Life is cheap in Britain

“Judge not…” is a wonderful moral dictum for an ideal, sinless life. But I don’t think either Jesus or Matthew meant for it to extend to British courts of justice. Of injustice, is more like it.

Murderer: “See you in a year”

Here’s another case in point. A drunk thug named Steven Allan was staggering through Covent Garden when he decided to call a friend.

At the same moment Paul Mason, a wealthy banker and godfather to five children, stepped out of The Ivy, a private club where he had just had dinner with friends. Having put one of them into a taxi, he phoned his Uber.

The two mobiles lit up at the same time and Allan’s few brain cells tried to mesh. That doomed process yielded a conclusion, to him the only possible one under the circumstances. The thug decided that the middle-aged banker must have stolen his friend’s telephone.

That was a call to action. Allan violently yanked Mason’s phone out of his hand. Thinking he was being robbed, the latter tried to walk away. Allan would have none of that.

He attacked Mason from behind and violently beat him up. A few days later the victim, much beloved of his friends and family, died in hospital.

What happened next proves yet again, if any more proof were necessary, that the law is no longer just “a ass”, as Mr Bumble described it. It’s a much more vicious animal, one plunging its dripping claws into what’s left of our civility.

The incident was caught on camera. Allan was arrested and charged with grievous bodily harm with intent (his victim was still fighting for his life). And then he was locked up… Just kidding. Where do you think you are, a country ruled by just law?

No, he was let out on bail, presumably with a warning not to kill anyone else while awaiting trial. Then Paul Mason died, and Allan was charged with murder.

In Britain, a conviction on that charge calls for a mandatory life sentence. So is that what Allan got? Be serious. Didn’t I tell you to remember where you are?

His case was plea bargained down to manslaughter. Still, the maximum penalty for that is the same as for murder, life in prison. But by now you know not to ask silly questions.

Of course, that’s not what Allan got. He was sentenced to three years, nine months. With the time already spent in custody he’ll probably be out in just over a year.

His defence was based on his being drunk and agitated at the time. Oh well, that’s all right then. Whenever you’ve had a few and feel agitated, go out and murder a stranger. You’ll get off with a slap on the wrist.

One doesn’t know where to begin. Starting from the end, being drunk should be an aggravating circumstance, not a mitigating one.

If drink can turn a man into a feral animal, it’s his responsibility to control his intake. If he doesn’t, that means he doesn’t mind turning into a feral, murderous animal. In that case, such sociopathic anomie makes whatever he does worse, not better.

Then the very notion of plea bargaining is morally suspect in all crimes, but especially in violent ones. Any wanton taking of a human life is murder. If in some extremely rare cases genuine extenuating circumstances exist (being drunk and agitated doesn’t qualify), enough to change the charge to manslaughter, the punishment should still be commensurate with the value of the life taken.

Plea bargaining divorces law from morality, and that’s an unbearably ruinous divorce. And morality is dealt another blow by the automatic assumption that a convict will seldom serve more than half his sentence.

Both travesties of justice are sold as fiscally pragmatic measures. Court proceedings are expensive and so is keeping a criminal in custody.

So if someone commits, say, a murder, money becomes a decisive factor. Instead of lasting a few days, the trial could stretch to many weeks. The CPS may also have to call in many expert witnesses who don’t come cheap. Throw in the cost of keeping the convict in prison for decades, and the sums speak for themselves.

It’s so much more cost-effective to declare urbi et orbi that murder is no longer murder, robbery is no longer robbery, assault is no longer assault. They are whatever the state can afford.

The amorality of that is staggering. Western law turns into an Asian bazaar where haggling about price is the norm.

The only way to reduce the cost of justice without destroying society in the process is to have less crime. And passing derisory, risible sentences for the most awful of crimes is guaranteed to have exactly the opposite effect.

This is a gift that keeps on giving or, less colloquially, a vicious circle. The state haggles the cost of crime down, deterrence becomes weak to nonexistent, crime goes up as a result, so does the cost of justice, the courts have a stronger economic incentive to pass lenient sentences or none. And so on, until what used to be civilised society turns into a jungle ruled by predators red in tooth and claw.

By implicitly declaring that Paul Mason’s life is worth little more than a year in prison, the court in fact stated that a human life is worthless. That betokens a moral catastrophe for which it’s hard to find any parallels.

The sovereign and equal value of each life is the cornerstone of Western civility. The state and its courts largely exist to assert that value, along with inviolability of personal property. When they deliberately ignore that sacred responsibility, they lose their legitimacy.

They become instruments of oppression, and it doesn’t matter one jot that the people vote their oppressors into office. Tyranny is tyranny, whether it’s of the majority or the minority. If you don’t believe me, ask Paul Mason’s bereaved and infuriated family.

Rape is in full bloom

The other day I mentioned the emotional fervour contorting the faces of Trump’s fans and detractors alike. Love him or hate him is a cliché, but an apt one in this case.

“Cross my heart and hope to die…”

People indeed either love him or hate him with hysterical passion. In public perception, poor Donald swings from saviour to devil incarnate, and the two extremes are at war.

As we know, all is fair in love and war. Replace love with rape, and you get weaponised sex used to slay Trump, as a politician at least.

Now, Donald doesn’t strike me as a man who’ll easily take an amorous no for an answer. He is a self-admitted practitioner of the ‘grab’em by the pussy’ school of wooing, and it’s conceivable that not every pussy he has ever grabbed purred with delight.

Hence, while his political persona makes him a figure of hate in some circles, his feline braggadocio makes him an easy target for accusations. That much is par for the course.

What I find amazing is that a case as frivolous as one brought against Trump by E. Jean Carroll ever got to trial. It’s one of those ex post facto rapes that have all the credibility of flying pigs, with tooth fairies sitting astride them. A porky, in other words.

Whoever defends Trump will have the easiest trial in his life – provided the trial is fair, which isn’t guaranteed in such cases these days. Just about every part of Miss Carroll’s story is open to doubt, if not ridicule.

According to her, almost 30 years ago she ran into Trump at New York’s upmarket department store Bergdorf Goodman (a “lovely place” according to my wife, an authority on the subject).

They had met before, but mostly knew each other by reputation. Carroll was an agony aunt working on TV and at Elle magazine; Trump was, well, Trump.

He asked Carroll to use her professional expertise to advise him on buying a gift for a girl. She agreed, and they travelled from department to department, eventually ending up in lingerie.

Trump picked a see-through body suit and asked Carroll to try it on for him. They went into a fitting room together, where he raped her. Call Trump frisky if you will, but what do you call a society woman in her 40s who is willing to model see-through underwear for a practical stranger?

According to her lawyers, “Trump’s sexual assault has caused Carroll to suffer lasting psychological harm, loss of dignity and intimate relationships, and invasion of her privacy.”

If so, one has to admire her fortitude: she has lived with that pain for 25-odd years before first crying out in 2019. Why wait so long?

