Sunday, 8 December 2019

A fair question

A vote for the British Conservatives is a vote against Sir John Major, Tony Blair, Amber Rudd, the BBC, 92% of university lecturers and the Anglican and Catholic hierarchies. Put like that, how can anyone hesitate?

There was never so dishonest an election in Britain, since the last one

I have followed British politics closely since I was in short trousers (we wore them at my junior school) and there was never an election with so many lies told, by all sides. 

Boris is not going to let Donald Trump do something malign to the NHS but his promises to cut taxes and increase spending are implausible and he has played fast and loose with the truth a lot. He told someone he had given up drink till Brexit happens, but continues to drink.

Messrs. Corbyn and McDonnell lie when they say that they want to remain in the EU and Nato. We know they would prefer to leave. Boris said they want to leave Nato and disband MI5 but this is no longer their intention, though it was 4 or 5 years ago. It was not a lie, but misleading. 

I do not think Corbyn is an antisemite (because he is a Marxist and Marxists ipso facto cannot be racists). Stephen Pollard, Editor of the Jewish Chronicle, told me on Twitter that he didn't think he was an antisemite, last year. However, Jeremy Corbyn backs Hezbollah or Hamas but does not choose to admit it.

I have been compared to Graham Greene and Somerset Maugham!

This is a nice compliment from Kathy Gyngell,the Editor of Conservative Woman, a good website where I have started sending some of my articles. 

She has awarded me her weekly prize, for my account of last weekend in Paris, in preference to other writers including James Delingpole.
'The prize goes to Paul Wood for his quite wonderfully written essay on France’s migrant revolution, which in my opinion had its way paved by those earlier soixante-huitards student revolutionaries. His evocative comparison of the past Paris with the Paris he has just revisited in its new Muslim incarnation took me back to those past geniuses, Graham Greene and Somerset Maugham, that so few today have the education, let alone the ability, to reproduce. Do read and appreciate.'



A politician divides mankind into two classes: tools and enemies. Nietzsche

Stupidity has a knack of getting its way. Albert Camus

Saturday, 7 December 2019

Extinction Rebellion isn’t about the Climate

I blogged today about the new religion of human rights. A perfect example of the adherents of the new religion is one Stuart Basden, one of the founders of Extinction Rebellion, who has long hair and who penned an article from which I quote headlined

Extinction Rebellion isn’t about the Climate

'...I’m here to say that XR isn’t about the climate. You see, the climate’s breakdown is a symptom of a toxic system of that has infected the ways we relate to each other as humans and to all life. This was exacerbated when European ‘civilisation’ was spread around the globe through cruelty and violence (especially) over the last 600 years of colonialism, although the roots of the infections go much further back.

There is not much diversity in British academia

This week's Times Higher Education survey of the voting preferences of British university lecturers: 

54% Labour 
23% Lib Dem 
8% Conservative

Over half want Jeremy Corbyn to be Prime Minister and they are forming the more intelligent half of the British people of the future. This is the Jeremy Corbyn who backed Sinn Fein IRA and who responded to the fall of the Berlin Wall by running an article in the newsletter he edited headlined 
'No cheers here for a united capitalist Germany'.

Pius XII was not Hitler's Pope

A recent article in the Catholic Herald explains the large part Pope Pius XII played in saving the lives of Jews in the Second World War.

The untrue idea that he ignored their plight is the fault of The Deputy, a play produced in 1963 by a previously unknown German, Rolf Hochhuth, which blamed Pius XII for the Holocaust. 

We know from the memoirs of Ion Mihai Pacepa, the Romanian Securitate general who defected in 1978, that the KGB had supplied Hochhuth with false information and his play was rewritten by Erwin Piscator, a famous producer and communist agent of influence. 

The Soviets’ aim was to derail the improving relations, after the Second Vatican Council, between the Church and Judaism.

The dangers of diversity

A Free Left Blog is written by Ben Cobley, a Labour supporter or former Labour supporter and the author of 'The Tribe: the liberal-left and the system of diversity', which criticises the British state's diversity ideology. I quote from it here partly to bookmark the blog for myself and for you and also to quote a good article on immigration, that in turns quotes 'development economist' Paul Collier on Radio 4 in 2013:
“Some diversity is good. It gives the society more innovation, gives it more variety. But if you have too much diversity, trust starts to erode; cooperation erodes; generosity erodes. And so there is a right amount of diversity. I can’t tell you how much the right amount is, but that’s what every society’s got to antagonise about.”
I'd have thought that was a truism but in England among the people who rule England, from the schoolmasters upwards, it is not.

