinely employed several servants, and such service wasn’t just a job but actually a career. A man could work his way up from groom to valet to butler to steward; a woman, from scullery maid to cook or from chambermaid to housekeeper.

That whole industry has practically faded away since the First World War, although technological progress wasn’t the only, perhaps not even the main, reason for it.

Where technology is the sole culprit is in the demise of millions of low- to medium-skilled jobs that can now be done more efficiently by machines. The problem isn’t just that such jobs disappear; it’s that they disappear instantly.

It’s arguable whether life has become better, but it has definitely become faster. A factory owner may buy a computerised system that makes hundreds of workers redundant overnight. Where will they go?

Or else a country may decide that in our global economy some commodity, say coal, is cheaper to buy abroad than to produce at home. Thus it took Margaret Thatcher what in historical terms was an instant to close the coal mines.

But what happened to all the miners? Where do such cast-offs of modern economies ever go?

They can’t go to another factory because exactly the same thing is happening there. They can’t go to another mine because it too is closed. In fact, there are hardly any jobs in the market that don’t require extensive training and education.

So what will happen to those people? Are they all going to become fund managers, systems analysts and computer programmers? Most won’t. Some may – but not straight away. Retraining will take years, but they don’t have those years.

They haven’t had the luxury of adapting to changes that take decades to come about. Last week the computer system came in; this week they’re out in the street.

Hence they’re left with only one option: going on the dole. This is an individual problem in each case. But, when welfare rolls swell to bursting, it becomes a huge social problem.

In some European countries, a quarter of young people are unemployed, and overall unemployment figures are kept down only by statistical chicanery. At the same time, people in work have to pay half of their income or more to provide for those out of work, which is neither just nor conducive to social health.

The inestimable effects of a vast dependent underclass are destructive economically, socially, morally and in every way imaginable. And, as progress rolls along like an unstoppable juggernaut, this time driven not by a man but by artificial intelligence, things will only get worse.

At some point they’ll come to a head, and post-industrial Luddites will start doing to computers what their ancestors did to those textile machines.

In this dystopic scenario, much featured in literature and on film, progress will destroy itself – and this isn’t the worst that can happen.

Let’s not forget that killing technology has also progressed beyond tanks and machineguns, and in the next world war more people may be killed in one day than the two previous world wars managed altogether.

The only thing that can prevent such doomsdays is the same thing that could have prevented every catastrophe in history: prudence and wisdom.

A measure of restraint has to be applied to our appetites – we may feel like gorging ourselves on the goodies delivered by progress just like we may feel like scoffing three pounds of chocolates or drinking three bottles of whisky. But we must check our appetites in the first case just as we do in the other two.

To paraphrase John Muir, I’m advocating not blind opposition to progress, but opposition to blind progress. But for such opposition to become effective, it requires sage and farsighted leaders, especially in government.

Thus Margaret Thatcher, arguably our best post-war prime minister, should have closed the pits gradually, perhaps over 10-20 years, while investing into retraining and relocation. The immediate economic effect would have been less beneficial, but the long-term social effect would have been much better.

Alas, the very nature of modern unchecked democracy run riot precludes foresight and planning for the future. The only future our politicians can plan for is the next election – and even that they don’t do very well.

The economic benefits of instant change will come during their tenure; the resulting social – and ultimately economic – erosion, during someone else’s. Easy choice, isn’t it?

Speaking specifically of Britain, the cumulative effect of the social alienation produced by blithe commitment to progress may soon bring to power the ultimate Luddite party that hates not so much the technological progress delivered by capitalism as capitalism tout court.

The resentful, uneducated, corrupted underclass votes, and it tends to vote as a bloc. So hold your breath – and risk suffocation by holding your nostrils as well.

Words can kill

“No, my name isn’t Dr Mengele. Vy do you ask?”

Back in 2009, a Hungarian doctor practising in England misread a label and injected a boy with a near-lethal dose of carbolic acid, leaving him crippled for life.

Dr Rakoczy knew his medicine but he didn’t know his English, which he proved by consistently failing the language exam. Yet he was finally suspended only last year, making one wonder how on earth he was allowed to practise here in the first place.

Surely free movement of people shouldn’t be interpreted as a licence to kill? Yet this thought is clearly too simple for the EU to understand, and the same problem keeps recurring.

In fact, I first wrote about it seven years ago, and doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun. Since there’s little I can add, I’ll plagiarise myself and recycle that piece, changing only a few words:

In the judgment of his peers, my friend Boris was one of the most brilliant neurosurgeons in Houston, Texas. That was no trivial accolade, considering that at that time, some 40 years ago, Houston was to neurosurgery what Paris is to haute cuisine.

Boris’s colleague at the hospital readily admitted that my friend’s skill was much superior to his own. Dr Thomson was modest, but his income wasn’t – he made well in excess of $1,000,000 a year. Boris made $22,000.

You see, Boris was from Russia and, though a genius with a scalpel in his hand, he had no linguistic ability whatsoever. Alas, the qualification exam for foreign-trained doctors in America consisted of two equal parts: medicine and language.

Sitting the blasted thing year after year, Boris would sail through the first part and, with the certainty of night following day, fail the second. After a few years he gave up trying and accepted his humble role as surgeon’s assistant, though his million-a-year colleagues had no reservations about letting Boris operate every now and then.

One day he showed me the examination papers, with several hundred questions designed to test the prospective doctor’s English. Until then, my impression had been that the test would merely determine the doctor’s basic ability to understand and be understood.

That impression turned out to be wrong. For the test covered the kind of grammatical and stylistic subtleties that would defeat most native speakers.

