Mikhail Prokhorov, the lightning rod

Prokhorov, the world’s 32nd richest man, has announced he’ll contest the Russian presidential elections against ‘alpha dog’ Putin in March. That’s the text of the message. But, as things so often are in Russia, it’s merely the camouflage for the really meaningful subtext.

But before we try to decypher it, a personal note: Misha (the diminutive version of his Christian name) and I have much in common: we were both born in Russia, we both spend much time in France and… well, that’s about it. From then on, it’s nothing but differences: he’s 6’8”, I’m not; he still lives in Russia, I don’t; he’s rich, I’m not; he was charged by Courchevel police with running a prostitution ring in 2007, I wasn’t. (The French later dismissed the charges when it turned out the imported Russian ladies were strictly for the private use of Misha and his retinue. Though at the time Misha swore he’d never darken France’s doorstep again, he has since softened his stance. And the next year his acolytes gave Misha a splendid birthday present: they bought the disco in Courchevel’s centre and closed it down, thus depriving the town of the focal point to its nightlife. The French call this sort of thing revanchism.)

And now the difference that really matters: I tend to make serious decisions on my own; Misha doesn’t, and this probably goes for what he calls ‘the most serious decison’ of his life: to stand for President. In his seriousness stakes, this must then rank higher than the decision Misha took last June, when he got out of his Norilsk Nickel (the world’s largest producer of that metal) and entered politics to form the Right Cause party. As is widely believed in Russia, that decision was made for him by Medvedev, the alpha dog’s poodle. Now why would Russia’s pseudo-president encourage a rival party to appear?

No Russian would ask that question, but a Westerner might. We are used to politics that, the odd bit of corruption, mendacity and double-dealing notwithstanding, are generally above board. The Russians, on the other hand, aren’t even aware that the board exists. They know, for example, that oligarchs like Misha aren’t businessmen in our sense of the word. They were, in the Russian phrase, ‘appointed oligarchs’ when the ruling KGB camarilla decided to go semi-legit internationally. Misha, for example, came out of nowhere in 1993 to become a billionaire overnight by purchasing Norilsk Nickel, whose market value was stratospheric. How did he get the money? Saved it up by taking bag lunches?

Most Westerners don’t ask this question because it doesn’t occur to them. Most Russians don’t ask it because they know the answer: Misha’s ‘business’ partner in the transaction was Vladimir Potanin, then Deputy Prime Minister in charge of privatisation. This sort of partnership might be called conflict of interest elsewhere, but not in Russia. There it was merely yet another would-be oligarch rewarded for his loyalty to the camarilla and entrusted with handling much of its capital. As Khodorkovsky’s case shows, such continuing loyalty is the precondition not only for getting the appointment, but also for staying in the job (or at large). No oligarch can remain at that perch if he shows the slightest disloyalty to the KGB, FSB, SVR, PDQ, SOB or whatever set of initials is really running Russia.

For months before the Duma elections a week ago, the camarilla had been aware that real opposition to Putin, their front man, was brewing. They responded in exactly the same way as the KGB used to handle dissent when it no longer suited their purposes to murder millions. Around the time of the Nixon détente in the late sixties, they created a bogus dissident movement they could control, thus infiltrating and emasculating the real dissent that was gathering strength. Using the same stratagem, Medvedev (well, Putin really) egged Misha on to enter the political arena last summer, to see if he could function as a lightning rod for the camarilla. After a short trial run, the Right Cause party folded: it had passed the test, and there was no need for it to enter Duma politics in earnest. But Misha was kept on tap for bigger, if not necessarily better, things.

Now the bigger things have arrived, and Misha has manfully assumed the function of a lightning rod, making sure that any real oppostion to the alpha dog would be run into the ground. This is of course conjecture, but, when glasnost is merely a figure of speech, an educated guess is often more reliable than straight reportage. My guess is that the deal struck somewhere in the Kremlin is that, should the ploy work, and Putin is ensconced for the next 12 years, Misha would get a top job, possibly Medvedev’s. Or else he may be allowed to function in the capacity of Her Majesty’s loyal opposition, ‘loyal’ being the operative world. A remote possibility also exists that the camarilla has decided to appoint Misha president, just as it once appointed him oligarch. If that happens, the West will be talking about the wind of change or whatever cliché will rule the day. The Russians won’t. They’ll know that ‘the wind returneth again according to its circuits.’ Or, as they say in Courchevel, plus ça change.