Ben Cobley writes well about the diversity ideology here. He says the power of identity

Why is there more intellectual freedom in Bucharest than Cambridge?

Several people sent me this Spectator article recently about how much more intellectual freedom there is here in Romania than at my university, Cambridge. The writer, a Romanian student at Cambridge, tells how he wanted to speak to a political society about 
‘The classical liberal case against the EU’ –and was asked not to do so.

‘The problem is… we’re looking for something a bit more mainstream.’ Mainstream? But this is broadly the view of 52 per cent of the UK population! ‘Right. It’s just that we had a pro-Brexit speaker once and it all got a bit uncomfortable, a bit… controversial.’ Controversial ideas? At a university? Whatever next?

Hitler, the new human rights religion and the fall of the West

The history of the Western world after 1945 is essentially a meditation on Nazism and Hitler. 

The history of Eastern Europe is not. It is a meditation on the nation, freedom, Marxism, Christianity, what Unamuno called the tragic sense of life, on many things but not on Nazism or Hitler.

This is why a highly intelligent Romanian woman from an old boyar family recently complained to me 
I am tired of hearing about the Holocaust. It was 70 years ago.
The reaction against Nazism after 1945 is the theme of Return of the Strong Gods: Nationalism, Populism, and the Future of the West by R.R. Reno, Editor of the wonderful First Things MagazineI have so many books I must read and this is another for my list.

He writes,
"The violence that traumatized the West between 1914 and 1945 evoked a powerful, American-led response that was anti-fascist, anti-totalitarian, anti-colonialist, anti-imperialist, and anti-racist. These anti imperatives define the postwar era."

Friday, 6 December 2019

Boris Johnson: 'To any non-Muslim reader of the Koran, Islamophobia — fear of Islam — seems a natural reaction'

Delightfully, both Boris Johnson and his opponent Jeremy Corbyn have thought aloud for decades and said things which are much more interesting than anything party leaders normally say or want brought up in election campaigns.

Jeremy Corbyn's record abounds with demands to abolish MI5, leave Nato and give up nuclear weapons. I agree with him about Nato. He referred to 'our friends in Hezbollah' which gets many people worked up, though I am not quite sure why. He always sided with the Palestinians against Israel, which is what you would expect of a left-wing socialist. (Nowadays. It was different in 1948 when Stalin was the first world leader to recognise the Jewish state, which he probably assumed would be Communist.) Corbyn was right always to want the UK to leave the EEC/EC/EU and to want to avoid the second Iraq war and disastrous interventions in Libya and Syria. I wish Boris had been as wise.

The quotation below is from an article written by Boris three or four days after the massacre of people on the London tube by Muslim zealots in 2005. 

He makes some good points, though there is plenty in the Muslim critique of modern 'British values' that any conservative should agree with.
'To any non-Muslim reader of the Koran, Islamophobia — fear of Islam — seems a natural reaction, and, indeed, exactly what that text is intended to provoke. Judged purely on its scripture — to say nothing of what is preached in the mosques — it is the most viciously sectarian of all religions in its heartlessness towards unbelievers. As the killer of Theo Van Gogh told his victim’s mother this week in a Dutch courtroom, he could not care for her, could not sympathise, because she was not a Muslim.

'World’s Finest Byzantine Icons At Risk After Erdogan Court Win'

Since a friend first took me to the Chorea Church/Museum I visit it every time I visit Constantinople. I stay next door, in the very charming Kuriye Hotel, and love to walk from there through the working class Fatih district. There I stumble across beautiful but largely forgotten mosques, completely forgotten churches and Roman pillars which stand ignored in busy streets. This is how travel should be, free of tourist kitsch, free of people from Idaho. 

I didn't know until I read a post on the blog of a Greek-American that the Chorea mosaics were the best Byzantine mosaics in the world. Nor did I know that Turkey’s highest administrative court ruled last month that the 1945 cabinet decision that made the mosque into a museum was unlawful because a mosque “cannot be used except for its essential function”. President Erdogan is expected to implement the court’s decision.

Will the Hagia Sofia be next?

In the nineteenth century Russians expected one day that High Mass would be celebrated in the Hagia Sofia. After the Ottoman Empire lost the First Balkan War it seemed possible one day, but it never happened. Now it is easy to imagine that it might become a mosque again.

The old landmarks are disappearing, or perhaps I should say they are re-emerging..

