How to finish off the economy in three easy steps

When a cowboy’s horse breaks a leg, he mercifully finishes it off with a quick shot. This is a useful metaphor for Rishi Sunak’s actions.

It’s no laughing matter, Rishi

Our economy is the horse lamed by Covid and the promiscuous public spending deemed necessary to counteract the pandemic’s effects. And Chancellor Sunak is the cowboy whipping out his trusted .45 to put the economy out of its misery with three rounds through the head.

The metaphorical bullets represent the three measures the Chancellor has announced. He is going to raise capital gains and corporate taxes, while also lowering the threshold for tax-free contributions to private pensions.

Essentially, this is a £30 billion raid on the ‘wealthy’, which is how Mr Sunak and other socialists describe the productive middle classes. Here I’d like to mention incessant conversations I’ve been having about Covid with a close friend, a writer and a doctor to boot.

We agree that nobody really knows what the best course of action is, not with a pandemic that has never happened before. It’s easy to criticise our government, or any other for that matter, but what would we do in their place?

My friend is particularly fond of asking me this question. My honest reply is that I don’t know, though I envy those pundits who discuss the issue with self-confidence bordering on arrogance. I suspect total lockdowns are wrong – but I don’t really know. Muzzling the whole population with those ridiculous masks seems silly – but I don’t really know. Quarantining arrivals from most countries for a fortnight looks excessive – but I don’t really know.

However, before my friend gets the chance to compliment my self-effacing candour, I hasten to add that some things I do know. Such as, how to pull the economy out of its mess.

I then propose a few steps, and what do you know? They are the exact opposite of those Mr Sunak is going to put into effect.

I would lower all tax rates, starting with capital gains and corporate. And I would increase the tax-free threshold for pensions. For, if history shows anything at all, it’s that higher tax rates usually result in lower tax revenues.

That stands to reason because tax rates directly affect the economic behaviour of both individuals and corporations. None of them, for example, would do any work if the tax rate on incomes and profits were 100 per cent.

I covered these points in my article of 15 July, so there’s no point repeating myself, other than to plagiarise that piece for two short paragraphs:

“If high tax rates in general and those on assets in particular improved the health of the economy, then Harold Wilson’s tenure back in the ‘70s would have gone down in history as a period of unprecedented prosperity.

“After all, he introduced a top marginal tax rate of 83 per cent on earned income – and 98 per cent on the ‘unearned’ variety. Yet such economic sagacity earned Britain quite a different reputation, that of ‘the sick man of Europe’.”

Yet one point I didn’t make then is worth making now. For Covid isn’t the only economic upheaval pulling our economy down. The other potential one is Brexit, which will happen de facto on New Year’s Eve.

Brexit can turn out to be either a crisis or an opportunity, and it’s up to the government to avoid the former and promote the latter. The big question is, how do we stay competitive against the large protectionist bloc that’s the EU?

There’s only one realistic answer to that. We must use our newly acquired freedom and flexibility to gain a competitive advantage over the overblown, slow-moving Leviathan staring at us from across the Channel.

To do that, we must inject a shot of dynamism into the bloodstream of the economy. We must, on pain of destitution, encourage individuals and corporations, both domestic and foreign, to do exactly three things: invest, invest and invest.

But corporations, individuals and pension funds aren’t driven by charitable impulses. They make investment decisions by coldblooded calculations of pros and cons. Hence courting their business involves making our economy appeal to their accountants’ hearts with attractive offers.

Such as low rates of corporate and capital gains taxes; ideally, much lower than anywhere on the continent. For, just as those chaps aren’t driven by charitable impulses towards us, neither do they feel especially charitable towards our competitors. The chairman of, say, a Japanese car company looking for a European base, would push a button on his computer and instantly get a spreadsheet of debits and credits, pluses and minuses, pros and cons.

His decision will be made on one basis only: that numeral in the bottom right corner. If ours looks better than the others’, then that’s it. Banzan is your uncle, Fuyo is your aunt.

All this is clearly too simple for our Chancellor to understand. Which is why he wants to make absolutely sure that our hypothetical Japanese mogul will look elsewhere. And even our pension funds, which account for much of British investment, will be looking for safer havens to moor their cash.

As an immediate and devastating result, Covid and Brexit will join forces to put our economy six feet under. This, instead of helping the latter mitigate the effects of the former.

Please remind me again which party is in power with a landslide majority. At times it looks as if Harold Wilson and James Callaghan came back as Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak. After all, all the same policies were in Corbyn’s Labour manifesto.

One born every second

We’re in the midst of a pandemic endangering our civilisation. No, I don’t mean Covid, which by comparison only qualifies as a minor annoyance.

I wonder what JK Rowling thinks about global warming

Covid mainly attacks the lungs, but the pandemic I’m talking about affects the brain. We are, I believe, in the midst of a cerebral catastrophe, and no vaccine is being developed.

The aetiology goes back to the Enlightenment, and the clinical picture includes multiple symptoms. But the most telling one is rapacious mass appetite for swallowing any rubbish on offer.

Brainwashed in the evils of discrimination, our comprehensively educated public can no longer discriminate between truth and falsehoods. It even seems to be unaware that a difference exists.

Examples supporting this observation are too numerous to bring together in a short piece. So I’ll just pick a couple off the top, choosing the most current.

Earlier this month we had scorching temperatures, way above average. Consequently, not a single weather report either in print or broadcast failed to mention global warming, climate change or words to that effect.

The difference between weather and climate is lost on most people, which is understandable. After all, unseasonably hot weather may well be a sign of some global trend.

Fair enough. I’ll go along, even though I’ve read a few books on the subject and therefore know that there’s infinitely more to it than meets the eye. But I recognise that not everyone is prepared to read long tomes full of arcane science, graphs and charts.

So fine, hot weather is an argument for global warming. However, by the same token unseasonably cold weather should be an argument against it, shouldn’t it? However, this elementary logical inference escapes most people – that’s the pandemic for you.