LibDems and other fascists

Of course I’m talking about the Russian neofascist Liberal Democrats led by Vladimir Zhirinovsky. What did you think?

Mr Zhirinovsky’s party stands for ‘washing Russian soldiers’ boots’ in the Indian Ocean, and he once made a racially abusive remark about Condoleezza Rice. He then compounded the insult by implying she should come to Russia to be sexually assaulted by Russian soldiers. Miss Rice’s response hasn’t been recorded, but it’s a fair assumption that she turned the invitation down.

The only reason I mention the party led by ‘Mad Vlad’ is that it did rather well in the Russian Duma race. Not as well as Zyuganov’s communists, who placed, but it did show. If the election were ever unrigged, as various oppositions demand, then these parties would probably get another 10% of the popular vote. Not enough to win the election, but enough to send a message to progress merchants who assume that, in a tyranny, any change is always for the better. That assumption is being proved wrong in the Middle East, and you can bet your bottom ruble it’ll come a-cropper in Russia. Provided, of course, that the ‘alpha dog’ Putin allows it to be tested.

Meanwhile, the protest rally in Moscow’s Swamp (Bolotnaya) Square on 10 December brought in a crowd whose size is estimated at somewhere between 25 and 150 thousand. In any case, in the apt remark of the Russian columnist Yulia Latynina, ‘it was a hell of a lot’ (my translation softens the line a bit). The alpha dog’s first reaction to the unfolding protests was as traditionally Russian as vodka: he blamed Hilary Clinton, to whom he owes his robust soubriquet. That didn’t work, but it was worth a try: Blaming outlanders does tend to strike a chord with the mysterious Russian soul. Thus it was the Germans surrounding the tsars who ruined Russia, the Jews surrounding Lenin and Stalin who massacred 60 million — name your own villains, as long as they aren’t simon-pure Russian. It’s not as if in this case Col. Putin thought the cheated electorate would think that Mrs Clinton had personally polled ‘a hell of a lot’ of people, ordering them to come to Swamp Square. No, it’s just that the dastardly Hilary and her ilk had egged the Russians on with their subversive sermons on democracy and free markets. Yes, this was definitely worth a try, but it didn’t take the alpha dog long to realise he was barking up the wrong tree.

For his next trick, the good colonel explained that the unfolding events have nothing to do with him personally. Contextually he acknowledged that some ‘irregularities’ might have contributed to his United Russia’s landslide. It was the personal pronoun that he repudiated. United Russia, howled the alpha dog, is in no way ‘his’. He, Col. Putin, isn’t a Duma member and therefore neither belongs to the ‘party of thieves and crooks’ (as it has become affectionately nicknamed) nor consequently leads it. That’s a bit like saying that, once Lenin became head of the Soviet government, he severed his links with the communist party he had founded. Now, if the first reaction was ever so slightly knee-jerk, the second one hints at the strategy the alpha dog is going to pursue in the March presidential elections.

Again he’s reading the Russian soul, or at least history, well. The Russians traditionally blame their ever-present misfortunes not on the ‘good tsar’ but on the ‘bad ministers’. The tsar (Secretary General, President) hides behind a metaphysical halo. He’s both the wrathful God of the Old Testament and the merciful God of the Gospels. The moment he descends from the cloud and begins to look, a bit, like a corporeal man, they’ll pounce and blow him apart (Alexander II) or riddle him with bullets (Nicholas II). But as long as he stays up there, he’s safe. It’s his ministers (party, immediate circle, police) who take the blame.

Putin clearly wishes to distance himself from United Russia, whose ratings are much lower than his own. It’s entirely possible that to that end he’ll break his pact with Medvedev (bear, in Russian) and toss him to the hound dogs. To mix in yet another zoological metaphor, sometimes it takes a scapegoat to protect a sacred cow. But one way or the other he clearly expects to win in March on the platform of his personal one-dog crusade to clear up the mess left by the ‘thieves and crooks’. One suspects this was Putin’s strategy from the start, which is why the two elections were cleverly scheduled on either side of the New Year’s break, which in Russia tends to be very long and, how shall I put this politely, rather exuberant.