Thursday, 5 December 2019

Evelyn Waugh might have invented mass murder at a conference on “reducing reoffending”

I was in Paris and busy when another Islamist atrocity partly on London Bridge took place in the middle of a British election, as happened in the last election. I am pleased that the parties did not suspend campaigning for a day or the BBC suspend political programmes,
as absurdly happened in 2017.

A young Cambridge man, 
Jack Merritt, was murdered foully, stabbed to death, and I offer my condolences to his loved ones. The killer, Khan, whom he had mentored, had hours earlier given a talk about reforming prisoners at an event Jack Merritt helped organise. He bravely tried to disarm him and died doing so.

He worked at the University of Cambridge’s criminology department. The event held at Fishmongers’ Hall in the City of London was called Learning Together and an attempt at “bringing students in Higher Education and Criminal Justice institutions together in transformative learning communities”.

The aim was to form connections that “make society more inclusive and safer by reducing reoffending”. Khan, however, wanted to reoffend. W
ith the mirthless sense of humour of a psychopath he used the occasion to go on what the tabloids call a killing spree. He stabbed to death another Cambridge graduate, Saskia Jones, and injured more people.
Mr Merritt’s grieving father David described his son, a Labour supporter, as “a beautiful spirit who always took the side of the underdog” and who believed deeply in the concept of prisoner rehabilitation.

On Twitter he said: ‘My son, Jack, who was killed in this attack, would not wish his death to be used as the pretext for more draconian sentences or for detaining people unnecessarily.” 

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

There are plenty of people out there nasty enough to vote Tory

'When he was an eight year old, the fable goes, Boris Johnson declared his ambition to be “king of the world”. He won’t be far off it as he prepares for a five-year term in which he can wreak revenge on the EU, the courts, the Commons, the BBC, Channel 4 and anyone else. Be afraid.

'Tactical voting, the Remain Alliance, the youthquake, the remaining TV debates, Andrew Neil, Jeremy Corbyn’s superb campaigning skills, Lord Buckethead, Nigel Farage, the Russians - forget them. Even the brilliant Nicola Sturgeon, penned in up in Scotland.

'Progressives: Do not delude yourself. Do not entertain false hope. There are plenty of people out there nasty enough to vote Tory, and mean it. Even if you don’t know any.'

A savage indictment of Pope Francis by recent editor of the Catholic Herald

The decline (and fall?) of the Church concerns not just Catholics or even Christians. It involves the decline of Western civilisation, as economic and political analyst David Goldman recently said. He is an observant Orthodox Jew. Ask not for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee. 

For many years I was annoyed if people spoke of Catholic priests as child abusers and pederasts, wrongly thinking the numbers of guilty men were tiny. Most priests are good, selfless men, of course, but the numbers who are wicked are not tiny at all. 7% of priests in Australia, a Royal Commission was told, allegedly abused children between 1950 and 2010.

The Church is in as gravely corrupt a state as in the early 16th century, before Luther nailed his theses to the wall. The hierarchy and the College of Cardinals are riddled with depraved men and with men who protect the guilty. Damian Thompson, who was Editor of the Catholic Herald in London until he resigned recently, says the Pope has repeatedly protected guilty men and names lots of names. 

Meanwhile, he asks us to confess to 'ecological sins'.

Monday, 2 December 2019

Paris in the wintertime

“For years, every year during the summer, he would go to Paris. It was automatic with his wife and his family. Hadn’t seen him in a while. And I said, ‘Jim, let me ask you a question: How’s Paris doing?’ ‘Paris? I don’t go there anymore. Paris is no longer Paris.” — Donald Trump, May 2017
I spent this weekend in Paris to celebrate my birthday with some friends. I hardly know the city and saw the Leonardo exhibition, walked around St Germain in the beautiful, very cold sunshine, ate four wonderful meals in exactly the kind of good, characterful restaurants you imagine, enjoyed the late 19th century Parisian atmosphere and succeeded in navigating the baffling Châtelet–Les Halles overland and underground railway hub to find the train to take me the ten minutes to Saint-Denis. Everything in French stations is endlessly difficult and I think this helps explain why England voted to leave the European Union.

In Saint-Denis stands the basilica where most of the French kings and queens are buried, from King Clovis I (481-511) and the Merovingian rois fainéants to King Louis XVIII, the last French king not to be deposed, who died in 1824.

A necropolis is an odd place to visit on one's birthday, I suppose, a sort of momento mori. 

