Further evidence that shows Russian interference in Ukraine


pro-Russian militia thugs threaten a Ukrainian reporter for doing his job.

pro-Russian militia thugs threaten a Ukrainian reporter for doing his job.

 

The above image is a rare example of ‘real news’ getting out of the Donetsk region: the man being assaulted is a Ukrainian news reporter going about his lawful business and being intimidated and threatened by the pro-Russian thugs.

Yesterday, President Putin denied that there were any covert Russian military personnel managing the conflict in Ukraine, supporting this by saying that the Russian ethnic protesters on the streets were not wearing masks now, though now the pro-Russian thugs have control and it is likely that the ensigna-free, uniformed Russians are no longer needed on the streets and thus thugs could remove their masks, but they haven’t, as the above image testifies.

In a broadcast on BBC news yesterday, the involvement of covert Russian military engagement was looked at by one reporter. Of course, by its very nature, proving covert operations in a region where people are excluding and banning journalists from anything other than the most contrived situations is extremely difficult. Ask yourself: why are people who want to state their case internationally, preventing the media from anything but obvious ‘stage managed’ access? It reminds me of the Libyan conflict, where the same tactic was frequently used.

The broadcast did show protesters who were seemingly non-military, i.e. not disciplined but in charge. However, one or two of the clips showed what were clearly military personnel going in first to storm government buildings, using Kalashnikov rifles and small explosive charges that would make more noise than damage, working as a disciplined military squad to subdue and bring about the surrender of the legitimate Ukrainian police or other personnel within.

There is no doubt that ethnic-Russian Ukrainians are manning these police stations now, but it is impossible to now know who is directing operations from within. Moreover, the concerted effort to attack similar buildings, with similar, disciplined methods, what seems to be an initial military advance to bring about the surrender of legitimate staff within government buildings, is a very persuasive argument that Russia is directly managing the conflict.

The US, Russia, Ukraine and the European Union met for peace talks in Geneva concerning the conflict. The result was better than expected, a unified policy aimed at ending the tensions. The deal includes the disarmament of all illegal groups in Ukraine. After the talks the various negotiators said that they had agreed on steps to de-escalate the crisis but are now waiting to see if words will be met with actions.

However, pro-Russian militia in Donetsk have announced that they will not leave the government buildings, openly challenging the Kyev authorities and threatening the deal to de-escalate the tensions. The pro-Russian spokesman said that the Kyev government would have to step down for them to give up the conflict. You may remember that two days ago, former pro-Moscow President, Viktor Yanukovych said that there cannot be elections now because of the extent of the conflict. It is therefore remarkably coincidental that the one thing that could wreck the legitimacy of the election is the pro-Russian militia refusing to step down and deal with matters through dialogue and democracy.

Incidentally, you may remember from my last article that I mentioned how fabulously wealthy Putin is – some $40bn by all accounts – and it was therefore extremely enlightening when I found this observation in an article on the BBC:

“Wealth has shifted under President Viktor Yanukovych [who] is widely seen as living in symbiosis with Ukraine’s tycoons.” www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-25323964 Dec 11, 2013

This is broadly similar to Putin’s own financial success. Equally, the same goes for Ramzan Kadyrov in Chechnya, another Putin appointee. As head of Chechnya, Kadyrov has been credited for ‘bringing peace and stability to the region’, though his methods are said to be extremely brutal if not tyrannical. He has also been persistently criticised by the international media because of alleged human rights violations and reports of massive corruption and enhancing his own wealth, shutting down newspapers and killing those who speak out against him.

These reports sound dismally familiar, don’t they?

Why Ukraine will be ruled by the ‘back door’ (and by Putin)


ukraine strife

Out of the smoke and chaos that seems to be descending on Eastern Ukraine, the Russian government response to Ukraine announcing that it would use it military forces to carefully quell the rebellion and clamour for independence in six major cities in the lands to the east of Kyev. This elicited a comment from the Russian Federation Foreign Ministry spokesman that smacks of duplicity and irony, “Ukraine is [...] waging war against its own people” (BBC, 14 April 2014).Exactly the same wording was uttered by the Russian Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin, who urged the Ukrainian government to cease a “war with its own people”  (You Tube, 14 April 2014)

This begs a question: We all think of Russia as a vast transcontinental country that almost touches the US and has borders and an exclave (Kaliningrad Oblast) that infuse with the EU nations, but the land we call ‘Russia’ simply isn’t just Russian. Far from it, it is a host of tightly woven Oblasts, Krais and autonomous Okrugs. The Kaliningrad Oblast was the most heavily militarized area of what was called the Soviet Union, now the Russian Federation, and the scale and density of military infrastructure was also the highest found anywhere in Europe. Contrast that with the part in Putin’s muted but obvious victory speech on what Russia considers to be the accession of Crimea to the Russian Federation, when he said “can you imagine greeting NATO soldiers in the streets of Sevastopol? I mean, not on a visit, but stationed there?” (Kremlin.ru 14 March 2014)The prospect of Nato in ‘Russian’ waters was a bridge too far. They are now, for the first time in history, going to build a bridge between Russia and Crimea to cement its place within the Russian Federation.