As I left the house at 9 o’clock this morning, the temperature was 12 degrees Celsius (54 F). That’s unusually cold for late August, and it has been like this for a week or so.

Yet not a single weather report I’ve seen, nor a single commentator on such matters, has rued that there goes global warming, right out of the window. That would be a poor argument con, but no poorer than a reference to hot weather as an argument pro.

Of course, most of our media are ideologically committed to the global warming scam. They get paid good money for scaremongering, and I find it hard to blame them. God knows I’ve advertised some dodgy products for money.

Yet the people at large, those who have no vested or pecuniary interest in the hoax, don’t mind gobbling up this rancid fare. Their mental olfactory sense has been lost to the pandemic.

That’s why grown-ups with university degrees and responsible positions in the academy, governments, charities and arts cheer when a conspicuously backward child, Greta Thunberg, harangues them and demands action in response to her diatribes.

She’s doing a Violet Elizabeth Bott, who threatened to “thcweam and thcweam until I’m thick”, which is what children do. Yet the adult protagonists in Just William books neither succumbed to Violet Elizabeth’s threats nor applauded her tantrums.

But the non-fictional adults I’ve mentioned venerate Greta for demanding that all carbon emissions be eliminated instantly, a measure that would just as instantly result in famines killing millions of people.

True enough, today’s professional humanists don’t mind turning large swathes of the world into today’s answer to Maidanek and Magadan just to make an ideological point. That, however, only makes them evil, not necessarily stupid.

But what about millions nodding their acquiescent heads whenever that child from hell froths at the mouth all the way into the eagerly awaiting arms of the Nobel Committee, whose embrace she only narrowly missed this year? They’ve fallen victim to the pandemic in question.

Then there’s the news of JK Rowling jumping before she was pushed. The writer has returned her human-rights award to the Robert F. Kennedy Foundation that denounced her for transphobia.

For those of you not up on the woke lexicon, the word designates reluctance to deny that the difference between men and women is that of nature, not nurture – and that the difference can’t be reversed on a say-so.

Miss Rowling’s take-your-award-and-shove-it act was prompted by millions of cretinous protests following her seemingly unassailable remark that women menstruate. That physiological tendency can’t be acquired, nor made irrelevant, simply by ‘identifying’ as a woman – any more than a rapid increase in the melanin count can’t result from ‘identifying’ as black.

Sky News magnanimously acknowledged this morning that biological differences between the sexes do exist. However, its presenters could also see the other side of the argument, namely that, by stating that biological fact, Miss Rowling caused great offence, and possibly irreparable psychological damage, to the “trans community”.

The implication is that the psychological damage in question supersedes that already suffered by those wishing to change their natural sex – and that such traumatised people make up a community speaking in the same voice.

In fact, many disturbed men who went the whole hog to become sideshow women support Miss Rowling. They resent the poltroons who shun surgery and still insist they are as womanly as, well, Miss Rowling. Who, to my experienced eye, is very womanly indeed.

But their resentment doesn’t make a dent in the ideology of Sky News – nor, more to the point, in the readiness of its millions of viewers to have their opinions deformed by these opinion formers. That’s the pandemic for you.

So that’s what peaceful protest looks like

We must never let our attention waver as we watch the events unfolding in America. For observation suggests that the worst US developments are a taste of things to come in Britain.

We don’t borrow the good things with the same alacrity, such as American industry and enterprise, understated class envy, distrust of big government. But show us some perversion, and sooner or later it’ll make its way to our shores. The time lag used to be about 10 years, but it’s getting shorter now.

The observation I’m talking about is actually my own. I lived in the US for 15 years before moving to Britain in 1988 and heaving a sigh of relief: emetic political correctness that was already plaguing America was nowhere in evidence.

Fast-forward a few years, and Britain caught the same contagion. Suddenly Britons who had never set foot in the States were rebuking me for referring to American Indians as such. “Do you mean Native Americans?” was the sanctimonious response from an Englishman who yearned to fight other people’s battles.

That explains the speed at which BLM travelled to Britain. Tectonic racial tensions here are nowhere near as seismic as in America, but the desire to exploit them to pernicious ends is just as strong, and the malcontents just as ubiquitous. That’s why, as I watch the riots afflicting America, I wonder if I’m looking at Britain circa 2025.

This time around the fire conflagrated in Kenosha, Wisconsin. A policeman shot Jacob Blake, a black man wanted on charges of sexual assault. Though the culprit later turned out not to be armed, he was resisting arrest and trying to get into his car to flee.

It’ll take an investigation to establish whether or not the force used by the police was excessive. I don’t have a view one way or the other. However, the appalling spectacle of ensuing mob violence isn’t open to interpretation: it’s stamping the rule of law into the dirt.

Within three days the rioting Kenosha mob set 34 fires, destroyed 30 businesses, looted shops (stolen in one of them was 90 per cent of its inventory). That triggered off herd solidarity, and the riots instantly spread farther afield, to the state capital Madison and all the way to Portland, Oregon.

Madison rioters looted 75 shops (and counting), smashed windows at the state capitol, the courthouses and numerous businesses, with silvery shards covering the city centre. That was the BLM version of Kristallnacht, and the parallel isn’t gratuitous.

Just as the Nazis triggered off the pogrom by spreading lies about Jewish crimes, including the notorious blood libel, so was the looting mayhem in Madison set up by spreading false rumours that officers had shot a black murder suspect, who in fact had shot himself as the police were about to arrest him.   

And just as the Nazis used to attack anyone refusing their demand to scream “Heil Hitler!”, so did a marauding BLM mob in Washington DC assault a woman for refusing to raise her fist as ordered. She was lucky to be only harangued, not maimed.

The governor of Wisconsin declared a curfew and called for help from the National Guard. President Trump obliged, as is his right and indeed duty. When local authorities can’t maintain law and order, the federal government has to step in.