Remember you must die, as a Roman celebrating a triumph was reminded by a slave sitting beside him. Not that I consider my life so far exactly a triumph. Still, as the Abbé Sièyes said when asked what did during the French Revolution, I have survived.

But countries die, as well as men. 

Christianity and the Decline of the West

Catholic Mass attendance in Great Britain overtook Anglican attendance around the turn of the century. A bigger proportion of the population in Great Britain attends Catholic Mass than in France. 

But Catholicism in Great Britain is also in steep decline and many Mass goers in England are Poles, Slovaks, Lithuanians and other foreigners, of course. Damian Thompson, until he recently resigned editor of the Catholic Herald, says that by mid-century mosque attendance will overtake church attendance in the UK.

Meanwhile, stranger and stranger things happen in Catholic churches. Catholicism, which, until the present Pope ascended the throne, seemed rock-like and unchanging now seems to change. 

Here is a quotation from a letter that Archbishop Vigano wrote yesterday to Alexander Tschugguel. He is the young man, 26, who, during the Amazon Synod, seized several “Pachamama” statues from a church in Rome and threw them into the Tiber. On Saturday


Les Murray

'God is in the world as the poetry is in the poem.' 

St. Pius X in his motu proprio Fin Dalla Prima Nostra, articles I and III:

“Human society, as established by God, is composed of unequal elements, just as the different parts of the human body are unequal; to make them all equal is impossible, and would mean the destruction of human society” and, further, that “it follows that there are, according to the ordinance of God, in human society princes and subjects, masters and proletariat, rich and poor, learned and ignorant, nobles and plebeians, all of whom, united in the bonds of love, are to help one another to attain their last end in heaven, and their material and moral welfare here on earth.”

News item in The Tacoma News Tribune, April 11, 1953.

There'll Be No Escape in Future from Telephones

Mark R. Sullivan, San Francisco president and director of the Pacific Telephone & Telegraph Co., said in an address Thursday night:

The decline of Christianity is closely linked to the decline of the West

"Whenever I try to raise the topic of persecuted Christians in EU minister's meetings everybody says: 'Peter, better say 'religious minorities'. Well I WANT to say 'persecuted Christians'.." Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Sziijártó at the International Conference on Christian Persecution that took place recently in Budapest and was ignored by the press. 

"Finally, on hearing about the persecution of Christians, the greatest mistake Europeans can ever make is to say that this could never happen to them in their own country. Many
people share this delusion, even though Europe has been repeatedly struck by terrorism.

Wednesday, 27 November 2019

The new fanatical religion of human rights

Toby Young writes well about fortieth anniversary of The Life of Brian, considered blasphemous by many, including my schoolboy self, in 1979. The song from it, 'Always Look on the Bright Side of Life', sung on the crucifix, formed part of the Opening Ceremony of the London Olympics. (I was invited to attend and foolishly turned the invitation down, damn!) That opening ceremony was a homage to an idea of Britain, shorn of its conservative aspects, that sophisticated, highly educated Londoners could admire. Presumably its mockery of religion is considered central to an idea of Britishness that the centre-left can respond to, along with immigration and the National Heath Service.

He says:
"Turns out, the Pythons were naive in thinking that mankind’s yearning for religious faith was an aspect of our nature we could outgrow. The ebbing away of the Christian tide has left a God-shaped hole in the Anglosphere and it has been filled with something more sinister — a constantly mutating moral absolutism. Its latest manifestation is Extinction Rebellion, but no doubt it will be something even more fanatical and millenarian in a few years’ time. These quasi-religious movements resemble Christianity in its fundamentalist, pre-Reformation period when believers were less willing to forgive heretics and sinners."
The whole article deserves to be read.

As I try to understand the madness of our times, the only explanation I can come up with is that we are living through a period of religious frenzy, the religion being the malign religion of human rights, to which is spliced the religion of climate change.

Monday, 25 November 2019

Lam to the Slaughter

HONG KONG Pro-democracy candidates have swept the board in elections to Hong Kong's local councils, winning 17 out of 18 councils in elections seen as a de facto referendum on Hong Kong's protest movement and the leadership of chief executive Carrie Lam.

Lam to the Slaughter is a great headline. The above is a quotation from a daily email I receive from the New Statesman, but I see on the net that several sources use it, including the Economist.

