Dress to depress

“Apparel oft proclaims a man,” wrote Shakespeare. Yet these days, methinks, it also doth proclaim a cultural catastrophe.

If you wish to take issue with this melancholy observation, just look at former MP Tracy Brabin, who is now mayor of West Yorkshire. In her new job, she is trying to criminalise misogyny and “everyday sexism”, having herself allegedly fallen victim to that outrage.

In 2020, Miss Brabin, a soap opera actress by original trade, showed up for a parliamentary debate wearing a £35 off-the-shoulder dress. She was then traumatised for life by troll attacks along the lines of “a slag”, “hungover”, “a tart”, “about to breastfeed”, “a slapper”, “drunk”, and “just been banged over a wheelie bin”.

That, according to Miss Brabin, “uncovered this split in the universe where the misogynists just fell on my head”. Now, though I realise that any criticism of a woman is a manifestation of misogyny, I doubt her critics hated women. They just hated Miss Brabin’s sartorially expressed contempt for the Mother of All Parliaments.

I’m sure no such opprobrium would have come her way had she worn that dress to a party. Some people might have been put off by a sixtyish woman dressing like a working-class teenager out on the town, and words like ‘mutton’ and ‘lamb’ might have crossed a few minds.

But that’s where such words would have remained. Dressing badly isn’t offensive; only dressing inappropriately is. Horses for courses and all that: a bikini is fine on a beach, but not in a City bank; jeans are wearable in the street, but not at a Buck House reception; a very décolleté blouse is for the evening, not office hours.

Yet these days many women turn themselves into walking mouse traps, with their secondary (and sometimes primary) sex characteristics on blatant display to act in the capacity of cheese. When such a woman catches a man making a frivolous comment or even just looking lower than her eyes, the trap slams shut.

He is a sexist, misogynist and – by confident extension – also a xenophobe, racist, homophobe and transphobe. He ought to have his collar felt; a mere reprimand wouldn’t do.

Two paths are diverging, and women try to perform the unlikely contortionist feat of following both at the same time. First, they wear inappropriately revealing clothes in situations calling for some decorum. Second, they insist that all men nevertheless suppress their God-given tendency to notice the more visible attractions – and men of discernment ignore the clash between dress and occasion.

I like the sight of female flesh as much as the next man, and my most unfortunate CV should immunise me against charges of prudishness. Yet I’m scandalised to see, as one example, female newsreaders on morning shows flashing more breast than they should when reporting on, say, mass murder or, even worse, a Labour conference.

As to Miss Brabin, how was she elected to parliament in the first place? What credentials did she possess for running the country? Her face was known to soap watchers, but is that sufficient to qualify her for deciding which laws should govern the nation?

Nor was she just a backbencher. Jeremy Corbyn appointed Miss Brabin as Shadow Secretary for Culture, no less, which should give you an idea of how culture is defined these days.

I’m not saying that no soap actress should serve in parliament, although thespians in general aren’t known for the prudent sagacity that job requires. But if a soap actress does become an MP, she should dress as an MP, not as a soap actress. That would be a sign of good taste and respect for the institution, which is still, in spite of everything, worthy of respect.

Oh well, that ship has already sailed, and it might even have been blown up like that Russian cruiser in the Ukraine. I’m looking forward to the House of Commons retraining as a house of ill repute. And let’s bring Tracy Brabin back as madam (unless she prefers a more hands-on role).

Hate vaccines, love Putin

How come anti-vaxxers tend to be pro-Putin? A close friend made this astute, if interrogative, observation the other day.

That made me cast an eye over the people I know, either personally or vicariously, only to find that my friend was right yet again, to a large extent. The overlap between the two groups isn’t total: some anti-vaxxers are also anti-Putin and vice versa.

Yet such sentiments reside in the same breast often enough to rule out random coincidence. This brings me to Rand Paul, US senator from Kentucky, who is trying to sabotage the Lend-Lease bill designed to help the Ukraine and stop Putin’s aggression.

Whatever Dr Paul’s ostensible reasons, it’s possible he doesn’t like this bill, which enjoys a wide and rare bi-partisan support, precisely because it enjoys a wide bi-partisan support. Some people, both on the right and on the left, feel the urge to regard every received opinion as wrong because it’s received, not because it’s wrong.

I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Dr Paul, but I knew his father when I lived in Texas. He was a congressman, most of whose views appealed to me at the time, even though even then I considered some of them as rather eccentric.

Paul père belonged to what I call the hermetic strain of American exceptionalism, which is sometimes called isolationism. The other, crusading, strain is best exemplified by the neoconservatives.

Both groups share the messianic view of America first enunciated by John Winthrop in 1630. Quoting Matthew 5:16, Winthrop informed his attentive listeners that it was the new country in the making that would become the city on the hill mentioned by the evangelist. America would shine her light on the world whether or not the world was in need of such illumination.

This self-image has since become widespread in the US, mostly among real or putative conservatives, paleo- or neo-. But that genus eventually bifurcated into two species: hermetic and crusading.

Exponents of the former believe America should enjoy her unmatched virtue within her own borders only. On the other hand, the crusaders are convinced America is duty-bound to export her virtue globally, by force if necessary.

Both groups, especially the former, make some good points and some bad ones. Most of the bad ones come from pushing a sound idea to ridiculous extremes, what rhetoricians call reductio ad absurdum. By way of illustration, drinking a lot of water is good for you. But drinking too much of it can kill you.

Paul père was a hermeticist on speed. His thunderous mantra was “No foreign aid!”

“How about millions of people starving to death?” I once asked him. “No foreign aid!” “How about the need to cultivate strategic allies?” “No foreign aid!” “How about our allies being attacked?” “No foreign aid!” “How about helping Mexico deal with the consequences of a major earthquake?” “No foreign aid!”

One got the distinct impression that, had Ron Paul been around in 1941, when the original Lend-Lease Act was debated in Congress, he would have told Roosevelt to stick his garden hose you know where.

(Trying to push the Act through, FDR came up with the metaphor of a neighbour’s house being on fire. You’d want to lend him your garden hose because, if you didn’t, the fire might spread to your own house).

At the time, I regarded Ron’s extreme isolationism as odd. Now I regard it as sometime vicious and always silly.

His son Rand is marginally saner. In fact, I’d happily sign my name to most of his ideas on the economy, medical care, abortion, immigration, homosexuality and other sexual perversions, crime – you name it. Yet he is still the apple to his father’s tree.