It appears that, for the time being, Putin has decided to refrain from the use of force. Bump off the odd journalist in a dark Moscow alley (over 40 of them on his watch), rough up a dozen activists, or even radiate an opponent in London, and the bad publicity will soon fade away. But open up on a crowd of ‘a hell of a lot’ of protesters, and before long people will start talking serious atrocities. Not that Putin would have any moral qualms about a spot of target shooting — no, as all those photos of his muscular torso show, he’s a man’s man, nastoyaschiy muzhik in Russian. And the Russians don’t want their leaders to be wimps (Dave Cameron, ring your office). They like their muzhiks. The problem is that the whole project of glasnost and perestroika was designed as principally a PR exercise for Western consumption. And Stalin-like violence would get stuck in the West’s craw, spelling the end of the project. Can’t have that, can we?

For fear of emulating Cassandra’s fate I usually steer clear of her exploits. But I’m willing to make an exception in this case: the alpha dog will do fine. He has already laid the groundwork for electoral victories in perpetuity: no viable political opposition exists. The Western-style liberals are craven, weak and inept — as demonstrated by their willingness to form staunchly principled alliances with assorted fascists. In March, given the choice between the alpha dog and Zyuganov’s guard dogs or Zhirinovsky’s rottweilers, the Russians will shrug their shoulders: a distinction without a difference. Then they’ll wince and vote for the devil they know, rather than one they don’t know or one they wish to forget. And if they don’t, we have another rigged election to look forward to.

Decision not made, but delayed

Most papers are full of back-slapping panegyrics for Dave ‘David’ Cameron. I wasn’t around when Wellington came back from that field in Belgium, but I doubt the accolades he received were of greater intensity. Nor, I don’t think, did the then mayor of London congratulate the Iron Duke on having ‘played a blinder’. Wellington, as school children used to be taught, won the battle of Waterloo. Which battle did Dave win?

The taxes and regulations that were aimed at the heart of the City haven’t been retargetted. The treasonous Maastricht treaty still bears a British signature. The European Human Rights court still has jurisdiction here, and innumerable EU regulations are still in force. Dave, say the pundits, has distanced Britain from the rest of the EU. He did, in the sense in which a dog on a long lead is farther away from its owner than one on a short lead. But the dog can’t run away.

At the same time, the sideline and isolation merchants are screaming themselves hoarse. Because of Dave’s putative heroism, they emote, Britain won’t be able to affect decisions made by the EU. That’s tragic. Hold on a second, let me wipe my eyes. I’m bleeding inside and all that, but is one allowed to suggest that the EU won’t be the only place to hold us in such contempt? At the time of this writing, Britain can neither veto nor vet the decisions made by the US Congress. The Chinese also stubbornly keep us out of the loop. And even the ungrateful Commonwealth countries insist on thinking for themselves, as a result of which bloody-mindedness Australia, say, managed to escape the worst ravages of the debt crisis. And it’s not as if decisions made by other governments didn’t affect us. They do, as they are bound to in a globalised economy. And yet do they ever ask us? Do they, hell.

The difference, you’ll say, is that Britain isn’t yet the fifty-first state of America, but she is a member of the EU. This is true. It’s precisely the problem. And this problem Dave didn’t solve. In fact he only did two things of any importance: 1) he made a grand-stand symbolic gesture that for the time being seems to have sufficed to mollify his party and hold the coalition together, and 2) he drove Sarkozy satisfyingly close to apoplexy, thereby pleasing no end those of us who are blessed with a keen aesthetic sense.

Dave ‘David’ has climbed onto a high moral ground, but, not to come tumbling down from it, he must take the country out of the EU altogether. Then we’d be able to treat the EUSSR in exactly the same way as we treat the USA, China or Brazil. Actually perhaps better than that, for, superficial similarities notwithstanding, I’m convinced that culturally Britain has more in common with France than with the USA, to say nothing of China or Brazil. Friendly aloofness would work wonders: if they wanted to trade with us, we’d be all too happy to oblige. If they attacked our finance industry with protectionist laws, we could respond in kind by introducing retaliatory protectionist measures that would hurt them more than they could hurt us. If they wished to take issue with our foreign policy, or we with theirs, then NATO institutions would provide an ideal arena to settle differences and coordinate policy. And we could even give Sarkozy a free copy of Debrett’s Etiquette for Young Ladies, to help him learn good manners and stop behaving like a hyperactive child with learning difficulties. But we must get out first.

When the trimphant Dave has finished doing his laps in the chariot, showered with laurel wreaths and flowers, perhaps he could get around to the actual business of a good British government. Running sensible budgets. Rebuilding our manufacturing capacity. Rolling back the welfare state. Creating a favourable investment climate for our friends around the world. Protecting the realm. Returning to education that educates. Doing whatever a government can do to invigorate the church (which isn’t much, but every little bit helps). Formulating a foreign policy based on our national interests, rather than those of a foreign power. That’s the kind of blinder he ought to be playing. PR flackery can wait.