When Carroll suffered her loss of dignity, she shared her misfortune with a couple of friends. Instead of advising herself in her professional capacity, she asked for their advice, and they told her not to bother. Trump, they said, had hundreds of lawyers who would “bury you”.

Perhaps. But how is today’s situation any different? Has the New York bar since declared Trump a persona non grata? Probably not. So he can still hire competent attorneys who must be glad Miss Carroll had to wait decades. Had she gone to the police immediately, some evidence other than hearsay could have come to light.

According to Miss Carroll, she tried to fight Trump off, but in vain. One wonders why she waged her battle in silence. Surely, had she cried out, a shopper or a sales clerk would have come to her aid?

Oh well, you see, there was nobody else on the lingerie floor. No shoppers, no sales clerks, no store detectives who normally watch out for potential shoplifters with an eagle eye. Nobody. This though Bergdorf is one of New York’s most popular department stores, and it’s located in Fifth Avenue, where the buzz of well-heeled shoppers is at its loudest.

An unlikely story, I’d say, and any sane jury would agree. Moreover, any sane prosecutors would refuse to put such a flimsy case before a jury.

Imagine for the sake of argument that Miss Carroll made a complaint identical in every detail except the defendant. Instead of the once, and possibly future, president and a billionaire, her putative assailant is, say, an accountant or a plumber.

So there’s Miss Carroll telling the police the accountant-plumber she barely knew asked her 25 years ago to model some see-through lingerie in an always busy department store… And so forth. What do you think the cops would tell her?

Or, should the bored cops decide to take the case to a DA just for fun, would the latter be willing to prosecute? It’s those tooth fairies again, riding the flying pigs.

If Miss Carroll indeed suffered that crime, my commiserations. Moreover, I wouldn’t put it past Trump to do something like that.

But, truth to tell, I’m not especially interested in either Miss Carroll or Mr Trump. I am, however, interested in our civilisation and its legal underpinnings. If a case like this can be taken seriously, our civilisation no longer can be.

Western criminal justice is based on evidence – not on the defendant’s status in life. And Western courts are places for establishing the truth, not arenas for politically motivated character assassinations. Even at the time the alleged rape took place, these places demanded more than just an accuser’s say-so to convict or even try a defendant.

But that was almost 30 years ago. Justice, that cornerstone of Western civility and polity, has since become tainted with faddish obsessions and political pressures. Any woman can now destroy any man’s life by a false accusation of sexual assault – the police, prosecutors and increasingly juries have their conscience drowned in the quagmire of wokery.

The damage will be done even if the defendant is acquitted. “You can beat the charge, but you can’t beat the ride,” say American policemen. Meaning that the very fact of a rape trial, especially if a public figure is involved, will make people talk about smoke, fire, and how the former is always caused by the latter.

Whatever we may think about Trump, I do hope American justice has enough residual sanity left to dismiss this case with the contempt it deserves. And if it doesn’t, that’ll be proof positive it’s no longer sane.

No country for old men

When Biden first got elected, I wrote, saying he was too old for the job.

Well, he hasn’t got any younger in the intervening period. And yet Joe Biden has just announced his candidature for a second term in the White House.

You are welcome to read my earlier piece, making it unnecessary for me to repeat myself. That leaves space for making a different point: this announcement puts American democracy on hold, if not yet in a coffin.

Now, I’m not a great champion of unlimited democracy, in fact of unlimited anything. That’s why I believe in severely limited franchise and any number of other constitutional counterbalances to elected power.

And I am man enough to admit that at least two chaps beat me to this bright idea by 2,500 years: Plato and Aristotle (not that I’m suggesting I belong in that company). However, in this case it doesn’t matter what the three of us think. My ideas, and even those of the other two gentlemen, have no bearing on American politics.

The only thing that counts is what most Americans think, and they tend to worship at the altar of democracy, with franchise spread as wide as common sense will allow, and sometimes beyond such limits.

The essence of that form of government is that only elected officials wield political power. In our case it’s Parliament spearheaded by those on the ruling party’s front benches. The American system is different, with the powers separated more sharply. The president isn’t a member of the legislative branch, and neither are the cabinet members he appoints.

But the same core principle applies: both the president and the legislators are elected officials, the only kind allowed political power by the US Constitution. My contention is that an octogenarian president who is manifestly incapable of wielding power undermines the Constitution.

Even at the time I wrote that article, it was clear to anyone with eyes to see that Joe Biden wasn’t quite compos mentis. His two attacks of cerebral aneurism combined with a heart condition known to cause senility and with plain anno domini to produce a demonstrable cognitive decline.

Everything about Joe Biden is progressive, including such conditions. No miraculous recovery will occur. His mental state will continue to worsen steadily.

In that old piece I wrote that Kamala Harris was likely to act either as an éminence grise or as a conduit for the more subversive groups on the left of US politics. Since then it has become obvious she is incapable of playing the first role, although she may well act in the second.

But that’s neither here nor there. What ought to be clear to everyone is that, if Biden is re-elected, he’ll be president in name only. Presidential powers will be in someone else’s hands and, as far as the Constitution is concerned, it doesn’t really matter whose.

The last time America faced such a situation was in Reagan’s second term, when the de facto president was James Baker, an appointed official in all his government posts. That too was unconstitutional, but at least both the situation and the personalities involved were different.

China wasn’t yet a major world power, the Soviet Union was in transition and therefore temporarily unthreatening, both inflation and unemployment were down, the country was in her longest post-war period of expansion. Hence it was enough to keep two fingers on the helm for the ship to maintain a steady course.

Who owned those two fingers had a great legal significance but little of any other kind. Today, when the world is teetering at the edge of an apocalyptical conflict, and Western economies are flagging everywhere, US included, things are far from being as rosy.

The weaker a country, the greater its need for a strong leader – this is axiomatic. But in a democracy run riot, such as the US, it’s not enough for the electorate to know the leader is strong. The people must also know whether or not the leader is the same man they elected.

A country like America mustn’t be ruled by a faceless cabal lurking in the shadows. That, however, is exactly what will happen if Biden is re-elected. When the president is an empty space, someone will fill it – and I have a hunch that the group of likely candidates includes no one as competent or well-meaning as James Baker.

Americans don’t need Plato, Aristotle or even me to tell them all that. They know it themselves, which is why 70 per cent of them are opposed to Biden’s running. An opinion poll has no legal power, but surely this one provides a reliable insight into the will of the democratic majority.

This suggests that practically any Republican candidate will waltz into the White House, assuming, rather than delegating, constitutional powers. But that’s not a forgone conclusion – after all, as things stand now, the likeliest Republican candidate is Donald Trump.

Now, for the same reason that I don’t like unlimited democracy, I dislike any politician inspiring equally hysterical emotions both pro and contra. Allowed to run free, emotions override (trump?) reason, and their clash may well take governance out of the constitutionally stipulated offices and into the streets.

That’s not the British way and, inasmuch as many American institutions are modelled on their British precursors, neither is it American. That sort of thing is best left for countries without strong constitutional traditions but with emotionally volatile populations.