Rand Paul is a doctrinaire libertarian, and I oppose doctrinaire everything, even when I’m in sympathy with the original idea. It’s that ideology that he brought to bear on the Covid pandemic.

Dr Paul is a medical man, which I’m not. Hence, even though his speciality is ophthalmology, not immunology, his arguments against Covid vaccination should carry some weight.

Or rather they would do so, had he made them on the grounds of clinical efficacy. But he didn’t. Most of Dr Paul’s arguments came from the standpoint of doctrinaire libertarianism, which in this case is indefensible on various grounds, moral, legal and rational.

Contrary to his view, imposing mandatory vaccination in extreme circumstances isn’t dictatorship as such. It’s the government assuming dictatorial power in extreme circumstances, when millions of lives are at stake.

That’s what governments do, that’s what they’ve always done, and one could argue that’s what they are instituted to do. Yes, imposing things like mobilisation and blackouts at wartime or masks and vaccination at a time of a deadly pandemic is self-evidently tyrannical.

But this is a necessary and therefore acceptable tyranny – provided that a) the danger is real, b) the government’s measures can be expected to be effective and c) the government will relinquish its emergency powers once the emergency has passed.

I happily listen to arguments against a) and b) and I think extra vigilance is required to ensure c). I’m aware of my own limitations when it comes to discussing technical medical issues. Unlike so many of our hacks, I didn’t instantly become an expert epidemiologist when Covid struck.

Yet even an ignoramus like me could see that the benefits of vaccination far outweighed the risks. Dr Paul kept citing isolated instances of unpleasant side effects but, as a medical man, he ought to know that drugs that have no side effects have no effects either. Regulatory bodies approve a drug when convinced that it’ll do more good than harm – not that it’ll never cause any harm at all.

Dr Paul knows all this better than I do, but his argument was in essence ideological, not evidential. I suspect the same goes for his arguments against the current Lend-Lease bill.

He is blocking the bill giving the president the power to provide up to $40 billion in aid to the Ukraine. Dr Paul cites the need to create a special inspector general to oversee how the money is spent, and in general I share his commitment to fiscal responsibility.

But we aren’t dealing with a general situation. Staring us in the face is a bandit raid launched by a fascist state against an independent European nation. Moreover, the bandit doesn’t even hide the fact that he is at war with the West, not just the Ukraine.

As the driving force behind Nato, America is the lynchpin of European security. The garden hose metaphor works in this case too: if America does nothing to resist Putin’s aggression (we already know that the EU is totally impotent in this respect, as it is in all others), then it may well succeed in setting first Europe and then the world ablaze.

Hence the Lend-Lease bill reflects not only America’s commitment to abstract humanitarian values, but also her self-interest. Only those who refuse to see will fail to see this.

Dr Paul has form in supporting the Kremlin’s line. So much so that the late Sen. John McCain was forced to say that “the senator from Kentucky is now working for Vladimir Putin.” That was a comment on Dr Paul’s fighting tooth and nail to block new admissions to Nato.

When Sen. McCain pointed out in 2017 that Putin was pouncing on his neighbours. Dr Paul just shrugged: “The countries that were attacked were part of the Soviet Union since the 1920s.”

I won’t dignify the underlying idea with a cogent argument (Danzig used to be part of Germany too, which didn’t justify Auschwitz). Let’s just say that my friend had a point: anti-vaxxers are often, if not always, Putinistas.

I only hope Dr Paul will only succeed in holding this bill up a few days, not in torpedoing it altogether. I wish him every possible failure.

Holy See no evil

It’s worse than I thought, although what I thought was bad enough.

“Does this look like I’m smiling, Your Holiness?”

Yesterday I wrote about a senior Vatican diplomat who blames the ongoing war on a global conspiracy led by Nato and the Jews.

Russia isn’t at fault, and in fact the elderly archbishop thought Vatican should join the KGB patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church.

This reminded me of the ecumenical Council of Florence held in the 15th century to heal the 1054 rift between West and East. The Council failed to reach a workable union, possibly because the contemporaneous Eastern Church predated the KGB.

It thus hadn’t yet developed an ability to seduce, not to say recruit, senior Western clergy. That knack has now been honed so finely that I can see a time when Catholic priests will grow shaggy beards and start reporting every juicy confession to the FSB, as it now is.

Still, the diplomat’s ideas could be dismissed as the senile ramblings of a deluded octogenarian. However, as my friend Peter pointed out yesterday, those delusions reach all the way to the top, where the Vicar of Christ sits on his throne. After a quick search, I found out Peter was right, as he always so infuriatingly is.

Granted, Pope Francis avoided the insane extremes suggested by his former nuncio. He didn’t allude to any global conspiracy against Russia, and neither did he mention Jews as the main culprits.

Instead, he chose the marginally saner narrative favoured by Putin himself. The war, said His Holiness, is a “scandal” caused by “Nato barking at Russia’s door” and forcing Putin “to react badly and unleash the conflict”.

As a writer, I like the attempt at the evocative imagery of a dog barking at outsiders. I’m not sure it quite works though, not the way the Pope intended.

Dogs do their barking to scare potential intruders away. There is no canine threat to legitimate visitors and passers-by. Those ferocious beasts stay inside the fence protecting their masters’ property.

Is this what His Holiness meant? If so, he has a point. Since 1949, Nato has indeed been acting in the capacity of a guard dog keeping Russian robbers, rapists and murderers at bay. So far it has done its job well – Russia hasn’t yet pounced on a single Nato member.

She has, however, started a murderous full-scale war in Europe, burdening Russia’s soul, already slated for perdition, with tens of thousands of corpses and threats to produce millions more. Extending the Pope’s metaphor, he seems to believe that the murderer scaled the fence because the dog barked at him when he had still been outside.

I don’t know how closely His Holiness has ever observed guard dogs, but his understanding of the current situation is woefully wrong. Suddenly, that crazed archbishop begins to sound as if he is enunciating the Vatican’s policy, with a few nice touches of his own.

The only saving grace is that the Pope wasn’t pronouncing ex cathedra on matters of doctrine. His comments on the argy-bargy (almost no pun intended) came in an interview with the popular newspaper Corriere Della Sera.

Hence one can hope he was merely expressing his own opinion, which in this case he is manifestly unqualified to have. This he himself admitted when asked about Nato’s arms supplies to the Ukraine.

“I don’t know how to answer – I’m too far away – the question of whether it is right to supply the Ukrainians,” said His Holiness.

