Saturday, 23 May 2015


George Curzon2.jpg
Lord Curzon when Viceroy of India

The Marquess Curzon of Kedleston, the Viceroy of India and British Foreign Secretary, though I am drawn to him, was certainly never an idol of mine. His feet of clay were always too visible, his prose style too pedestrian and he lacked courage, but he did have a huge amount of self-conscious glamour and, to an incomparable degree, rollicking, zestful pomposity.

I just came across this piece of Curzoniana which I had forgotten. It's a squib written by diplomat Sir Ian Malcolm in 1919 when Curzon deputised for the Foreign Secretary, A.J. Balfour, who was away helping to make the Second World War inevitable at the Paris Peace Conference. Curzon became Foreign Secretary the following year. It is quoted in ' Superior Person ' (1969), the unrivalled raconteur Kenneth Rose's biography of Curzon. He must have seemed very attractive by the time Rose wrote (when George Brown was Foreign Secretary) but extravagant spending on offices did not die out with Curzon. Curzon seems to have anticipated Lord Chancellor 'Derry' Irvine's grandiosity, in the days when his former pupil Mr. Blair was Prime Minister.

" I am acting M.F.A. [ Minister of Foreign Affairs]
Please remember what I say
Or you'll live to rue the day.
C. of K.
I must have a spacious room,
Not this loathsome living tomb
Filled with ghosts who've met their doom
How they loom.
Bring me chairs and sofas new,
They should be of Royal Blue
Such as I'm accustomed to,
Entre nous.
Buy me Persian carpets meet
For Imperial Downing Street,
Where on Wednesdays I greet
The Elite.
Golden pen nibs I demand
Jewelled pencils at my hand;
Lacquer fire-screens; not japanned,
These are banned.
I regret I cannot pass
Inkstands made of brass and glass:
Get me one of Chrysophraz
From Shiraz.
And this paper ! Well, I'm blest:
Neither monogram nor crest:
In my family interest
I protest.
For remember, if you can,
That, although a warming-pan,
I am still a Christian

Malcolm was a Scot and warming-pan is a Scotch slang word that can mean a wench who keeps a bed warm or a fart. I wonder if these verses are in the Oxford Book of Light Verse (my copy is in storage) or other anthologies. They deserve to be.

Time for me to retell a favourite story which I came across in Viscount D' Abernon's memoirs. The British Ambassador in Athens wrote to Curzon, during the Greco-Turkish War in the early 1920s, saying 

'Order has broken down to such an extent that even the monks of Mount Athos are violating their vows.'

So, at least, he dictated, but the typist typed 'cows' instead of 'vows'. Curzon wrote in the margin: 
'Better send a papal bull'.
Despite this capital pun, I don't think he was a very funny man or could laugh at himself, which is the test. Curzon's sense of humour could be very laboured. He was famously lampooned in the 'Balliol Rhyme' about him written when he was an undergraduate:

My name is George Nathaniel Curzon,
I am a most superior person.
My cheeks are pink, my hair is sleek,
I dine at Blenheim twice a week

In reply, he wrote a very laboured riposte that starts:

Charms and a man I sing, to wit - a most superior person

Myself, who bears the fitting name of George Nathaniel Curzon.

From which 'tis clear that even when in swaddling bands I lay low,

There floated round my head a sort of apostolic halo. 

and continues in similar vein for seven unfunny stanzas.

Curzon was a man who inspired doggerel. His affair with the novelist Mrs. Glyn led her to write her bestselling novel Three Weeks and a torrid scene which took place on a tiger skin rug, which in turn inspired this.

Would you like to sin

With Elinor Glyn

On a tiger skin?

Or would you prefer

To err

With her

On some other fur?

Genocide and smoking

The Turkish Sultan Murad IV (1612-1640) took anti-smoking fanaticism to the extreme of personally beheading smokers in the streets. The smoker's body would be left to lie in the street and his estate would be confiscated.

Freedom is an idea that is deeply out of fashion in Europe, though anti-smoking laws do not go nearly so far as Murad IV's. Turkey today is probably freer and less free than Europe. It's illegal to say in Turkey that the Armenians were deliberately killed in an act of genocide and illegal in France to say the opposite. The Armenians were deliberately killed, but the restriction on free speech in respect of historical judgments is exactly the same in both countries.

As Brendan O'Neil said recently,

Some people say Turkey isn’t fit to become a full member of Europe because it’s too authoritarian. On the contrary, Turkey’s willingness to punish and fine and imprison people for speechcrimes shows that it has all the necessary credentials to be European in the 21st century.

The freedom to give offence is the most important freedom of all

All other freedoms flow from freedom of speech, which is simply another way of saying the freedom to offend. The freedom to say inoffensive things isn't freedom.

A very few exceptions, for obscenity mostly. 