I wonder how many of those 70 per cent opposed to Biden are as or more fervently opposed to Trump as well. Confronted with what they’d see as the evil of two lessers, they may well deliver a second term to Joe.

Reagan was senile in his second term, but before he lost the capacity to govern he had appointed a few able men who could take up the slack. Biden doesn’t have such a talent pool at his disposal, which he proved in his announcement speech.

To his credit, he managed to read the teleprompter without committing any of the gaffes that have become his trademark. But the only policy he mentioned as a panacea for America’s economic ills was his proposed tax on billionaires.

That was a direct appeal to emotions and some of the cardinal sins, mainly envy. But couldn’t his speechwriters and advisers come up with something less transparently idiotic?

There are 724 billionaires in the US. Forcing them to pay enough in taxes to make the slightest bit of difference to a country with a budget of somewhere between six and seven trillion would simply make them flee, leaving everyone else the poorer.

The next US presidential election won’t be the first one to make me quake in my boots. But the amplitude of the quaking will be greater than ever before.

The US and what’s left of the free world need a strong leader more than they have needed one for generations. And they have the right to know exactly who that strong leader will be, not which cabal he’ll front.

Our undue process

Some American states have a baseball-style law saying “three strikes and you are out”. That means a criminal with two convictions on his record gets a mandatory life sentence if he is convicted again.

He had a point

I quite like that law, even though it’s hard not to feel sorry for a petty thief who nicks a wallet and gets a life sentence because he nicked two other wallets before. But the spirit of the law is clear: society doesn’t condone career criminals.

British law is different, suggesting that so is British society. We treat our career criminals with avuncular understanding if not sympathy. They may be convicted over and over again but, having served derisory sentences, they go back to pursuing their chosen careers with renewed gusto.

And when a victim, God forbid, harms a burglar, a robber or a car thief, then the tables are turned. The criminal becomes a victim; the victim, a criminal. And if a man defends his property with deadly force, then he is a murderer in the eyes of our law.

This brings me to Neil Charles, 47, described by his fiancée as: “loving, caring and kind and not at all aggressive”. A real prince among men, in other words. Shame about the 66 criminal convictions Charles amassed during his eventful career.

I’ll spell it out for my American readers who may think that’s a typo. Sixty-six. Criminal. Convictions. Not three, not even ten. Sixty-six.

If an American reader lives in one of those baseball states, he’ll cry out: “What the [EXPLETIVE DELETED] was he doing at large?” I must admit I, His Majesty’s loyal if not always uncritical subject, ask the same question.

Then I’d go a step further and say, with utmost conviction, that anything that happened to Mr Charles as he went searching for his 67th conviction is society’s fault.

That mantra is usually used to exonerate a criminal in court, absolving him of individual responsibility for his actions. In this case, I’d use it to exonerate Charles’s potential victims who took the law in their own hands. After all, the hands of the law were idle.

David King and his son Edward lived in Bury St Edmonds, a quiet Suffolk town. They and their neighbours had been victims of numerous crimes against their homes, cars and other property. Or let me apologise for that cliché and rephrase more precisely.

There is no such thing as crime against property. A crime against property is one against the owner of property. So that new-build estate in Suffolk was inhabited by victims of multiple crimes that the law couldn’t – or dare I say it, wouldn’t – prevent.

And then one night Charles went on the prowl at that estate. It wasn’t a quick in and out job either. For three and a half hours (would you like me to repeat that too?) the career criminal was trying his luck with the door handles of cars and houses. Alas, they were all securely locked.

Mr Charles must have felt despondent. He couldn’t get paid for his night’s work, and not for any lack of trying. Unfair or what? Whatever next? He might have to whip out his trusted crowbar…

That line of thought was interrupted by the Kings who confronted the criminal and stabbed him to death in an ensuing scuffle. You see, according to Richard Kelly KC who prosecuted the Kings at the subsequent trial, they “had harboured for some time angry resentment against those who were thieving locally”.

You don’t say. Angry resentment? Just because their BMW’s wheels had been nicked once or twice? Or their neighbours’ cars stolen? Their houses broken into? Really, there’s no understanding some people, feeling resentful just because they were unsafe in their own homes.

The trial was all about the Kings’ obsession with exotic weapons. Their house was chock a block with knuckledusters, machetes, ninja swords, shotguns (which the father was licensed to own) and daggers, one of which was used to kill the criminal.

The prosecution pointed out the two were obsessed with Charles Bronson’s character in the Death Wish films and were on record saying things like “scum must die”. I’m not going to list all the details – you can look them up yourself if you are interested.

But the verdict was predetermined: life for both, with a 21-year tariff for the father, 19 for the son. Oh well, dura lex, sed lex, as the Romans used to say. The law is strict, but it is the law. If our law says we can’t kill someone committing a crime against us, or indeed harm him in any way, then we must bow our heads in filial obedience.

And yes, it’s quite possible that the Kings are indeed nasty bits of work who overreacted. But, defending David King, Kieran Vaughan KC encapsulated the essence of the whole case neatly: “The reality is that if Mr Charles had not been up to his activities that night, none of us would be here.” 

Civilised societies resort to vigilante justice when they can get no other. My friend, a prison doctor, will tell you that someone with 66 convictions must have committed hundreds of crimes. An average burglar, for example, perpetrates dozens of break-ins before he is convicted.

That means justice isn’t doing its job, but justice has to be done. An Englishman’s home is his castle, and castles must be defended against marauding hordes. One way of doing that is to make sure career criminals like Charles are locked up and the key is thrown away.

The other way is what got the Kings a life sentence. I can’t think of any other way. If the law won’t protect us, we’ll protect ourselves – or meekly submit our lives and property to any interloper who fancies his chances.

The upshot of this situation is ominous. If bad people no longer fear the law, good people will no longer respect it. Sooner or later this will turn a civilised society into a crime-ridden, blood-soaked jungle ruled by mob justice, not law.

This is how the Kings’ case ought to have been covered if journalism is to have any value. Instead, our papers savoured every piece of cold steel in the Kings’ arsenal, every threatening phrase they had ever uttered. As if their verdict would have been any different had they killed Charles with a kitchen knife or a meat mallet.

Whatever their guilt, it’s all society’s fault, M’lud, not Charles Bronson’s. Having judged the Kings, now let’s judge the judges and ultimately ourselves, for we are the society.  

Our uncivil service

HM’s Civil Service has become a leftie pressure group, growing more and more politicised and pari passu incompetent. Hounding Tory politicians, ideally out of office, has become their main passion in life.

Another casualty

When they smell blood, they close ranks and pounce like a pack of dogs on a wounded boar. Their most recent casualty, Deputy PM Dominic Raab, can testify to their burgeoning political power, boosted by expert interaction with the likeminded press.

Just to think that HM’s Civil Service used to be an exemplary institution. It served the Crown and its government with cold, ruthless efficiency untainted by political afflatus.