Putin roundly denounced NATO and its members for breaching all and every agreement with Russia, adding that when Russia complains, it is condescendingly told, that “It’s none of your business”. (ibid) Putin is referrring here to NATO’s expansion eastward, in the Black Sea and its broken promises about not stationing NATO troops in former Soviet republics, its involvement in Georgia and the broken promises with regard to the deployment of missile batteries in Europe: Putin is claiming that NATO’s expansions pose a credible and direct threat to the security of the Russian Federation.

Sir Tony Brenton, a former ambassador to the Russian Federation, said that the “upsurge of popular resentment is aimed at the Western inspired government in Kiev [...] a slide into NATO”. Sir Tony bemoaned that fact that the conflict was diminishing the efforts of a decade where the West sought to “make it [Russia] a more normal country” (Today, Radio 4, 14 April 2014 at 02:14:20)

The problem is that Russia’s near bloodless annextion of Crimea and now the fomenting of trouble in the eastern regions of Ukraine are similar to those of Agitprop in the UK five decades ago. Russian covert troops were clearly used in the Crimean theft and the same can be said for the civil unrest in the east of Ukraine, where similar ‘troops’ with camouflage gear and Russian-made weapons direct the mob to achieve their master’s aims. Russian expert and author of The Russia Hand, Strobe Talbott said that Russia’s actions are “payback for a quarter of a century of diplomatic bullying” but he also notes that “Despite being Yeltsin’s handpicked successor, Putin saw his role not as building on the Gorbachev-Yeltsin legacy but downplaying it and, in some important respects, repudiating and reversing it.” (Talbott, Yale Global, 2014) The Ukrainians have see-sawed for years between an EU-NATO future and ever closer ties with the Russians. What is sure is that the wishes of the majority of the people of Ukraine will never trump the wishes of the most dangerous man in Europe or Asia, Vladimir Putin.

What Talbott’s argument underscores is the increasingly autocratic way that Putin has run the Russian Federation, frequently broaching no dissent, as Alexander Litvinenko would testify were he to be still alive today. His alleged murderer, Andrei Lugovoy, is deputy of the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament for the LDPR. He is a former KGB colleague of Vladimir Putin and, if one wants to prove that Russia is run by a mob of thugs, Lugovoy would be an excellent place to start.

These thugs control states and regions outside of their own domain by withdrawing energy supplies or rewriting a contract that sees their energy tariff substatially rise, as was evidenced in Georgia a decade ago: “Once a relatively affluent part of the USSR, with independence Georgia lost the cheap energy to which it had access in the Soviet period. As relations between Georgia and Russia deteriorated, Moscow did not flinch from tightening the economic screws, and the rupturing of trading ties caused the Georgian economy to nose-dive.” (BBC, 14 August 2013)

The comment in Putin’s speech at the time of the Crimean uprising, when he said that “If you press a spring too hard, it will recoil” (Kremlin.ru, 14 March 2014) serves as a confirmation that Russia feels that ‘their interests’ in Ukraine have been usurped, that they are being marginalised.

It was only ten days ago that Russia was describing the pro-Russian peoples now rioting as ‘Russians’, much the same as it did in Crimea before it forced out the Ukrainian military at gunpoint and annexed it. Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that the “reappearance of men with specialised Russian weapons and identical uniforms without insignia, as previously worn by Russian troops during Russia’s illegal and illegitimate seizure of Crimea, is a grave development”. (NATO Press Release 13 Apr. 2014)

Grave is the right word: I suspect there may be plenty of those soon in Donetsk and the region thereabouts., not that we will likely hear of them. The reason that I make this prediction is because South-Eastern Ukraine is not similar in a demographic perspective to Crimea.

Regions of Ukraine and their demographics in terms of ethnicity and GDP

Regions of Ukraine and their demographics in terms of ethnicity and GDP

As you can see from the maps, east and south-east Ukraine has a minotrity Russian ethnic population, but it is far too simplistic, with the pro-Russian protesters having declared a ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ to then move to the conclusion that Russia will annexe eastern Ukraine in the style of their previous theft in Crimea.