I recall one example. Choose the right word: He is one of those people who [a) demand, b) demands] attention. I have no doubt whatsoever that you’ve unerringly picked the right answer, which is a). But I’ll bet my $1,000,000 against your $22,000 that you know many Englishmen who wouldn’t.

Now imagine many similar questions together, and you’ll probably agree that only a small minority of even native Anglophones would pass such an exam.

You may think this is going a bit too far, and I may agree with you. You may further think that, to keep foreigners out of a highly lucrative field, the test was designed partly as a sort of protectionist tariff – and I may agree with you again.

But there’s no doubt that, since a doctor’s ability to communicate with patients can be a matter of life or death, this ability must be an essential part of his qualifications.

That’s where the EU comes in.

Its laws mandate free movement of labour throughout the ‘zone’, a desideratum that apparently allows foreign doctors to treat the English test as merely an advisory statement of intent.

The EU gauleiters feel so strongly about this law that they’ll defend it to the death – though naturally not their own. They’ve already defended it to the death of the pensioner David Gray, who died after wrongly receiving an industrial dose of dimorphine (heroin, in common parlance) from a Germany-trained locum.

Equally deadly may be nurses who, like a foreign godfather, make you an offer you can’t understand.

If you’ll forgive another personal recollection, some years ago I was in hospital, receiving about 40 drugs at the same time. In addition to intravenous dimorphine (in the right dose), one of them was a cocaine mouthwash, brought to me by a nurse twice a day in a 50 ml tub.

One of the nurses could speak very little English and, my propensity for infantile jokes enhanced by boredom, I asked her if I should drink the mouthwash in one gulp.

“Trink?” she asked, obviously perplexed. “Trink in vun gulp? Yes, trink in vun gulp.” Had I followed that medical advice, you wouldn’t have the dubious pleasure of my company.

Perhaps, if we let our fantasies run away with us, a time will come when not just doctors, but anyone serving the public will be expected to do so in comprehensible English – in Britain, that is.

In fact, I’ve met many waiters and shop assistants in France who can’t speak English – but have yet to meet one who can’t speak French, and that includes those who manifestly aren’t French.

Would it be too much to ask for something similar in Britain? Yes, it would, if we let the EU have its way.

That’s another reason, one of many, big and small ones, to leave and bang the door on the way out. And I still have to hear of a single reason to stay.

Welcome back, Miss Jihad

Shamima, prophetically depicted by Caravaggio

Four years ago, Shamima Begum of Bethnal Green, London, 15, was your typical rebellious teenager.

Except that she didn’t express her rebellion by smoking the odd spliff, listening to rap and telling her parents to shut up. Instead she went to Syria to fight with ISIS.

As far as she was concerned, the world was strictly binary: there were the righteous (Muslims) and the infidels (everyone else). Since her native Britain was still predominantly infidel (even though her part of London wasn’t), she knew whose side she was on.

Her side blew up public transport, raped women, burned people alive, tortured them, tossed them off tall buildings, cut off their heads. That was just fine with young Shamima. In fact, “When I saw my first severed head in a bin, it didn’t faze me at all,” she says.

“I thought only of what he would have done to a Muslim woman if he had the chance.” What would that be? And who was the late possessor of the head in question?

Western soldiers don’t typically rape and eviscerate Muslim women, and was she even sure the victim was a soldier? As opposed to an intrepid tourist? An aid volunteer? One of those Doctors Without Frontiers?

Shamima didn’t know and didn’t care. All she needed to know was that the murdered man was white, quite possibly her British countryman.

We, on the other hand, would like to know something else. Was Shamima by any chance the one who had beheaded the victim? She’s a big girl, strong enough to swing a machete and obviously undeterred by any scruples.

I especially like the word ‘first’ in her chilling admission. How many more severed heads did she see? How many did she cut off?

Shamima is rather reticent on such details. Then again, Arafat once said, and the Algerian president repeated, that Islam’s best weapon is the womb of every Muslim woman.

It was that demographic weapon, rather than machetes and AKs, that Shamima verifiably wielded for Islam. In short order she produced two children, and don’t youngsters grow up fast these days.

Alas, postnatal care in ISIS isn’t quite up to even NHS standards. Both her children died, which didn’t prevent Shamima from getting pregnant with a third.

When recently, now 19, she realised that ISIS was being smashed to smithereens, and the chances of enjoying the sight of more severed heads were slim, Shamima decided she now wanted to come home (to Britain, that is), give birth in an NHS hospital and “live quietly with my child”.

My hearts’ strings are properly tugged, and I’m not the only one. A lively debate is under way as to whether Britain should welcome Shamima and other jihad brides back.

Those in favour argue that Shamima was only 15 at the time, and she was brainwashed. That doesn’t quite explain why she stayed with ISIS until its end, when she was already legally adult.

As to brainwashing, that argument is often used indiscriminately. Implicit in it is the denial of both free will and the demonstrable fact that some people are irredeemably evil.

I doubt that a youngster good at heart could be swayed to any cause by pictures of torture and mayhem, which abound on Islamic websites. And if she was so swayed, she isn’t good at heart.

Nevertheless Philip Collins of The Times is in favour of the red carpet. This even though he deplores what Shamima did and acknowledges she isn’t a nice girl.

Moreover, “she has not yet reached a state of repentance”. ‘Yet’ is a short word long on meaning. It suggests that in due course Shamima will reach such a blissful state, especially if “offered the counsel of the various rehabilitation programmes sponsored by the government”.

Mr Collins’s faith in such programmes is touching, unsupported as it is by any significant corpus of evidence. But when it comes from the heart, true faith is impervious to facts.