Angie, Nicky and Dave proved me wrong

This wasn’t the outcome I predicted. Frankly, I gave Angie and Nicky too much credit for political acumen (called deviousness in some quarters). What they should have done is go along with Dave’s more than modest requests, give him the safeguards for the City he wanted, and then erode them one by one over the next year or two. Considering that, according to the new treaty, they’d need only an 85% majority to push through any new changes, this would have worked like a dream — or a nightmare, depending on your point of view.

Instead, they provoked Dave into the only decision he could have made under the circumstances: a veto. Had he signed the treaty without the safeguards, he would have lost his parliamentary party completely, as opposed to mostly. Dave’s position as Tory leader would have become untenable unless he agreed to a referendum, possibly with the simple IN or OUT question to be asked. He knows what the answer would have been, which is why he didn’t want to be in a position where he’d have to pop the question. Forgive me for being such a cynic, but I simply can’t believe there were nobler motives there somewhere.

Now Britain finds herself in the area described by Guardian writers and readers as ‘the sidelines of Europe’ and ‘isolation’. The last time the country entered this perilous territory was 71 years ago, during the Germans’ previous attempt to unite Europe. This time Sweden, Hungary and the Czechs share these quarters with us for the time being, but no one is sure how long they’ll stay. A lot will depend on how quickly the EU, which is to say Germany, will restore its ertswhile ability and willingness to shower the Greeks et al with gifts. Angie doesn’t seem to think this will happen soon, what with the German electorate hinting it just might replace her with a clone from another party should her generosity prove excessive. How else Angie and Nicky plan to hold their euro-plus club together is unclear. In the absence of bribery, violence seems to be the only realistic, and time-proven, method, but I’m not sure Angie would be a convincing wielder of the cudgel — and Nicky is no Napoleon in any way other than his height.

A brief look at the geography of Britain, and also her history, will suggest that being on the sidelines of Europe is neither new nor particularly disadvantageous. In fact Britain has always geared her foreign policy to preventing a single dominant power from emerging on the continent, affecting the centre from the periphery. That stratagem isn’t going to work now, for such a power has indeed emerged: Germany. She’s the one with the cheque book. Whether she’ll call the shots within the EU treaty or, as Angie seems to be willing to do, outside it, is a technicality. What matters is that she’ll be the one to pay the piper and make the music. The tune will sound unpleasantly discordant to every British ear, other than those belonging to the LibDems and Ken ‘Kenneth’ Clarke.

So Angie and Nicky will now use eurocourts and eurobanks to enforce eurocompliance with the 3% ceiling on deficit spending — a ceiling that their own countries were the first to destroy, Samson-style. That this would help the euro is highly doubtful, considering that the project is flawed ‘structurally’, to use Dave’s favourite word. What this Germany-imposed austerity will produce without any doubt whatsoever is civil unrest throughout the more volatile member countries to begin with, and all of them eventually. And in case you’re wondering, this won’t take the shape of clubbable Barbour-clad gentlemen protesting against the ban on hunting. The unrest will be ferocious, and it will be ferociously suppressed (when push comes to shove, France’s CRS handles riots in a manner distinctly different from that of our own dear Met). It’ll be Yugoslavia revisited, and common sense suggests that, when indiscriminate firing starts, one’s safety is directly proportionate to one’s distance away from it.

As to Britain, the only sensible course of action would be to leave the EUSSR immediately, thus returning to her traditional position. But no one has painted Dave into that corner yet. ‘Yet’ being the operative word.


So wind turbines do work after all

All those naysayers bleating about wind farms being useless have been proved wrong. Buffeted by 50 mph gales, a £2-million wind turbine caught fire in Scotland yesterday, providing much needed light and heat for the countryside. Admittedly, that was the only contribution made by Scottish windfarms to that noble task, as all other turbines went on strike.

This isn’t just a figure a speech: according to a spokesman for National Grid, ‘wind farms just decided not to generate’ the 1,500 MW they were expected to produce — enough for two million homes. By inference, the turbines must have got together, in the TUC manner, taken the vote and ‘decided’ to form an uncrossable picket line. Unless the winds meet their demands (as yet unspecified), they’ll stay idle for as long as it takes. Let those Scotsmen freeze in the dark, see if the turbines care.