The maps reveal a strikingly different situation. There is nowhere in eastern Ukraine that has a Russian ethnic majority, whereas Russian ethnics in crimea had an almost 60% percent majority. It was and still is far easier to justify an ‘uprising’ of the inhabitants than it is in the reaminder of eastern Ukraine. It is likely that Russia would like to steal Donetsk as Russia is run by a cabal who specialise in theft, but it is unlikely that they will do this in an obvious way. Putin’s method is always surreptitious, back door methods first, as in Georgia and Crimea, followed by a mechanism that gives Putin effective control. The paradigm of this is ‘Putin’s puppet’, the former president Dmitry Medvedev, who “served as chairman of Gazprom” (Moscow Times, 6 March 2008) a post he relinquished before his inauguration as head of state. Gazprom? There’s another connection:

“Putin “effectively” controls 37% of the shares of Surgutneftegaz, an oil exploration company and Russia’s third biggest oil producer, worth $20bn, he says. He also owns 4.5% of Gazprom, and “at least 75%” of Gunvor, a mysterious Swiss-based oil trader, founded by Gennady Timchenko, a friend of the president’s, Belkovsky alleges.” (The Guardian, 21 December 2007)

All of this was uncovered at the time that Medvedev was about to assume the Russian presidency in 2007. When pressed on how much he thought Putin was worth, Belkovsky said: “At least $40bn. Maximum we cannot know. I suspect there are some businesses I know nothing about.” He added: “It may be more. It may be much more.” (ibid) The Moscow ‘Mafia’ is a good earner, but smoke-and-mirrors is the key strategy. President Boot-in should know all about that – he was formerly a KGB agent.  Ask yourself one question: How can a man who has only every been a government offical then president of the state ever be worth more than £20bn?

 

Addendum 17 April 2014

“When asked if Russia was planning to send troops to the troubled region he [Putin] said parliament had given him the right to do so, but hoped he would not have to use that right.”

You will note that Putin seems to believe that he does not require the agreement of the UN for this matter. He uses the history of Kievan Rus, the state that existed in 800 – 900 AD as evidence that this is the ‘heart’ of the Russian culture, even though Moscow is not built on land within the territory of the ancient land of Kievan Rus. His is a crude ploy at a ‘humanitarian rescue’.

With his Duma (parliament) having given him the ‘right’ to invade Ukraine, with troops and military armoured vehicles ammasssed on the border and Russian special forces incognito operating and co-ordinating efforts in the eastern provinces of Ukraine, it is becoming ever-clearer that Putin and his murky band of thieves are about to steal even more that doesn’t belong to them. Only the West and NATO can prevent this with unified resistance.

The cowards of Tottenham: will they always be so?


PC Blakelock's sons (left-right) Lee, Kevin and Mark, outside the court with their mother Elizabeth Johnson

PC Blakelock’s sons (left-right) Lee, Kevin and Mark, outside the court with their mother Elizabeth Johnson

 

One cannot even imagine what life must have been like for Elizabeth Johnson, the widow of Keith Blakelock, after the savage murder of the police officer during the Broadwater Farm riots of 1985. The fact that no one has ever been successfully prosecuted for his murder speaks volumes about the sub-class of human that walk the streets in Tottenham, who even at this stage have no wish nor sufficient self-respect to speak out about this vile murder.

The only thing preventing a successful trial is honesty, but that is clearly a scarcity in those who know but refuse to stand up and say exactly who did what on that awful night. With a triumphant “see you back in Tottenham, brother” the supporters of Nicky Jacobs let the world know how little they cared for anyone else’s feelings, or some morsel of compassion or decency at what had just happened, in particular how PC Blakelock’s family might have felt at that moment. For all we know, Mr. Jacobs may well be inncocent, but then maybe he isn’t? We are never going to know because those involved simply don’t share the same human values as the rest of us. You and I have a sleepless night if we commit some minor transgression, a speeding ticket or become over-heated in an argument at work. These zombies sleep at night, or more likely throughout the entire day, knowing who committed this awful murder.

Worse, yet worse still, there are those who joined in with the slaughter of a man just doing his job who, to this day, still refuse to admit their part, or even, as bystanders, what they know. There was much explanation of this yesterday in the media, that ordinary, decent folk simply weren’t out and about that night: only the feral were on the loose. What does this tell you about their mentality? Have you ever lied to someone and regretted it? Having told the lie, you cannot go back, but your decency tells you you should. In Eminem’s Slim Shady album, the voice of reason in Eddie’s conscience tells him before he tries to rob the liquor store “Yeah but if it all goes through like it’s supposed to. The whole neighborhood knows you and they’ll expose you. Think about it before you walk in the door”. Where is this conscience in the people who really know what happened at Broadwater Farm? Just how many values of decency do they share with the rest of us?

Contrast all of that with the quiet decency of PC Blakelock’s family. After the trial had finished they released this statement: “We viewed this trial as an opportunity to see some form of justice served for Keith. There were many people involved in a murder on that night of 6 October 1985 and it is regretful that no one has yet to be found guilty despite the number of people with knowledge of the events of that night”. They also ventured the “hope that more people are able to come forward so that some of those guilty can be brought to justice in the future”.