But it pales beside this one. When Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif looked likely to fall from power because his daughter submitted documents to the Supreme Court dated before January 31, 2007 and typed in Calibri, a font which only became available on that date, it occasioned the best headline I ever saw:

Saturday, 23 November 2019

A Simple Guide to Ukrainegate, for people who are not interested in the subject

I don't imagine you are following the attempt to impeach Donald Trump too closely, gentle non-American reader. 

There seems little point, as the U.S. Senate will not vote to remove him from office.

So what's it all about and who is in the right?  

Obviously, at first sight, Hunter Biden appears in a bad light and so does Donald Trump.

This is what distinguishes the Ukrainian story from the Russian story, the allegation that Mr Trump was being blackmailed by Vladimir Putin and was a danger to American national security. 

It was pretty obvious from the start that that story had no substance. The people who appeared in a bad light in that story were the CIA, FBI and MI6.

Some people said that the investigation was an attempted coup by the deep state and other people reacted with irrational fury to the suggestion, but it was the administration trying to get rid of Donald Trump. The word 'coup' and the phrase 'deep state' are a case of de gustibus non disputandum.

Friday, 22 November 2019

Boris is Just William

View image on Twitter                                                    

Yesterday I quoted Henry explaining political parties to the Outlaws in Richmal Crompton's William, Prime Minister, a fine story. Today I recalled that my friend Ruth Dudley Edwards aptly compared Boris to William Brown when he (Boris I mean) became Prime Minister. 

I looked it up on the net and found a very good essay by her on the theme
Michael Deacon had also made the analogy last year, comparing Emily, Lady Nugee with one of the female battleaxes with whom William often battles. I quote from Ruth.

'Like so many others, I’ve spent all too much time recently weighing up the qualities and deficiencies of Boris Johnson and the pros and cons of having him as Prime Minister. That involved reading innumerable articles asking who the real Boris is. It made me little wiser. Much like Boris before the referendum, I dithered about whether we should take the risk.
'Which is why I was surprised last week at how joyful I felt when I watched him standing outside number 10. Illumination didn’t strike until the following day, when I heard that he had appointed Dominic Cummings and Michael Gove to implement revolution, and I realised that the real Boris is, of cours
e, the 11-year-old William Brown, of Just William fame, who is leading his gang, the Outlaws, to take on Brussels and win. I haven’t yet decided which of

Thursday, 21 November 2019

Quotations for today

The discipline of the written word punishes both stupidity and dishonesty. 
John Steinbeck

We like someone because. We love someone although. 
Henry de Montherlant

Serious-minded people have few ideas. People with ideas are never serious. 
Paul Valéry

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

Free speech in England is a memory

Former English policeman Harry Miller has taken the College of Policing and Humberside Police to court after he was contacted by the police in January, following a complaint over allegedly 'transphobic' tweets.

The court heard that the police told him that he had not committed a crime, but his post was being recorded as a "hate incident".

The counsel for the College of Policing said: 

"While the claimant now expressly disavows having any personal hostility or prejudice towards transgender people, his social media messages speak for themselves."
In one tweet, he said, Mr Miller posted: 
"I was assigned mammal at birth, but my orientation is fish. Don't mis-species me. F**kers."

TV journalists fight for political power

Last night's television debate between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn sounds like it was a waste of time. It was not really a debate at all and the candidates were given little chance to elaborate arguments.

Had each been interviewed by Andrew Neil it would have been worth watching.

Or a debate like the one between two candidates for Austria's presidency, without a moderator, would be exciting.

Still, I am very sorry that we have television debates in the UK. They belong in America but not in a Parliamentary system like Britain's.

Apart from their being uninformative, they concentrate too much power in the hands of television companies and television journalists.  They anyway have far too much power, despite the existence of social media.

They are very hungry for power over politicians and politics, partly to make money and partly to control the political agenda. We all see clearly now that political journalists are political actors.

Ask poor, ill advised Prince Andrew what he thinks about the power of the mainstream media. 

Monday, 18 November 2019

The British electorate is being dissolved and a new one formed - but everyone knows that

The British general election is not the most important one since 1945. It is more important. If the Conservatives do not win an absolute majority there will be a second referendum on Brexit and a second referendum on Scottish independence. This is existential. The UK's existence and independence are at stake.

Is it the most important election ever? It is the most important one since the 1831 election, at least, which endorsed parliamentary reform and changed politics forever.

The Father of the last House of Commons, Kenneth Clarke, says that the result is impossible to predict but, 

“If I had to stake my life on it I think it will produce a hung parliament.”
He might be right. He might well be right too that Boris could have got his Brexit deal through Parliament, in which case Boris should have done so. 

