Open letter to birthday boy

Dear Vlad,

You know how it is: you get caught up in the daily grind and let even historical landmarks slip out of your mind.

That’s me, today. I desperately wanted to be the first to wish you a happy 70th, but then I remembered I had an appointment to have my toenails clipped. By the time I got home, that sycophant Kim had beaten me to it.

So here are my belated good wishes, Vlad. Many happy returns – certainly enough for you not to miss that first case hearing at the Hague. You like to be the star of the show, don’t you? That’ll be your golden moment.

I know the stories of your ill health have been concocted at the FSB headquarters. That’s what I call an op, and a stroke of genius it is too. Cancer, Parkinson’s, schizophrenia – all to scare those Western paedos, homos and transsexuals out of their wits.

Now the paedos are all writing that Putin is dying and he doesn’t mind taking the whole world with him. Meanwhile, you are in rude health, which should last long enough for that Hague event.

Vlad, travel restrictions being what they are, I can’t pop over to give you a hug in person. But, if I may, as an old adman I’d like to offer some friendly advice on your image. Your KGB colleagues are expert at bumping people off, but their PR skills aren’t up to scratch.

If they were better at it, you’d be coming across as, well, perhaps not a Mahatma Gandhi, but at least as a Simon Bolivar, the great liberator. As it is, your detractors, all those homo transsexuals, have a free hand in comparing you to, well, you-know-whom – and not in his heyday either.

Yes, I know you can have anyone who calls you ‘Putler’ whacked. But that’s inside Russia, where your detractors no longer are. Thousands of them have fled for their lives and now they are spreading their venom all over Europe. You must rip their sting out by paying more attention to PR.

Take your living quarters, for example. You want to live in a bunker, which is your privilege. But must the whole world know about this?

By all means, stay in that concrete hole, but have your lads bang out press releases, complete with photographs of you at your desk in the Kremlin, toiling away like what you call a “galley slave”. They know how to use Photoshop, don’t they?

Then there’s this stuff with the “Russian world”, bringing under Moscow’s aegis everyone who has ever uttered a Russian word in his life. (Let’s not forget the million Russian speakers in the US, half of them in New York — they are all gagging for it.) Again, good idea, rotten execution.

Replace ‘Russian’ with ‘German’, and you-know-who said exactly the same things. German speakers being persecuted in Poland and Czechoslovakia, which amounts to genocide; traditional German territories occupied by infidels; German culture outlawed – that sort of thing.

No one can argue against your claims, and certainly not I (you know where I live). It’s the wording that leaves a hole that your enemies can drive an Abrams tank through. And oh, by the way, if you must talk about the Russian Word, don’t quote the fascist philosopher Ilyin — that leaves an opening. Quote Solzhenitsyn instead. He said all the same things late in life, but at least he was a Nobel winner.

Speaking of wording, tell your lads not to scream publicly “One country, one leader, one victory!”. It’s too close for comfort to Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer. May I suggest “One Russia, one Vlad”? Or, “They take out, we Putin”? Anything, other than that slogan.

And speaking of them, those evil Anglo-Saxons. Do you realise that a similar replacement exercise gives even more ammunition to Russophobe vermin? Where you say “Anglo-Saxons”, you-know-who said “Jews”. Everything else is the same, word for word. Let’s try to phrase more subtly, shall we?

The same goes for your frequent references to the innate superiority of the Russians over everyone else. No problem with the idea itself – anyone who has ever been anywhere near a Russian block of communal flats and its local boozer will know you are right.

It’s just that, next time you want to say something like that, replace the word “Russian” with “Aryan” and see if it sounds exactly like something you-know-who used to say. If it does, change the wording.

Also, you really want to downplay the parallels between the Anschluss and your Special Military Operation. Actually, you are moving in the right direction already.

When the Austrians tried to call a referendum on independence, you-know-who first demanded they desist and, after they refused, sent his troops in. You did it much better: troops first, referendum second.

But those videos of AK-toting Russian soldiers taking ballot boxes to people’s flats and then making sure they voted correctly are bad PR. A much better move would have been to dispense with voting altogether and then announce it had taken place, with you scoring the requisite 99 per cent.

Now we are on the subject of your soldiers, you’ve missed a PR trick there. You see, you-know-who’s troops occupied the same territory in 1941, and the locals heard all sorts of horror stories from their parents and grandparents.