Far away how exactly? Geographically? But that’s like saying that no American would have been justified to pass judgment on Hitler in September 1941. After all, America is even farther away from Poland than Italy is from the Ukraine.

No, the Pope had to mean that he hadn’t studied the issue deeply enough to form a definite idea. If that’s the case, he is in default of his mission.

Abrogating any interest in a major war, especially one involving Christians on both sides, would ill-behove the spiritual leader of world Christianity (even Orthodox bishops accept the Pope as a primus inter pares). So rest assured: that isn’t the case.

The Pope’s doubt about the advisability of supplying the Ukraine is his polite way of saying that no such supplies should be sent. If an unsupplied Ukraine is raped by Putin the way Ukrainian women are being raped by his bandits, then Nato has only itself to blame.

“The clear thing,” added the Pope, “is that weapons are being tested there.” The implication is that Nato deliberately barked at Putin to create a massive testing ground for its weaponry. This isn’t a million miles away from the archbishop’s rant about Nato’s perfidy.

I can only hope that the pontiff’s comments on this subject come from ignorance, not an inability to distinguish between good and evil. Ignorance is bad enough, but moral torpor is far worse. So let’s just say His Holiness is taking bad advice and leave it at that.

Catholic prelate goes Putin one better

Since the Catholic Church isn’t a magazine, I can’t cancel my subscription. So the Church should instead cancel Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò.

Viganò and his enemy

By that I don’t mean the Church should silence His Excellency. He has a God-given right to air his views, no matter how preposterous.

It’s just that Archbishop Viganò has forfeited his right to air his views urbi et orbi as a Catholic prelate. He should be unfrocked and excommunicated.

Nothing in Viganò’s CV pointed to this melancholy conclusion. He is a holder of two doctorates and a successful Vatican diplomat. At retirement he was papal nuncio to the US, one of the top posts of that kind.

The archbishop had solid conservative credentials. He is critical of Vatican II, disparaging of Pope Francis and scathing of priestly immorality. All good.

But lately the archbishop began to go off the rails. First, he joined the anti-vaxxer campaign with nothing short of crusader’s zeal.

I happen to disagree with the anti-vaxxers, but there’s nothing shameful about refusing to be jabbed or doubting the efficacy of vaccines. The problem starts when such views attach to a fervent belief in some deep-state cabal conspiring against everything good. Suddenly a man making a dubious but possible argument turns into a febrile fanatic with a dangerous gleam in his eyes.

Once getting on that path, Archbishop Viganò quickened his step. Now he has come up with a “Declaration on the Russia-Ukraine Crisis”, in which he vindicated the title of this article.

His Excellency sounds as if he used the services of Messrs Gundyaev, Putin, Solovyov, Kisilyov and a prominent Mail columnist as his ghostwriters. The first name on that list belongs to the chap alternatively known as ‘Agent Mikhailov’ of the KGB and ‘Patriarch Kirill’ of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC).

His Holiness has an excuse: he is doing his job. As a lifelong KGB agent infiltrated into the ROC, he is duty-bound to follow Christ’s teaching that no man can serve two masters. Since Gundyaev’s master is the KGB/FSB, its giant bulk leaves no room for serving God.

However, Archbishop Viganò’s allegiances are supposed to be different. Or so I thought. In fact, the archbishop unveiled in his pamphlet the whole kit and most of the caboodle of Putin’s propaganda.

“The Biden Administration, Nato and the European Union” provoked “the Russian Federation to trigger the conflict”. Now those evil-doers “deliberately want to maintain a situation of obvious imbalance, precisely to make impossible any attempt at a peaceful resolution of the Ukrainian crisis”. They are assisted in that undertaking “by the gross falsifications of the mainstream media”.

And, most ominous: “This is the trap set for both Russia and Ukraine, using both of them to enable the globalist elite to carry out its criminal plan.” It’s that deep state again.

So far, so Putin. Watch any programme on Russian TV or listen to any speech by Putin, and you’ll get all the same stuff chapter and verse. Or, if you want it in English, read The Mail on Sunday.

What you won’t get from Putin, not yet anyway, is a direct attribution of those dastardly crimes to a Jewish conspiracy. Putin’s Foreign Minister Lavrov did make some anti-Semitic remarks the other day, but Putin has so far restrained himself.

Not so His Excellency: “These Ukrainian billionaires wearing kippahs are those who are selling out Ukraine to the corrupted and corrupting West, trading their own well-being for the enslavement of their compatriots to the usurers who are taking over the world, using the same ruthless and immoral systems everywhere.”

Call me an inveterate idealist, but I don’t expect such rants from senior Vatican figures, especially those burdened with two doctorates. The Catholic hierarchy has its fair share of anti-Semites but, since Auschwitz and Treblinka, they have tended to keep such feelings to themselves.

Yet here is a retired papal nuncio adapting The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and Mein Kampf to the needs of modern fascism. What happened to “…neither Jew nor Greek”, Your Excellency?

But never mind Galatians 3:28. The good archbishop also shows woeful disdain for many other parts of Catholic doctrine.

When a Catholic, especially a prelate, supports a war, he must believe it is just. The doctrine of just war goes back to Augustine, but it was neatly summarised by Thomas Aquinas.

Such a war must be declared by legitimate authority; its cause must be just; it must be waged with good intentions. Three centuries later, Fr. Francisco de Vitoria, considered the founder of international law, explained the doctrine in greater detail:

“The sole and only just cause is when harm has been inflicted.” However, “not every or any injury gives sufficient grounds for waging war.” Specifically, causes of just war can’t include “difference of religion”, “enlargement of empire” or “the personal glory or convenience of the prince”.

Allow me to translate from canonical into English. Viganò’s support of Putin’s war can only be doctrinally legitimate if he believes that his pet culprits, Biden, Nato, the EU and the Ukraine, planned to invade Russia. Since any sane person knows that no such plans were being hatched, Putin’s bandit raid doesn’t qualify as just war.

It qualifies as murderous, unprovoked aggression, making it the moral duty of any decent man, and the institutional duty of any priest, to come out against it with everything he has got.

Anyone endorsing fascism is himself a fascist – and a fascist can be neither a Christian nor any kind of believer nor, more generally, a righteous man. All he can be is scum.

It’s not only His Excellency’s antediluvian anti-Semitism that out-Putins Putin. He also turns his back on his Church, along with its whole history and dogma. In fact, I can’t recall offhand any other such heretical and schismatic pronouncements by a Catholic prelate, not in recent memory at any rate.