This might have meant he won fewer Labour Leaver votes, and the Liberal Democrats fewer Remainer votes, but it would have given him a momentum and the appearance of a winner. 

Jeremy Corbyn, unrepentant Marxist, may become British Prime Minister next month

Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the British Labour Party, who will very possibly be British Prime Minister before Christmas, marked the opening of the Berlin Wall and implicit end of Communism in East Germany, thirty years ago, by publishing in a newsletter he edited an article headlined 
No cheers here for a united capitalist Germany.
Mr Corbyn once called Cuba’s Fidel Castro a “champion of social justice” and marked the death of Hugo Chavez in 2013 by tweeting

Identity politics

'The divides that had driven politics hitherto, especially class and wealth, became less salient after the 1960s. Other, more “lifestyle” issues took their place. At first these were construed in terms of the individual, but eventually they came to be framed in terms of groups: first Jews, then African-Americans, then women, then gays. It was not merely that these groups sought equal rights. The real change was that they defined themselves as oppressed. This was a seismic shift.
'Identity politics is deeply and inexorably divisive. If the withholding of recognition is a form of oppression, then one way of achieving recognition is to show that I have been oppressed. The logic is as follows: the group to which I belong is a victim; it has been wronged; therefore we are entitled to special treatment. This gives rise to an endlessly proliferating list of the aggrieved. Each of their claims is surely true, but you cannot build a free society on the basis of these truths, just as you cannot heal trauma by endlessly attending to your wounds. A culture of victimhood sets group against group, each claiming that its pain, injury, oppression, humiliation, is greater than that of others.'
Lord Sacks, former British Chief Rabbi, The Home We Build Together: Recreating Society (2007) - here is a very interesting extract.

Actual slide at a conference for science teachers in the US state of Washington

View image on Twitter

Sunday, 17 November 2019

Brexit, democracy and the perils of diversity

'But even if the superior classes today – or indeed in the past – had shown themselves consistently capable of ruling in the interests of all rather than in their own, this would be a complete misunderstanding of democracy. Democracy is not a system for discovering the “right answer” to political issues: we can rarely if ever 
be sure what the right answer is. Democracy, rather, is a system for creating consent and solidarity by allowing all to have an equal vote. For making people feel that the way they are governed, though not perfect, is at least one in which they are fairly consulted and their voices listened to. So that, even if they do not get their own way, they accept the outcome without trying to sabotage or evade it.
'That is what we have come perilously close to losing. Next month we have the chance to regain it, with all the opportunities and risks that democracy entails.'
Dr Robert Tombs, in the Daily Telegraph on Wednesday

'Before I went into politics I spent a lot of time as a human rights lawyer and did international work across the globe. In many countries, as you can imagine, where there is quite a challenging human rights environment, there either wasn’t a vote at all – or if there was a vote it was ignored. That was really, really corrosive to democracy and I think it’s absolutely right that if we do have a referendum we abide by the result.'
Sir Keir Starmer, speaking to UCL students in February 2018 - this year he has persuaded Labour to make a second referendum party policy.

'Towards the end of her time in office in 1990, Margaret Thatcher became increasingly fed up with the European drive for integration. She started to say in public that there should be a referendum on the main issue then current – membership of what later became the

Thursday, 14 November 2019

Dumbed down England

The British are very ignorant these days. I think it is because people are not interested in anything before the end of the Chatterley ban and the Beatles' first LP.

I know an Englishman in Bucharest with a PhD in history who never heard of Carlyle and one with a PhD in Political Science who had not heard of Dr. Johnson.

When recently it looked as though Boris might beat George Canning's record of being the shortest serving English Prime Minister in history, Tim Shipman felt he had to explain to readers of the Times, who are or used to be the people who run the UK, who Canning was. 

He was a momentary PM who died shortly after taking office, but I thought the man who called the New World into existence to redress the balance of the Old was one of the most famous foreign ministers in history, comparable to Metternich.

Tuesday, 12 November 2019


I was surprised recently to learn that the Mars bar has nothing to do with the god of war or the red planet, but was invented by a Mr Mars and that the Mars family was said to be the richest in the world back in 1988, worth a cool $70 billion. 

I had never heard of them. 

The family have now been surpassed in the USA and the world by the Walton family and the Koch family.