But before the National Guard arrived, defence groups had taken to the streets. That’s to be expected, especially in a country whose constitution includes the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms. Actually, the Amendment was designed to help Americans protect their freedom against some future state tyranny.

Yet a collapsing rule of law and a state incapable of defending its citizens against a rampaging mob may jeopardise freedom as effectively as some tinhorn despot. That’s why armed locals began to patrol Kenosha, trying to protect its people and businesses.

Irresistible force came up against an immovable object, and two of the rioters got shot dead. The media gobbled up the story avidly: the youngster who pulled the trigger had been spotted at a Trump rally.

Since most US papers and broadcast channels have assumed an unpaid role as Biden’s PR department, they made an instant connection. Trump supporters are murderers, stalking Biden supporters who are blameless, righteously indignant – and black. Trump is therefore their accomplice.

Just as left-leaning Britons now feel called upon to describe Indians as Native Americans, blacks as Afro-Americans, and presumably dogs as canine Americans, so do our media accept that version of the events, or something close.

This morning, Sky News interviewed a black American preacher, who didn’t look like any cleric I’ve ever met, and I’ve met many. He wore gangsta clothes, sported a cornrowed hairdo, and mouthed gibberish in strident tones.

America is institutionally racist, and police ten times so. Discrimination is rife; nothing has changed in that respect since 1960 or, deep down, from 1860. Peaceful protests are met with violence on the part of individual racists and racist agencies of the state. That’s the kind of hell Trump has created… well, you know the drill. I’m paraphrasing, but only slightly.

That wasn’t an argument, an analysis or even a biased account. It was unalloyed propaganda, of the kind that shouldn’t have found an outlet in a civilised country.

At Sky News, however, it found not only an outlet but unquestioning sympathy. Not a hint of a counterargument was offered – all the chap got from the interviewer were mournful facial expressions, a shaking head and encouraging interjections. That Blake was a fleeing sex criminal was never mentioned.

As I watched the fires raging in Wisconsin and elsewhere, I wasn’t just seeing Kenosha, Madison and Portland. I was seeing – as clearly as if exactly the same things were happening there – Leeds, Birmingham and Leicester.

We have the same mindset in the opinion-forming media, the same culture of discontent, the same mobs awaiting a pretext for rioting, the same rabble-rousers. If you want to see the same explosions, just wait a few years.

Brainless defence of topless bathing

Seldom since the 21 to 1 vote to convict Louis XVI in 1793 have all political parties in France been so nearly unanimous.

They aren’t upholders of freedom. They are slaves to an ideology.

They disagree about everything: mass Islamic immigration, les Anglo-Saxons, Putin, public spending, education, rioting, crime, Covid, Macron’s sexuality.

But for once politicians from all the main parties are in agreement: France’s identity is under threat. So is her culture. So is her liberté. So, if you add all those together, is the very essence of France. And MPs from all parties concur on both the existence of the threat and its source.

This most devastating assault on France since 1940 has been launched by two gendarmes in Sainte-Marie-la-Mer, a resort 70 miles south of Montpellier. Those two cops, one woman, one man, asked three female sunbathers in their 60s to put their bikini tops on.

That act of wanton tyranny occurred after a woman with two children complained that she didn’t want her tots exposed to the ungainly sight of three grannies playing footie with their mammaries.

Another holidaymaker witnessed the scene and was so enraged that she immediately contacted the local TV station. The station considered the event sufficiently newsworthy for its evening programme, and public indignation burst out like the cork out of a bottle of tepid champagne.

A wave of puritanism is sweeping the country, screamed the media, the public and its representatives. France’s quintessential freedom of exposing les seins on beaches is being undermined.

David Lisnard, the Republican mayor of Cannes was aghast: representatives of the state were enforcing “regressive prudishness”. The left, in the person of socialist MP Christine Pirès Beaune, was also “fed up with all these puritans and moralising people”.

Jean Messiha, of the Le Pen party, couldn’t agree more: French identité was under threat.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin explained unassailably that “freedom is something precious”, implying that asking women to cover their breasts is the thin end of a wedge. Next thing you know, cops will be executing people without due process, and foie gras will be banned.

And Aurélien Taché, MP from the ruling La République en Marche party, summed up the argument as succinctly as one expects from an heir to the legacy of Mirabeau, Danton and Robespierre: “Everyone is free to dress or undress as they like.”

Now, not being French, an MP or heir to that glorious legacy, I’d suggest that this blanket statement calls for at least some qualification. Even in France public nudity is confined to beaches, and a person walking naked through, say, the Champs-Elysées is likely to be arrested.

In any case, the amount of nudity permissible anywhere has nothing to do with inalienable human freedoms or historical national identity. It’s a matter of consensual convention, and conventions change over time.

However, the convention that women’s breasts should be at least partially covered in public never changed in the West for many centuries. A woman aiming her nipples at variously interested faces used to be a feature of brothels or cabaret shows like Folies Bergère or Moulin Rouge.

Anything else was regarded as an offence against decency, propriety and elementary manners (in the case of those Sainte-Marie-la-Mer sunbathers, also against aesthetics). However, at some point that convention changed, and topless sunbathing became commonplace on French beaches.

This happened in the 1960s, at roughly the same time when revolutionary students were paralysing Paris, taking over university buildings, building barricades, abusing non-Communist professors, fatally defenestrating conservative students and endangering the very existence of the French state.

The movement of the soixante-huitards (I call them ‘soixante-retards’) was inspired by an anomic ideology having our whole civilisation in its crosshairs. Against the background of that cataclysm, the spread of topless sunbathing looked innocent.

Yet the two developments had something in common. Topless sunbathing was also inspired by a subversive ideology, one related to the student revolt and, in the long run, possibly even more destructive.