For His Excellency accepts the Moscow Patriarchate of the ROC as the ‘Third Rome’, a claim going back to the 16th century and still acting as the article of faith in that KGB Church. Hence Archbishop Viganò believes that the Catholic Church should renounce its heretical ways and dissolve itself in the ROC by placing itself under the aegis of ‘Agent Mikhailov’.

As an educated theologian, His Excellency expresses this idea with the benefit of his erudition: Perhaps Providence has ordained that Moscow, the Third Rome, will today in the sight of the world take on the role of κατέχον (2 Thess 2:6-7), of eschatological obstacle to the Antichrist”.

God help us, the man is off his rocker. Give him a general’s rank in the FSB, an archbishopric in the ROC, his own talk show on Russian TV – and a column in The Mail on Sunday.

It’s bad to talk

Alone among Western leaders, Manny Macron has an insatiable desire to talk to Putin. A little tête-à-tête, he seems to believe, and things will go back to normal.

Destroyed Ukrainian cities, along with their blown-up hospitals, schools and kindergartens, will rise from the ruins. Tens of thousands of murdered Ukrainians will do a Lazarus. Thousands of raped women will be unraped. Tortured POWs and civilians will instantly recover. Parents will return to their orphaned children. Possessions looted out of Ukrainian homes will come back. The Russians will withdraw, their honour intact. Ukrainians will rejoice, but without gloating.

Happiness all around – amazing what a little gobfest can achieve. In fact, Manny himself has experienced the hey, presto magic of talking to Putin.

If you can remember that far back, when Manny was first elected in 2017, he was making some thunderous anti-Putin noises. He was positively enraged about Putin’s cavalier treatment of civil liberties and his tendency to pounce on Russia’s neighbours.

Then that magic moment arrived. Manny met Putin at some summit, and the two spent 10 minutes in seclusion. When Manny emerged, his feelings about Putin instantly did a full 180. He became what the Germans call Putinversteher, loosely (very loosely) translated as Putin toady. And so he has remained to this day.

Now, we are used to our politicians displaying a certain elasticity of principle. Yet usually it takes them longer than 10 minutes to do a complete turn-around. Even making allowances for the magnetic force of Putin’s personality, one would have expected Manny to hold out for at least an hour.

The cynic in me can’t help thinking that Putin’s personality was made even more irresistibly magnetic by his wielding of what the Russians call kompromat (compromising material). The one-sided conversation must have gone along these lines: “Change your tune, Manny, or tomorrow every newspaper will have a front-page headline screaming about [your fiscal or amorous indiscretion]. You’ll kiss your career adieu, is this what you want?”

The rumours about Manny making the rounds in France make this scenario highly plausible. One way or the other, ever since that quick exchange Manny has been toeing the line.

He has been doing his best trying to delay and soften any sanctions imposed on Russia. He has been talking to Putin regularly, and I’ve never figured Vlad for a scintillating conversationalist. And he has been trying to sabotage Western help for the Ukraine, especially since the effort is spearheaded by the two countries Manny loathes as much as he loves Putin: Britain and the US.

The other day he openly defied Nato, whose declared mission isn’t only to help the Ukraine drive Putin’s orcs out, but also to degrade Russia’s military and economic capability to do evil deeds in Europe ever again.

To that end, Nato countries have imposed a cordon sanitaire on Russia in general and personally on Putin and his gang. As more and more sanctions come on stream, and especially when the West gets around to imposing an embargo on Russian hydrocarbons, Russia will become a pariah state, a jumped-up North Korea, excluded from every community of civilised nations.

France is a Nato country too, technically speaking. But Manny’s ideas are at odds with those enunciated by Britain and America.

“We will have a peace to build tomorrow, let us never forget that,” he said. “But it will not be done in denial, nor in exclusion of each other, nor even in humiliation.”

Right. God forbid we humiliate Vlad, Manny’s good, if possibly coercive, friend since 2017. Putin must emerge from the conflict with his bloated face saved.

Never mind that he has committed the worst atrocities in Europe since Hitler and Stalin. Never mind that he has openly declared war on the West and threatened a nuclear holocaust. His brittle sensitivity must be protected at all costs.

Manny then displayed the kind of syllogistic Cartesian thinking for which he is so widely known. “We are not at war with Russia,” he explained. “We work as Europeans for the preservation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.”

Actually, that wasn’t a syllogism. It was a rhetorical fallacy that can be refuted with a syllogism.

Thesis: We work to preserve the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Ukraine. Antithesis: Russia is using criminal carpet bombing to destroy both, along with most Ukrainians. Synthesis: We are indeed at war with Russia. Not legally, but factually – even as America effectively entered the war not in December, 1941, but in March that year, when Congress approved the Lend-Lease Act.

One gets the impression that Manny’s desire not to humiliate Putin would only be satisfied if much of the Ukraine is reduced to a sort of Vichy, while the rest of the country will be covered with brothels for the Russian occupation contingent.

Having thus selected Zelensky for the role of Pétain, Manny then came up with an inspired idea borrowed from the ancient rulers of Persia. They saw the world as concentric circles of virtue. Persia herself was in the middle, with the virtue of other countries attenuating in inverse proportion to their proximity to the inner circle.

Manny, who sees himself as the leader of Europe, a hybrid of Napoleon and Merkel, came up with a new way of putting his foot down. The Ukraine, he explained, isn’t yet ready to join the EU as such. Neither are a few other unfortunate countries and one wicked one: Britain, which had the temerity to turn her back on Manny’s perceived fiefdom.

But that doesn’t mean those outcasts should remain, well, out. Manny proposed adding a couple of outer circles of EU hell… sorry, I mean paradise. These will accommodate countries lacking the blessing of full membership, but aspiring to some novice status in a Europe united under Manny’s aegis.

They will have to obey all EU laws, that goes without saying. But they’ll be spared the rigamarole of having to take part in any parliamentary wranglings  involved in the passing of such laws.

Again I smell a logical rat. Since Manny palpably loathes Britain, he should be ecstatic that the EU is now spared her toxic presence. Yet here he is, trying to draw Britain back in by hook or mostly by crook, but with a status vastly inferior to one Britain tossed aside.

Manny didn’t specify whether Russia will be welcomed into this EU Lite. Perhaps he believes she should be fast-tracked to full membership the moment the shooting stops. One never knows with him.

There’s only one thing worse than a self-serving nonentity in government. A self-serving nonentity with delusions of grandeur. Perhaps that’s why Manny sees a kindred soul in Putin.