Then your lads arrive, and they do all the same things: indiscriminate bombing, mass executions, looting, rape, torture, mass graves filled with trussed up corpses. Hey, war is war, and boys will be boys, we all know that. But you know what those Anglo-Saxon paedos are making of the pictures coming out of the Ukraine.

You-know-who had it easy, there was no Internet at the time. Now any Russophobe with a smartphone can cast aspersion on the Special Military Operation – and draw all the same disgusting parallels. Tell your lads to do all the same things, but discreetly. I’d start by knocking out all the mobile phone masts – surely your bombers can manage that.

I do apologise about sounding critical. You know it’s only because I have your best interests at heart. If your friends don’t point out your resemblance to you-know-whom, you know your enemies will. Throw the first punch, as you once described your philosophy of life.

Anyway, Alles Gute zum Geburtstag! – oops, sorry. I mean “all best wishes on your birthday”. And if you see old Adolf before I do, tell him I said hello.

Yours as ever,


It ain’t half hot, birthing parent

Those old enough to remember this TV show (1974-1981) know that its real title included an offensive word. No, not the one legitimised on TV by Kenneth Tynan in 1965.

Teaching Mrs Farrow proper English

By 1974 the world had become progressive enough to relegate Tynan’s pioneering effort to the status of common parlance – but not yet progressive enough to ban the word that did appear in the title: ‘Mum’.

That oversight has now been corrected by a new language guide issued by the Local Government Association. This prescriptive document mandates the elegant locution “birthing parent”, explaining to council chiefs that the role of language is to embed “equality, equity, diversity, and inclusion”.

To that end, the words ‘mum’, ‘dad’, ‘ladies and gentlemen’ and so on are henceforth off limits. After all, “Experiences of trauma, racial trauma and ­exclusion are already experienced at disproportionately higher rates by LGBTQ+, black and neurodivergent people in the workplace.”

Experiencing such experiences upsets the experienced authors of the guide who set out to protect the experiencers from traumatic experiences – while teaching others how to use English.  

They don’t specify ways in which they propose to enforce their oligophrenic fiats, but these can be inferred from parallel developments. One such involves Caroline Farrow, a devout Catholic journalist who let the side down by marrying an Anglican vicar.

That minor glitch aside, Mrs Farrow has the power of her convictions by refusing to recognise as legitimate the mutilation of both language and children’s bodies. As a result, she has had her collar felt twice.

The first time was in 2019, when she had a verbal TV joust with the transgender campaigner Susie Green. To her credit, the latter practised what she preached by having encouraged her son to become her daughter, which made him/her/it the world’s youngest person to undergo sex change surgery.

Yet Mrs Farrow not only referred to the child as ‘him’, not ‘her’, but later also tweeted: “What she did to her own son is illegal. She mutilated him by having him castrated and rendered sterile while still a child.”

Upholding the inchoate tradition of snitching, Miss Green went to the police. That led to Mrs Farrow’s arrest and a four-month investigation that eventually had to be dropped.

But that was three years ago. That’s a long time, considering that everything about modernity is progressive, including its schizophrenia. This time around she may not get off so lightly.

The other day two police officers forced their way into Mrs Farrow’s house without a warrant, dragged her outside and body-searched her for having violated the rules of progressive usage. Having had all her electronic devices confiscated, she was then taken to a police station where she was kept under lock and key for several hours.

Apparently, the police attributed to Mrs Farrow a series of “harassing” and “malicious” posts that appeared anonymously at a time when she was playing the organ at mass in her husband’s church.

Yet DCI Bentley evidently still hasn’t been instructed to disregard the presumption of innocence in such cases (another oversight doubtless to be soon corrected). The police, he said, have confiscated the electronic devices to “gather further evidence and carry out an investigation to prove or disprove the allegation”.

If Mrs Farrow is indeed found to have advocated the subversive idea that women can’t have penises, nor men vaginas, she can get up to two years under the Malicious Communications Act. Since she has previous, the maximum sentences will be practically guaranteed.

As DCI Bentley explained, the police have a duty to investigate every “grossly offensive message” – in preference, he might have added truthfully, to investigating burglaries, muggings, assaults and other things perceived as less offensive than using old-style pronouns.

A problem may arise, you might think, with a precise definition of “grossly offensive”. In fact, some sticklers for casuistic detail may even argue that no definition would ever be precise enough to take to court. After all, what’s grossly offensive to some may be casually dismissed by others – and vice versa.