Since my faith is somewhat different, I’d be more open to a different possibility. Such as that, once Shamima’s child is taken care of, she’ll start blowing up other women’s children.

To his credit, Mr Collins acknowledges this risk, and agrees it should be assessed. He doesn’t seem to realise he has already done that, by admitting that Shamima remains an unrepentant jihadist:

“The only time that Ms Begum uses the language of shame it is about her own decision not to stay resolute in support of the caliphate. She is explicit that she does not regret going to Syria.”

However, she is a British citizen, argues Mr Collins. Therefore not letting her come back would violate the law and, when all is said and done, the rule of law is what separates us from ISIS.

I wonder, with all humility and respect, how well Mr Collins understands the English Common Law. I’m specifically referring to citizenship – and to one key precedent that elucidates the issue.

In 1946, William Joyce, aka Lord Haw-Haw, was hanged for treason, the last (I secretly hope the latest) person to suffer that fate in the UK.

Before the war this US-born Irishman led the National Socialist League, competing with the British Union of Fascists led by Oswald Mosley. Shortly before the war, he cheated his way to a British passport and slipped off to Germany.

There he became Goebbels’s leading English-language broadcaster, torturing British ears with his put-on toff accent: “Jahmany calling…”

After the war, he was charged with treason in Britain, but the case was far from clear-cut. Since Joyce had obtained his British passport on false pretences, his citizenship was null and void, argued the defence.

He was thus still a US citizen and as such couldn’t be guilty of treason to Britain because he owed no allegiance to it.

What hanged Joyce was a technicality springing from the ancient legal principle invoked by the prosecution: protectio trahit subjectionem, et subjectio protectionem (protection entails allegiance; and allegiance, protection).

Joyce might not have been entitled to a British passport, but he did use it to travel to Germany. Therefore he was under the protection of the British crown and owed allegiance to it.

That case is relevant to the Shamima situation because it establishes an unbreakable link between protection and allegiance, fully equating a British passport with protection.

That document, in other words, is a bilateral contract. One party exchanges its protection for the other party’s allegiance. Either party’s failure to comply with the terms of that contract thus constitutes forfeiture.

Since Shamima has manifestly withdrawn her allegiance from this infidel realm, the realm is within its right to withdraw its protection, otherwise known as citizenship.

Hence if she were to return, she should be charged with treason and spend the rest of her life in prison. Otherwise, harsh as it may sound, she belongs in that refugee camp or else Guantanamo. We can’t have too many jihadists here.

P.S. Ben Jaffey QC, acting for the Department of Health, told the High Court, “being a mother is no longer necessarily a gendered term… a man can be… a mother”. Just shows how backward the British are. Americans have been calling men ‘mothers’ for decades.


Churchill was just awful, wasn’t he?

St John MacDonnel, the ultimate arbiter of morals

Shadow Chancellor McDonnell, Corbyn’s cardinal rouge, described Winston Churchill as a villain for his role in the Tonypandy riots.

Many people took issue with that, instead describing Churchill as a hero for his role in saving Europe from Hitler.

Weighing these two positions in the balance, I have to assume an uncharacteristically relativist stand by suggesting that Churchill can be regarded as either hero or villain. It all depends on one’s frame of reference.

Clearly, in a parliamentary career spanning the reigns of Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II and comprising a number of cabinet posts, including the highest one, Churchill didn’t quite manage to avoid sin altogether.

Then again, his defenders only ask that he be respected, not canonised. People are fallible, and politicians tend to be more fallible than average. Hence, when pondering whether to place Churchill into the villain or hero category, one should weigh his sins against his achievements.

Since neither side seems willing to consider his whole career, they, in the person of McDonnell, reduce the dichotomy to just one sin, the Tonypandy riots, or just one achievement, making sure that Trafalgar Square isn’t called Ludendorffplatz, or some such.

Since the latter hardly needs further praise and gratitude, let’s concentrate on the former.

In 1910 coal miners in South Wales went on a go-slow strike, or so the management thought. The miners objected they had only slowed down because the new pits were harder to chip away at.

Now miners have always gone on strike so readily that one is tempted to think the explicit grievances have largely been mere pretexts. Their real problem – and here I sympathise wholeheartedly – is that they have to do just about the worst job imaginable.

Few of us would fancy spending our working lives in back-breaking, claustrophobic subterranean toil, breathing coal dust and dying of silicosis at a young age. Anyone doing that can be expected to display heightened sensitivity to any real or imaginary injustice.

It could be the working conditions, hours, pay or for that matter their misreading of the law penalising sex with minors. Whatever the face value of the dispute, colliers tend to be a hairbreadth removed from strikes, often violent ones.

In that case, the management responded by closing the site down to all 12,500 workers, not just the 70 most vociferous protesters. A real strike followed, and riots after that. Shops were smashed up and looted, and even the houses of the owners and managers came under attack.

The police fought back with baton charges, and violence escalated – on both sides. Responding to pleas from the police, Churchill, at that time Home Secretary in a Liberal government, reluctantly agreed to send in a couple of army units.

The aim was to moderate excesses on both sides, and it worked. The army never opened fire, nor had been instructed to do so. But its sheer presence quickly put an end to the strike, keeping the casualty count down. Altogether, 500 rioters and 85 policemen were injured and one miner died after being hit on the head with a police truncheon (not a bullet).

I’d suggest that Winston Churchill ought to be praised more readily than rebuked for his role in the affair. But I did say that my frame of reference here is relativist.

By contrast, Mr McDonnell’s clearly proceeds from some absolute moral standards. Applying them to the issue at hand, he feels that Churchill’s 1910 villainy, such as it was, outweighs his wartime heroism (I assume McDonnell sees it as such, though one never knows).