On the whole, years ago I liked it that blasphemy against the Christian God was illegal in England, but that law was in desuetude for years and has been repealed. Perhaps I was being inconsistent. The purpose of the law, of course, was to prevent offence being given to Almighty God, not His creatures.

Someone on Twitter called Godfrey Elfwick @GodfreyElfwick (Demisexual genderqueer Muslim atheist, Literal good guy, Itinerant jongleur) just now tweeted this.

Satire has it's place in any discussion but when satire mocks and ridicules others it becomes hate-satire
I thought he was serious because he so accurately reflects the spirit of our age. In fact he is a satirist, the one whom the very PC BBC World Service invited on after he said Starwars was racist and homophobic. Details here.

Even niceness can be tyrannical. In fact the harm being done by nice people in the Western world is incalculable.

Time is our home, not our country

Here is an interesting interview, in an English-language Swedish paper, with

Hans Rosling, Sweden's own globetrotting celebrity statistician


frets over what he labels “irrational nationalism”: people’s tendency to ascribe achievements or values with a particular national identity.

“The whole idea that it’s a place we belong to – that place is so important, that the nation is so important – is a dangerous concept...

“It makes people think that the sheer luck of the place where they happen to exist makes them different as human beings.

Discussions of what constitutes “Swedishness”, therefore, leave Rosling uneasy.
“We don’t live in Sweden. Time is our home,” he proclaims, citing the title of a 1991 play by Swedish playwright Lars Norén.

“We live in this time. Time is more important than place. Our values are not place-based, they are time-based.”

He is right that values certainly do not a nation make. As de Maistre said, 
'A nation is not made of ink'. 
It is made of blood, of history, is based on culture and genetics and especially religion, even if most people do not believe in religion. At least nations in the European sense.

Hans Rosling's ideas are not in the least unusual. Lord ('Chris') Patten the British Conservative politician, who hopes Turkish membership of the EU will give Europe new purpose, might agree with him. Peter Sutherland, the Irish former EU commissioner and former head of GATT told a sub-committee of the British House of Lords Home Affairs Committee that
"The United States, or Australia and New Zealand, are migrant societies and therefore they accommodate more readily those from other backgrounds than we do ourselves, who still nurse a sense of our homogeneity and difference from others. And that's precisely what the European Union, in my view, should be doing its best to undermine.

Hans Rosling's view of post-national Sweden can be usefully contrasted with that of the blogger Fjordman who writes here in a very Swiftian tone about the place. Everyone should read his essay. His describes a Sweden going to hell in a handcart. 

I hope Swedes' Viking blood reasserts itself one day. Perhaps some 'irrational nationalism' would do no harm.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Britain resigns as a world power

From an article in today's Washington Post by Fareed Zakariaheadlined:

  • Britain resigns as a world power

On Monday, the Right Honorable David Cameron, prime minister of Great Britain, gave his first major speech after being reelected to his high office — once held by Pitt, Gladstone, Disraeli, Lloyd George, Churchill and Thatcher. Confronting a world of challenges — including Greece’s possible exit from the euro, a massive migration crisis on Europe’s shores, Ukraine’s perilous state, Russia’s continued intransigence, the advance of the Islamic State and the continuing chaos in the Middle East — Cameron chose to talk about . . . a plan to ensure that hospitals in the United Kingdom will be better staffed on weekends.

Okay, that’s a bit unfair. Leaders everywhere, including in the United States, understand that “all politics is local.” But spending a few days recently in Britain, I was struck by just how parochial it has become. After an extraordinary 300-year run, Britain has essentially resigned as a global power.
I'm not convinced we are resigning as a great power. Americans don't realise that
the NHS and health (and safety) in general are a quasi-religion in England.
 They fill the place formerly given to the sacred in English life. (Climate change is another quasi-religion.)

Plus David Cameron has little independence in foreign policy. The Pitts, Gladstone, Disraeli, Lloyd George and Churchill up until Pearl Harbor could decide their own foreign policy - now we are a US satellite and part of the EU. Over hospitals David Cameron has power.

What independence he has he has used disastrously to topple Gaddafi for example. Yet he wanted to repeat his error with Syria but, thanks to Ed Miliband, the moribund House of Commons roused itself to stop him.

Maybe we should resign as a great power, leave the EU and concentrate on the threats to our country, rather than protecting Europe or the Middle East. The threats to the U.K. seem to come from Irish, Scottish and Welsh nationalists, from hundreds of thousands of immigrants arriving each year and from British terrorists, not from ISIS nor Mr. Putin. But this would lead to an isolationist USA, sooner or later. Would that be good or bad? 

The Washington Post article is here. It argues that Britain should play a larger part in the world because we have the right values. Broadly we do have the right values, give or take some important things, and foreign policy should be about values, but first and foremost it should be about enlightened self-interest.