For example, I’m grossly offended by having pop music played in a restaurant. However, realising that others may feel differently, rather than reporting the owner to the police I simply walk out and look for a quieter eating environment .

It takes cross-checking Mrs Farrow’s case and its relevant laws with others to arrive at a working definition. Here it is: Any statement is “grossly offensive” if perceived as such by a member of a minority group, no matter how tiny, seen as useful in promoting the destruction of our civilisation.

Having written this, I’ve realised that I myself was a serial offender some 30 years ago. At that time I worked with a chap, let’s call him Fred, who suddenly dropped out of sight to come back a few months later as Fiona.

Yet every time I bumped into him at industry functions I automatically said, “Hi, Fred”. It was merely a habit, not a conscious expression of opprobrium.

In Fred’s case, the habit was reinforced by his hint of five o’clock shadow, proving that electrolysis has its limitations. Nor could he get the walk quite right, hampered as Fred was by the difference in the pelvic architecture of men and women.

I shudder to think what would happen if I committed the same indiscretion, nay crime, today. Instead of writing seditious articles, I’d be writing letters of grovelling contrition to judges and prison warders.  

Don’t consider the source

It has taken me years of tortuous self-training to develop the skill, and I’m still not quite finished. But at least I’ve got the basics down pat.

The skill is recognising the sovereignty of an idea, its independence from the enunciator. Once an idea breaks out into the open, it either stands on its own legs or falls down on its own face.

The enunciator has made it public property, he has relinquished private ownership. The idea must be judged on its own merits, not on its author’s merits, or lack thereof.

That’s why argumentum ad hominem is among the worst rhetorical fallacies. Remembering that, I always dismiss out of hand any disagreement starting with the words “You’re only saying this because you…” At this point I invariably forget my manners and interrupt: “Never mind me, feel the idea.”

Sounds perfectly logical, doesn’t it? It does. But that’s where the problems start.

For the corollary to this preamble is often hard to stomach. We must suspend our admiration of a great man and argue against an idea of his that we find wrong. And, alas, the reverse applies as well. We must forget our contempt for a revolting man and agree with an idea of his that we find right.

Rummaging through the bulging bag of examples from my own experience, I find plenty to illustrate both extremes.

Thus I’m second to none in my admiration of Edmund Burke, whom I regard as one of history’s greatest political thinkers. And yet I’ve always argued against his assessment of the American Revolution. In fact, my whole book Democracy as a Neocon Trick is one protracted argument against that one idea.

Conversely, few people detest Putin more than I do. He is the epitome of modernity’s central figure: an important nonentity. Except that this nonentity comes packaged with unmitigated evil, a combination seldom absent from Russia’s political history.

However, when this energumen pronounces, for example, that water is wet and stone isn’t, we must overcome the gagging instinct and, unable to speak to that apparition, nod our agreement. What can you say, the bastard is right.

This brings me to one passage in his puke-making… sorry, I mean epoch-making speech the other day. You know, the one about those satanic Anglo-Saxons whose whole history can be reduced to their sole aspiration to dismember Russia and enslave her people.

This is the passage in question: “Do we want to have here, in our country, in Russia, parent number one, number two, number three instead of mummy and daddy? Are they completely off their rocker out there? Do we really want perversions that lead to degradation and extinction to be imposed on our school children from the primary grades? To be drummed into them that there are various supposed genders besides women and men, and to be offered a sex change operation?”

I’m sure most Russians answered those rhetorical questions with a resounding no. But now let’s replace the phrase “…, in Russia,…” with the name of our own country and ask all the same questions. Do we want any of that?

Any sane person’s reply will be as resounding: absolutely not. And yet we have it, the bastard is right about that.

The requisite exercise I mentioned earlier, separating the thought from its source, is particularly difficult in this case. Here’s a global thug prepared to blow up the world to assuage personal resentments and a richly merited sense of inadequacy. And he has the gall to criticise us, a force for the good – on balance, that is, for all our imperfections.

Who the hell does he think he is… And so forth, in the same vein. You know the drill.

All that is true. But, as I am trying to argue, it’s irrelevant. We aren’t talking about Putin’s personality – that issue was settled even before he moved to Moscow 25 years ago. Nor are we talking about his obsessive hatred of everything Western, apart from offshore accounts, yachts and other luxury goods.