It has to be said that the winds haven’t always been cooperative, so this deadlock in negotiations is at least partly their fault. Sometimes they are nonexistent, leaving the turbines unemployed. At other times they are so still that the farms have to be helped along by the grid, consuming more power than the gadgets can generate. This power struggle will continue, and it’s unclear which party will emerge the winner. The loser, on the other hand, is fairly easy to predict with confidence: the public. You and me.

With the EU shenanigans laying a dense smokescreen, the government has unveiled plans to build 30,000 more of those ugly things. At £2 million a pop it adds up, but no sacrifice is too high for our spivocrats to show the world that THEY CARE. The world economy may be going to the dogs, an apocalyptic war is brewing in the Middle East, China is flexing its military muscle, Putin is threatening the West with nuclear weapons, but that’s nothing to prevent Dave et al from screaming that THEY CARE. That’s why they continue to increase our expenditure on foreign aid to economies considerably more dynamic than our own. The late Peter Bauer quipped that foreign aid is a transfer of money from the poor people in rich countries to the rich people in poor countries, but he missed the point. Which is that, to attract the lower intellectual and moral tiers of the electorate, our spivocrats have to show that THEY CARE.

Hence they’ve been neglecting for years the development of nuclear power, which isn’t just the most effective but also the safest alternative to hydrocarbons. And that’s why they keep throwing our money on various harebrained projects, such as solar and wind energy. The justification is that THEY CARE not only about this generation but also about hundreds of future generations threatened by global warming. Never in the history of politicking has so much been spent by so many on so little scientific evidence.

Meanwhile, we continue to buy our electricity from France, where more than 80% of it is produced by nuclear stations. This is one area in which Angie and Nicky don’t seem to see eye to eye. Driven by their high principles and intellectual integrity, they agree to disagree. Angie is faced with a strong Green party, and Nicky isn’t. So Angie is planning to get rid of nuclear power (a courageous decision in a country that doesn’t have its own oil), while Nicky doesn’t have to. That way both can claim that THEY CARE.

Meanwhile, yesterday’s accident in Scotland shows a way forward: using those turbines for firewood. This source of energy wouldn’t be exactly renewable — unless of course in parallel we continue to build more wind farms. Yes, that would work. Especially if the low energy output of the wind farms could be boosted by the hot air produced by our politicians. THEY DO CARE about power. But only the naive think it’s of the electric kind.



Sarkozy’s sly semantics

In the run-up to the EU summit, France’s vertically challenged president got up on the footstool that makes his height look a bit more, well, presidential and delivered a warning: ‘Never has the risk of a disintegration of Europe been so great.’ In spite of that horrific prospect, ‘Never have so many countries wanted to join Europe.’ That, in the context of the warning, makes those countries sound either stupid or suicidal.

The speech is gibberish on so many levels that it would take a book to comment on all of them. What is particularly mendacious is the trick that so many federasts rely upon: equating Europe with the European Union. Europe can’t disintegrate, Monsieur Sarkozy, though the EUSSR can and, I cordially hope, will. Nor can a country join Europe if God didn’t put it there in the first place, though some may wish to join the EUSSR in the forlorn hope that those trillion-euro handouts will start trickling down again.

Sarko’s locution was no slip of the tongue: many continentals have accused my eurosceptic friends and me of hating Europe. Well, I can’t speak for others, but I love Europe and much prefer it to any other continent (which is why I live there half the time). Moreover, I can almost guarantee that I know — and understand — European history and culture considerably better than Nicky and Angie do, put together, though admittedly this isn’t saying much. Yet I’m not just sceptical about the EU; I despise it and have always done so.

This awful experiment, with millions of people as laboratory rats, was built on lies and is sustained by them. Most of us would be able to see right through the fibs, which is why we are never asked what we think. To save your time and my health, I’ll skip the lies in the middle and just mention the first one and the current one.

The first lie is that the EU was instituted to pursue economic objectives. It wasn’t. The animus was exclusively political from the start, and the objectives weren’t far from those pursued in 1940-1944, when German and French bureaucrats first fell in love with one another. The EU is the child born as a result of that first coupling, with the German father using it to return to political domination, and the French mother to acquire it by hanging on to the father’s coattails.

Economically, the project was doomed from the start, especially since it had to expand beyond the married couple to vindicate itself. The ensuing orgy represented a misguided attempt to override economics with politics. This never works in the long term, and it has only ever worked in the short term when massive violence was used. This the federasts have so far refrained from, at least internally, which is why Europe’s share of the world’s economy has been steadily shrinking for 40 years. Adam Smith’s invisible hand packs a mean punch.