Since we differ so sharply, I feel justified in examining Mr McDonnell’s frame of reference in light of what he considers villainous or commendable.

Mr (Comrade?) McDonnell identifies Marx, Lenin and Trotsky as his “most significant” intellectual influences. On numerous occasions he has expressed admiration for the state created to those gentlemen’s specifications.

Hence it’s apposite to see how that state handled a similar situation, if only to admire the high moral ground from which Mr McDonnell looks down on Churchill’s villainy.

In 1962 workers in Novocherkassk (in whose garrison my uncle was an officer at the time) went on strike protesting the unaffordable food prices that had put them on the verge of starvation. Unlike the Tonypandy riots, the protests were peaceful: no shops or private residences were molested in any way.

In response, KGB troops were summoned to the North Caucasus city and fired several salvos of live rounds at the crowd. The official death toll (the unofficial one was several times higher) was 26 killed on the spot with machine-gun fire, 87 wounded (of whom three later died).

Then the trials began, with seven death sentences passed and immediately executed – none of that American shilly-shallying with years on death row. Many others went to concentration camps for up to 15 years.

Considering that McDonnell’s role models murdered over 60 million in the Soviet Union alone, mentioning such a small episode may sound churlish. I’ve only done so because of the obvious parallel with Tonypandy.

Now I consider Churchill a hero even before we start drawing such obvious comparisons. But then I did admit to being a relativist.

However there’s nothing relative about the dread I feel at the possibility that McDonnell may well be our next Chancellor. Then we’ll learn all we need to know about villainy – actually quite a bit more than we need to know.

Google in the service of tyranny

George Orwell would have a field day

I bet you can’t tell me what ‘enabling access to information’ means. To make it easier for you, I’ll give you ten attempts. Or a hundred – you still won’t get it.

I suppose I’d better tell you then. In Googlespeak, ‘enabling access’ means ‘blocking access’. Didn’t get that one, did you?

“We’re committed to enabling access to information for the benefit of our users in Russia and around the world,” declared a Google spokesman, proving my point.

A worthy commitment, one would think, but why did Google feel the need to reassure the public on that point? Well, you see, following a Russian demand, Google has agreed to delete links to websites banned in Russia.

Over 70 per cent of the links have already been deleted, and the Russian censors will be regularly updating Google on the list of sites that have incurred their displeasure.

The Russian censoring agency, Roskomnadzor, described this arrangement as establishing a “constructive dialogue” with Google. I’d call it revoltingly abject surrender to tyranny.

For the sites banned in Russia aren’t like those banned in the West. We’re not talking about child pornography here, nor illegal sales of drugs and arms, nor terrorist networks.

Putin’s kleptofascist regime bans practically all media critical of it, including on the net. Thus I regularly read Russian on-line magazines that my friends in Russia can’t read, at least not without some fancy footwork ideally aided by computer virtuosity.

Google links provided one bypass available to those Russians who aren’t satisfied with the nauseating Goebbels-style propaganda one gets through official channels. Now that bypass is no more.

Those who’ve never lived under a tyranny imposing an information famine may not appreciate the despair this outrage will cause the Russians whose views of kleptofascism differ from Peter Hitchens’s.

It’s not that they won’t be able to get real news any longer – modern technology combined with human ingenuity will probably find a way. Even back in the 60s we managed to circumvent Soviet jammers and tune in to the crackling, barely discernible voices of Western radio stations.

Technology is more sophisticated now, and the regime isn’t yet quite as oppressive as it was then, although moving in that direction. But that’s not the whole point.

People thirsting for freedom don’t just need information sustenance. They need hope – and since time immemorial that came from that semi-mythical, idealised, loving, caring demiurge: the West.

We weren’t so naïve as to believe the West would provide some tangible help. It’s just that, when we were gagged, imprisoned, committed to punitive madhouses, denied in the twentieth century the kind of liberties Englishmen enjoyed in the thirteenth, we desperately needed to know that somebody cared.

That there was a normal, human world “over the hills”, in the Russian expression, that knew of the horror we lived under and tried to help. We believed there were some people out there, whose morals and principles weren’t wholly denominated in convertible currencies.

The West did little in practical terms, but it did enough for us to know we weren’t alone in the world, face to face with the scowling beast of the worst tyranny ever known.

Those crackling voices of the Voice of America, the BBC or Radio Liberty were a lifebelt we clung on to, knowing that without it we’d drown in the engulfing sea of vomit.

Back in the early 90s Russians no longer had to rely exclusively on Western sources for their intellectual sanity. There existed in Russia some real journalistic outlets, not just on the Internet but also in the papers and even on TV.

However, as the kleptofascist regime so beloved of our ‘right-wingers’ and ‘left-wingers’ alike gathered strength, such outlets were smashed one by one. Independent TV channels were taken over, real newspapers shut down, and the Internet became the most, not to say only, reliable source of information and opinion.

That too came under attack, and all ‘liberal’ on-line publications were blocked, with but a few loopholes remaining. Now Putin’s gang has declared a war of mass annihilation against the net too.

Last week the Duma passed (I mean rubberstamped) a law allowing the government to turn off sites based on foreign servers, supposedly to counter the threat of a cyberattack.

Media watchdogs will be able to filter traffic, blocking undesirable sites at will. Effectively the Russians will follow China’s example by cutting off their Internet from the global networks, creating a ‘sovereign’ domain called RuNet.

Yes, the nineteenth century satirist Saltykov-Shchedrin wrote, “The harshness of Russian laws is softened by the slackness of their enforcement”. But then he didn’t live in Soviet or even post-Soviet Russia.

