God! I will pack, order my plane,
And get me to England once again.
For England’s the one land I know
Where Moscow parvenus may go,
Make Kensington by ten to three,
And know there’s caviar still for tea.
From “Profiles of Our Business Greats”
© Bertie Ramsbottom 2012
In the wake of the assumed Putin/Moscow agency in the attempted killing of the Skripals in Salisbury, Simon Jenkins (The Guardian, 16 March 2018) raised the chilling question “Do we really want war with Russia?” He suggests that the prospect has certainly taken British minds off Brexit; given Theresa May a boost, and helped the defence lobby in its perpetual campaign for more money.
There can be no condoning Russia’s obscene methods of settling its political and private feuds; but the indiscriminate official UK welcome since the 1990s to many of its tainted mafiosi, often grown fat on the misappropriation of Russian public assets post Yeltsin, has been sugared with the prospect of laissez-faire banking, money-laundering, and a privileged High Life beyond most UK citizens. For all its loud certitudes of righteousness, hypocrisy remains a key element in the West’s armoury and the hallmark of the UK’s disintegrating administration.
By private jet to Luton town,
We oligarchs are raining down,
Sikorski rotors ranging free
To whisk us on to Battersea.
And thence by liveried chauffeur
To One Hyde Park or Berkeley Square.
Or other bijou pieds-a-terre,
Courtesy of Candy Bros, and where
Your media, oil or metals Czar,
Who’s dreamed his Xanadu from afar,
May each his pleasure – dome decree.
Unhassled by the FSB.
The sad fact is that a more pernicious self-harming of Western ideals of freedom and democracy is being engineered by our own, stridently noisy, Anglo-US regimes than by any threats from a weakened and embattled Putin.
With an acknowledged serial liar, racist and sexual predator occupying a disintegrating White House; and a Downing Street in turmoil, desperate for any jingoistic diversion from its deep, post-Brexit, sectarian traumas; the need for wise leadership is being swamped by the easier cold-war rhetoric of conflict and political expediency. A greater wisdom and the higher ideals of the reviled European idea is still, for many, a residue of hope; – but therefore venomously savaged by Mrs May’s old-school retainers and the insurgent controllers of her fate.
This scenario, for all its tragic implications, has been usurped to give virtually non-stop voice to our own would-be Trumpian figure, Boris Johnson. He is clearly aping a more Churchillian posture, to enhance his assumed political credentials; but remains naked of gravitas and conviction. Each swallowed syllable reactivates our questions about how such a mean competence came to be entrusted with our foreign relations in a complex and dangerous world.
Nor, we discover, is he himself without contact with this overly rich, London society of Émigré Russians, having confessed in a recent BBC interview to having enriched Tory party funds by £160,000 by playing tennis with the wife of a Putin former deputy finance minister. Noblesse Oblige!
To Knightsbridge and to Belgrave Square
We come, the exiled billionaires,
Who’ve swapped our hammers and our sickles
For Harrods, Heals and Harvey Nichols;
Let loose our friendly business drones
On Stamford Bridge and Waterstones.
Into these barren wastes of cynicism and decay of empathetic wisdom in the Anglo/US West, the ‘March for Our Lives’ rally of the young surging out from Florida to the wider world this weekend comes as an exhilarating rejection of this nihilistic “Politics of Doom.”
Metaphor is the long-term inducer of human change, and what these Florida young have seen first-hand as the murderous inducements of the private gun, evokes and implicitly questions the wider social erosions of our long ages of recourse to war which our supposed wiser mentors and elders have wished, and are still wishing, on our shared worlds.
Here is some real cause for rejoicing and return to the child-like clarity of the truer philosophers’ perception of what it is that most erodes our humanity. ‘March for Our Lives‘ is a wake-up call beyond its years which puts the cold-war sound-bites of our hawkish officialdom to shame!
Say, where’s such Beauty yet to find?
Such certainty, such quiet mind?
Deep meadows yet, for to forget
The lies, and truths, and pain? oh! Yet
Stands Big Ben’s clock at ten to three?
And is there caviar still for tea?
From ‘Profiles of Our Business Greats’
© Ralph Windle 2012
Grateful acknowledgements to Rupert Brooke ‘Grantchester’ 1912