The second, current lie is that ‘a disintegration of Europe’ will have catastrophic consequences. As opposed to what, exactly? It’s not as if doing everything Angie and Nicky desire will mean beer and skittles — or wine and pétanque, if you’d rather. We are all in for a rough ride one way or the other. But for those of us who are constitutionally capable of looking beyond the next election, the gloom doesn’t necessarily mean doom. What would happen to Britain, if our government had the vision and the guts to get out and leave the federasts to clean up their own mess? Yes, the banks would take a hit of 2008 proportions, if not harder. But most of them are already under government control, which means they’ve failed in the free market anyway. It would conceivably take them a year or two longer to nurse themselves back to strength, and we’d all feel the pinch. There would be a recession, that goes without saying, but it would be neither the first nor the last. Somehow, we’ve always come back — and this time we could come back stronger than before. That is, of course, if HMG did what it takes.

A sweeping reform could turn Britain into a tax haven for global investors, who would bring to these shore the billions our sclerotic economy so badly needs. If the Channel Islands or, say, Hong Kong could do it, we can do it better. A series of tax cuts and other incentives could bring manufacturing concerns to Britain, providing employment for millions and reducing the need for the welfare state (not that there is any real need for it anyway, but this is beyond my scope here). In due course we could buy them out, to keep the profits for ourselves. A reform in our ‘education’, at present deliberately designed to turn children into illiterate, unemployable savages with a working knowledge of contraceptives and little else, would create a labour force that firms wouldn’t mind hiring. A huge tax cut across the board would help our domestic economy perk up and hard-working Britons take a breather.

All those things could be done here — and, with variations, on the continent as well. But they won’t be. Not with the Angie-Nicky-Dave show still in town. Therefore we’ll end up having nothing to grin about, and a lot to bear.

Great European catastrophes, such as the French, Russian and Nazi revolutions, have always resulted from weak and incompetent rulers being at the helm when a great storm was brewing. Ours today aren’t just weak and incompetent; they are also self-serving and corrupt. God help us.



Explaining Dave’s explanation

As his article in today’s Times proves, Dave ‘David’ Cameron isn’t the kind of politician who hides behind the smokescreen of obfuscation. He’s more than willing to explain his actions and intentions. Straight from the lip, just as we like it. But who, to use Byron’s phrase, will explain the explanation? Here’s my starter for 10 (no, not years in the slammer, this isn’t Russia yet, so keep your gallows humour to yourself).

Britain, according to Dave, will do anything to protect her national interests, even if this means not repatriating any powers from Brussels, because ‘we benefit greatly from the single market, which we must both safeguard and extend’ and it’s in our national interest to protect our national interests, which in any case is part of Dave’s job description and he cherishes our national identity as a source of strength, no not of Brussels, of Britain you silly thing, so there will be no referendum because there will be no transfer of power to Brussels, which has all the power already, so those sceptics can go boil an egg and let the Greeks eat it while Dave is out there protecting our national interests, especially those of our financial industry that has to be strong enough to make donations to Dave’s party so he can continue to protect our national interests that are coextensive with his own, so if the new treaty only has 17 signatories, and not 27, which really would be in our national interests, then there will be no referendum because Dave would not have signed anything new, and even if he did there would be no referendum anyhow because this would run contrary to our national interests, as defined by Dave, whose job it is to protect them by ‘bold structural reform programmes’ and ‘closer fiscal coordination’, provided they are in our national interests.

There, what could possibly be any clearer? If you want any specifics, you must look for them not in the text, but in the sub-text. The only issue Dave is prepared to stand firm on is the so-called Tobin tax on all financial transactions, which would effectively relocate Europe’s financial centre from London to Frankfurt, lowering Britain onto the perch currently occupied by Greece. And you know what? I’m sure Angie and Nicky will go along with this, chuckling between themselves at their own cleverness behind Dave’s back. You see, protecting the City of London from this egregious assault involves no repatriation of powers from Brussels. The Tobin tax isn’t in effect yet. It was only proposed by the European Commission on 28 September this year, and — call me a conspiracy theorist and kick me all the way to Brussels — one suspects specifically for the purpose of enabling Dave to save face by pretending he can protect Britain’s interests. To Angie and Nicky the Tobin tax is what a pawn sacrifice is to a chess master. The intent isn’t to give anything away. It’s to win the game.