I’m sure few civil servants were ever apolitical personally. But collectively, the Civil Service certainly was. Ministers from different parties came and went, but their ministries kept ticking over thanks to the people who always stayed in place until they retired, gold watch, sometimes knighthood, in hand.

Though they defined their lives by the duty of service, they’d never use such highfalutin words to describe what they did. Their patriotism was as fierce as it was tacit. Not for them demonstrative hand-over-heart, eyes-to-flag patriotism – proclaiming their love of Britain was as unthinkable to them as proclaiming their love of breathing.

They were Britain and Britain was them. That was all there was to it, it went without saying, now let’s get back to work.   

Those mandarins were mechanics of government, not its creators or designers. Most of them – in the distant past, all of them – received excellent education at a top public school first, Oxbridge second.

Such people didn’t pull rank, not even in the army. Their equality of background trumped their inequality of position. When Major Stirling came up with the idea of an SAS, he could barge into a field marshal’s office and pitch it to him with easy familiarity: the great man used to be a shooting companion of Stirling’s father.

In the past, the Civil Service was the backbone of the country, not to say its whole skeleton. And look at it now.

Their educated accents have gone the way of their educated minds. The Civil Service has become the microcosm of everything wrong with the country. It seems to be hellbent on acting as an extension of the Labour Party, its embodiment and a conduit for its powerlust.

That came to the fore in the runup to the Brexit referendum, when our civil servants, Remainers almost to a man, did all they could to keep Britain in the EU. They were plugged into the pan-European network of bureaucrats whose corporate loyalty to themselves superseded their loyalty to their national governments.

When Britons voted for Brexit, in greater numbers than they ever had voted for anything else, the mandarins and other fruits were enraged: their power wasn’t boundless after all. But it was still significant enough for them to stick one crowbar after another into the spokes of the Brexit wheel. There was much bureaucratic rigamarole involved in that complex withdrawal, and the mandarins used every snag they could to undermine it.

Then came Boris Johnson who won a landslide election under the slogan of Let’s Get Brexit Done. That by itself was a slap in the mandarins’ face. But then Johnson went ahead and did what he had promised: he got Brexit done.

Our new, politicised Civil Service took that as a declaration of war. Working hand in glove with the ‘liberal’ media, the mandarins began targeting one Tory politician after another. They’d leak stories of the slightest indiscretions, and the media would then blow them up into career-ending scandals.

Johnson’s closest adviser Dominic Cummings, the architect of the Brexit campaign, was torn to pieces. Then Johnson himself fell, for having dared to eat a piece of cake at a party that shouldn’t have been held during Covid. That was ill-advised, but at worst a misdemeanour, nowhere near a felony.

Johnson was never my cup of vodka, but credit where it’s due: he did manage to break through the barriers our corrupt Civil Service was trying to put up in the way of Brexit. And he was the first Western leader to pledge assistance to the Ukraine following Russia’s bandit raid.

Never mind – the leftie rabble made him choke on that cake. And then Tory ministers began to fall like overripe apples off a tree. In no particular order: Suella Braverman, Priti Patel, Michael Gove, Nadhim Zahawi, Gavin Williamson – and now Dominic Raab.

They are all very different political animals, but you win no prizes for guessing what they all have in common. Correct: all are variously passionate Brexiteers.

Raab was undone by mounting claims of bullying. Apparently, he’d rebuke civil servants so strongly that they were afraid to enter his office. Now, I was once introduced to Mr Raab long ago, when he was a lowly backbencher, and he struck me as a pleasant young man, if not without a layer of steel underneath.

Yet I realise how hard it must have been for him to remain pleasant when, as Justice Secretary, he found his staff consistently sabotaging his initiatives. Instead of finding a well-oiled, smoothly running mechanism at Justice, he found Machiavellian intrigue, backbiting and surreptitious sedition.

I can’t blame him if he indeed raised his voice once or twice. I wouldn’t even blame Mr Raab if he had relied on his karate mastery (he has a third-dan blackbelt) to vent his frustration, although I realise violence has no place in an office.

Yet he did nothing of the sort. A few stern words, that was all. But it was enough for his subordinates to leak and embellish the news to the BBC, The Guardian and other volunteer PR departments of the Labour Party. The rest was their business, and they know it well. A molehill was turned into a mountain of dung, and Raab had to go.

Now, I don’t have it in me to be passionately attracted to any politician, even if I happen to agree with his politics. But I am passionately attracted to the British constitution, and it hurts me to see it grossly abused, if not yet completely destroyed.

A civil service assuming enough political power to oust any Cabinet minister constitutes such an abuse. It’s not our mandarins’ remit to provide ammunition for fanatical Labour savages like Deputy Leader Rayner who doesn’t mind screaming “Tory scum!” in Parliament. And it’s certainly not their remit to impose their own agenda on Britain.

Civility has gone out of our Civil Service. The backbone of British politics now suffers from a bad case of scoliosis.

P.S. Labour is running an ad campaign directed against the prime minister personally. A typical ad shows his photograph and says: “Do you think adults convicted of sexually assaulting children should go to prison? Rishi Sunak doesn’t.”

So far the PM hasn’t dignified that sort of stuff with a response, and he may be right. But as an ex-adman I’d love him to retaliate with ads saying, for example: “Do you believe women can have penises? Keir Starmer does.”

Are we all racists?

The Sussexes didn’t coin the term ‘unconscious bias’, but they’ve certainly raised its popularity rating.

Sorry, California, you’re stuck with her

The distinction between that and racism is so subtle that we must be grateful to Harry for elucidating it. As he explained, “The difference between racism and unconscious bias, the two things are different.”

What better explanation could one wish for? The difference is that they are different. That’s it, in a nutshell.

There was no need to enlarge any further, but I’m glad Harry did. It gave us a chance to appreciate the fine stylistic nuances the English language makes possible:

“But once it’s been acknowledged, or pointed out to you as an individual, or as an institution, that you have unconscious bias, you therefore have an opportunity to learn and grow from that in order so that you are part of the solution rather than part of the problem.”

The phrase “if you aren’t part of the solution, you’re part of the problem” made me feel warmly nostalgic. It brought back the memory of Texan honkytonks, where signs with that adage adorned the walls, next to “There are no strangers here, just friends you haven’t met” and “Now it’s Miller time.” The old ones are the best.

But what exactly is the problem? And is unconscious bias the same as racism or not? (In case you missed it, I was facetious when saying Harry explained it perfectly.)

Before we try to understand what it is, let’s remind ourselves that it’s because of ‘unconscious bias’ that Meghan won’t attend the coronation, staying behind in California to look after Archie and Lilibet.

Of course, another explanation of Meghan’s absence may be that the Sussexes can’t afford a babysitter. But considering the rip-roaring success of their sustained media efforts to undermine our monarchy, one doubts they are especially hard up.

Apparently, the real reason is indeed that ghastly unconscious bias. Four years ago, that subcutaneous villainy emboldened an unspecified member of the Firm to wonder out loud about the skin colour of the child Meghan was then expecting.