You like WHAT, Camilla?

In a recent interview, HRH Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, proudly admitted to lumpen proletarian tastes in food.

Asked to name her favourites, she came up with… Caviar? Truffles? Foie gras? No, none of the above.

“One of my favourite foods is baked beans on toast. Always Heinz. And freshly cooked fish and chips, wrapped in paper. That smell. You cannot beat proper fish and chips.” And of course: “I avoid chilli and garlic”.

Probed more deeply, Camilla also came up with frozen chicken pies as another gourmet treat for special occasions. I’m glad she wasn’t asked about her favourite tipple. It would have been a shame for our future Queen Consort to name Strongbow cider or some vile fortified wine, ideally drunk out of a brown paper bag on a park bench.

Considering that Camilla grew up in a wealthy aristocratic family, regularly travelled to Italy as a child and was mostly educated on the continent, her taste, or rather lack thereof, calls for an explanation. I can think of several.

The simplest and least awful one is that she simply has no taste for food. This kind of aesthetic illiteracy is quite widespread among Britons of her generation, and some are actually proud of it, to the point of jingoism.

Appalling taste in food is held up as proof of national superiority, something to separate Britons from the garlic-breathed, hairy-arsed Johnny Foreigner, especially if he is of the froggish persuasion.

The implication is that Britons devote so much time and effort to higher spiritual pursuits that they have none to spare for vulgar corporeal concerns. They do make an exception for drinking and sex, but that’s as far as it goes.

The claim to monastic spirituality doesn’t quite tally with my empirical observations, but it’s nonetheless innocuous enough. Then again, those who grew up during or immediately after the war experienced food rationing, which made gastronomy one of the casualties.

My beloved mother-in-law, for example, grew up in a household served by a staff that included a cook. As a youngster she ate well and her taste buds were quite refined. Then came the war, she became a WREN and spent her days peeling potatoes to feed hungry sailors at a Royal Navy base.

The rationing years followed, she married an academic of modest means, bore three children and had to do her own cooking. The culinary shock to her system was so powerful that she developed tastes similar to Camilla’s. I remember once complimenting her on the garlic aroma coming out of her saucepan. “There’s no garlic in my kitchen!” she said indignantly.

Having said that, she happily ate the food I cooked and didn’t at all mind the taste of such offensive condiments as garlic. Often she’d say, “Oh I remember eating this at home”. Though I’m sure Camilla never suffered post-war shocks to her system, it’s conceivable that she identifies prole grub with true Englishness.

Another possibility is reverse snobbery, common to English aristocrats and rich Anglophile Americans, especially in New York and New England.

Such people eschew, indeed despise, common pleasures, of which tasty food is the most democratic. Anyone with a tenner in his pocket can slap together a delicious meal for two, and I’d even suggest that a fiver may do if you know what you’re doing (wine not included).

Food thus finds itself in the same category as bowling, raves and T-shirts with messages like “Two world wars, one world cup, so fuck off”. Heinz baked beans, on the other hand, become a class statement – gastronomic inferiority acting as social superiority. (Driving cheap old bangers is the automotive equivalent – brand-new BMWs aren’t quite… quite.)

This sort of thing isn’t exactly innocuous, but neither is it too bad. We all display some sort of badges of identity, ethnic, social or professional. The same people who may sneer at reverse snobbery wouldn’t be caught dead with a single thread of any artificial fibre anywhere near their bodies, for example.

The third possibility is so bad, it’s deadly. Camilla is lying. She actually does prefer caviar to fish and chips, truffles to Heinz and foie gras to frozen chicken pies. But she has succumbed to the overall egalitarian tendency of modernity.

Her advisers must have done some private polling and found out that the monarchy’s best chance of survival is pretending to be less, well, monarchic. Eating Heinz baked beans, getting pissed in pubs, professing an affinity for rap, supporting unlikely football clubs (William, for example, claims to be an Aston Villa fan) are all seen as prolier-than-thou signals the royals must send out to the multitudes.

If that’s the case, then we are no longer talking about Camilla’s personal idiosyncrasies. At issue now is the lethal malaise of society, something for which even the odd spoonful of caviar would offer no cure.

I for one would hate to see a By Appointment stamp on a can of Heinz beans. Not that I’ve ever bought any such abomination.

P.S. If HRH likes baked beans so much, she ought to try this trick. Soak a pound of dry cannellini beans in salted water overnight. Then put them in a roasting dish with a glass of white wine, a head of garlic, unpeeled and cut in half, a few slices of lemon and some black pepper. Cover with foil, punch a hole in the middle to let the steam escape, then bake at 400F for an hour. If she still prefers Heinz after that, she’s beyond help.

A damp squib, damn scary

The world drew its breath in, opened its mouth agape and eyes wide, stiffened its back against the chair and prepared itself.

The Victory Day parade, and Putin’s momentous speech to be delivered in Red Square, kept the world on tenterhooks. No one hoped for another Sermon on the Mount, but at least a version of Mark Antony’s speech in Julius Caesar was coming, the world knew that for sure.

Analysts were having a field day, confidently predicting the contents of the much-anticipated address. Minor differences notwithstanding, most of them agreed on the main points.

Putin was going to abandon the mendacious term ‘special military operation’ and officially declare war on the Ukraine. That would enable him to introduce martial law, call up the reservists and declare a total mobilisation. It was also possible that…

Well, all sorts of things were possible. Or rather probable. Or even definite. And none of them happened.

Putin’s voice was getting hoarser the longer the speech went. Those who regularly propose pessimistic bulletins on his health felt vindicated. Everybody else felt bored.

No war was declared. No mobilisation was announced. No threat to turn Nato into smouldering radioactive ruins was made. Instead Putin regurgitated the propaganda heard around the clock on Russian TV, making me wonder who was plagiarising whom.

Heroic Russian troops were fighting to protect the security of the motherland. The special military operation was a preemptive strike. It was absolutely necessary because Ukrainian Banderite Nazis, in cahoots with those Nato vermin, were planning a genocide of Russians, to which end they were trying to acquire nuclear weapons.

Is that it, Vlad? Give us a break, lad. You are president, not a talk show host on the First Channel of Russian TV. Tell us something we haven’t heard a million times already. Please?

And you call that a Victory Day parade? Half the usual complement of military hardware was on show – even when the Germans were rolling on to Moscow, Stalin managed to put on more of a display on 7 November, 1941.