That ideology is militant feminism, which shares the appalling features of all ideologies. It’s rabid, hare-brained, based on mass appeal to the lowliest of emotions, devoid of any sensible rationale, and socially devastating.

Like all ideologies, feminism strives to burn every traditional certitude down to cinders, hoping that New Man will emerge Phoenix-style out of the ashes. Its target isn’t human institutions, but human nature.

In the case of topless sunbathing, feminists, ably led by their founding mother Simone de Beauvoir, were asking questions they considered rhetorical: “If men can bare their torsos on the beach, why can’t women? We are all equal, aren’t we?”

That was a no-brainer, in the literal sense of absent brains. We may all be equal metaphysically, dears, but equal doesn’t mean the same. Specifically, women’s breasts are different from men’s physically, physiologically, sexually and culturally.

That’s why, in our civilisation, they have always received a special treatment. And not just in ours, come to that. For example, in India covered breasts were a class characteristic: only women of the top castes concealed their charms from prying eyes.

Shame about nudity was regarded in the West, when it was still called Christendom, as a consequence of breaking a covenant with God. Over subsequent history faith in such doctrines ebbed, but it left a residue. Like all fundamental Western laws, shame about nudity has scriptural antecedents; like them, it has outlived faith in Scripture.

On a more down-to-earth level, nonchalant public nudity destroys the source of so much of Western culture, especially poetry. Lyrical poetry would have been impossible without some mystique attached to the woman’s body.

Seeing it unclothed used to be a prize to be won by wooing, courtship, professed adoration, a display of wit and passion. When men can see naked breasts swinging all around them, they stop seeing them – and their possessors – as something special, to be cherished and pursued.

Typically, they either ogle those appendages with lazy lust or, even worse, pay no more attention to them than they do to slabs of beef in the butcher’s window. This has far-reaching social and cultural consequences, every one of them destructive.

Conventions and traditions fall by the wayside all the time, which in itself is neither good nor bad. A lot depends on why they disappear, and also on what kind of social dominoes will fall in the process.

When traditional standards of decency change under the influence of pernicious ideology, no other standard is safe. One doesn’t have to be a “moralising puritan” to see that. One only has to be an observant person who can draw conclusions from what he sees.

Defence becomes a tankless task

When Uganda has more tanks (239) than Britain (227), one begins to wonder which world we’re living in. Let’s see: Uganda is definitely Third World…

The Challenger II bites the dust

If such residual questions still lingered, they’ve received a resounding answer: Britain’s entire force of tanks and armoured vehicles will be scrapped. This in a country that, on 15 September, 1916, was the first to use tanks in anger.

Much has changed since the Somme: military technology and tactics, geopolitical balance – and the understanding Britain used to have that the state’s prime function is to protect its population.

Our battle tank, the Challenger II, was born in the 1990s, and it needs upgrading. The cost of that, however, is seen as unaffordable. We’d rather spend our money on throwing benefits at freeloaders from the world over and propping up lame nationalised Leviathans.

It would be almost bearable, if no less reprehensible, if the government came out and honestly admitted that Britain can no longer afford playing a viable role in Nato and therefore the defence of the West. We are skint, and if that makes us a Third World weakling, then so be it. See if we care.

Instead, however, the government is making mendacious noises about rechannelling the funds into cyberwarfare, aviation and other modern tools. This is bilge.

There’s no question that tanks can no longer be used as they were in the First World War, when they played an auxiliary role, or in the Second, when they dominated the battlefield.

In the Second World War, tanks were practically invulnerable to air attacks because even low-altitude bombing didn’t then provide enough accuracy to hit even a stationary tank. Typically, dive bomber aces counted themselves lucky if they could hit a 100x100m square.

That could have been marginally effective against masses of tanks advancing in close formations, but not against tactically astute tank commanders who knew how to spread out and manoeuvre evasively. Throughout that war, tanks could really only be defeated by other tanks, anti-tank artillery or infantry weapons such as the German Panzerfaust.

The situation is different now. Precision bombing with laser-guided ordnance has made tanks exceedingly vulnerable to air attacks. That, however, hasn’t made them useless. It only means that new weapons require new tactics.

An enemy ability to turn advancing armour into sitting ducks can be downgraded or even negated by achieving air superiority before pushing the tanks through. After all, if the warplanes’ ability to hurt tanks with precision bombing has improved, then so has the ability to wipe out enemy airfields with similar weapons.

Coordinating the efforts of different army branches is as paramount now as it always has been, perhaps even more so. Yet no military man will claim that wars can be won from the air only, with armour relegated to the scrap heap.

With one exception, no modern war has ever been ended without tanks rolling in and clearing the way for the infantry. For example, both Hitler’s Germany and Saddam’s Iraq were bombed flat, with Germany gratefully receiving an almost three-megaton present from the Allies.

Yet neither war was won until armour moved in to claim the prize. Air attacks had made victory possible, but without the tanks they would have been merely an exercise in vindictive cruelty.

The one exception I mentioned earlier was Japan, which capitulated after those two well-known air raids. The atomic weapons used were so apocalyptic that the Japanese realised their country could be obliterated and then invaded at little cost to the invader.

That situation hasn’t changed since 1945: a confrontation with a strong adversary can’t be won by air attacks only – unless nuclear weapons are involved. If our government thinks tanks have outlived their purpose because they are vulnerable to laser-guided bombs, what about our small island’s vulnerability to nuclear bombs? These are bound to come if we solely rely on such weapons for our survival on the battlefield.

Since the Challenger II first saw the light of day, the Russians have introduced five new generations of tanks. They now have 12,950 of them in active service – and tens of thousands of older models mothballed.

If that increasingly aggressive country decides its time has come to recreate the Soviet Union, it would take the Americans weeks if not months to supplement their current force of 87 tanks in Europe. Since the Channel is rather narrower than the Atlantic, British tanks could be on the continent within hours, to help Nato defences.