Fareed Zakaria was an advocate of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Even now he evidently does not understand how that tragedy has changed Britain and the world. 

Last year he described as
"crucial elements of Putinism ... nationalism, religion, social conservatism, state capitalism and government domination of the media. They are all, in some way or another, different from and hostile to, modern Western values of individual rights, tolerance, cosmopolitanism, and internationalism."
I do not like Vladimir Putin, but if religion and social conservatism are
different from and hostile to modern Western values
then I want fewer values and more minding our own business.

"So what is the point of Europe today? For me the answer is to be found in Turkey."

Lord ('Chris') Patten, who wants Turkey to join the EU as does the present British Conservative government, said back in 2011 
'Istanbul's the city where Europe's future may be shaped– Istanbul, not Brussels, Paris, or Berlin.'
Admitting Turkey as a member would give the Europe a new reason to exist. 
'As an EU member, Turkey would add a new dimension of massive historic importance. Europeans would show that we could embrace an Islamic democracy and build a strong bridge between Europe and Western Asia.That, in turn, would create a new European identity and narrative, a new reason for the EU to exist in this century, a way of rejecting the divisive politics of old. 

Meanwhile as Lord Patten enthuses over Turkey in the EU the great novelist Orhan Pamuk (he is great) has enthused about immigration transforming Turkey. 

'As the economic crisis deepens and spreads, Europe may be able, by turning in on itself, to postpone its struggle to preserve the culture of the “bourgeois” in Flaubert’s sense of the word, but that will not solve the problem. When I look at Istanbul, which becomes a little more complex and cosmopolitan with every passing year and now attracts immigrants from all over Asia and Africa, I have no trouble concluding that the poor, unemployed, and undefended of Asia and Africa who are looking for new places to live and work cannot be kept out of Europe indefinitely. Higher walls, tougher visa restrictions, and ships patrolling borders in increasing numbers will only postpone the day of reckoning. Worst of all, anti-immigration politics, policies, and prejudices are already destroying the core values that made Europe what it was.'

Of course Constantinople was a multiracial multicultural city before the 20th century and had a Christian majority in 1914. Those old multiracial cities like Vienna Prague Istanbul became drearily monoethnic because of ethnic cleansing. A bad augury?

Fortunately, there's no chance of persuading the voters that allowing seventy million Muslims free movement within the EU is a good idea. Why are the voters so much wiser than their rulers? People were frightened for millenia of democracy but the people aren't scary. Intellectuals and politicians are, once no longer attached materially or emotionally to the landed class.

Geography, Christianity and the European Greco-Roman heritage are what should define Europe, which badly needs an identity and tradition. The EU's mistake was making a promise we shall not keep - a much worse mistake would be to keep it.

Thursday, 21 May 2015


Life is a long preparation for something that never happens. 

W.B. Yeats

Country people do not behave as if they think life is short; they live on the principle that it is long, and savor variations of the kind best appreciated if most days are the same.

Edward Hoagland

To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.
Oscar Wilde

Palmyra has fallen to ISIS

Oh no, oh no, oh no. Palmyra has fallen to ISIS, who already have despoiled Nineveh.

This is so terrible. It is a defect in me to be more moved by loss of ancient beauty than by loss of lives. Assad of course has been playing a double game, even helping ISIS while fighting the allegedly moderate rebels.

When I was in that wonderful place I had a lazy crooked guide who didn't show me the tombs which may soon no longer exist. I think many of the treasures have been removed from them. I saw only the ruins themselves in other words. Thank God the best things from Palmyra other than the ruins themselves are in the National Archaeological Museum in Damascus.

I was against intervention in the Syrian war before ISIS appeared. Now things are somewhat different, though the Assad regime is no better. The Americans should have cooperated with Syria, meaning Assad, to bomb ISIS away from Palmyra.

Hitler was a Muhammed who failed? Discuss.

This thought came into my mind when I read that in a throwaway line Levi Strauss said Napoleon was a 
Mohammed who failed. I mean no particular disrespect to Mohammed by making the comparison with Hitler. Both were conquerors, both were moralists and both were religious figures, according at least to Jung. But Hitler was a complete failure. His legacy, seventy years after his defeat, was a continent dominated by ideas consciously antithetical to his.

Carl Jung in 1938 said:

“Hitler’s ‘religion’ is the nearest to Mohammedanism, realistic, earthy, promising the maximum rewards in this life, but with a Moslem-like Valhallah into which worthy Germans may enter and continue to enjoy themselves. Like Mohammedanism, it teaches the virtue of the sword. Hitler’s first idea is to make his people powerful because the spirit of the Aryan German deserves to be supported by might, by muscle and by steel."

Jung was asked by the Bishop of Southwark in a discussion published in 1939

“…had he any views on what was likely to be the next step in religious development?”

and replied:

“We do not know whether Hitler is going to found a new Islam. He is already on the way; he is like Muhammad. The emotion in Germany is Islamic; warlike and Islamic. They are all drunk with wild god. That can be the historic future”.