Foreign leaders must have been warned that the spectacle wasn’t worth the price of admission. For that, or perhaps also some other reason, none of them was in attendance. They must have known they wouldn’t even get to see an Air Force fly-by, a constant feature of such festivities in the past.

The Russians cited bad weather as the reason for that omission. What kind of excuse is that? First, the video of the parade shows a few clouds in the sky, but no rain. But even assuming there was the odd sprinkle here and there, that shouldn’t have been a problem.

Back when I was a child, the Soviets used special planes to chase rain clouds away. It never rained on their parade, that was guaranteed. So where’s the pomp, Vlad? Where’s the circumstance?

There was a nice touch though, if not without a healthy dose of cynicism. Granite slabs were laid out, with the name of a hero-city chiselled on each. That was a status awarded to the Soviet cities that suffered most during the Second World War.

Two of them were Kiev and Odessa, and Vlad ceremoniously adorned all slabs, including those two, with flowers. Just as he was paying his floral tribute to Odessa, the Russians hit the city with a barrage of missiles, thereby testing the present state of its heroism.

Putin must have realised that his thunder had been stolen the day before by one of his closest accomplices, Dmitry Rogozin, head of the Russian space agency Roskosmos.

The former deputy PM didn’t beat about the bush. “Nato is waging war on us,” Rogozin announced. Here’s a man who tells it like it is.

Capitalising on his hands-on knowledge of rocketry, Rogozin then explained that, in a nuclear war, Russia could destroy all Nato countries in half an hour. But, he added magnanimously, Russia wasn’t going to do that.

Why not, pray tell? Whenever Lenin discussed some forthcoming bestial act, his favourite formula was “we can and therefore must”. And here is one of his spiritual descendants saying we could but won’t? I don’t get that.

Rogozin helpfully explained. “But we must not allow it, because the consequences of the exchange of nuclear strikes will affect the state of our Earth. Therefore, we will have to defeat this economically and militarily more powerful enemy with conventional armed means.”

As an environmentalist of long standing, I welcome Russia’s commitment to the Earth’s ecological health. Over the past 100 years or so, such dedication has been nowhere in evidence.

Back in the ‘60s, for example, Japanese physicists came to a Moscow conference equipped with Geiger counters. They then refused to leave the hotel because those counters were going haywire (the hotel was a few hundred yards from where I lived).

But hey, better late than never. However, jokes aside, both Putin’s and Rogozin’s speeches make me worried.

For by now everyone in the world knows that Russia can’t “defeat this economically and militarily more powerful enemy with conventional armed means.” That leaves only two options: either admitting defeat or achieving that objective by unconventional means, meaning WMDs.

Far be it from me to doubt the veracity of Russian leaders, but observations suggest that what they say doesn’t always accurately reflect what they do – or are planning to do. Putin’s refusal to declare an all-out commitment to the war and his silence on nuclear weapons dovetail with Rogozin’s denial that such weapons would ever be used. The effect is spooky.

If we know that Russia won’t defeat the Ukraine, never mind Nato, in a conventional war, then Putin knows it too. He also knows that he can’t afford defeat – his political career wouldn’t survive it, and neither in all probability would he.

I don’t mean to sound alarmist, but heaving a sigh of relief is premature. For the time being, let’s keep our powder dry – and marvel at the videos showing murderers, looters and rapists goosestepping on the Red Square cobbles.

There goes the neighbourhood

These words popped into my mind uninvited the other day, as we walked up New King’s Road past Eel Brook Common, where Fulham is about to become Chelsea.

The eponymous brook is long since gone, and one doesn’t expect to see many slippery fish in that patch of greenery. But then neither does one expect to see hundreds of kneeling Muslims, their backs heaving to muezzin chants piped through giant speakers. Yet that was exactly what we saw – and, most annoying, heard.

You may not know my neighbourhood, but take my word for it: diversity isn’t its most arresting feature (no pun necessarily intended). The only Muslim one typically sees is the chap who runs the corner shop, and even he may be Indian for all I know.  

It was the last day of Ramadan, as I found out later. Yet the calendar still doesn’t quite explain the show. Bethnal Green, yes, as Penelope suggested, talking about an impeccably multi-culti area of East London. Eel Brook Common, or anywhere else in our street, well, no.

Still, the words in the title, and especially the genuine feeling behind them, call for an explanation. After all, troglodyte thoughts on race seldom grace me with a visit and, if they still insist on coming, I try to chase them away. So why such visceral rejection?

I first heard the title words in Houston, c. 1974. The chap who uttered them explained that, whenever a black family moved in next door, the house prices went down. He then proceeded to enlighten me further by asking: “What are the five most dreaded words in English?” I didn’t know, so he answered his own question: “Hello, I’s your new neighbour.”

Since then I’ve read a few serious studies on the subject, with the authors united in their conclusion: such sentiments usually originate not in race hatred, but in class resentment. Few Americans object when a black doctor or lawyer moves into the area – yet even fire-eating liberals hate the sight of a neighbour sporting half of Fort Knox on his body and in his mouth.

From a purely empirical observation I can testify that pure racism unsullied by social or economic considerations does exist in Houston, generally in Texas and, even more generally, everywhere else in the world. Yet I know for a fact that I don’t dislike other races.

When living in America, I often preferred blacks to whites in social situations. They were full of life and good cheer, which was more than one could say for dour chaps clad in double-knit polyester. Their speech was rhythmic and idiosyncratic, and one seldom heard my black friends and colleagues mouth the off-the-peg, ready-to-wear clichés Americans (other than my readers, that is) seem to favour in small talk.

In London too I easily mix with blacks and Muslims. Why, once I even complimented a young PLO fundraiser on her legs, which were indeed sensational and amply visible as I walked up the stairs behind her at a dinner party. I did mind the PLO, but I didn’t mind her.

So why that kneejerk NIMBY reaction in Eel Brook Common? What’s so sacrosanct about my back yard that makes me respond that way to a large group of outsiders?

It can’t be concerns about Muslims driving the house prices down by moving in. For one thing, they weren’t moving in – there wasn’t a trace of their presence the next day. Then I don’t really care about the price of my flat since I don’t ever want to sell it. My plan is to be carried out of it feet first, though, God willing, not just yet.

Nor is it class resentment. I have close friends whose social backgrounds are different from mine, and they aren’t reticent about proving that phonetically and sartorially. Being classless myself, I’m at ease with Kipling’s entreaty (“If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,/ Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch…”), even if I’m ill at ease with Kipling.

Then it occurred to me: my resentment of the huddled Muslim masses was neither racial nor social nor economic. It was emotional, linked to the unique role played by my home and, by extension, its back yard.