With our armour scrapped, what help are we going to offer, assuming that a nuclear strike is off the table? Computer games with cyberwarfare? Some air support?

The military understand how ridiculous this is. One senior source said: “We simply will not be viewed as a credible leading Nato nation if we cannot field close-combat capabilities. It places us behind countries such as France, Germany, Poland and Hungary.” And Uganda, which isn’t even a Nato member. Perhaps she could take our place.

There’s no doubt that Covid has strained the Exchequer, but there are others in the same boat. Yet only Britain is planning to disarm in response to the financial squeeze.

Our governing spivs aren’t bothered about defence of the realm. They have more urgent concerns: how to bribe the electorate into voting the right way at the next election. They forget that neglecting defence is akin to playing Russian roulette – with an automatic.

P.S. We are good at cultural surrender too. It has just been announced that Rule, Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory will after all be played at the Last Night of the Proms – but without the lyrics. The cultural spivs are confusing something: it was Felix Mendelssohn, not Thomas Arne, who wrote songs without words.   

Rule out Britannia

“Dalia is a big supporter of Black Lives Matter,” explained a BBC source.

None of this: the BBC and Dalia don’t approve

He was talking of the Finnish-Ukrainian conductor Dalia Stasevska, 35, who will conduct this year’s Last Night at the Proms for the BBC.

Dalia’s commitment to BLM must be her main qualification for playing such a prominent role in Britain’s musical life. After all, looking at her CV and listening to her performances, one doesn’t detect any instantly apparent professional qualifications.

Now, Dalia will compile the programme for this concert, which is traditionally seen as the musical answer to Trooping the Colour, a celebration of Britain culture and history. That’s why the anthems Rule, Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory have always provided a rousing choral finale to the Proms.

Considering Dalia’s origin and age, perhaps one could opine that British traditions in general and this one in particular don’t strike a chord in her heart. And even if they do, the chord is nowhere near as thunderous as the cacophony produced by a BLM riot.

That’s why Dalia will axe those offensive anthems from the programme with the BBC’s blessing. The time is propitious for that hatchet job since, due to Covid, there will be no live audience. “A ceremony without an audience,” explained Dalia, “is the perfect moment to bring change.”

Lest you may think it’s only foreigners who treat British traditions in such a dismissive fashion, Dalia is building her subversive structure on a solid ideological base provided by Richard Morrison, an impeccably British columnist for the BBC Music Magazine.

According to Morrison, it would be “insensitive, bordering on incendiary” to chant the “nationalist”, “jingoistic” songs that are deeply offensive to the BLM movement. One has to infer that any other than pejorative reference to Britain’s history constitutes such an offence.

It’s true that both songs have good things to say about the British Empire, which, according to the BBC, constitutes a shameful period of British history. However, shameful as that period might seem to the BBC, it was rather long, lasting about 500 years from the reign of Elizabeth I.

It had its ups and downs, but most historians will agree that, on balance, the British Empire was the most successful commonwealth in history, this side of Rome. For all intents and purposes, it produced everything the West is proud of: just laws, a uniquely balanced political system free of tyranny, scientific and industrial progress.

The Empire spread her achievements all over the world, leaving behind a legacy of equitable institutions, parliamentarism, independent judiciary, irrigation systems, hospitals and schools. That proliferation wasn’t always achieved in the nicest possible ways, and the Empire has much to be rebuked for retrospectively.

However, most (I feel tempted to say “all”) of the former British colonies were better off – economically, politically or at least culturally – under the Empire than after her demise.

It takes obtuse nihilism to deny that – again, on balance – the British Empire is a legitimate source of pride for every Briton, except for those who are sufficiently inflamed by ideology to assess history from the BLM perspective only.

That Dalia Stasevska falls into that category is neither here nor there, and not just because she isn’t British. Her musical studies, which, incidentally, finished only eight years ago, must have left her little time to study and contemplate British history (or indeed anything else) in any depth. Loving BLM, however, requires no depth. Pavlovian reflexes will do: the knee jerks unaided by the brain.

However, when the BBC, a British institution licensed by HMG, promotes the same ignorant and idiotic ideology, it’s a serious matter. As to Mr Morrison, he ought to peek into the dictionary and learn the difference between ‘jingoistic’ and ‘patriotic’. The first implies hatred underpinning love; the second, love unadulterated.

With that in mind, I read and reread the lyrics of both Rule, Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory. There, I found much that’s patriotic and nothing that’s jingoistic.

The essence of Rule Britannia is encapsulated in the line “Britons never, never, never shall be slaves.” There isn’t a scintilla of a hint that such freedom from slavery will be achieved by enslaving others.

And the key verse of Land of Hope and Glory is “Thine equal laws, by Freedom gained/ Have ruled thee well and long;/ By Freedom gained, by Truth maintained/ Thine Empire shall be strong.” By freedom and truth – not slavery, racism and insistence that black lives don’t matter.

I realise that the Empire committed the gross faux pas of failing to anticipate the advent of a new morality superseding the old Judaeo-Christian ethic. The Empire functioned according to the standards of its time, not ours, which is why it was so successful.

But that, according to the likes of the BBC and Dalia, is no excuse. BLM, MeToo and LGBTQ+ have taken the blue pencil to the entire British history. If it’s to be remembered at all, it’s only as a source of eternal shame and repentance.

Still, the axing of those two objectionable anthems creates a vacuum that must be filled. Morrison knows how: according to him the BBC should change the Proms finale so it “reflects the attitudes of its 21st-century performers and audiences, not their Edwardian predecessors”.

Actually, Rule, Britannia, predates the Edwardian period by 161 years, but let’s not quibble. Instead, let’s help the BBC in its search for a rousing anthem that indeed reflects the attitudes of modern audiences and performers like Dalia.