Geneticists tell us that the odds of a mixed-race child being darker than the darker parent are less than one in a million. All those stories of throwbacks are basically old wives’ tales. But they are persistent tales, and our royals, for all their sterling qualities, aren’t known for their voracious study of genetics.

Nor are they really students of any other scientific discipline, with the possible exception of climatology. That they do study, by never missing a single Guardian article on the subject.

Anyway, that seemingly innocuous question left a deep scar on Meghan’s brittle psyche and, vicariously, also on Harry’s. That’s when the talk of unconscious bias started, to culminate in Meghan’s absence from the coronation.

It’s no use asking you whether you have an unconscious bias against members of other races. How would you know if it’s unconscious?

Still, though I can’t delve deeply into your unconscious inclinations, I can try to come to grips with my own. And then I can be so presumptuous as to suggest that, whatever bias I have lurking deep down is extremely common, not to say universal.

We all feel more comfortable in the company of our own kind. Call it communal spirit, call it tribal instinct, call it anything you want, but it’s an observable fact. As is its opposite: we feel less comfortable in the company of those visibly different from us.

Walk through any major city and you’ll get proof galore. You’ll find Chinatown and Little Italy in New York, a Chinese area around Paris’s Place d’Italie, predominantly Muslim areas in London’s East End and Paris’s Saint-Denis, Jewish neighbourhoods in Brooklyn and North London, black areas in all three cities I’ve mentioned. You’ll also find solidly middleclass neighbourhoods everywhere.

How did that come about? No one forced those groups to stick together, whatever The Guardian tells you. Unlike some ghettos of yesteryear, people gravitate to those places because they like to live next to those who aren’t too different from them. That’s the positive end of unconscious bias, whether of race, ethnicity, wealth or class.

The negative end is a momentary sense of unease we experience in the presence of someone looking drastically different. ‘Momentary’ is the operative word. For at that point civilisation either kicks in or it doesn’t.

I’ll venture a guess that any white person experiences that nanosecond of discomfort when suddenly encountering a member of another race. But in the next nanosecond, a civilised white person will suppress that feeling. Because, if our civilisation teaches anything, it’s the unique and equal significance of every human being based on the fact that he is indeed human.

Denying him that ultimate equality is therefore shameful. Thus it’s that second nanosecond that makes a difference. If a man has heeded the lessons of his civilisation, he’ll rebuke himself for that initial reaction and turn truly colour-blind. Once overcome, that first nanosecond will sink into oblivion.

If, however, he played truant when civilisation taught this particular lesson, the initial reaction will linger. He’ll ignore all that stuff about “neither Jew nor Greek” and will treat the other man not as a brother, but as a variously unpleasant alien.

No one should be held responsible for that first nanosecond – and everyone should be held responsible for the second.

Now, that first nanosecond could be legitimately called ‘unconscious bias’ if Harry and Meghan hadn’t given the term a bad name. It’s an intuitive awareness of group identity and a natural human instinct to gravitate towards similarity.

Demonising that bias is the same as castigating the self-preservation instinct or the urge to procreate. Doing so would be denying our humanity.

However, if the second nanosecond fails to override the first, especially if a man still feels that belonging to a certain group makes him not just different but ipso facto superior, then he must be rebuked for it. Doing so would be asserting our humanity.

I realise that my attempt to distinguish between unconscious bias and racism is more prolix than Harry’s, and less epigrammatic. But hey, unlike him, I wasn’t born to the language.

However, also unlike him, I wasn’t born without some basic intelligence. That’s why I know how idiotic it is to blame our royals or anyone else for any ‘unconscious bias’ – or, come to think of it, ignorance of genetics.

Still, say what you will about unconscious bias, but it has done us all a favour. We’ll be spared Meghan’s presence at our milestone constitutional event.    

Dr Strangelove may be a documentary

If you recall, in that 1964 film a nuclear Armageddon starts by accident. That calamity comes in the shape of a US Air Force general who goes insane and orders a pre-emptive nuclear strike.

With a bang, not with a wimper

That sort of thing is probably unlikely: there have to be sufficient safeguards in place to prevent insane officers from giving insane orders. But that doesn’t mean accidents can’t happen – especially if one side is technologically backward.

That point was made with explosive power last night, when the pilot of a Russian SU-34 accidentally dropped a bomb on Belgorod, a Russian city close to the Ukrainian border. The blast was so strong that a car was thrown onto the roof of a five-storey building.

The crater was some 70 feet in diameter, but no, the bomb wasn’t nuclear. This time. But the accident, acknowledged by Russia’s defence ministry, certainly gives one food for thought.

Also for jokes, come to think of it. The Russian Internet is abuzz with them, such as suggestions that the pilot confused Belgorod with Voronezh (another Russian city, if your geography is uncertain). The Russian proverb “beat your own to make others fear you” is being repeated no end.

Experts have figured out what happened. When the Russian blitzkrieg failed in February-March last year, they realised a war of attrition was beckoning. Having taken stock of their arsenal, the Russians found their missiles to be in short supply.

However, they did have large stocks of old FAB-500M-62 blockbusters designed for carpet bombing. Such dumb bombs can be smartened up, as American showed. They came up with a JDAM system (Joint Direct Attack Munition) that, attached to an old-style bomb, turns it into a guided missile. So equipped, the bomb can cruise dozens of miles before hitting a target programmed into its GPS.

The Russians hastily produced their own JDAM equivalent and began to deploy the new weapon a month or two after the war started. But, now we are talking in proverbs, haste makes waste – especially considering the Russians’ lackadaisical approach to quality control.

If anything, I’m surprised it has taken so long for an accident to happen. Until now, those FAB bombs have been causing quite a lot of damage to the Ukraine.

An aircraft would launch one from the Russian territory, out of reach for the Ukrainian AA defences. The bomb would then unerringly guide itself to the Russians’ favourite targets: hospitals, kindergartens, residential blocks – and, well, I’m sure there must be some military targets too. However, that was an accident waiting to happen.

Sooner or later a mishap had to occur: failure of the Russian JDAM, GPS malfunction, wrong coordinates put in – ask the experts, they’ll tell you. To err is human (I must have proverbial logorrhoea today), especially in Russia.

Anyone familiar with Russian manufacturing will know that, given their monumental administrative and managerial incompetence, coupled with pandemic negligence, it takes an immense creative ingenuity to keep things afloat, after a fashion.

As proof of that, émigré Russian engineers have no trouble instantly finding high-paying jobs in the West, where they are greatly appreciated. But, like those Polish artists only achieving greatness abroad (Chopin, Conrad, Apollinaire), those same Russian engineers aren’t nearly as successful at home.

If you don’t believe me, compare, say, a Russian Lada or Volga with an Audi or a Toyota. Also, take stock of all your possessions, from shoes to computers, and see how many are made in Russia. (Then see how many are made in China and weep.)