I expect and welcome excitement at work, at a party, in a foreign land, even simply talking to Penelope or friends. But the less outside excitement I have in my immediate surroundings, the better. What I seek at home is peace, tranquillity, contentment – that aura of inviolable, perhaps even slightly boring, predictability that’s no less impenetrable for being invisible.

If you have ever driven a car in a foreign country, you’ll know what I mean. For myself, I’m much more relaxed driving around Hyde Park Corner than through the blissful French countryside. In London, I know what to expect from other drivers – their behaviour is predictable and hence unthreatening.

Where we are in France, there are never many other drivers on the road. Yet I’m tense there because I expect something dangerous from every one. The cultural differences between us are small, but they are big enough to punch holes through the protective aura one expects from one’s home.

By the same token, had I seen a crowd of Muslims at prayer somewhere in the East End or, better still, Istanbul, I’d welcome the exotica. Seeing the same crowd of cultural aliens invading my home is a different story. The sight not so much punches a hole in the aura as tears it to tatters.

This may be a case of xenophobia in the real sense of the word, irrational fear of aliens. Or it may simply mean emotional dependence on the safety of home. One way or the other, I’d rather not see such collective devotions within swearing distance of King’s Road ever again.

KGB as a Christian denomination

The other day, Patriarch Kirill, known in the KGB archives as ‘Agent Mikhailov’, indulged in historical revisionism. His servile cynicism turned my mind to history, specifically one episode.

The one on the right doesn’t believe in God. Does the one on the left?

Before the Bolsheviks built that ziggurat eyesore in Red Square, Lenin’s mummy was kept in a jerrybuilt wooden structure. Upholding the fine tradition of Russian workmanship, one builder accidentally punctured a sewer, flooding the place with foul muck.

Patriarch Tikhon, then under house arrest, quipped: “The incense fits the relics.” A few months later he was dead.

That was the last gasp of the Russian Church, annihilated or at least driven underground by the advent of universal justice and liberty. At least 40,000 priests were murdered under Lenin, who told his hit squads that “we must teach that scum a lesson so that they will not even dare think of any kind of resistance for several decades.”

In general, Lenin didn’t pull punches when pronouncing on matters religious: “Any god is necrophilia… any religious idea, any idea of any god, even only flirting with god is unimaginable filth.” He also opined that, of all the disgusting notions mankind had concocted, the idea of God was by far the most revolting.

Stalin, who used to be a seminary student, agreed in principle, but not in every detail. Unlike Lenin, he was a practical man who realised that an ersatz Church could be useful.

Under him the Church vindicated the Resurrection by first dying and then rising from the dead in a new body. Already in 1922, as Stalin was taking over, the Soviets created a house-trained ‘Living Church’ operating under the aegis of the CheKa.

That sinister organisation has undergone seven name changes on the way to its current role of running the country. So has the Living Church, until it became known as simply the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Or rather that was its official name. Unofficially, it was a department of the KGB – not de jure but de facto.

When Stalin realised in 1941 that the Russians were reluctant to die for communism, he reinstated some traditional bric-a-brac, including the Church. Since then its hierarchs have been under KGB control as its full-time agents.

Thus all three candidates for the office of patriarch in 2009 were run by the KGB. Vladimir Gundyayev, ‘Agent Mikhailov’, won and assumed the name of Kirill.

His KGB dossier, first published in The Mitrokhin Archives, was impeccable. Whatever Gundyayev’s mission, his case officer invariably concluded that “the assignment was fulfilled successfully”.

According to Gen. Kalugin, head of the KGB department that ran Agent Mikhailov, piety wasn’t deemed an essential qualification for Gundyayev’s job. Kalugin, who has been living in the US since 1995, recalls once asking Gundyayev if he actually believed in God.

Between you and me, Volodya, tell your old friend, that sort of thing. Gundyayev could only manage a vague reply: “Well, you know, that depends on how you look at it…” Kalugin laughed in his face.

His Holiness’s current assignment is glorifying and blessing Putin’s bandit raid on the Ukraine. That too is being successfully fulfilled.

The other day, Agent Mikhailov declared that “Never in her history has Russia ever attacked anybody. She has only ever defended her borders.”

That was almost verbatim what Peskov, Putin’s press secretary, said on the same subject: “Let me remind you that throughout her history Russia has never attacked anybody. And Russia, which has suffered so many wars, is the last country in Europe that wants even to utter the word ‘war’.”

The words ‘special operation’, on the other hand, are perfectly utterable. Yet Peskov isn’t known as His Holiness. Gundyayev is, which makes his blanket statement particularly impressive.

Now, Agent Mikhailov is an educated man whose family features several generations of priestly theologians. He has no excuse of ignorance, which failing wouldn’t necessarily disqualify him as a man of God. Gundyayev is simply lying to vindicate mass murder. That does disqualify him not only as a priest but even as a half-decent man.

Any educated Russian, and certainly he, knows that Russia has been pouncing on her neighbours ever since the 16th century, when various principalities united under the auspices of Moscow.

Livonian wars pitted Russia against Lithuania first, then also Poland and Sweden. The last two remained off-and-on targets for 150 years, with Russia usually the aggressor.

Since then the country fought several offensive wars with Turkey, conquering the Crimea under Catherine the Great. At roughly the same time, Russia initiated three partitions of Poland, with the fourth one to come later, under Stalin.

Under Alexander I (d. 1825), Russia grabbed Finland, which managed to gain her independence only after Versailles. Also, every Russian schoolboy and certainly Gundyayev, knows the story of Gen. Suvorov’s exploits in the early Napoleonic wars. His army crossed the Alps to engage the French in Italy, doubtless trying to defend Russian borders there.

What every Russian schoolboy also knows is that throughout the 19th century Russia fought the Caucuses Wars, grabbing the territory traditionally occupied by the Chechens and other local peoples.

This gets us to the 20th century, when the Bolsheviks outdid the tsars with room to spare. In 1920 the Red Army attacked Poland, specifying that reconquering that land was only the first stop on the road to Paris and Berlin.

That didn’t quite work out at the time, and the Soviets hastily turned all of Russia into a combination of two camps: army and concentration. Stalin embarked on a massive militarisation effort, swapping millions of Russian lives for tanks and planes. Those were put to good use following the 1939 Pact with Hitler.