During an interview with H. R. Knickerbocker, published in January 1939, Jung said:

“There is no question but that Hitler belongs in the category of the truly mystic medicine man. As somebody commented about him at the last Nuremberg party congress, since the time of Mohammed nothing like it has been seen in this world. His body does not suggest strength. The outstanding characteristic of his physiognomy is its dreamy look. I was especially struck by that when I saw pictures taken of him in the Czechoslovakian crisis; there was in his eyes the look of a seer. This markedly mystic characteristic of Hitler’s is what makes him do things which seem to us illogical, inexplicable, and unreasonable. … So you see, Hitler is a medicine man, a spiritual vessel, a demi-deity or, even better, a myth.”

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Caviar to the general

I could get used to caviar every day. I am a caviar sort of person.

I am enjoying the Beluga I brought back from Russia.

Here's the recipe for the perfect 11 o'clock snack. Cut open an avocado, take out stone, fill hole with sour cream and a generous dollop of caviar.

Caviar, it occurs to me, is the one luxury that has not become democratic, unlike salmon, champagne, the French Riviera, Nile cruises, Jermyn St., Italian handbags, public school education, peerages and everything else.

Our island story

I wonder whether indigenous British people will be a majority in 100 years in our country, whether or not the UK remains together. 

This seems to be the most important political question but when I ask it people seem uncomfortable or even disapproving. Intelligent Conservatives, educated at places like Eton and Oxford, tell me it doesn't matter so long as incomers are nice people.


Experience is the only wealth - Ruskin. I should say experience reflected on is the only wealth.

Principled bakers

Southern Ireland, where until the 1990s divorce was illegal, is about to vote on whether to institute homosexual marriage. Incredibly - this is Southern Ireland!-  all the political parties are in favour and people who are opposed are being told that they are bigots. 
The result will be affected by the decision yesterday to convict for some thought-crime some devout Christian bakers in Northern Ireland who refused to bake a cake with the slogan 'Support Gay Rights' on it. 
Society, as Arthur James  Balfour said, is constantly persecuting. It's always devout bakers whom homosexual activists persecute and try to ruin. There have been so many cases in different countries involving bakers being asked to bake cakes for homosexual weddings or with homosexualist slogans and what splendid moral courage the Christian bakers show.

The backlash against this decision may be enough to win the vote for No. Someone warned the electorate that if they voted no this time they would not get another chance to vote for ten years but but there will be another vote. The electorate will continue to vote until they get the answer right. Then no more votes.

If only we had G.K.Chesterton to argue against this folly, nonsense and wickedness. He spoke of
the modern and morbid weakness to sacrifice the normal to the abnormal.

He also believed in freedom which almost no-one does any more and in Christianity. And said:

Marriage is a fact, an actual human relation like that of motherhood, which has certain habits and loyalties, except for a few monstrous cases where it is turned to torture by insanity or sin.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Eating King Louis XIV's heart: a curious history

Dean Buckland of Westminster 
(1784–1856, blink and he's gone) claimed to have eaten his way through the animal kingdom, including eating mole, bluebottle, panther, crocodile and mouse. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society, twice president of the Geological Society and kept a menagerie of animals, including snakes, eagles and monkeys, at the deanery. While dining at Lord Harcourt's house at Nuneham in 1848 he was shown a silver locket containing an object resembling pumice stone. He popped the object in his mouth, perhaps to try and find out what mineral it was, and swallowed it. It was in fact part of the mummified heart of Louis XIV of France which had been taken from the royal tomb by a member of the Harcourt family. 

The New York Times for 4 December 1910 says:
One day at Nuneham [Archbishop Harcourt, obit 1847] was exhibiting [the heart] to his guests at dessert. It had been reduced by age and embalming process to the size and appearance of a small nut. It was passed around the table for exhibition. When it reached Dr. Butler [sic], Dean of Westminster, renowned not only for his zoological knowledge, but also for his extraordinary absence of mind, he without thinking what he was doing swallowed it, washing it down with a copious draft of the Harcourt port. That was the end of the royal heart of Louis XIV, the most powerful monarch of his time, and which thus disappeared down the maw of a famous English divine at Nuneham.

Augustus Hare tells a different version, which I read many years ago in a Victorian collection of anecdotes whose name escapes me.

Talk of strange relics led to mention of the heart of a French King preserved at Nuneham in a silver casket. Dr. Buckland, whilst looking at it, exclaimed, 
‘I have eaten many strange things, but have never eaten the heart of a king before,’ 
and, before anyone could hinder him, he had gobbled it up, and the precious relic was lost for ever.” The heart in question is said to have been that of Louis XIV. Buckland was followed in this bizarre hobby by his son Frank.