If the Russians can only produce automotive answers to Chernobyl, that’s their business. But if they produce bombs, especially nuclear ones, that have a mind of their own, it becomes everyone’s business.

A Dr Strangelove scenario is far from impossible, and Putin’s bellicose rhetoric may well trigger a doomsday finale. As you know, hardly a day goes by without either him or one of his stooges threatening the West with nuclear annihilation.

That has to produce some reaction, especially since Russia’s words are backed up with deeds, such as deploying nuclear weapons in Belarus, frequent overflies of Nato territory by nuclear-armed aircraft and so forth. I’m sure Nato’s own nuclear forces are on high alert, ready to deliver a retaliatory, or ideally pre-emptory, strike at a moment’s notice.

Two trigger-happy forces facing each other create a high potential for accidents. Human error, like the one imagined by Stanley Kubrick, is unlikely, one hopes. But a technical malfunction, like the one last night, is possible. And the longer the confrontation lasts, the more possible it becomes.

Western commanders are trained – and empowered – to make tactical decisions on their own, without waiting for an order coming down the chain of command. If a Russian nuclear missile or bomb hits, say, Warsaw, the response may come instantly even if that was an accident.

Rattling today’s sabres is dangerous: they may blow up in your face. Those Russian bandits should keep that in mind and pipe their rhetoric down. Their threats may come true, whether they want it or not.

P.S. The other day I (and a very perceptive reader) commented of Peter Hitchens’s idiotic statement: “If every dollar these [American] zealots have spent on war had been spent instead on building prosperous free countries in places such as Russia, the world would be a startlingly better place.”

But since then a wild thought occurred to me: what if that wasn’t just Hitchens’s usual pro-Putin waffle? What if Putin is using him as a conduit for a blackmailing offer to the West: we’ll end the war, but it’s going to cost you? If you promise Russia a massive aid package along the lines of the Marshall Plan, we’ll sue for peace.

Hitchens could have been used consciously or ‘in the dark’, with a supposed leak fed to him. This is of course conjecture, but with some basis in reality. Putin, by his own admission, grew up as a common thug, and has spent his whole career in cahoots with organised crime. Blackmail comes to him naturally, it’s coded into his DNA.

If that’s indeed his offer, and the West takes him up on it, then I propose a time-saving procedure. Since all such aid would end up in the personal accounts Putin and his merry men keep in Western banks, the costly procedure of transferring money to Russia can be eliminated. Just shift all those billions sideways into their accounts in the same banks, and Boris is your uncle.

Goldwater got it wrong

In 1964 Barry Goldwater won the Republican nomination for the presidency – much to the weeping and wailing of the ‘liberal’ press.

Good man, bad choice of words

Goldwater was an old-fashioned American conservative: patriotic, fiscally sound, anti-Communist, anti-New Deal. Naturally, the lefties hated him with unmitigated passion.

An indelible tag of ‘extremist’ was attached to Barry. Cartoonists were drawing him against the backdrop of nuclear mushrooms. The Soviets, in addition to all that, highlighted the original name of the Goldwater clan, Goldwasser.

He was Jewish on his father’s side, a fact of paramount importance in Russia. Never mind that, when his paternal grandfather emigrated to England and then the US in the mid-19th century, the family name was immediately translated into English. A century wasn’t enough time to destigmatise a Jew in Russia – this though Barry had a gentile mother and was raised as an Episcopalian.

The US media didn’t make a big deal out of Barry’s ethnic mix. ‘Extremist’ gave them enough of a weapon, and they were proved right in the subsequent election, which Goldwater lost in a landslide. No one liked Lyndon Johnson very much, but the prospect of nuclear holocaust, so vividly depicted in the press, put people off Goldwater.

But that came later. Meanwhile, delivering his acceptance speech at the Republican Convention, Barry decided to attack the extremism tag head on. His speechwriter, probably Harry Jaffa, put spiffy words into his mouth:

“I would remind you that extremism in the defence of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!”

The trick didn’t work. All that the ‘liberal’ press chose to hear was the words “extremism is no vice”. They took that as an admission and pounced on Barry with renewed energy. His presidential bid was doomed.

It’s against that historical background, if outside that historical context, that I can say I disagree with Goldwater. Any extremism, whatever it’s in defence or pursuit of, is a vice.

Extremism is closely related to fanaticism, zealotry and violence. It dims the mind, dulls reason and replaces decisive action based on nuanced thought with spittle-sputtering emotional incontinence.

Extremism compromises any idea, even one as sound as defence of liberty, by, if nothing else, presenting an easy target to the opponents. It also sets the scene for semantic muddle. Its practitioners use it – wrongly – as a synonym of fortitude, courage and resolve. Their adversaries use it as a synonym of hysteria – and they are right, whatever the inspiration of extremism.

Extremism relates to fortitude as jingoism relates to patriotism. It’s an emotional cloud so thick that it obscures the idea behind it, if any. Or else it’s a squatter ousting the original idea. Before long the idea flees and extremism has the whole place to itself.

This brings me to Israeli extremists attacking Christians who come to worship at the holy sites. Pilgrims are assaulted, cemeteries are desecrated, property is damaged. A few months ago, for example, an extremist mob trashed an Armenian restaurant in Jerusalem, screaming “Death to Arabs, death to Christians!”. There were incidents of attacks on the pilgrims during the Orthodox Holy Week.

Now, though extremism is never excusable, sometimes it’s understandable. Israeli Jews have lived with the dire threat of annihilation their whole lives. The country exists on a knife’s edge, always in a state of emergency. That has to jangle people’s nerves, tighten them like a rope on a winch. When that happens, nerves can snap.

The restraining mechanisms often fail, especially in young people bursting with hormones. Those young Israelis have all served in the army, many have seen action in battles and skirmishes. That sort of thing doesn’t promote a moderate, balanced outlook on life.

That, as I said, may be an explanation. But it’s not an excuse. A Jewish mob baying “Death to Christians!” is as reprehensible as a Christian mob baying “Death to Jews!”, although the latter battle cry has been heard much more often throughout history.

Correction: though anti-Semitic murderers have often called themselves Christians, they had no right to that appellation. Launching a pogrom out of tribal hatred isn’t what real Christians do. I know dozens of true Christians, some of them priests, and there isn’t an anti-Semite among them (admittedly, my friends are a preselected group).

Moreover, they are all friends of Israel, that oasis of Western civility in a sea of obscurantist barbarism and the only reliable ally of the West in that region. It takes a true fanatic to express anti-Israeli sentiments in the West – and an equally objectional one to scream anti-Christian slogans in Israel.

I wonder if those Israeli yobs realise how much damage they can do to their country. After all, Israel depends for its survival on support from countries that are at least nominally Christian, the US prime among them. And support of Israel is by no means monolithic there.

In America specifically, strong anti-Israeli (not always anti-Semitic) sentiments can be found both on the right, among America First types, and on the left, where affection for Third World barbarism, in this case Palestinian, is an article of faith.