The kleptofascist regime is constantly tightening the information noose around people’s necks, and oppression is the only activity at which it excels. Now the noose will receive an extra tug from Google, that paragon of Western virtue.

There, I thought you’d like to know what ‘enabling access to information’ really means.

How to sound interesting at a smart party

Let the games begin

One should never recount personal experiences – unless they lend themselves to extrapolation.

Hence I’d never mention meeting someone I’d regard as sui generis, say a sixtyish man wearing short trousers, a school blazer and socks with sandals. However, meeting someone so typical as to throw light on a  cultural phenomenon is a different matter.

Such people are more (sometimes actually less) than individuals. They’re paradigms, personifications, illustrations. They elucidate by typifying, which makes them, well, not exactly interesting but useful, at least to a commentator on social mores.

In that spirit, the other day I found myself at a dinner party sitting next to an exceedingly successful and rather attractive woman, late 50s at a guess, but doing a good job trying to look younger.

Talking to such people, one realises how woefully one’s own life has been wasted. From the scant biographical details my dinner companion (let’s call her Libby) divulged, she grew up in South Kensington, which to a Londoner is what Fifth Avenue is to a New Yorker.

Libby was privately educated, which hardly needs mentioning. A degree at Oxbridge followed (I think) and then another one at Sciences Po in Paris, the hatchery of France’s political class.

She’s now a high-rolling international lawyer. Libby’s boyfriend is French, she told me, as is her divorced husband. Neither was present.

Once everyone’s travel stories had been exchanged, the conversation around the table veered to matters of shared interest: the EU, politics in general, monarchy and so forth.

When the first subject came up, Libby raised her eyebrows when I expressed views distinctly different from hers. That naturally prompted a query of my credentials.

“Do you know much about the EU?” asked Libby. “A fair amount, actually,” I replied to her obvious incredulity.

“Where were you educated?” was the next question and, realising that my modest Moscow university could compete with neither Oxbridge nor Sciences Po, I described that rubric in my CV as “the School of Hard Knockers followed by Screw U.”

Such levity only reinforced Libby’s sense of superiority, both innate and acquired. She voted Remain, she announced proudly, because Britain derives numerous benefits from EU membership.

Name one, I begged, at least one that justifies sacrificing our sovereignty, not to mention billions of pounds every year. Libby then proved her formidable intellectual background by demanding that I define sovereignty.

Self-government, I suggested, with all laws passed by our Parliament, rather than foreign legislative bodies. But all our politicians are inept, objected Libby, the implication being that Messrs Juncker, Tusk and Macron are intellectual giants of Aristotelian proportions.

Moreover, many of the EU laws are better than our own. That may be, I agreed, and I share her dim view of our governing elite. But this is a separate subject, and there I was, thinking we were talking about sovereignty.

Thus it’s conceivable that, had the Nazis won the war, they could have run France better than the French. But that wouldn’t have meant that France remained a sovereign country.

The lines were drawn. Libby had established her upbeat, interesting credentials that alone could be seen as socially acceptable, whereas I had shown myself to be an uncouth troglodyte mouthing ideas that weren’t just uncool but antediluvian.

And as to the benefits of EU membership, continued Libby, just look at how vibrant the City of London is. That would only mean something, I countered, if it could be shown that the City had been dormant in its torpor until 1992. But hadn’t it been the hub of Europe’s financial activity at least since the Congress of Vienna?

Libby took a dim view of that historical reference and went on to prove in the course of the evening that no such allusions cut much ice with her. The EU, she reiterated, is simply wonderful. It’s just that our successive governments handled it badly.

Thus Major shouldn’t have signed the Maastricht Treaty, Blair shouldn’t have agreed to a closer union, and Cameron shouldn’t have been born. At that point I added another blot to my copybook by drawing another parallel.

That’s the logic of Western communists, I said. Communism was a world-saving idea, but it was compromised by the Russians’ brutality and incompetence. Should Western communists get the chance, they’d get things right.

Wouldn’t it more logical to believe that, if an idea proved monstrous everywhere it was tried, it’s a monstrous idea? And, if every British government failed to work the EU properly, could it be that it’s unworkable?

That logic was way too spurious for Libby’s taste. As far as she was concerned, the inexorable march of history began in 1992, and it was pointless looking backwards or even sideways.

That’s why, she explained, she detested monarchy in general and the British monarchy in particular, although she simply adored the Queen. Had she met her? Well, no. So how did she know the Queen is adorable? Surely one couldn’t separate a monarch from the monarchy?

Yes one could, insisted Libby and effortlessly segued to Jacob Rees-Mogg, whom she loathed. Why? Because “he speaks from a position of privilege”.

Libby liked that turn of phrase so much that, facing my objections over the next five minutes, she repeated it 12 times. I kept the score and congratulated her each time she ran it up.

Which of his ideas are based on his privileged background? Rees-Mogg speaks from a position of privilege.

Does that disqualify anything such a person says? We’ve had a few decent PMs who were even more privileged, Churchill for one. Rees-Mogg speaks from a position of privilege.

But I thought all Leavers were lowly, illiterate louts, not privileged individuals. Rees-Mogg speaks from a position of privilege.

But ad hominems are rhetorical fallacies. One should address the intrinsic value of a man’s ideas, not his personality. Rees-Mogg speaks from a position of privilege.

And so forth, ad infinitum. I wasn’t talking to a person. My interlocutor was a mouthpiece for stock mantras, easily replaceable with any other mouthpiece of the same mantras. In fact, I could have scripted every sentence Libby said before she said it.