While columnists are debating the interesting but moot point of where exactly Dave’s heart is (the universal assumption is that he has one), he finds himself in agreement with Ken ‘Kenneth’ Clarke, the Tory who entered into his own coalition with the LibDems 20 years ago. We aren’t going to repatriate any powers from Brussels at this point, says Ken, because trying to do so would prevent us from focusing on ‘how to maintain the financial stability of the western world.’ By inference, letting Angie and Nicky, proudly assisted by Dave, to ride roughshod over Britain equals pan-western stability. That argument wouldn’t survive 10 seconds of intelligent discussion, but a realist would never invite Ken ‘Kenneth’ to take part in one. People must never be taken out of their depth.

A word of avuncular advice to Dave: get yourself better writers, mate. That way you wouldn’t have to put your name to the kind of drivel that enables the likes of me to poke scurrilous fun. Really, waffle must be written so that no one guesses that’s what it is. It’s all in the wrist.

Russian elections outside Russia

Polling stations were set up all over the world for Russian citizens who choose to reside elsewhere. In London, there are almost 300,000 of them, and I don’t know a single one. It’s not that I’m prejudiced against my former compatriots; in fact, I have Russian friends all over the world, in LA, New York, Houston, Paris, Amsterdam, Auxerre. But not in London. My first sightings of New Russians arriving at these shores made me shun all venues where this vacuum in my social life could be filled. This was mostly an intuitive response; I couldn’t justify it in any rational way. Now I can.

Putin’s United Russia ended up third in London, not first as it did in its native habitat. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the parties that finished above alpha dog’s gang were the communists and the ultra-nationalists. On the other hand, the Russians living in the USA and Germany solidly voted for the liberals who didn’t finish in the medals elsewhere.

I can offer an explanation based on personal observations over many years. In any large Russian community abroad there are those who are integrated into the ambient life, and those who cling to the old ways. The former overwhelmingly go along with the dominant ethos. Thus such Russians in Texas are staunchly conservative Republican voters, while in New York they are predominantly leftwing Democrats. In New York the watershed ran along the language barrier: fluent speakers of English believed everything they read in The New York Times, while those whose English was poor to nonexistent (the majority) believed that political debates are best settled with large-calibre firearms.

Overhearing Russians in the streets of London, one gets the impression that it’s the other way around. Most of those living here can speak English, but they haven’t absorbed the values that tend to be expressed in that language. An outpouring of antediluvian Russian chauvinism, laced with anti-Semitism is ever-present. Sometimes it’s irritating, at other times funny, such as the other day, when a middle-aged Russian woman, constantly jumping between the two languages, told her companion, ‘He’s a Jew in the worst sense of the word.’ I fought hard not to laugh at the way she put it, and not to cry at the sentiment.

Now the London Russians have voted for the Russian parties that hark back to Comrades Lenin, Stalin and, presumably, Hitler. Something for the Home Office to consider, methinks.

Lord Lester and the Bill of Wrongs

That Lord Lester, QC, should love Strasbourg justice is par for the course: he is a LibDem peer after all, and party loyalty has been known to dim the judgment of better men than him. What is deeply worrying is that he seems to be ignorant of the basics of constitutional law. Oh, I’m sure he’s capable of giving you the chapter and verse of Clause X in Article Y, Part Z. What I mean by the basics is understanding what a constitution is, how it comes into being, how it develops historically. You know, the kind of things school children used to learn 100 years ago before they knew what contraceptives were for.

‘Before the Human Rights Act,’ Lord Lester writes in today’s Times, ‘there were insufficient legal remedies in Britain — a country without a written constitution — for breaches of our basic rights.’ Actually, Sir, not having a written constitution is a sign of legal strength, not weakness. It proves that, unlike, say, the USA, France, Germany or Israel, England isn’t a political or ideological contrivance but a nation that has developed organically over centuries. In such lands constitutions are written not on sheets of paper but in the hearts of the people. If they are indeed written there, a unifying document will be redundant. If they aren’t, it’ll be useless. A written constitution is like a prenuptial agreement stipulating the frequence of sex: if you have to write it down, you might as well not bother.

The way ‘our basic rights’ have been protected for over a millennium stacks up rather well against the record of either Germany or France. Since 1688, when the English constitution adopted its modern shape, France has been ruled by several variously carnivorous monarchies (constitutional or otherwise), an ad hoc revolutionary committee, a Directory, a military dictatorship, an emperor, five different republics and, from 1940 to 1944, by the Nazis, first de facto and then de jure. And Germany… well, we all know about her. Throughout that time, England’s legal system, her sage, moderate and balanced constitution, was the envy of the world, including such architects of the Enlightenment as Montesquieu.