Since the BBC has been steadily shifting the Proms towards modernity, there’s nothing better than rap, especially as personified by its true maestro, Stormzy. So, in conclusion, may I suggest this song:

“Look, Don’t make me slap you/ Like, like, wait till I catch you/ Like, man are like ‘that’s that black yout’/ Went Jools Holland in my tracksuit/ Rep for the scene like yeah man, I had to/ Just run a sick beat I can rap to/ Everybody calm down, it’s a tracksuit/ What the fuck, man? I ain’t gonna stab you/ Look, I don’t wanna argue/ But if you talk shit, man’ll par you/ Look at the size of my fist, I will spark you…”

I’m not sure what this means, but it’s definitely not racist. So the BBC will approve, giving Dalia a chance to create a moving musical rendition that wouldn’t test her talent too much.

Turns out warming isn’t quite global

People no longer fear God, hell or eternal damnation. Yet human nature is such that they have to fear something, the more apocalyptic, the better. That need opens up countless opportunities for scaremongers, those who peddle wholesale fears at the exorbitant price of social and economic stability.

Tom Bradshaw knows all there’s to know about farming, but his ideology needs work

What the fears are doesn’t really matter: put enough resources behind a campaign, and people will be quaking in their boots at a mere mention of, well, Ebola, flu, pollution, nuclear energy, Covid, GM crops, fracking – and of course global warming, or climate change, as it’s now called.

Not all of such mass-marketed fears are completely without foundation. None, however, merits a panicky response. And climate change merits no response at all, other than telling Greta Thunberg to shut up when grown-ups are talking.

Yet climate change peddlers can package their product with a sermon about the evils of capitalism, which adds much subversive value to the offering. That’s why all progressive (i.e. subversive) people swear by climate change.

They are prepared to sacrifice not only our prosperity but indeed the survival of millions at the altar of this anti-scientific, inhumane, ideological hoax. That’s why grown-ups who ought to know better, and secretly do, get up and salute whenever that demented child Greta harangues them rudely and demands that all – ALL!!! – carbon emissions be stopped now. Not by 2030, not by 2050 – NOW!!!

Should those transfixed adults attempt to comply with that Lord of the Flies diktat, the West would instantly sink to the level of the Third World, whereas the Third World would simply die out, just as instantly. But never mind the people – ideologues never do.

Such fanatics can be found anywhere, but especially in the intellectual jungles they roam in vast herds: The Guardian, the Independent, the BBC, Sky News and other similar (de)formers of public opinion.

Thus, one of the first items on this morning’s Sky News dealt with the low yields suffered by our cereal farmers this year. A wet autumn combined with a hot and dry summer produced what in the expert opinion of Sky presenters betokens a calamity.

The blame can be placed squarely at the door of Climate Change, always pronounced with initial capitals. That, of course, is another name for Global Warming, an unprecedented catastrophe that’s going to destroy all our crops, melt both Arctic and Antarctic ice, flood the landmass everywhere and eventually – no, SOON!!! – lead to the extinction of life on Earth (aka Our Planet), with Homo sapiens the first to go.

Sky presenters and their ilk have no doubt that the catastrophe we are facing due to rapacious capitalist greed is indeed unprecedented. When told that Our Planet has been hotter than now for three-fourths of its life, they treat that as a conversation stopper. One can’t talk to reactionaries, even – especially!!! – if they have facts on their side.

Having worked capitalised Climate Change into their narrative several times in a few short sentences, the presenters then commiserated with consumers, who’ll soon have to take out a mortgage to buy a loaf of bread. After all, it’s the common folk who always find themselves at the receiving end of the capitalists’ sharp practices.

They then introduced an expert, Tom Bradshaw, Vice President of the Farmers’ Union. I reached for the remote to turn the spectacle off – if Sky people were mouthing such twaddle, I thought, I could only imagine what a union man would be saying.

However, before I had time to push the OFF button, Mr Bradshaw began to speak – and he was talking sense. A farmer himself, he hasn’t just seen wheat fields through the window of a first-class carriage carrying him to the Edinburgh Festival, and he displayed unsentimental common sense typical of his profession.

Mr Bradshaw agreed ruefully that farmers are indeed at the mercy of weather vicissitudes. But it has always been thus, nothing new there.

A shortfall in yields? Well, yes, though last year we had great yields, this year’s weather has let us down. But not to worry. We’ll just import some more grain from elsewhere.

You see, Western Europe has suffered a bit, but they’ve had good harvests in Eastern Europe, the Ukraine and Russia. Even farther afield, Canada and Australia have had no such problems, and they’ll be happy to export their surplus.

Cost to consumers? Negligible. The extra imports will only add half a penny to the price of a loaf – nothing we couldn’t handle.

Here the Sky people must have wanted to scream: “Are you out of your mind, Tom?!? What do you mean, we had great yields last year? Didn’t we have global warming then? Next thing you know, you’ll say we just may do all right next year too.

“And what’s with all those places, from Australia to Canada and everything in between, minus Western Europe? What part of GLOBAL warming don’t you understand? Global, Tom, means everywhere, not just Britain and her neighbours.”

All in all, Tom Bradshaw somehow managed to get through that rather lengthy segment without once mentioning global warming or even climate change. But what can you expect from those yokels who have been tilling the land for generations? What do they know about climate, compared to the founts of wisdom at Sky News?

By the end, my fear deepened – but not of climate change. I was mortified that our woke opinion (de)formers will end up getting their way, and not just in shoving the climate change hoax down our throats. Theirs is the god of ideology, and it’s a wrathful deity, always athirst. Only real God knows how much damage this lot will wreak.

Mani comes back as Biden

Joe Biden’s religion informs his politics. “For him,” says his friend, Sen. Chris Coons, “they’re rooted in faith… that’s sustained so many ordinary Americans.”

Joe Biden, speaking at the Democratic convention

Since Biden is a practising Catholic, one must infer that this confession has historically “sustained so many ordinary Americans”. In fact, from the time of its founding, the American state has been perhaps the most anti-Catholic one in the West.