The mantras are dominant among the illiterati at London’s smarter parties; they are the password one has to utter to gain admittance to the smarter parties.

This dovetails neatly with the theme of my yesterday’s article on social envy and hatred.

The fashionists, the reflux of the social digestion in their country and their class, can’t sound interesting to their own kind unless they profess contempt for both the country and the class. They use a ladder to climb high up and then kick the ladder away.

Their supposedly towering, but in fact clichéd and dull, minds feel suffocated within any narrow confines, be those of their nation with everything that makes it national, their own upbringing (“For a second there I thought you grew up in Peckham, not South Ken,” I teased Libby) – even elementary logic.

Their amour propre co-exists in dialectical symbiosis with haine propre. Like a prostitute pretending to be virginal to please some clients, they try to keep their true selves away from prying eyes.

Yet both the girl and her customer know this is make-believe, not real life. It’s just the game they play. Oh well, personally I prefer tennis.

Do you hate the rich?

Envy on the barricades

Every time envy comes up in conversation, I grin smugly.

For envy is one of the two deadly sins to which I’m immune, greed being the other. Having thus got on my high moral horse, I then quickly dismount it, remembering that I’ll still have to answer for the remaining five.

Mercifully, however, it’s envy and not, say, lust or gluttony, that’s my subject today, so I can talk about it without risking an accusation of hypocrisy.

“Envy is more irreconcilable than hatred,” wrote François de la Rochefoucauld, and he was right in that aphorism, as he was in so many others.

Yet, going a step further, one could suggest that hatred is so often motivated by envy as to be practically indistinguishable from it.

Taking another step, one might realise that envy typically starts as self-hatred, which is then expressed as loathing others. Yet leaving the domain of homespun psychology, one can still say that envy is, well, unenviable even on an individual level.

However, when it becomes collective and pandemic, envy may destroy not just the person obsessed with it, but the whole society – especially if the state actively promotes it by deed if not necessarily by word.

One could say that the more envious the society, the sicker it is, the further removed from the civilisation in which sin wasn’t just a figure of speech.

Thus, if a recent survey is to be believed, British society is healthier than German, French or American.

German economic historian Rainer Zitelmann commissioned a poll of 4,000 people in those four countries to establish their ‘social envy index’. The British turned out to be much less resentful of the rich than the other three nations under investigation.

Only one in five Britons agreed with the statement “the super-rich, who always want more power, are to blame for many of the world’s problems”, compared with a quarter of Americans, a third of Frenchmen and half of Germans.

I have no first-hand knowledge of German society, but I know the other three countries personally and intimately. However, my personal and intimate knowledge of the US goes back 30-odd years, and the country must have changed drastically since I lived there.

Then I would have said that most Americans were remarkably free of envy and its product, class hatred. When a typical American saw someone else’s palatial house, rather than wishing to burn it down he tried to figure out what he had to do to earn one just like it.

Since class envy and socialism enjoy a symbiotic relationship, socialism has clearly made more inroads into America, which is what my American friends have been saying anyway. Next time I’ll listen to them more closely.

By contrast, because my knowledge of Britain and France is current, I can rely on the evidence before my eyes. And my observation tallies with Dr Zitelmann’s finding that “France and Britain were at opposite ends of the spectrum.”

The difference was even starker when people were asked if they were in favour of “drastically” cutting the income of well-paid executives and distributing the money among their workers, even if the latter only received a tiny extra sum a month.

In Britain 29 per cent said yes. In France the figure was 54 per cent, almost twice as high.

Talking to the French, I’m not surprised. Few words carry more pejorative connotations in France than patron (boss). This isn’t just a little verbal quirk – it’s barricades, tear gas, burnt cars, smashed shop windows, cobbles used as projectiles.

It’s even mutilation: last weekend one of the gilets jaunes protesters got his hand blown off when he picked up a tear gas bomb thrown by the police and it went off before he could throw it back.

Envy is the root of social disharmony, and it largely drives the protests crippling France. “You can’t govern a country that makes 300 kinds of cheese,” said de Gaulle, which is a good but hardly indisputable quip.

What’s indisputable is that you can’t govern a country stricken by a pandemic of envy and resulting class hatred. You certainly can’t run a successful economy that way.

However, socialists, which is to say purveyors of social envy, don’t care about how successful the economy is. They don’t love the poor as much as they hate the rich, and the on-going social unrest in France illustrates this point perfectly.

The gilets jaunes are demanding lower fuel taxes, and there I’m in sympathy: along with other sensible persons, I dislike taxation even with representation.

However, they are also demanding that the wealth tax, instituted by Mitterrand and abandoned by Macron, be reintroduced.

This demand proves my point, for the wealth tax makes the poor poorer, not just the rich. For, as experience of any country in the world shows, when wealth is taxed it flees – taking jobs and opportunities with it.

The purpose of wealth taxes isn’t economic but political, which in this case means punitive. By introducing it, a government panders to, and promotes, the urge not to help the poor but to punish the rich.

It’s refreshing to observe such blatant disregard for rational thought in a nation that prides itself on having inaugurated that great misnomer, the Age of Reason.

However, schadenfreude, that smirking emotion the British tend to feel about any misfortune of the French, would be misplaced. France may exhibit more virulent symptoms of a prevalent malaise, but the malaise is universal and spreading fast.

Reason is excommunicated from the political forum everywhere. More and more people rely on their viscera, not their brains, to form political views (and vote on them), and viscera is where envy resides, sharing quarters with hatred.

I’d be curious to know how many respondents would agree with this statement: “The rich should be dispossessed even if you became poorer as a result.”