There is also a broad swathe of indifferent opinion, people who can’t be bothered. Many of them are Christians who vote for pro-Israeli candidates. If anti-Christian attacks multiply in Israel, it will be the easiest thing in the world to destroy any kind of consensus behind such candidates.

In addition to being morally wrong and aesthetically unappealing, extremism in word or deed is also counterproductive. Just look at how Russian imperial extremism unified Nato countries more than they have been unified for a generation – and how Nato has added two valuable members, Finland and (soon) Sweden, neither of which had ever wanted to join before last year.

Anti-Christian sentiments and actions can similarly galvanise anti-Israeli opinion in the West – that much is obvious. But perhaps the most significant damage extremism does is the warping effect it has on the soul of the extremist.

I hope the Israeli government steps down hard on its anti-Christian extremists, as I hope our government stamps out our own eco-yobs, and the US government puts an end to BLM extremism. For Barry Goldwater was wrong, in his choice of words if not the sentiment behind them.

His mistake also illustrates the danger of overfondness for epigrammatic aphorisms (he who is without that sin…). Had he said something like “strength in the defence of liberty is no vice; weakness in the pursuit of justice is no virtue”, rhetoric would have suffered, but truth would have gained.

Just stop this scum

Snooker is one of Britain’s national sports, a sort of working class croquet. Its most important tournament is the World Championship in Sheffield, currently under way.

Please don’t call him a protester

Yesterday witnessed a ground-breaking event in the history of the game. Two Just Stop Oil vandals attacked the two tables in play.

One of them, a man, jumped on the baize and sprayed some orange goo all over it. Another, a woman, tried to superglue herself to the other table but was dragged off at the last moment. The game was disrupted, the enjoyment of the spectators, many of whom had travelled from afar at a considerable expense, was ruined.

I see this as a strong argument against university education. For both saboteurs boast academic credentials.

The orange man reads politics, philosophy and economics at Exeter University. It bills itself as “Probably, the best university in the world”, a slogan borrowed from Carlsberg lager (they say ‘beer’ instead of ‘university’ in case you’re wondering).

Considering that the fanatical thug is 25 years old, he is either a slow developer or a PhD candidate. In either case I wonder how they teach those subjects at Exeter.

Also, if that’s (probably) the best university in the world, I’m glad the chap doesn’t study politics, philosophy and economics at the worst one. Rather than spraying the snooker table with orange paint, he would (probably) have sprayed the audience with bullets.

The superglue babe is older, 52. She is identified as a ‘museum professional’, which can mean anything from floor sweeper to curator. I rather think it’s the latter: she expresses herself grammatically, which the English lower classes no longer do. The eternal student of English in me rejoices; the champion of our civilisation weeps.

After she was arrested, the superglue quinquagenarian said, eschewing contractions: “I did not take this action lightly, but I cannot remain a passive spectator while our government knowingly pushes us down a path to destruction.”

The orange philosopher added: “We’re facing mass starvation, billions of refugees and civilisational collapse if this continues.”

I agree with both of them: our government is indeed pushing us down a path to destruction and we are indeed facing civilisational collapse. But the problem isn’t the gas in our cookers and the petrol in our cars. It’s the scum like these two.

The world has suffered from many shortages throughout history, but hysterical antinomian malcontents have never been one of them. We’ve always had a nice, steady supply of those. But at different times different societies have treated such saboteurs differently.

Exactly what excites their passions is irrelevant. These people are possessed by an evil spirit, and such energumens wreak mayhem for its own sake. There is no reason for it, just a long menu of seemingly plausible pretexts.

It can be religion or atheism. Global warming or cooling. Militarism or pacifism. Black or white activism. Pro- or anti-immigration. Fascism or communism. Basically, show us a man, and the devil will find a cause.

The worst mistake in dealing with such zealots is engaging them in a sensible argument. That’s why I won’t cite heaps of evidence showing that global warming is a hoax, nor recommend books proving it with irrefutable science in hand.

I won’t even reference data showing that, since gas production and nuclear energy have been reduced or phased out, largely thanks to such zealots, Europe’s coal production has doubled. That replaces the cleanest energy with the dirtiest, but we shan’t get into this argument.

First, we’re never going to win it: diabolical passions won’t be quelled by facts and reason. Second, in the unlikely, nay impossible, event we do win it, they’ll just find another cause – there are plenty of those sloshing about in the world’s putrid swamps.

The problem is zealotry, not the pretext for it. And there I agree with the superglue babe: “our government knowingly pushes us down a path to destruction”. Yes it does – by being too lily-livered to stamp out scum like her once and for all.

I don’t mean troops should be brought in and the ‘fire at will’ order issued. Much as such a reaction may be aesthetically pleasing, most people will see it as incompatible with our core principles.

What the government should do is step up public education, teaching the people that none of the popular woke causes has any serious substance to it. Those who do vandalism or violence in their name aren’t ‘protesters’ but marginal loonies who should be isolated or at least ignored and ostracised.

If taken seriously, they multiply at a rate normally associated with bacteria only and become a deadly civilisational threat. They themselves are a much more serious problem than any they take as a call to disruptive action. If our society suffers from a disease, they are its most bothersome symptom.

And what does our government do? What do all Western governments do? They encourage wokery by teaching subversive nonsense at schools and universities, bowdlerising great literature, spreading evil propaganda through the media and adopting a laissez-faire attitude to politically inspired criminal acts.

Has a single education minister ever withdrawn government funding from any university that allows its Red Guards to ‘cancel’ conservative thinkers? Has any official ever pointed out that only events can be cancelled, and cancelling people is creepy?

I said earlier that we shouldn’t argue with energumens. The only such argument that has every worked for me consists of two words, of which the second one is ‘off’. But the general public is a different matter – it can be educated.

A massive public education campaign sustained for a couple of years could push the fanatics not just to the margins, but off the page. But that’s a pipe dream: one side of the Parliament aisle is inhabited by former activists in various subversive causes, and ‘former’ is too kind.

Is there a single MP on the Labour benches who doesn’t think ‘protesters’ have a point, even if they go about it with too much gusto? More important, is there anybody on the Tory benches who shares my views? There are some – but they are greatly outnumbered.

If a Tory minister with prime-ministerial ambitions says “trans women are women”, then that minister isn’t going to step hard on trans activists, is she? (It’s Penny ‘Thunder Thighs’ Mordaunt I’m talking about.)

And if cabinet members refuse to say publicly that the evidence against global warming is much stronger than that for it, then the vandals, motorway blockers and – as history shows – eventually mass murderers will crawl out of the woodwork.

When scum rises to the top, it should be skimmed off. Alas, I can’t see a single force that can do the skimming.

All we can do is keep explaining the facts of life to every normal person who’ll listen, ‘normal’ being the operative word. We may not save our civilisation, but there’s an outside chance we may save our own souls.

Is Hitchens John Cleese in disguise?

In Monty Python’s Life of Brian, Cleese famously asked an amusing question: “What have the Romans ever done for us?” That was followed by a long litany: “The aqueduct, sanitation, roads, irrigation, medicine, education, wine,” and so on.