Lord Snowdon's photograph of my beloved friend Mgr. Alfred Gilbey is the best photographic portrait I ever saw. I looked it up today and find it was bought back in 2000 for the National Portrait Gallery​. As Charles Moore said, Mgr. Gilbey in this picture had more style than anyone of our times. He was a rich man who lived in the Travellers' Club for over thirty years after he resigned from the chaplaincy of Cambridge University, rather than minister to the spiritual needs of girl-undergraduates). Some famous rock star (I forget who) used to visit him in the Travellers' Club once a week to confess but the half-Spanish monsignor was cooler than any rock star. 

Alfred Newman Gilbey, by Lord Snowdon, 20 June 1991 - NPG P812 - © Armstrong Jones

Finding happiness

I didn't think about happiness for along time but one should. What things make you happy?

My list would be: 
religious faith, intelligent, bookish conversation, living in Romania, friendship, writing, lovely women, architecture, books, travel,  London clubs, food, wine, walking, history, looking at churches, paintings, opera, black and white films, pre-war music, all things Victorian.  I am not sure in what order. All rituals are innocent sources of happiness, as are traditions and a sense of the past. May makes me very happy, especially in Bucharest.

I absolutely hate shopping except for books, preferably second-hand ones, and shopping in Jermyn St. I know I mentioned food, but I wish to mention specifically suet puddings and dumplings. And, though it is dangerously addictive, Facebook.

A lack of Prime Ministers

My favourite Harold Macmillan story is of when the Queen, Mrs. Thatcher and the five living former Prime Ministers had dinner at No. 10 in around 1986 to celebrate its 300th anniversary. As the photograph was being taken James Callaghan said: I wonder what is the collective noun for Prime Ministers. To which Lord Stockton who was 91 instantly replied: a lack of principals.

I suppose Ed Miliband would have been no worse, on the whole, than Harold Wilson, but a long way below James Callaghan.

I met them all as well now I think of it except the Queen and Mr Callaghan, whom I often passed in the House. I heard him speak often, of course. All are dead now except H.M. Long may she reign over us.

Was Harold Macmillan being self-revealing when he made this joke? Yes, probably. I think the others were principled except Wilson and Callaghan whom Marcia Falkender brilliantly summed up as 'a bent copper'. Home was and Heath was, dreadful leader though he was and Mrs. Thatcher was.

Harold Macmillan said his son Maurice, who was my first boss, didn't go to the top in politics 'because he isn't a s-t, like us'. Though Maurice was a cabinet minister. Waugh thought Macmillan committed the sin against the Holy Ghost by seeing the truth of Catholicism and not converting from worldly motives (i.e. wanting to be P.M.). Waugh was being malign of course.

Mr. Heath liked me on sight when we had lunch and was very charming. I was 19 and realise now, though I didn't then, that I was rather pretty. Even at the time, though I was very innocent indeed, I wondered whether there was a hidden reason why he was so charming. How I wish I had made friends with Enoch Powell whom I also met - much more impressive, slightly mad, very intelligent indeed. However Heath was a good man, who cared about the country and about the poor. I have been told that he secretly paid up the private school bills of two boys whose father was killed in the war, leaving their mother grateful to but baffled by her mysterious benefactor.

Harold Wilson said when Mr Heath went home he had no-one to abuse but himself.  
Macmillan and then Wilson were the cleverest, Home the nicest of the bunch and a wise man. 

I took a very precocious interest in politics which I swear goes back to the time when I was still going into my parents' bed in the mornings and I remember very much about Harold Wilson and Edward Heath even though I was fourteen when Wilson retired. 

I remember that Mr. Heath, though a disastrous Prime Minister, was a true leader who dominated his cabinet - he didn't have an internal opposition in his government unlike Mrs. Thatcher. He took the weekends off to go sailing and no-one objected nor speculated on why he wasn't married. I remember Harold Wilson smoked a pipe on TV (how times change) but always a cigar off air. He prided himself on his conservatism with a small c, his dislike of going abroad, his Nonconformist Northern liberalism. He claimed to prefer tinned salmon to salmon (a luxury item then), loved Gilbert and Sullivan and the paintings of Lowry who detested Wilson in return. Even aged five I could see Wilson had no principles, was a consummate trimmer.
Harold Wilson left little legacy except the baleful one of anti discrimination laws and the first law against what we now call 'hate speech'. The country sank under him.

Nevertheless, though I remember them I am a child not of Wilson and Heath nor of Mrs Thatcher but of the brief and un-memorable Callaghan era. This article from years ago in the Spectator explains what that means for me and my generation.