Edmund Burke, one of the greatest constitutional minds ever, unerringly identified the three pillars on which our constitution rests: prejudice, which is intuitive knowledge; prescription, which is truth passed on by previous generations; and presumption, which is inference from the common experience of mankind. Signposting the organic development of England’s constitution have indeed been written documents, such as Magna Carta, the Habeas Corpus Act, the Bill of Rights (that inspired a similar American addendum to their constitution), the Act of Settlement — well, this isn’t the place to get into the minutae of constitutional history. This is a place, however, to suggest that, should any constitutional problems arise here, England would be better placed to solve them than Lester’s continental friends.

It is a fact that all our post-war governments, regardless of their party affiliation, have done their best to undermine the best constitution the world has ever known. Inspired by Lester’s clones, they’ve exploded TNT charges under the double-jeopardy law, the right not to give self-incriminating evidence and many others. They’ve also destroyed the constitutional balance to the dictatorship of the Commons traditionally provided by an unelected, hereditary House of Lords. Its resulting impotence is best exemplified by the presence of the likes of Lord Lester in its chambers.

The honourable gentleman is campaigning, somewhat hysterically, for allowing the European Court of Human Rights, that fly-by-night concoction, to override the very nature of Britains’s realm (he’s particularly keen on giving the vote to convicted felons, something that has been wisely withheld since 1870.) He is also proud of being a member of the Commission on a Bill of Rights. But we already have one, your Lordship. It was passed in 1689 by the very parliament you wish to turn into a travesty. And, just for decorum’s sake, Britain doesn’t have ‘citizens’. She has subjects of Her Majesty the Queen. I could recommend a short reading list for Lord Lester to grasp the intricacies of the British realm. But I won’t. He won’t understand.


Angie and Nicky are getting married

Having manhandled each other in clinches over a few months, Merkel and Sarkozy have now gone beyond the foreplay stage. And it’s we who are on the receiving end.

According to the newlyweds, the agreement they struck in the last few hours introduces structural changes that ‘go beyond agreements’. Allow me to translate: never mind the prenup, it’s how we feel about each other that counts. Yes, but agreements are, well, legal. And legality matters, Napoleonic code and all that, to say nothing of British laws and those of the few other countries that still observe them for old times’ sake. There is the rub: all the meaningful legal barriers in the way of the happy couple have been demolished. So they’ve just told us what they are going to do:

To begin with, the new EU treaty, which is the greatest part of the trousseau, will now only need the quorum of the 17 eurozone countries, not the wider circle of 27 friends. Ideally, it ought to be all 27, say Angie and Nicky, but at a pinch the wedding party could be smaller. And from then on no single guest will be able to stop the proceedings by showing ‘just cause’. No veto powers — all Angie and Nicky will need to pass any new reform is an 85% majority, and the remaining 15% can just grin and bear it — sorry, ‘hereafter forever hold their peace’.

The message to Britain is clear and boy is it loud: if you want to be invited to the wedding, promise to behave. If you don’t, we can jolly well go ahead without you, see if we care.

This is the main thrust of the joint announcement, even if the bride and groom may deny that it is. The details are to be worked out later, ushers’ uniforms, bridesmaids’ dresses, rings, that sort of thing. In broad strokes, all the members will have to put a ceiling on their deficits, 3% of GDP. Go beyond that, and you’ll be slapped down with automatic penalties, not that Angie and Nicky want to tell you how to run your country. How even such low deficits will serve the purpose of reducing debts is unclear, but then I told you it’s just a detail. The ECB won’t become the lender of last resort, and there will be no eurobonds; the guests will have to pay their own way. Or rather they’ll use the US Federal Reserve in the last-resort capacity, what with its generous offer to pay for the wedding with an endless supply of cheap dollars. The dollars will be indeed about as cheap as the paper they’ll be printed on, but that’s one for the future.

As Angie and Nicky are about to swap paroxysms on the nuptial EU bed, and the servants are finishing off the stale bubbly left in the glasses, Britain shivers outside, her nose to the window. The temptation to toss a brick through the glass, screaming ‘plague on both your houses’ is strong, but the safe bet is that our powers that be will resist it. After all, who’d want to spoil such an auspicious occasion for the happy couple? Our PM has already said there would be no referendum, and you know why: He knows this marriage from hell has been made in heaven. Even if the rest of us don’t.