Red hordes occupied the bigger part of Poland (which Molotov called “an ugly creature of the Versailles Treaty”), helping the Nazis win the rest. They then grabbed Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and a large chunk of Romania. An attack on Finland followed, presaging the current war in the Ukraine. The Reds got a bloody nose and had to settle for just Karelia, rather than the whole country they had planned to occupy.

After the war, the Soviets defended their borders by sending tanks to quash popular uprisings in East Germany, Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. Then came Afghanistan, where the Soviets killed a million locals for purely defensive purposes. And let’s not forget the two Chechen wars, in which those infidels paid a high price for wanting independence.

Georgia in 2008 and the Ukraine in 2014 also threatened Russia’s territorial integrity so much that troops had to be sent to annex large tracts of those lands. And of course only a timely thrust on 24 February, 2022, prevented those Judaeo-Banderite Ukie Nazis from marching all the way to Moscow.

But who am I to take issue with His Holiness? His reading of history must be divinely inspired, and God’s truth trumps man’s version every time.

All the holy father had to do was to accept Putin as God, Lubianka as His temple, and then repudiate all other Gods. Including the one he doesn’t believe in.

P.S. Congratulations to President Biden on his creativity. By appointing a black lesbian as his new press secretary, he ticked two vital boxes with one stroke. Or, if you will, killed two birds with one… bird.

Johnson and I are both ignorant

Unlike the PM, I won’t pay for my ignorance at the ballot box. He, however, is too uninformed to stand a chance at the next election.

Janet Street-Porter

So spoke Janet Street-Porter, who writes a regular general-interest column. Her remit is to be an expert on everything, except, judging by the photographic evidence, corrective dental surgery.

However, it wasn’t ignorance on that subject that, according to her, disqualifies Johnson from any public office. It’s something much worse.

In an interview on Good Morning Britain, Johnson casually and unapologetically admitted he didn’t have a clue who Lorraine Kelly is. That, explains Street-Porter, “is just another sign he is out of touch with people struggling to make ends meet.”

“A failure to know the price of a loaf or a pint of milk is a vote-losing disaster,” she continues. This made me glad I am not in the business of soliciting votes.

For I have never heard of Lorraine Kelly either. That gaping hole in my education was plugged by Street-Porter, who identified Lorraine as a wealthy star of day-time television. Learn something every day.

As to the price of daily staples, such as milk and bread, I actually buy my own, which must set me apart from Boris Johnson. But I still can’t tell you the exact price of either a pint or a loaf. On that basis, I’ll resist the temptation of standing for any public office – the humiliation of being blackballed by Street-Porter would be unbearable.

Actually, ignorance of daytime TV sounds like a feather in a politician’s cap. One would like to think that the people who run the country have better things to do during the day than to watch soap operas. One would also expect them to be sufficiently successful in life not to care how many pennies on either side of 50p they pay for a pint of milk.

Street-Porter inadvertently identified the systemic problem with rampant political populism, otherwise known as universal franchise. Voters are expected to want politicians to be just like them: ill-educated, underpaid, uncultured, not especially bright – ideally tattooed and facial-metalled dwellers of council estates.

The assumption peddled by the likes of Street-Porter is that ‘toffs’ can’t possibly understand the needs of voters who fit that description. Neither can ‘toff’ politicians understand ethnic minorities, feel the pain of cripples and drug addicts, or relate to the needs of any of the 70+ sexes other than their own.

This is ideologised tosh. A politician, especially a PM, should have a broad range of qualifications that council-estate dwellers are unlikely either to acquire or to appreciate. Some such dwellers may rise above their circumstances, and my hat’s off to them. But such overachievers represent an exception, rather than the rule.

A successful statesman should possess certain intellectual tools that are in short supply at council estates, comprehensive schools and polytechnics. A statesman doesn’t have to be a professional intellectual – in fact, it’s best that he isn’t.

But he should possess a working knowledge and understanding of history, political science, religion, economics, foreign relations, his country’s constitution, law, sociology, philosophy.

This kind of knowledge presupposes (with the odd exception here and there) at least a middle-class family background, education at a good school and decent university, ideally hands-on experience in a profession where such knowledge is at a premium.

It’s preposterous to claim that any person so qualified is unable to understand the needs of common folk. A higher system can always understand a lower one, though the reverse isn’t true. And anyway, the needs of common folk are neither astrophysics nor differential calculus.

One doesn’t have to know the exact price of milk or bread to realise that such staples shouldn’t be out of anyone’s reach. One doesn’t have to live in a tower block to sympathise with those who do. One doesn’t have to use the NHS to know that it fails most people.

It’s not that some ‘toff’ politicians find common folk incomprehensible. It’s that some politicians, whatever their wealth or social origin, don’t care about people, common or otherwise. Actually, replace ‘some’ with ‘most’. Most of our politicians are self-serving spivs who only care about power.

Now we are talking about a deficit of character, not of knowledge. Yet this failing isn’t the exclusive property of the upper classes. A potential for crass, selfish insensitivity is an essential human characteristic. And it has long been my observation that modern politics encourages this trait to come to the fore.

However, a successful politician learns how to put on a sympathetic face even if he feels no sympathy. He knows there’s a class war going on – in fact, he belongs to the professional group that’s largely responsible for whipping up these hostilities. But he intends to claim victory nevertheless.  

That’s why politicians systematically corrupt voters into believing they are winning every battle of the class war. To that end most chaps on either side of the aisle profess intimate knowledge of football formations, prole music and TV, pub grub, cheap lager and other badges of the winning side.

This, unfortunately, is a two-way street. Even as they corrupt the electorate, the electorate corrupts them — such is the democratic feedback.

Before long they don’t have to pretend. They may still not know how much a pint of milk is, but they do develop proletarian tastes. I don’t think, for example, an earlier Tory Chancellor feigned an affection for a particularly revolting rap group. That’s exactly his cultural level, regardless of the number of millions his family has.

Only in a thoroughly corrupt political culture could someone like Angela Rayner rise to the top tier of politics. Whether or not she crosses and uncrosses her tattooed legs deliberately to lead Johnson astray at PM Question Time is immaterial.

What matters is that she is exactly the type of politician to satisfy Street-Porter’s stringent requirements. Angie became a mother at 16, a grandmother at 37, she did indeed grow up on a council estate, and she can’t string together a single grammatical sentence (“Was you or was you not at that party, Boris?”). And I bet she can still recite the whole price list of Asda’s goods.

She understands common folk, in other words. Yet every time she opens her mouth, it’s clear she understands nothing else. An ideal politician, as far as Janet Street-Porter is concerned.