Nick Clegg’s Russian pride

Does Nick Clegg love the EU so much because he carries it within himself? The English, German and Dutch rivers intermingle with the as yet non-EU Russian brook in his bloodstream. Add to this his Spanish wife, and verily I say unto you: the mix is explosive.

Now far be it from me to suggest that one’s personality, or much less behaviour, is solely, or indeed mainly, attributable to one’s ethnicity. This isn’t a bed we made for ourselves, even though we have to lie in it. Genes, ethnic or otherwise, may give a bias to one’s life, but they don’t determine it. We make our own free choices throughout, some good, some bad. It’s perfectly acceptable to be proud of the former and ashamed of the latter. It’s wrong to attribute either to our ancestry.

Logically then, one’s ethnicity by itself is nothing to be either proud or ashamed of. We are what we are. However, one can legitimately be either proud or ashamed of a specific ancestor. A German descending from Heinrich Heine can be forgiven a spot of familial pride. The same emotion in a descendant of Heinrich Himmler is cause for summoning the men in white coats. Stands to reason, doesn’t it?

Nick Clegg, however, defies reason by claiming that he is proud of the Russian part of him. If he means this in general, it doesn’t make much sense, and Nick isn’t a stupid man (he’s many other things, but we won’t talk about it now). So he has to imply a particular affection for his great-great aunt, who put those Russian drops into the family barrel. Well, let me tell you, there’s nothing to be proud of.

When those muscular, leather-jerkined Bolsheviks took over in 1917, they immediately began to murder, torture and rob millions, often for no reason other than wrong class origins. That, no doubt, was most satisfying, but the trouble was that the West had some misgivings about that sort of thing. And Lenin’s gang couldn’t have survived without the West’s support. This meant they had to offset the bad press they were receiving, by countering it with some good press. That could only come from those Western cultural and political figures whose sympathy the murderers could court. Some of those, such as the American communists John Reed and Louise Bryant, didn’t need to be asked. Many others required inducements. These were provided by the Soviet secret police, known at the time first as VCheKa and then as OGPU, an organisation that could be commended for its deviousness, but never accused of subtlety. The very unsubtle ‘honey trap’ figured prominently in their bag of tricks.

But, even if westerners could be initially trapped by the ‘kitchen maids’ who, according to Lenin, would one day form the government, they would soon spring the trap out of sheer boredom. No, to taste really sweet the honey had to be provided by the fragrant, multilingual, cultured ladies from the same classes the OGPU was busily exterminating. There was no shortage of them, young girls prepared to prostitute themselves to redeem their unfortunate nativity. A spate of famous Westerners went on to acquire OGPU wives or mistresses (list available on request). One of the busiest WAGs was Clegg’s great-great aunt, Moura Budberg, née Zakrevskaya. A life-long Bolshevik agent, she was particularly good at her job, first bagging R.H. Bruce Lockhart, the British envoy who played an ambivalent role in the post-revolutionary events. Then on to Maxim Gorky, who was at the time feeling queasy at the sight of freely flowing blood. Then, or rather in parallel, on to H.G. Wells, who described Lenin as ‘the dreamer in the Kremlin’ at the time the dreamer was outdoing  the later nightmarish exploits of Hitler. In due course Moura moved to England, and was free to travel back and forth to Russia any time she wished — the NKVD, as it had become, was sure of her loyalty and grateful for her service. It was in England that Moura gave her descendant Nick something to be proud of by marrying Baron Budberg.

As I said, I don’t believe that Clegg’s double-dealing, self-serving behaviour over the last few weeks is in any way attributable to Moura’s genes. But perhaps one could suggest that, even if he has little else to be proud of, this particular pride is misplaced.


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