Romanians entertain a unique relationship to failure

From The Philosopher of Failure: Emil Cioran’s Heights of Despair by Costica Bradatan, The Los Angeles Review of Books, November 28, 2016
But when Cioran went to college in Bucharest, the country’s southern capital, he stepped into a whole new cultural universe. Here the winning skills were different: the art of doing nothing, sophistry (from slightly playful to plainly cynical) trumping intellectual soundness, procrastination as métier, wasting one’s life as vocation. As an undergraduate philosophy student, Cioran came in touch with some of Bucharest’s best performers in this respect. The mix of intellectual brilliance and a striking sense of personal failure that some of them exhibited gained his unconditional, perpetual admiration:

In Bucharest I met lots of people, many interesting people, especially losers, who would show up at the cafe, talking endlessly and doing nothing. I have to say that, for me, these were the most interesting people there. People who did nothing all their lives, but who otherwise were brilliant.

Nigel Farage has marched half his troops down the hill and implicitly backs Boris's deal

Thank God Nigel Farage has given up his decision that his Brexit Party “fight every seat in the country” and said that he would not be fighting the 317 seats held by the Conservatives. 

I wish very much he’d not fight any seats.

All Brexiteers must be grateful to him. Without him the Brexit referendum would not have happened and, had it happened, Leave would not have won. 

But he was very foolish initially to refuse to countenance Boris’s deal. 

He did so out of vanity, to a large extent, and now, out of vanity, he changes his mind because he wants to avoid humiliation. 

Monday, 11 November 2019

Mr Rose's Diary

Kenneth Rose's biography of King George V is the funniest book I ever read. His book on the Later Cecils is in my top ten for laughter. I love him and must read his diaries, which the Daily Mail is serialising. 

He was a howling snob, known as Climbing Rose, and how I envy him being in the midst of the establishment. 

The establishment today, made up to a large extent of earnest Europhiles and egalitarians, is probably very much less fun: think John Bercow, Eric Pickles, Archbishop Welby and the bishopesses he keeps appointing.

But how recently it was full of Victorian figures like Lady Diana Spencer's father, Earl Spencer and Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon. Perhaps it still is mid-Victorian. I hope so.

Here are some extracts.

July 31, 1979

Lunch with Harold Wilson at the Travellers Club. He is smart and spry in a well-cut, very dark brown suit, with starched cuffs and elaborate cufflinks.

Some talk of anti-Semitism, especially Ernest Bevin’s. Wilson has heard of the relish with which Bevin, on becoming Minister of Labour and National Service in 1940, boasted that he would call up all the East End Jews.

‘Real working-class anti-Semitism’, says Wilson.

April 14, 1982

George Morpeth tells me that when Dorothy Macmillan, tiring of [her affair] with Bob Boothby, returned to Harold Macmillan, there was no emotional reconciliation or apology. The doorbell rang, and there she was with her suitcase. She said: ‘Are there any letters?’

101 Years after the End of the War to End All War

No photo description available.

Today is the 101st anniversary of the end of the First World War, in which Romania suffered very much and needlessly. Norman Stone said Romania's entry into the war on the Allied side delayed the Allied victory by a year, but her sufferings were very well rewarded by obtaining large stretches of what had been Austria Hungary and Russia. 

When the First World War began, Western civilization seemed unassailable, though its brightly glittering surface concealed weakness and corruption. No other civilisations, such as the Japanese or Chinese ones, any longer existed. 

By the time the armistice was signed the German, Austro-Hungarian and Russian empires were destroyed, the long epoch of rule by the aristocracy was coming to an end and Communism threatened the world. The two German empires lost land they had ruled for  many centuries to indigenous Slavs and Romanians and more recently acquired Italians. 

From the moment the Bolshevik conspiracy hijacked the Russian state, Russia was a pariah. Therefore there could no longer be a Franco-Russian alliance to enforce the 1919 settlement in the ethnic mosaic of central and eastern Europe. Someone aptly called the  settlement the peace to end all peace. 

Austria and Germany caused the First World War and Germany caused the Second World War but a Second World War was inevitable, unless France and England allowed Germany to redraw her eastern boundaries without a war.

The Easter Uprising in Dublin in 1916 was one of the most significant events in the First World War, because it was seen throughout Africa and Asia as a rebellion against colonial rule by one of the great powers. The victory of Japan over Russia in 1905 had already shown them that white men were no longer necessarily supreme. 

Saturday, 9 November 2019

Douglas Murray calls this 'offence archaology'

Once accusations of racism and sexism were a weapon of the left against the right in Britain and around the world, but are now used for political advantage by both sides of the political divide. 