We’ve blanked it all out, concentrating instead on that one bit of criticism. And, much as we hate to admit it, the bastard is right.

The issue he highlighted is a symptom of self-destructive madness afflicting a civilisation bent on self-harm. Like a neurotic girl who cuts herself with a razor blade to release the tension mounting inside, we slash not just the flesh of our society but its very soul.

Could it be because we’ve forgotten the soul and focused too much on the flesh? Or even worse, replaced the soul with some nebulous ‘psyche’? My hypothetical girl may self-harm because she has been indoctrinated to regard herself as the highest, self-contained and self-sufficient stage of life.

When life throws challenges at her, as life is wont to do, she looks inside herself for answers – and finds only herself there. She feels cornered, and then the razor blade sees the light of day.

Extrapolating to our society as a whole, it too seems unable to come to terms with its little demons without breaking out of the confines of its own body. Like that wayward girl, it begins to attach undue importance to little quirks, missing the forest of transcendence for the trees of petty neuroses.

And then it lays itself bare to valid criticism from even evil nonentities like Putin. If you look at the litany of his attacks on the West, you can prove each of them to be nothing but vile drivel. But not this one. Here the bastard is right.

However, there’s always the danger that we can’t help considering the source. We may succumb to the natural impulse of thinking that everything Putin says is wrong because it’s Putin who says it.

Perhaps the impulse is so natural that it’s insuppressible. Well, in that case, forget this particular source. Think of the good, sane, intelligent people who have been railing against the same thing for years – think of conservative thinkers and commentators, or simply of your conservative friends.

Suddenly, the bothersome dichotomy between idea and source vanishes. We no longer have to take rhetorical liberties — for it’s not just the bastard who is right on this score. It’s everyone in his right mind.

It’s not about top tax rate

If you still think conservatism has a chance of ever becoming a political force again, just read the reports of the on-going Tory conference – and then extrapolate them to your own country if it isn’t Britain.

The conference is in an uproar. Delegates are trying to outshout one another with their scurrilous invective against Kwasi Kwarteng’s quasi-conservative budget.

Dozens of Tory MPs have announced they’d vote with Labour to defeat the plan of scrapping the top rate of 45 per cent for the fat cats making over £150,000 a year. Even the supposedly conservative papers describe the measure as benefiting only the “super-rich”.

That lumps together the billionaire Richard Branson and anyone making a decent middle-class income, a legerdemain one doesn’t normally expect this side of a communist cell. (For the record, a mortgaged Londoner on, say, £170,000 a year would find it hard to send two children to a good public school, and may even struggle with one – something anyone middle class could do without much trouble in the previous generation.)

Evidently the requisite hatred of the upper classes is now aiming downwards in search of targets. That’s good knockabout fun, but not of the kind that used to be associated with the Tories. Let me tell you, those tempora do mutantur, and always for the worse.

As for Labour MPs and their house-trained press, they are positively frothing at the mouth. As a measure of their skill at corrupting the public, Labour has jumped 33 per cent ahead of the Tories in the polls. If the elections were held today, the Conservative Party would have three MPs, and neither Miss Truss nor Mr Kwarteng would be among them.

The Tory rebellion was led by former cabinet minister Michael “Mike the Knife” Gove, who can’t see a dagger without wishing to stick it into the back of any Tory who dares put forth Tory policies. Now his wife has left him (allegedly over his affair with another man), Gove can concentrate all his boundless energy on obliterating any distinctions between the two main parties.

Chris Philp, Kwarteng’s deputy, who just two days ago was effusive about the policy, is now trying to exculpate himself, along the lines of “It ain’t me, Guv’nor, it’s Kwasi what done it.” Another senior Tory, Grant Shapps, has pirouetted even more daringly. An enthusiastic champion of the cut before the conference, he now describes it as “politically tin-eared”.

Faced with such a barrage, Truss and Kwarteng issued a grovelling apology and swore to keep the top rate intact. However, if they hoped to quell the rebellion by making that concession, their reading of modern life is borderline illiterate.

Gove has already said he’ll vote against any budget that includes even a marginal reduction in benefits. And another former minister, Esther McVey, has demanded that benefits go up in line with inflation.

Ay, there’s the rub, as Shakespeare would comment if he were still with us. It’s not about the top tax rate. It’s about the perceived attack on the status quo of the welfare state.