Quite a few, would be my guess. Probably more in France than in Britain though, which is a small consolation, but a consolation none the less.

The bare bones of immigration

Where’s our next billion of migrants going to come from?

Everyone knows these old lines: “Thigh bone connected to the hip bone// Hip bone connected to the back bone// Back bone connected to the shoulder bone…” and so on.

The message is that things are interconnected and it’s often ill-advised to analyse them in isolation. When this sage observation is applied to the human skeleton, few would fail to grasp its truth.

It becomes more complicated when one ponders something as multifarious, divisive and emotive as mass immigration. Yet if there’s one issue that demands serious, dispassionate commentary, that’s it.

After all, only about a billion people of the 7.3 billion inhabiting the world live in the West. I’m speculating here, but it’s possible that the West is where at least half of the remaining six-odd billion would like to live.

If even 10 per cent of them get their wish, the West would no longer be Western in any other than the geographical sense. Britain, Germany and France can’t each accept 100 million new arrivals, nor the US 200 million.

Thus immigration needs to be curtailed as a matter of simple arithmetic. Nor can it be regarded as a natural right, for, if it were so regarded, it would be wrong to curtail it.

The issue then boils down not to the advisability of restrictions but how, to whom and in what numbers they should be applied. That’s where all those metaphorical bones come together.

They fall into several groups, social, cultural, political and economic. Merging the first two groups together, one would have to start from a premise that doesn’t seem to be as self-evident as it should be.

Every civilised nation has its own character, which is worth keeping more or less intact. A few minor tweaks here and there are both desirable and inevitable, but a drastic change can have unpredictable and in all likelihood devastating effects.

Immigration provides one such tweak, and it’s to be welcomed as long as the tweak remains minor. Speaking of the city I know best, London, perhaps some 10 to 15 per cent of immigrant population would make it more interesting and no less English.

A major city with an entirely homogeneous population is dull in all sorts of ways. Subsumed in a population that’s 85 to 90 per cent native, the immigrants would have a great incentive to adapt, while still being able to add more spice to the city.

However, at present it’s native Englishmen who are getting subsumed. The last time I looked there were only 40 per cent of them, and the proportion is diminishing.

As a result, one can walk through the centre of London and seldom (in some areas, never) hear native English spoken. This situation is deplorable, or at least seen as such by anyone who loves England.

In some cities of the Midlands and North things are even worse. Clearly, though some immigration is good, we’ve had too much of it.

Immigration has often been promoted for nefarious political reasons, either immediate or indirect. The immediate ones have been laid bare by some mandarins and other fruits in the Blair government, such as Peter Mandelson.

They opened the door to immigration from Asia and Africa because they knew they’d be importing Labour voters. Also, by signalling the obligatory multi-culti virtue, they strengthened their support among voters who take multi-culti virtue seriously.

Their ploy is as cynical as it’s easy to understand. But they have even deeper reasons to wish to dilute the core populace.

For it’s mainly the native element that preserves and passes on the cultural, social and political traditions of a country. And modern political elites have nothing to lose and all to gain from suppressing those, for they’d never be political elites in a world where such traditions held sway.

Other political reasons are specific to the EU. That awful contrivance heavily depends on eradicating national identities, turning Europe into a melting pot and providing a model for the rest of the world to follow.

That goal too can be achieved by flooding native populations with vast groups alien, ideally hostile, to them. That explains the now notorious million Muslims hospitably accommodated in Germany over the past few years, and as many again arriving in other European countries.

This is accompanied by propaganda of the uncountable benefits conferred by new arrivals. It’s so deafening that one would expect EU members to fight one another for the privilege of attracting as many migrants as possible.

So much more surprising it is then to see that, quite the opposite, they’re trying to palm migrants off to one another. In fact, the on-going conflict between France and Italy is partly caused by France blocking the border and keeping at bay the masses huddled in Italy.

Then there’s the economy, and here all the bones really come together. Migrants are seen in some circles as a drain on national resources, and they may be just that. But not always and not everywhere.

For example, it was a chronic shortage of manpower in a booming German economy that made the country admit a huge wave of Turkish workers in the ‘60s. The German government laboured under the widely shared misapprehension that some mythical tap exists that can turn immigration on and off.

But the Turks stayed, and their number grew regardless of the fluctuating economic situation. Today there are over four million people of Turkish descent in Germany, and, in her less virile economy, they create more problems than they solve.

They tend to be less educated than other ethnic groups, the unemployment rate among them is higher than the average, and more of them receive social benefits. Nor is the problem specific to Germany and her Turks.

Such is the most visible economic aspect of immigration. Some others are less obvious.

Officially, there are 3.5 million foreigners currently employed in Britain. Since many new arrivals operate in the cash-and-carry sector of the economy, I wouldn’t be surprised if the actual number of migrants in work were twice as high.

Most of the jobs they take are manual, not to say menial, as anyone will know who has ever employed a plumber, house cleaner, a live-in nurse or a builder.

Now some 1.5 million people are listed as unemployed in Britain, most of them native-born, but that statistic is misleading. For calculated here are only those who are able and willing to work but can’t find jobs. Yet over 4,000,000 families with no pensioners derive more than half their income from welfare.

Juxtaposing these statistics, one can see that native Britons could do most of the jobs taken by migrants. Could – but won’t.

I can’t say I blame them. Why work if you don’t have to?

Sociologists will tell you that there are two possible inducements to work: survival and advancement. And of the two, the first one is much more powerful.

Our welfare state removes that strong stimulus, providing a living that would take some education and skills to better, not to mention hard work. Yet those unattractive jobs still need to be done, and it’s migrants who take up the slack.