Peter Hitchens, centre

Cleese’s character asked that silly question for laughs. Yet Hitchens has neither the sense of humour nor the talent to entertain people. Instead he has a keenly felt duty to serve Putin’s fascism, even at the expense of making himself sound idiotic and ignorant.

Hence he asks in today’s Mail not one stupid question but several. Yet, I hope, nobody laughs.

What has piqued Hitchens’s curiosity is the leaked presence of 50 SAS soldiers in the Ukraine. Hence the litany of questions:

“Why are we in this? How does Britain benefit from war between Russia and Ukraine? How, for that matter, has poor Ukraine benefited from it…? Why should any British soldiers be there at all?”

After all, “as far as I know, this country is not at war with Russia.” That’s true, if he means a declared state of war.

But then the SAS has also operated in a few other countries that failed to satisfy that supposedly ironclad requirement. One could mention, off the top, Malaya, Borneo, Oman, Yemen, Northern Ireland, the Falklands, Sierra Leone, Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria – stop me once you’ve got the point.

Neither, for that matter, was Britain at war with Iran in 1980, when SAS soldiers attacked that country’s territory, its embassy in London, where British hostages were held. Nor was Britain at war with London, come to think of it.

Hitchens obviously considers all those questions rhetorical. What he means is that we shouldn’t be “in this”, Britain doesn’t “benefit from war between Russia and Ukraine”, neither does the Ukraine, and British soldiers shouldn’t “be there at all”.

This is an extension of the mantra he has been reciting with maniacal persistence for at least a decade, probably longer. Putin’s Russia is “the most conservative and Christian country in Europe”. Putin is the strong leader Hitchens wishes we had. Russia isn’t to blame for any banditry. Putin had nothing to do with the Skripals’ poisoning (this came in Hitchens’s indignant e-mail to me). The Ukraine is a fascist country run by an illegal government. Putin didn’t attack it – he was forced to defend Russia against Nato aggression…

All this time, while Hitchens has been writing about Russia, I’ve been writing about him. This is monotonously repetitive, but I consider it my duty to counter enemy propaganda as best I can. Since it’s clear that Russia is our enemy and Hitchens is her witting or unwitting agent, I suppress nausea and put my fingers on the keyboard each time.

So let’s pretend the questions above were asked in good faith, and they are a genuine request for information. Such pleas must be satisfied.

“Why are we in this? How does Britain benefit from war between Russia and Ukraine?” We are in this for the same reason we were in the Second World War: to stop an evil aggressor from dominating Europe. Just like Hitler who never concealed his intentions, Putin has been declaring since at least 2007 that his mission is to restore the Soviet Union to its past grandeur.

Russia practises what he preaches, pouncing on neighbouring countries like a rabid dog and openly threatening Nato members, both collectively and individually.

Hardly a day goes by that either Putin or one of his mouthpieces doesn’t threaten to sink Britain with a couple of well-placed bombs. The Ukraine is only the first step towards Russia’s pan-European domination, which directly impinges on Britain’s strategic interests.

“How, for that matter, has poor Ukraine benefited from it…” This is either the most cretinous question I’ve ever heard or the most cynical, you decide. The underlying assumption is of course that the Ukraine started this war with a specific benefit in mind.

His editors should mention to Hitchens that it was Russia that attacked the Ukraine, not the other way around. Having started in 2014 with Putin’s bandit raid on the Crimea, the war steadily escalated until, on 24 February of last year, Russian hordes swept across the border to turn the Ukraine into a prostrate colony.

That, according to Hitchens, was Putin’s sacred right and, rather than resisting, those Ukrainian warmongers should have rolled over meekly. Since they didn’t, they have only themselves to blame for the destruction of their cities, along with the satanic murders, rapes and tortures their civilians have suffered at the hands of Putin’s bandits.

Their latest achievement is a video they posted of a Russian soldier beheading a POW with a knife. There have been other videos in the same genre: POWs castrated, resisters within Russian ranks killed with a sledgehammer and other such niceties. (This, by the way, is consistent with the way the Russians have acted elsewhere, notably in Syria.)

The Ukraine’s benefit is saving her people from the most diabolical ghoul threatening Europe since Stalin and Hitler. “Poor Ukraine”, is how Hitchens now describes that heroic country, feigning empathy. This after he has spewed out gallons of spittle, screaming hatred of that country and her government, while at the same time declaring love of Russia.

“Why should any British soldiers be there at all?” He means they shouldn’t be, of course. I think I’ve already answered that question in general terms. Talking specifically about the 50 SAS soldiers, I don’t know what their mission is.

That’s the point: the SAS operates in the shadows, everything it does is highly classified. Hitchens outdoes his own put-on idiocy by insisting their action should have been approved by Parliament. That’s like saying that HMG should publish a complete list of British spies everywhere in the world. That would kind of defeat the purpose, wouldn’t it?

Britain has been training Ukrainian soldiers since 2014. The SAS has played a prominent role in that effort, training Ukrainian special forces in weapons and tactics. I suspect that’s what they are doing there now. Along with the heavy stuff, Britain supplies the Ukraine with sophisticated infantry weapons, and SAS soldiers are ideally qualified to teach their use.

Another possibility is that they are keeping an eye on the Russians’ movements. For example, it would be a dire strategic necessity to spot any massing of Russian troops in a formation suggesting a possible offensive against a Nato country.

I don’t know. All I can do is wish them Godspeed and pray they come to no harm in defence of the Ukraine’s freedom – and ours. They serve a noble cause.

Hitchens reserves his last salvo for those awful people in America who keep the war going because “they believe passionately that Russia must never be allowed to rise again”.

If Russia rising again means regaining her ability to create puppet regimes all over Europe and use them to advance Russian imperial megalomania, then I share that passionate belief. So do all decent people, a category to which Hitchens manifestly doesn’t belong.

That he proves with every sentence, such as: “If every dollar these zealots have spent on war had been spent instead on building prosperous free countries in places such as Russia, the world would be a startlingly better place.”

America and the rest of the West have pumped billions into Russia (and China). The entire Soviet industry was built by Western, mostly American, capital and technology when Lenin and Stalin were still in business.

That continued throughout the Cold War. For example, Russia wouldn’t be able to blackmail Europe with her oil and gas without the massive transfer of Western exploration and production technologies.

Since their perestroika, that is transfer of power from the Party to the KGB, the West has intensified its efforts. So has Russia become “prosperous and free”? Is the world now “a startingly better place?”

By Russia’s own data, a third of her people live below the poverty line (about £150 a month). The slightest dissent is punished by draconian prison terms, banishment or the odd murder. And the world has been taken to the brink of nuclear holocaust, something Putin’s propagandists are openly promoting.

The amazing thing is that Hitchens doesn’t even bother to conceal his allegiance to the cause of Russian fascism – and that his paper does nothing about it. Free press ought to end where enemy propaganda begins.