Callaghan before he became Prime Minister  seemed to me as a young but perceptive boy as much an unprincipled trimmer as Harold Wilson, but what St John Stevas called the grace of office made him a batter Prime Minister than Wilson. Callaghan told someone that before making a decision he asked himself 
what Harold would have done and then did the opposite.
He said at a party conference in the early 1980s of Tony Blair: 
I don't know what that young man is but he isn't Labour.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

British attitudes towards immigration

Despite the hatred and loathing some commentators and many people on Twitter seem to feel towards UKIP, their views on immigration seem to be very mild compared with many people's. A survey published in December shows that 25% of British adults agreed that all immigrants, legal or illegal, should be repatriated, 52% disagreed and 23% didn't answer. These figures will be found here on p.17.  

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Conservatism is about love. Why does the Left feel so much hatred and contempt for the Right?

Conservatism is about love - but so is socialism - though socialism loves ideas and abstractions, not village greens and hereditary peers and bare ruin'd choirs where late the sweet birds sang. Politics is
 also about anger, but the left seem much angrier and much more prone to hatred than the right. In England at least.

The social media and the papers have been full of misery on the part of Labour supporters, understandably, but also in many cases fury at the successful Conservatives. Daniel Hannan writes well in Conservative home about the hatred the left often feels for the right. He says

the asymmetry of hatred was palpable. Again and again, Labour candidates and their media allies would rail against the heartless Tories who (in a trope popularised by George Monbiot and Robert Webb) were all emotionally damaged as a result of having been to boarding schools, and who were bent on killing poor and disabled people through benefits cuts.
And goes on:
When Leftists attack the Tories, they’re not just having a go at 300 MPs, or 100,000 party members: they’re scorning everyone who has contemplated supporting the party. Here, to pluck an example at random, is Charlie Brooker: “The Conservative Party is an eternally irritating force for wrong that appeals exclusively to bigots, toffs, money-minded machine men, faded entertainers and selfish, grasping simpletons born with some essential part of their soul missing”. 
Daniel Hannen is (still) a Conservative MEP and close associate of UKIP's only MP Douglas Carswell. But though some Labour supporters sound like they want to dissolve the electorate and choose another (a process which is, in fact, underway as a result of mass immigration) some Labour supporters are trying to understand, rather than blame, Tory voters. Suzanne Moore acknowledges here that working-class Tories may have a point after all (she always dismissed her mother's conservatism as 'false consciousness', a Marxist phrase).  Peter Watt writes in similar vein here.

I understand it very well - I felt the intense self righteousness when I strongly disapproved of Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s. Conservatives, even if they regard the left as traitors, don't feel the same way. I am not sure why, shall have to give it thought, but it is an important fact.

What is remarkable is not the ugliness and anger - which come more from the left, yes - but the fact that we don't come to blows.

The hatred the British Left has for the Right is best seen in the hatred, the noun is exact, felt in the USA for the Tea Party and in England for UKIP. UKIP is a pleasant, Ealing Comedy sort of outfit that has the temerity to want to leave the EU and limit immigration. Peter Oborne described it as the Tory Part in exile, but nowadays it is the sin-eater of British life, and is loathed by people who really loath the electorate or large sections of it. This ugly phenomenon is illustrated by a very nasty article by my bête noire Giles Fraser, D.D., writing in the Guardian (where else?) just before Christmas, in which he said
"I don’t just disagree with Ukip. I despise them."
You may ask why a clergyman should despise the only political party that opposed single-sex marriage. I can't answer that. 

Dr. Fraser wrote a couple of days ago an unintentionally hilarious piece about how the election result makes him ashamed to be English. He muses:
Voting expresses our desire to belong [an interesting idea but probably not true]. But is it worth belonging to a country that has become little more than an aggregation of self-interest?
Yet it all started so well.
Thursday morning was lovely in London, full of the promise of spring. Even the spat I had with the man outside my polling station shouting at “f- immigrants” [the redaction is mine - clergymen have come a long way since the Chatterley ban was lifted] didn’t disrupt an overall feeling of optimism. Were people walking just a little bit more purposefully? Was I mistaken in detecting some calm excitement, almost an unspoken communal bonhomie? Perhaps also a feeling of empowerment, a sense that it was “the people” that could now make a difference. But by bedtime the spell had been broken. Things were going to stay the same. No real difference had been made.
It reads exactly like a parody by the late Michael Wharton (Peter Simple in the Telegraph) put into the mouth of Dr Spaceley Trellis, the go-ahead Bishop of Bevindon. You would need a heart of stone to read it without laughing. The odd thing is that the government led by David Cameron for the last five years is almost as liberal and PC as Dr. Fraser, and has spent like a sailor. But that's another story.