Hence those who say it’s the welfare state that attracts migrants are right, but not necessarily the way they mean it. They’d be hard-pressed to explain why so many migrants risk life and limb trying to get to Britain from France.

Are our social benefits higher or easier to get than in France? Hardly. What’s easier to get here is work, which is a compliment to British labour laws and general economic flexibility.

Rolling back the welfare state would therefore cut immigration by the ricochet of encouraging Britons to become waiters, dish washers or even house servants, jobs they despise at the moment.

Conversely, keeping things as they are won’t stop immigration, Brexit or no Brexit. Brexit will only enable us to decide how many and what kind of immigrants to admit – not necessarily to reduce their numbers.

Such are the bare bones of a very complex problem, one that may lend itself to simple solutions, but not to simplistic ones. Because the thigh bone is indeed connected to the hip bone, and the hip bone…

EU devouring its own tail

Pretty for the camera, but Himmelherrgott alors!

A double apology is needed here.

First, to my regret I was unable to find a nicer metaphor for the EU than a snake, partly because my zoology is weak and partly because no nicer metaphor really fit.

Second, to my even greater regret, observing Manny Macron’s two-front war with Germany and Italy, I experienced a shameful and decidedly un-Christian feeling my friend Angie Merkel would describe as Schadenfreude.

Gloating at other people’s misfortunes is as disgraceful as it’s hard to resist. Especially here, for, amazing as it sounds, Manny is on the right side of the argument in both cases. Well, sort of.

First Manny got cross with Italy’s Deputy PM Luigi Di Maio. The uppity Italian had the temerity to meet Christophe Chalençon, the leader of France’s gilets jaunes protest movement and express his unwavering solidarity.

Now the gilets will have many candidates standing in the upcoming elections to the European parliament, and they’re likely to take seats from Manny’s own party.

Thus one can understand Manny’s ire over what he almost correctly perceives as Italy’s meddling in France’s internal politics.

‘Almost’ is a necessary qualifier because Di Maio really meddled in European, not French, elections. If all EU members have the same parliament, who says they have to restrict campaigning to their own countries? If populist parties from across Europe form a coalition, surely they can be expected to seek votes wherever they can find them?

Yet one can understand why Manny should feel aggrieved by this interpretation of the grand European idea. Indeed, using one of his mouthpieces, Manny thundered about “unfounded attacks and outlandish claims”.

France then recalled its ambassador to Italy, saying the situation was “unprecedented” since the end of World War Two. That gave me two shocks.

For one thing, I would have thought that the EU is such a close-knit family that exchanging diplomatic missions should be redundant in the first place. I mean, Sussex and Kent don’t send ambassadors to each other and neither do, say, Texas and Ohio.

But then appearances need to be kept up, and the outside world must be given the impression that EU members don’t yet form a single state, although they plan to do so in the near future.

That explains the ambassadors. But what about recalling the French envoy? That’s an act of a hostile foreign power, not of a warm and loving next of kin.

Now that Manny mentioned the war, for example Germany and the USSR didn’t recall their ambassadors until the shooting actually started – this even though they had known for months that war was imminent.

The thing is that, though Di Maio and Salvini, the leaders of Italy’s governing coalition, can have their arms twisted to accept EU money, they detest the EU. That feeling is naturally extended to Manny, who’s the EU’s most fanatical shill.

Actually, though they do like EU money, they’d rather it weren’t denominated in euros, a currency they not unreasonably blame for many of Europe’s troubles. Di Maio and Salvini would love to bust the euro – and Manny too while they’re at it.

After all, Manny did refer to Italy’s governing coalition as “leprosy”, which doesn’t sound to me like a term of praise. However, as someone who alternately despises and hates the EU, I’m pleased to see the second and third largest economies in the eurozone at daggers drawn.

However, if you believe Charles Dickens, accidents will happen even in the best regulated families, and few families are as tightly regulated as the EU. Yet the EU has a family within a family, and you know what that is.

Since the Germans no longer want to be Germans, but the French do, the two countries have for all intents and purposes already fulfilled the dream of forming a single state.

It may not yet be officially known as such, but, with the two countries having agreed to merge both their domestic and foreign policies, I’d say it’s as near as damn.

So one would expect the two senior members of the EU to be in agreement on most vital issues. It’s a crude parallel, but it’s fine for two brothers to exchange blows every now and then but, when Mummy and Daddy do the same thing, the integrity of the family is seriously threatened.

Transsexuality being in fashion, I dare say it’s Angie who acts as the father in this relationship, with Manny assuming the maternal role. Yet women no longer accept subservience, and Manny attacked the EU father figure with all he had.

You see, Daddy-Angie is playing footsies with Putin, who has pumped $11 billion into Nord Stream-2, the project of building two more gas pipelines to Europe.

As I argued a couple of days ago (, this is going to increase Europe’s already worrying dependence on Gazprom, which is to say Putin.

Manny agrees, and this is the first time he and I have agreed on anything, although we come at the problem from different angles.

Manny’s angle is that most of Europe’s populist parties are on Putin’s payroll, meaning that the Russian mafia (aka government) finances bids to unseat traditional governments.

One such government is Manny’s own, and one such party is Marine Le Pen’s National Rally, formerly known as the National Front.

Understandably, Manny is trying to torpedo the project through Brussels’s good offices, while Angie is fighting back with masculine vigour.

I can’t understand those British parliamentarians who wish to remain in the midst of such squabbles, not to mention in the midst of the recession into which both economies are slipping – and pay with British sovereignty for the privilege.

If you can, I’m open to explanations. Meanwhile, let’s have fun watching the EU’s tail disappearing into its gullet.