In fact, hatred of apostolic confessions was largely what united many Americans in the first place, and indeed brought them to those Atlantic beaches. That’s why, of the original 13 colonies, only Pennsylvania didn’t have anti-Catholic laws, and in most of the others the practice of Catholicism was banned on pain of death.

Only one of the 56 signatories to the Declaration of Independence was a Catholic, while most of the other Founding Fathers were deists at best. They tended to loathe apostolic confessions with different degrees of intensity, with Jefferson perhaps representing the most febrile.

That situation began to change somewhat with the arrival of numerous Irish, Italian, Polish and Hispanic immigrants, but the US remains a predominantly Protestant country. Only 22 per cent of her population are Catholics, a religion so far espoused by just one of her 45 presidents.

It’s hard to claim on these bases that allegiance to the Vatican is an election winner in America. If anything, it may well be an election loser.

So much more should one appreciate the subtlety with which Joe Biden offset that drawback in his acceptance speech at the Democratic convention. By sending masterly oratorical signals worthy of Demosthenes and Cicero, he reassured the voters that they shouldn’t worry.

He’s a Catholic in name only. In his heart, he embraces a Gnostic cult that was, for many centuries and in various guises, the deadliest threat to Catholic Christianity, one that almost succeeded in destroying it in the early Middle Ages.

The signals Joe sent the public show that he is a fully paid-up Manichaean. Those who believe in reincarnation would even be justified to suspect that he is Prophet Mani himself, even though Joe doesn’t look one bit Persian.

Even a believer who doesn’t wish to advertise his faith is nevertheless bound to let it slip out. Thus a Christian who recites the Bible every Sunday or a Jew who does so every Saturday will inadvertently use Biblical words and phrases even in everyday speech. Moreover, he’ll manifest a way of thought shaped by his faith even if he tries not to.

I don’t know how closely Americans are going to analyse Joe’s speech, but I’m sure they’ll receive the Manichaean messages subliminally. The choice of words and imagery will tip them off.

Manichaean theology denies the omnipotence of God and therefore the derivative nature of evil. It postulates the dualism of good and evil, each emanating from its own god, one good, the other bad. Man, to the Manichaeans, is the battleground on which those two deities square off.

What’s important for my purposes here is the terminology with which a committed Manichaean will inevitably betray his background. Prominent in that lexicon is recurrent juxtaposition of light and darkness – with the Manichaean himself usually representing the former and his adversaries, the latter.

With that in mind, I invite you to read Joe’s speech and appreciate the numerous tell-tale signals he so cunningly sent the voters.

To start with, Joe branded his opponent as an enemy of everything good in life: “Character is on the ballot. Compassion is on the ballot. Decency, science, democracy – they’re all on the ballot.”

By inference, Joe is a force for good, defending all its manifestations from evil. This is good knockabout stuff, even though it’s not instantly obvious how Trump threatens science. I had to think about that one for a second, but then I realised that the science Joe meant is the kind that shaped the Paris Accords, which Trump left and Biden promises to re-enter.

But never mind the message, feel the idiom. For Joe didn’t express himself in the Christian terms of good and evil. Instead he consistently relied on the contrast between light (him) and darkness (Trump).

“Give people light and they will find the way…,” Biden said. “The current president has cloaked America in darkness for far too long.”

That crepuscular situation was about to change: “History will be able to say that the end of this chapter in American darkness began here, tonight.” That is, with Joe’s speech at the Democratic convention. His words, therefore, have the magic power of light, a sort of Manichaean fiat lux.

And then: “’Hope is more powerful than fear and light is more powerful than dark.” That’s good news: God’s proxy, whom Mani called the Primal Man, and Mr and Mrs Biden called Joe 77 years ago, will triumph over the devil.

In that capacity, Joe represents “hope for our future, light to see our way forward, and love for one and other.”

There, I hope I’ve thrown some light on the shrewd subtext of Joe’s speech, clearly designed to reassure the anti-Catholic Americans that he isn’t really a Catholic, but a Manichaean.

He’s guaranteed to carry the Manichaean vote, but I don’t know if that will be enough to get Joe elected. I am sure, however, that it’s enough to get him excommunicated. He probably wouldn’t mind: it’s a small price to pay for the White House.  

The Putin tea party

If you travel to Russia, don’t drink the tea, whatever you do. Be especially careful at airports or in flight – they are regular death traps.

Navalny drinks his hemlock

To wit: after campaigning in the Siberian city of Tomsk, Alexei Navalny, the most influential critic of Putin, was on his way back to Moscow. For years now, Navalny has been exposing the Putin gang as “a party of crooks and thieves”, which qualifies as a high-risk pastime by any sensible standards.

Before boarding his flight, he stopped for a quick cuppa at the airport’s Vienna Coffee House. Like most Russians, Navalny likes his tea black, straight as it comes. But that particular tea didn’t come straight. It was laced with a dollop of hallucinogenic poison, believed to be sodium oxybutyrate.

Navalny collapsed on the plane, which then had to make an emergency landing at Omsk. The campaigner, who had slipped into a coma, was rushed to hospital and put on a ventilator. He is fighting for his life and, as I write, his condition is described as grave.

Let me tell you, if Lucretia Borgia lived in Putin’s Russia, she wouldn’t be short of gainful employment. Before going to work, however, she’d have to brush up on modern toxins and the up-to-date methods of their administration.

Navalny isn’t the first of Putin’s detractors to be poisoned, and he won’t be the last. Actually, this wasn’t even the first time Navalny himself was poisoned.

Last year, while in police custody for the umpteenth time, he developed what the FSB doctors described as an “acute allergic reaction”. The allergen wasn’t specified, but one rouble gets you ten it had come courtesy of Laboratory 1, the poison factory established by the Soviet secret police in 1921.