Oppression, rape and Ovid

Int3gr4/Wikimedia Commons

News from Columbia University that teaching Ovid may be off the curriculum because the Metamorphoses
contains triggering and offensive material that marginalises student identities.'
Because it's important that undergraduates do not feel uncomfortable or marginalised. 

i think I have been marginalised all my life. Perhaps that's my tragedy. Still, it's to be expected if one's a conservative

A translation of Homer published in America came with an introduction warning students that much of the contents would today be considered unacceptable. So did the translation I recently read of the memoirs of an Arab slave trader in Africa who expressed racist ideas. The translator had thought of expurgating it but decided not to. Thank goodness I read the great books before feminism and PC took over.

I read the Metamorphoses in Latin at 18 immediately after leaving school. It is full of rapes and is deeply sexist and patriarchal. Now the classics are taught - in English - from a feminist standpoint. Thank God I read old books deeply and widely as an adolescent without being taught them or taught to put them into the context of modern modish ideas. I presumed that old writers were civilised, which is why they were classics.

Of course 'patriarchy' can be, often has been, oppressive. Oppression you have always in all societies, including our own, but the differences between men and women are natural, God given, if you believe in that hypothesis, part of the natural order of things, not social constructs. People for centuries read the classics to distance themselves from the ideas of the age. What academics in the humanities are teaching students, most of who inevitably are not particularly intelligent is anti-conservatism. Often they do so because ideas like feminism are simply useful ones to play with. We should find new ones for them to play with.

When I as up at university I wanted to find a conservative critique of history and literature and wish I had applied myself. Later on I discovered that religious writers and theologians were full of unexamined liberal premises. Often it seems that defeating these people in argument is so easy that it is almost cruel, but I have never found time to write the books to do so. It is becoming very urgent.

I refuse to give up but I can't help wondering if this is a dying civilisation. Largely because of feminism Europeans are dying out. I wonder if we are at the Marcus Aurelius point, the point where Gibbon begins The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Labour, Tories, UKIP, fascists and how to distinguish them: Tories and UKIP believe in freedom

1.The word fascist is unhelpful for describing Muslim authoritarian states or people who don't like homosexual marriage or more immigration but it's fairly appropriate to describe the Labour Party and the left. What do I mean by fascism? Who better than to define it than Benito Mussolini?
"All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state."
New Labour decided to allow the economy to be outside the state, so they are not the whole fascistic hog, but they decided, in the words of Frank Johnson, to nationalise people instead. This is in some ways worse. UKIP by contrast in many ways are (Gladstonian) liberals.

2. On the subject of freedom and the size of the state, I have to say the Tory government (not a new government, as David Cameron has not resigned) has made a good start by promising today to  repeal the Human Rights Act and replace it with a Bill of Rights.  Let's also resile from the European Convention on Human Rights and copy something like the US Bill of Rights, sans the bit about guns (too controversial). Especially let's have the First Amendment allowing free speech, abolishing the crime of hate speech. Let's have common law rights but not so-called human rights which are often infringements of other people's rights. What on earth for heaven's sake is the right to family life or the right to privacy? Why should anyone have a right to privacy?

3. But the Tories should go much further and reinstate the double jeopardy rule, remove a lot of anti-terrorist legislation, abolish secret trials.This would concentrate everyone's mind on how illiberal Labour were. They should abolish hate crimes and why not anti-discrimination laws? 

4. Unfortunately but necessarily European countries should also leave the UN Convention on Refugees if we want to prevent indigenous Europeans becoming a minority in Western Europe. Instead refugees should find refuge in the continents from which they come, with financial help from the rich countries.

5. Tories will now start losing by-elections but to whom? Labour, Liberal Democrats, UKIP? It will depend on each constituency but UKIP might revive at the Liberal Democrats' expense. Who can tell?

There are no normal people

James Bryce was right: 
'Minds are less alike than faces.'

Monday, 11 May 2015

Bucharest after spring rain, by Octav Dragan

It's always good to be home.

A turn-up for the books

Sorry I am late blogging about the British election result. I was travelling, my thoughts confided to Facebook but not my blog.

What a surprise. The Tories expected to get 300 or at most 315 seats. They therefore expected Ed Miliband to form a minority government. So did he, even though Labour knew from canvassing that, as in 1992, they were doing a lot worse than the polls showed. Only Dan Hodges and Janet Daley called it right.

Thursday night, or rather Friday morning was a wonderful night, even though I know Cameron et al aren't conservatives and I am sure the country will vote in referendum to stay in the EU. Tony Blair, David Miliband, David Cameron are vindicated. Nick Clegg looks very, very foolish, as does the Labour left. But the union is in big, big trouble. 

I am very sad that Nigel Farage lost. It would be very bad for democracy if Ukip fades away. They were the heroes of the campaign but have only one MP despite millions of votes. They alone stood outside the narrow consensus which the three big parties share (though the Lib Dems won fewer votes than Ukip).

How many seats did Tories lose because countless activists left party over single sex marriage? They lost possibly forty seats lost due to the Libs reneging on their promise to review constituency boundaries, in a fit of pique after losing the referendum on the electoral system. What a shame they did lose it - AV would have been very much better. 

