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People often accuse me of being a ‘Populist’ because some of the things I say are popular. Well, today I am going to be an Unpopulist. I think the Royal Navy’s antics in the Black Sea last week were little short of crazy.

I struggle to find a parallel that would be as mad. You need several things: a place where the Navy involved has no good reason to be, thousands of miles from its normal habitat; a quarrel in which that Navy’s country has no direct interest; a dispute over who owns a piece of land, in which those who live there take one view and a nearby country takes the other.

So, say the Russian navy (even more clapped-out and shrunken than ours) managed to find a ship in good enough condition to get to the South Atlantic. Say it then loaded aboard some Moscow journalists. And say the Russians decided they were actively backing Argentinian claims to the ‘Malvinas’. 

I think the Royal Navy’s antics in the Black Sea last week were little short of crazy. I struggle to find a parallel that would be as mad. HMS Defender is pictured above

And say they got ‘permission’ from Buenos Aires to pass through ‘Argentine territorial waters’ in the Falkland Sound, and Moscow’s media ran a big story, with film of RAF Typhoons flying low over their grim, grey ship and the Russian reporters all dolled up in combat kit.

Imagine, if you will, the effect this would have in Britain, of mingled derision and defiance.

Well, now you know how most Russians will have viewed this Enid Blyton adventure.

Even the West’s favourite anti-Putin Russian, Alexei Navalny, is mealy mouthed about the highly popular annexation of Crimea, which Russians regard as a reasonable action taken after much provocation, just as I regard our retaking of the Falklands.

Because the Ukrainian claim to Crimea is very weak. The Russian claim to it is based, like our claim to the Falklands, on the desire of the inhabitants. And it is very strong.

On January 20, 1991, the people of Crimea voted overwhelmingly (93 per cent of an 80 per cent turnout) for Crimean autonomy – that is, separating the peninsula from the direct authority of Ukraine.

Most Crimeans are ethnic Russians and they have never wanted to be run by Ukraine. As Ukraine was still part of the Soviet Union, the vote had no effect, except to reveal how strong feeling was.

In December 1991, Ukraine voted in a referendum to leave the Russian empire. Moscow rightly accepted this. The leaders of Ukraine were happy to win their own freedom by such a vote. But there was one rule for them and another for the Crimea.

Say the Russian navy (even more clapped-out and shrunken than ours) managed to find a ship in good enough condition to get to the South Atlantic. Say it then loaded aboard some Moscow journalists. And say the Russians decided they were actively backing Argentinian claims to the ‘Malvinas’. HMS Defender is seen above being intercepted

In early 1992, the pesky Crimeans collected 250,000 signatures (about ten per cent of the population) asking for a new referendum on separation from Ukraine. This was enough in law to trigger a vote, which was set for August 2. 

But the then Ukrainian president Leonid Kravchuk warned of possible ‘bloodshed’ if the vote went ahead. After enormous pressure on Crimea, the referendum was cancelled.

Ukraine could vote itself out of Russia, but Crimea was not allowed to vote itself out of Ukraine. Do you think that fair or right? I don’t. It is the cause of Russia’s annexisation of the Crimea in 2014.

Almost nobody in the West knows this but, then again, when Argentina invaded the Falklands in 1982, the Hitchens family was one of the few places where anyone knew where they were. 

For my father (then still living) had visited those beautiful, British islands in that fine cruiser HMS Ajax, in the long-lost days when our Navy’s main job was to protect Britain and its interests. Heaven knows what its job is now.

  Ship slip makes my heart sinkThe Church of England is thinking of abolishing the term ‘Reverend’ for its clergy. As almost nobody understands how to use it any more, I’m not troubled. I still wince when someone calls the Archbishop of Canterbury ‘the Reverend Welby’, just as I shudder when people speak of ‘registry’ offices instead of register offices, or weddings at which the bride is married to a ‘groom’ rather than to a bridegroom.

In my days as an indentured apprentice on my first newspaper, these were all grave offences. 

But none of them annoys me as much as people referring to British warships as ‘the HMS Defender’, as the BBC’s would-be superstar Nick Robinson did so many times last week that I nearly smashed the radio. Look, you can say ‘the’ USS Cheeseburger, because ‘USS’ stands for ‘United States Ship’.

But ‘the Her Majesty’s Ship’ is just not English, in both senses of the term.

  A symbol of terror? No, normal lifeIt is fascinating to see that publicity for the latest series of the ultra-feminist, anti-Christian nightmare show The Handmaid’s Tale shows its fashionable Scientologist star Elisabeth Moss wearing a face-covering. Did they see the Covid panic coming? 

No. When the second season was shot three years ago, the makers must have assumed the muzzle would be seen as humiliating and disempowering (as it is). Can anyone watch it now without wondering exactly how a symbol of voiceless impotence has become a fashion accessory? 

  What an illustration of the uselessness of British politics. Matt Hancock wildly over-reacts to a virus outbreak and condemns the country to a multiple disaster of NHS breakdown, house arrest, endless debt, destroyed business, wrecked education, inflation and grasping taxation. And nobody cares. But when he is pictured kissing a woman, everyone calls for his resignation – not because she’s not his wife but because he’s allegedly breaking social distancing rules.

Life, as a whole, is becoming increasingly like Care in the Community. If it goes on like this, even I will need counselling.

Jeremy Clarkson hides it well but he is a very intelligent person and his new TV series on farming is full of real insight. Is it because he is afraid people will realise how bright he really is – increasingly a disadvantage in modern Britain – that he swears all the time? For me, it just spoils the whole thing. 

Many years ago, white hen’s eggs almost completely vanished from British shops because of a deluded belief that brown eggs are healthier. Now, for reasons I cannot fathom, it is green peppers that are disappearing. 

You can get red peppers, black peppers, yellow peppers – for all I know pink peppers are available at places such as the online organic farm shop Daylesford. But hardly ever any green ones. Can anyone explain?

RELATED ARTICLES Share this article Share   How our nation was betrayedI don’t much like the term ‘white working class’, as I’m hostile to the use of skin colour as a way of describing people. And a new report, saying that this group have been failed by the education system, has got mixed up in a stupid row about ‘white privilege’, another term I dislike.

This is not about skin. It is about a cultural revolution which just so happens to have knocked all the props away from the English people. We have closed down the great industries in which we were proud to work. We have broken up the communities in which we lived, with crude concrete housing projects. We have destroyed the grammar schools through which we could rise to the very top without any privilege or wealth.

All these things are bad but, perhaps worst of all, we have destroyed the stable, married families in which we once grew up and we have more or less abolished fathers. And if anyone complains about this, they are called ‘racist’ or ‘misogynist’ and falsely accused of attacking single mothers. 

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