Those of you who read my comments on the Truss-Kwarteng tax-cutting budget a few days ago know that I have severe misgivings. Not about cutting taxes, mind you: if it were up to me, I’d cut them by half.

It’s just that tax-cutting doesn’t work without a parallel reduction in public spending. And funding it by increased borrowing is like treating a running nose with an injection of the Covid virus – especially at a time when both interest and inflation rates are shooting up.

I know it; David Stockman, who tried that sort of thing under Reagan, knows it – and I bet Truss and Kwarteng know it. The latter has a PhD in economic history, and he must have gone over Reaganomics with a fine-toothed comb.

The general tenor of their pronouncements, if not yet the content of all their policies, suggests that Truss and Kwarteng have in their sights not just the taxes, which they want to make lower and flatter. They want to shake, if not necessarily bring down, the whole rickety structure of the welfare state.

I suspect, though can’t prove, that their plan was to lower taxes first and suffer the ensuing economic and political pain for a while. Then they would tell the country that, though they personally were committed to “levelling up” (driving welfare commitments up to a suicidal level), that’s not how the chips had fallen.

Much as it makes their hearts bleed to complete exsanguination, they now have to lower benefits, reduce the NHS budget and in general bring down the aforementioned rickety structure or at least truncate it at the top. Fait accompli, chaps — or sorted, in more democratic language.

If that was their cunning plot, their fellow MPs have seen right through it with the precision of an MRI scanner. Redundancy notes floating before their mind’s eye, they jumped on the PM and Chancellor like so many dogs baiting a bear. Except that in this case the bear himself is more canine than ursine.

They realise something that must have escaped Truss and Kwarteng. The ship of economic status quo has sailed and it’s unstoppably running aground full speed ahead, with the zeitgeist bulging its sails.

In the 2020s neither Liz Truss nor anyone else can get away with what Margaret Thatcher got away with in the 1980s. In the intervening decades the project of corrupting the British public has been completed – with similar developments equally rife on the Continent, or even more so.

Had Truss and Kwarteng been a bit less ham-fisted, they could have made some gradual gains by stealth. But with the general election less than two years away, they had no time for stealth. They had to show their hand straight away, only to have it bitten off by their ‘Tory’ colleagues.

All this vindicates my recurrent lament. Conservatism of any kind, including economic, is dead, and nothing short of a catastrophe (military or economic) could help it do a Phoenix. Or perhaps not even that.

Drugs: intuition against reason

Because cannabis is just as harmful as crack and cocaine, warn our police chiefs, it should be put into the same Class A category – with its use and distribution punished accordingly.

I find the rational case for this argument to be weak. But since we aren’t always, and never merely, rational, I agree with our top cops.

Hence this is a case of rational rejection and intuitive acceptance – yet again semantics and semiotics find themselves at odds. Let’s get reason out of the way first.

The use of psychotropic drugs is coextensive with recorded history. The Therapeutic Papyrus of Thebes of 1552 B.C. lists opium among other recommended drugs. Even further back, Sumerian ideograms of about 4000 B.C. describe poppy as the “plant of joy”. Helen passed illegal substances on to Telemachus and Menelaus and, if she lived today, would have been nicked faster than you can say “let’s see what’s in your amphora, sunshine”.

Having thus passed the test of history, drugs do well on the political test too: not all users are left-wing. For example, though Byron and Shelley were a bit red, Coleridge, who popped opium and drank laudanum, was as conservative as one can get. Freud, who snorted cocaine, was indeed politically unsavoury, but surely Queen Victoria was no subversive, and yet laudanum figured prominently on her diet.

What about the moral argument? Are mind-altering drugs sinful in se? Every time we pour ourselves a cup of strong coffee to start the day or a glass of stiff Laphroaig to end it, we forfeit the right to argue against drugs on that basis.

And if our right foot ever gets heavy on a motorway, we aren’t entitled to say drugs are wrong simply because they are illegal. In any event, drug use in Britain was unrestricted until the 1868 Pharmacy Act and uncriminalised until the 1920 Dangerous Drugs Act. So we can’t seriously believe that what was moral in 1919 all of a sudden became a sin in 1920.

One would be on equally shaky grounds with a utilitarian argument. Taken in moderation, drugs are no more harmful than alcohol. Taken in excess, most drugs can indeed have undesirable social consequences, but anyone who has ever been attacked by a drunk will agree that drugs aren’t unique in that respect.