One Labour candidate has had to stand down because she compared Israel to an abused child abusing others after the experience of the Holocaust.

One Labour councillor is in big trouble because she “liked” a Facebook comment which said: 

“Adam and Eve were put on the planet from a higher authority for a reason. As parents, we have to do our best to explain normality.”
The Labour parliamentary candidate for Clacton stood down after he got into trouble for calling another councilor, who was Jewish, Shylock. The man said he had no idea Shylock was Jewish. Knowing the cultural level of many political activists, particularly in the Labour Party, this sounds likely. I bet John Prescott doesn't know who Shylock is.

Juliet Samuel, usually one of my favourite writers, in today's Telegraph:
"The most notorious of the bunch [five Labour candidates who have been required to stand down], Chris Williamson in Derby, has finally been dropped despite a rearguard action by Corbynistas to keep him in place. This is a man who said his 2017 campaign was “a test case for Corbynism”, who said it was a “privilege” to meet a prominent propagandist shilling for Bashar Al-Assad, who called the Skripal poisonings a “very convenient… smokescreen” and declared that Labour had been “too apologetic” over anti-Semitism."

Thursday, 7 November 2019


If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.

Carl Sagan

At least half of your mind is always thinking, I’ll be leaving; this won’t last. It’s a good Buddhist attitude. If I were a Buddhist, this would be a great help. As it is, I’m just sad.
Anne Carson

The term “Anglo-Saxon” is inextricably bound up with pseudohistorical narratives of white supremacy, and gives aid and comfort to contemporary white supremacists. Scholars of medieval history must abandon it. 

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The Barbarian hopes — and that is the mark of him, that he can have his cake and eat it too. He will consume what civilization has slowly produced after generations of selection

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Vladimir Bukovsky: 'I have lived in your future'

"The Soviet Union used to be a state run by ideology. Today's ideology of the European Union is social-democratic, statist, and a big part of it is also political correctness. I watch very carefully how political correctness spreads and becomes an oppressive ideology, not to mention the fact that they forbid smoking almost everywhere now."

Vladimir Bukovsky, brave Soviet dissident, later an exile in Cambridge and founder member of UKIP, has died. He said this in an interview in 2006. The audio version of the full interview is here.

At the end of his life he was accused of looking at child porn on his computer. He denied guilty intent and the case was discontinued due to his failing health.

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Please to remember the 5th of November

Guy Fawkes Night is a big event in the UK, when people let off fireworks and burn a guy.

It is extremely anti-zeitgeist: sectarian, a fire and safety hazard and patriotic.

All Soul's Eve or Hallowe'en, shorn of its religious and cultural significance and reinvented as an imported American marketing idea, is much safer, but still not very safe as it involves the dear little kiddies knocking on neighbours' doors.

Years ago I accidentally met Father Francis Edwards, who wrote a book arguing convincingly that the Guy Fawkes plot was set up by Cecil, the Peter Mandelson of his age. Father Edwards' ideas are summarised here.


October 6, 1774
I met those of our society who had votes in the ensuing election, and advised them
1. To vote, without fee or reward, for the person they judged most worthy
2. To speak no evil of the person they voted against, and
3. To take care their spirits were not sharpened against those that voted on the other side.

John Wesley's diary

Sunday, 3 November 2019

'What happens if we vote for Brexit?' From January 19, 2016 by the Constitution Unit

A reminder that Boris was talking before the referendum about a second referendum on whether to leave, after Leave won the first one. He predicted the EU would offer us concessions that might persuade us stay in the EU.

Dominic Cummings also suggested a second referendum, but a referendum to endorse the terms of Brexit as negotiated after Leave won the first referendum, without an option to remain. 

A second referendum with a choice between Boris's deal and leaving with no deal would have been a good idea and would have enabled Brexit Party voters to vote Tory.

''So if UK citizens vote to leave, it is unclear exactly what kind of future they are voting for. This raises the question of whether it might be more appropriate to hold a second referendum, following the negotiations, to see whether voters accept the deal. The Constitution Unit has long argued for a two-referendum approach to Scottish independence, and the same logic might be said to apply to EU membership as well. George Osborne recently reiterated the government’s position that there will be no second referendum. Nevertheless, Boris Johnson signalled interest in such a plan last summer, and the columnist Simon Jenkins has given it strong backing. The idea appears first to have attracted attention after it was suggested in a blog post by Dominic Cummings, leading light in the Vote Leave campaign.