The laboratory has made many valuable contributions to the field of applied toxicology. Its extensive research on human subjects was facilitated by an unlimited supply of enthusiastic volunteers recruited through GULAG’s good offices.

Numerous successes followed, such as Bulgaria’s leader Georgi Dimitrov (1949) and his dissident compatriot Georgi Markov (1978). The latter was murdered with a ricin pellet administered through an umbrella tip on Waterloo Bridge.

Gen. Kutepov, the White émigré leader in Paris, was killed inadvertently in 1930. His kidnappers only wanted to drug the general and ship him to Moscow, but they accidentally overdosed him, and Kutepov’s heart gave way.

Several secret police bigwigs also got the taste of their own poison. They included the Cheka founder Dzerzhinsky possibly, his successor Menzhinsky probably, and the foreign intelligence chief Slutsky definitely.

It has even been widely alleged that both Lenin and Stalin had their passage to hell hastened by Lab 1 concoctions, but that has never been proved. As to the smaller fry, people like the Abkhaz party secretary Lakoba, Afghan communist chieftain Amin or the KGB defector Kokhlov, they are too numerous to mention. The last two actually survived the poisonings, suggesting a lapse of quality control at Lab 1. Or else a lethal outcome wasn’t actually intended.

Fast-forward to the Putin era, with Lab 1 as its prominent feature, and you’ll find this long tradition lovingly maintained.

In 2003 the dissident writer Yuri Shchekochikhin was fatally poisoned with a radioactive substance, probably thallium. In 2004 another dissident writer, Anna Politkovskaya, prefigured the Navalny incident by also drinking a cup of poisoned tea on a flight. She lived, only to be shot dead two years later. Dissident politician Vladimir Kara-Murza barely survived two poisoning attempts, in 2015 and 2017.

And of course two defectors, KGB’s Alexander Litvinenko and GRU’s Sergei Skripal, were both poisoned in Britain by Putin’s agents. Litvinenko perished, Skripal and his daughter miraculously survived, but two Britons died as collateral damage.

Litvinenko’s murderer, Alexei Lugovoi, was hastily ‘elected’ to the Duma, which gives him parliamentary immunity from the extradition requested by the British government.  

Litvinenko was killed with polonium, which qualifies his murder as nuclear terrorism, albeit so far on a small scale. The Skripals were poisoned with an equally exotic compound, novichok.

Yet Putin’s chaps don’t ignore ancient remedies either. In 2012, the Russian whistle-blower Alexander Perepelichny collapsed while jogging in Surrey. The autopsy showed a heart attack, but two years later tests ordered by Legal & General, Perepelichny’s life insurance company, found traces of Gelsemium in his stomach.

The extract of this Chinese plant has been used as a poison for centuries. Nicknamed ‘heartbreak grass’, it triggers cardiac arrest if ingested, with poisoning a less certain verdict than in the case of polonium or novichok.

It’s for a good reason that Putin’s conservatism is praised in some Western quarters. After all, his chosen method of settling political disputes has a long and venerable pedigree.

Sanders strikes a blow for Trump

Bernie Sanders regaled the Democratic convention with a long speech of refreshing honesty. At a time when Trump’s best strategy is to portray the Democratic party as radically socialist, Bernie did his job for him.

Did Trump pay Bernie? If he didn’t, it’s not too late

“Many of the ideas we fought for,” he declared proudly, “that just a few years ago were considered radical, are now mainstream.” [In his party, that is.]

The ideas that Bernie and his comrades fought for so courageously are collectively designed to turn the USA into a USSA, with the extra ‘S’ for Socialist.

Specifically, Bernie opposes free enterprise and the economic inequality it produces. That it also produces widely spread prosperity on a historically unprecedented scale is a fact that Bernie doesn’t let interfere with good ideology.

That general philosophy is broken up into various policy ploys. For example, Bernie favours greater unionisation, apparently envious of the success this delivered in Britain and elsewhere in Europe.

He also supports free or at least universal everything, including tertiary education and healthcare. ‘Free’ is the socialist for ‘paid out of the public purse’. Now, that receptacle is mainly filled with tax revenue. Thus, rather than paying for such services direct, people will be paying more to the state, which will act as a general contractor with megalomania.

Since the state can’t match the efficiency of private institutions, ‘free’ effectively means things costing more than they otherwise would, with the added benefit of penalising the most productive individuals.

Sensitive to the economically destructive potential of green policies, Bernie plugs them with the persistence of a used-car salesman, but without the subtlety. He is in favour of an instantly ruinous Green New Deal, running much of the economy on the premise of accepting the global warming hoax at face value.

Yet Bernie can’t be accused of concentrating on strictly parochial issues. As a true socialist, he thinks globally for, as his mentor Karl Marx taught, “the proletariat has no motherland”.

Hence he believes the United States should reduce military spending to a level where she might as well not bother to have any. Rather than relying on brute force, America should pursue negotiations and international treaties with all and sundry, putting an added emphasis on labour rights and environmental issues. Talleyrand and Metternich must be turning green with envy in their graves: it never occurred to them that a foreign policy could be run on that basis.

Put all those ideas together, and they add up to a national suicide note. Moreover, Bernie is so forthright about it that most Americans, even those who haven’t yet benefited from free tertiary education, will know his ideas for what they are.

Hence the Democrats’ best chance is to pretend disingenuously that such suicidal notions still reside only on the extreme left of the party. Yet Bernie’s candid admission that radical socialism tinged with pacifism now floats in the party’s mainstream makes that pretence less sustainable.

“But let us be clear,” continued Sanders, “if Donald Trump is re-elected, all the progress we have made will be in jeopardy.” Is that a threat or a promise, Bernie?

If I were Trump, I’d be rubbing my hands with glee: a better fillip for the incumbent is hard to imagine. Trump may still lose, but Bernie Sanders and his comrades give him a realistic hope of winning. Biden’s campaign would love to push them aside, but there’s the rub: you can’t marginalise the mainstream.