Of course, drugs have some medically undesirable effects as well, including schizophrenia, but we can’t build a rational argument on such a shaky foundation. Again, there is no proof that moderate use of drugs is medically harmful. And there is much evidence that immoderate use of anything, from tap water to Puy lentils, can kill you.

There exists a powerful empirical argument against drug bans. After all, while every government in the world pays lip service to the drug ‘problem’, none has solved it.

The experience of countries like Thailand, where even the speedily enforced death penalty has failed to stem the flow of drugs, shows that policing can’t do the job even in conditions of dubious liberty. And the inability of Western governments to stop drugs in prisons demonstrates that even absolute unfreedom enforced by the state is no panacea.

The history of Britain and especially the US, where every post-war president has waged “war on drugs”, suggests that a relatively free country can’t stop drugs no matter how much it desires such an outcome. That at least six of those presidential warriors were drug users themselves proves the point further.

According to the old wisdom, what can’t be forbidden ought to be allowed. Do we seriously believe that any state can remedy the drug problem, if it’s indeed a problem to anyone but the addict himself?

Thirteen years between 1920, when the Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution put Prohibition into effect, and 1933, when the Twenty-First Amendment repealed the Eighteenth, ought to have been enough time to hammer the point home: large-scale state interference doesn’t solve problems. It either makes them worse or creates new ones (in that case, organised crime).

A war on poverty makes more people poor; an attempt to redistribute wealth destroys it; an overhaul of education promotes ignorance; an all-out effort to end all wars leads to more and bloodier wars. At the end of all that bungling nothing beckons but an even greater expansion of the state, a further reduction of liberty.

It’s undeniable that drugs are a factor in crime. Without digging up any statistics, I’m sure that drug users are disproportionately represented among felons. However, the same argument can be made against alcohol, and yet it can be scored at every corner without any risk of prosecution.

Talking specifically about cannabis, it can even be construed as being better than alcohol. The latter is physiologically addictive; the former isn’t. Quitting cannabis cold turkey causes no withdrawal symptoms typical of barbiturates, opiates and indeed booze.

Our police chiefs call it a “gateway drug”, the first step on the slippery slope leading to heroin and crystal meth. However, you can say exactly the same thing not only about booze but even about coffee.

Young lawyers and stock brokers drink gallons of the stuff to fuel 100-hour work weeks. Before long they start seeking stronger stimulants, usually cocaine or speed. Should we then label Lavazza as a Class A drug?

The argument I find not only unconvincing but actually pernicious is one based on the damage that drug use does to public finances. Since our healthcare is nationalised, it’s the taxpayer who has to fund methadone clinics, the argument goes.

This, to me, is an argument not against drug use, but against nationalised healthcare. Like everything else nationalised, it can – and does – function as an instrument of increased state control over every aspect of our lives. The adverse effects of such runaway statism are worse than the odd acid head going bonkers.

To sum it all up, the rational case against drugs is weak. So why do conservatives override reason and, unless we are out-and-out libertarians, keep insisting that drugs, including cannabis, should be banned?

Yet again, intuition goes beyond reason, aesthetics beyond ethics and semiotics beyond semantics. It’s not drugs as such that we find objectionable, but what they transmit: the signals of the sex-drugs-and-rock ‘n roll modernity. And in doing so, they reflect many other dynamics of the collapse of our civilisation.

Instead of St John’s Passion, today’s youngsters are exposed to the soundbites of psychobabble harmonised with the mind-numbing beat of pop in the background. Their inner resources depleted, their senses rivalling their minds for hopeless ignorance, they feel not happy but high, not sad but depressed – so why not use drugs?

Somewhere in their viscera, they feel they are thereby taking a courageous stand against ‘the establishment’, but in fact they are stamping into the dirt the scattered fragments of an imploded Western world.

Unskilled in semantics, they have to use semiotics to scream defiance, to spit in the face of the moribund beauty they despise. It is the dead face of Christendom that they are spitting in.

Drugs have not always had this particular semiotic agenda. But semiotics change with ages. What was good enough for Messrs Coleridge, de Quincey, Collins or Conan Doyle can’t be good enough for the few conservative holdouts still kicking.

Hence, while my reason sneers at our police chiefs’ proposal to treat cannabis as a Class A drug, my intuition screams: “Lock’em up and throw away the key!” A schizophrenic experience, that – and I’ve never even tried cannabis.