How many seats would David Miliband have won had he led his party? How shameful that he did not remain in the House to sit in the shadow cabinet - he would now be the obvious choice for party leader, though I thought him too a jerk.

On Thursday Ed Miliband succeeded in uniting the country. England, Wales and Scotland decided that he's useless. In the words of Gyles Brandreth: 
'The people have spoken. They don't like you.'
Politics aside, I am very pleased we have been spared Ed Miliband as leader of our country for five years, his hobbledyhoyhood on display each day. I don't mind clever, privileged wonks, if they love their country, but this one was brought up as a Marxist to think patriotism was false consciousness. He comes from a very bad family indeed and his career is a psychosexual drama to replace his father and kill his brother. 

I wonder how Miliband Major is taking the news.

Why did the Scots vote SNP? Does anyone have any idea? I'm sure it's not just about or even chiefly about independence. It's about Labour not the Tories. Scot Nats replaced Labour as left-wing party in Scotland. Why, I wonder.

Will the Scot Nat MPs largely mind their own business and rarely vote, like the Ulster Unionist MPs in Westminster before direct rule was imposed by Heath in 1972? If so, the Tories have a massive majority.

Cameron is unsatisfactory, a liberal, but so much less bad than the Lib Dems, who I hope are back to their 1960s size forever, and the Labour party. Much as I dislike the statist and illiberal Lib Dems, Nick Clegg was a very loyal and decent deputy to David Clegg and it was very decent of the Liberal Democrats to commit harikari. I wonder why they went into coalition with the Tories and agreed to fixed term parliaments. The smaller party in a  coalition, as Europeans know, always gets eaten. The tragic heroes were plucky Ukip, who failed as tragic heroes do.  

And what does the slim but famous Tory victory mean? Immigration will continue to change our country out of recognition, even though the people don't want it, but a bit more slowly than under Labour. The police state and human rights industry will continue to restrict freedom, but less oppressively than under Labour. The poor will benefit from economic growth. Despite the referendum that will now take place Britain will remain forever in the EU. This will be David Cameron's main achievement along with single-sex marriage. 

Delightful Katie Hopkins, who said she would leave the country if Mr Miliband became Prime Minister, has been preserved for the nation. That's good for democracy. She's a rare fighter for free speech and the sacred freedom to offend people and the great casuse of cheering us all up.

In case you missed it, please read this hilariously funny piece by Rod Liddle.

I saved the Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg resignation speeches until last night. A dish best eaten cold, I thought. Politicians who choose to call themselves Ed and Nick deserve to lose, I thought. (Alec Douglas-Home is a different matter.) In fact Miliband's was boring, Clegg's a bit sickening but Galloway's was good. Oh for the days when we had great MPs, like Enoch Powell, Fitzroy Maclean, Clement Freud, Nicholas Fairbairn, Gerry Fitt, Sir John Stokes, et al. 

The Duke of Wellington said that he'd never seen so many damn bad hats in his life as in the 1832 House of Commons. What would he think of this one? He'd approve of his fellow Etonian David Cameron but all those Labour wimmin and Scotchmen?

Sunday, 3 May 2015

St Petersburg

When I was 22, after I went down from the university and when all careers seemed like rival prisons, I made several large commonplace books. As a result quotations stick in my mind and I am a walking dictionary of them. I collected famous last words and here in St Petersburg I remember - as I very often do - the Decembrist who was walking up to the gallows, when it broke down and he had to go back down and wait. His last words were, 'Nothing ever goes right for me'.

Two feet from where I sit back in the B & B after long hours tourist work a young man is sitting one leg hanging off a window ledge cleaning the windows three stories up. In a way this disregard of health and safety is inspiring and makes on like Russia. In another way it gives me vertigo. 

Russia is enchanting, un-Western, backward. People are wonderful. Men are real men, women real women, all replete with Russian soul, except the vulgarians who walk into you as you cross the road..

Yesterday was a very serendipitous day. ! met and was invited to join a group of lovely young women being guided around St. Petersburg (I went to L to type Leningrad, oddly) by two lovely St Petersburg girls. As Nina who steered me around last time I was here said to me -"How I love these Russian girls - so beautiful and so kind." I decided not to wait in the long long queue for the Hermitage with the girls but as I walked away Vadim the seller of contraband caviar who knows the boy on the door fixed it for me to skip the queue and pop straight in. I bought some caviar from him for 1000 roubles = EUR 17 which is half the price of dinner at a cheap restaurant and it tastes good. I spent a very long time looking at the seven Claudes. He is the greatest of all painters for with him painting becomes poetry. He paints light itself. 

And, dropping an intellectual level or five, of course St Petersburg is a reason for me to retell my favourite joke.
What have Catherine the Great and Winnie the Pooh got in common?

Answer: the same middle name.