Those who do know what happened that night need to search their own consciences and rid Tottenham of this blight – the impression that Tottenham lacks common values such as honesty and integrity. I ask you directly: look what happened in the Stephen Lawrence case: Eventually, because of honesty, justice and decency prevailed. Everyone, well almost everyone, admired the quiet but resolute determination of Doreen, now Baroness Lawrence. How I wish that those who could bring justice for Elizabeth Johnson and her family would take a leaf from Stephen’s mum’s book of common decency.

 

Doreen Lawrence laying flowers at the place where her son was savagely murdered.

Doreen Lawrence laying flowers at the place where her son was savagely murdered.

I thank god I’m an atheist


Agenda - prayers

 

Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government in the UK has again attacked atheists for speaking out against religion. Many of you will remember that he was the minister responsible for changing the law in 2012 to prevent parish councils from facing legal challenges for including prayers in public meetings, whilst criticising the last Labour government for “diminishing Christianity” by saying that religion and politics could not mix.

At the Conservative spring forum in London he said in his speech “I’ve stopped an attempt by militant atheists to ban councils having prayers at the start of meetings if they wish. Heaven forbid. We’re a Christian nation. We have an established church. Get over it. And don’t impose your politically correct intolerance on others.”

It is sad that a government minister, especially one for communities, should see fit to attack atheists for their beliefs. Is it really so surprising that the majority of atheists refuse to accept prayers at council meetings being forced on them? One can only imagine what his opinion is of same-sex marriage, but he has obviously been warned off the subject by No. 10 on the basis this change in the law is predicated on equality.

In an article last year, the BBC said that spokesman for the Church of England said that average weekly attendances overall fell by 0.3%, to about 1.1 million in 2011, representing a “stabilising” of attendance figures. The latest figure given by the Church  shows that “approximately one million participate each Sunday” indicating a further decline. This is largely confirmed by a poll conducted by YouGov in March 2011 on behalf of the British Humanist Association. Asked when they had last attended a place of worship for religious reasons, most people in England and Wales (63%) said they had not attended in the past year, 43% of people said they last attended over a year ago and 20% of people said that they had never attended. Only 9% of people said they had attended a place of worship within the last week.

Mr. Pickles notion that Britain is a ‘Christian country’ may be correct historically, although I would argue that if you looked back more than 150 years, what you would see would be a church that was not representing the social or humane aspects of Christianity. For example, doctrinal disbelief or dissociation from the Church was an extremely risky position to take, the further you look back, the more deadly the risk. I am sure that many people must have wondered about the veracity of Jesus being cloned by the ‘Almighty’, but they would never have dared to put such thoughts into words. Even Darwin was too scared to publish his work ‘On The Origin of Species’ because of the tumult he knew it would cause.

Mr. Pickles may be happy wallowing in the murky mud of religion as a blueprint for morality and standards, but the problem is that belief in ‘god’ is ebbing faster than a pre-tsunami tide. I for one detest the ubiquitous ‘bless you’ after every sneeze. More so, I loathe the way that creationism is built into our language with words like ‘creatures’ and ‘genesis’. I am sure that many religious believers bridle at the word ‘genetics’, but this is the name of the game. Jesus’ six ‘Matthew’s antitheses’ are on six topics. In each of them, Jesus opens the statement with words to the effect: “You have heard it said…but I say to you….”, to those of you not aware, this is where Jesus peeled back the principal tenets of the Old Testament, taking six well-known prescriptions of the Mosaic Law and calls his followers to do more than the Law requires. That, I am sure, was seen as intolerance in its day. Od course the antithesis of belief in religion is atheism and the problem with that is that atheists are always back-footed by disbelief, a kind of negative which has no obvious ‘blueprint’ attached. However, most atheists know that morality is a concept that has grown since the beginning of time and to attach it to ‘Christian values’ is patently absurd.

Whether Pickles, or any other believer for that matter, accepts it, disbelief in religion and ‘god’ is becoming more and more prevalent. People who espouse such views have the right to voice their discontent when religion is imposed or when there is a bias in favour of religion in provision. To give an example, I believe that BBC Radio 4′s today programme should allow atheists and agnostics on the ‘Thought For The Day’ slot just before 8 o’clock weekday mornings, but the BBC continues to impose religion on me in this way. Is that fair, Mr. Pickles?

The sting in Miller’s tale …


Expense MPs appeal rejected

 

Two entirely separate pieces of parliamentary business this week have highlighted how the Tories feel about those who fiddle benefits, as opposed to how they view the matter of fiddled expenses. One concerns the pathetic tale of greed by Maria Miller and the other relates to overpaid or fraudulently claimed benefits.

The Culture Secretary, Maria Miller was forced to apologise in the Commons late this week, spurred on by the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt,  and the chief whip, Sir George Young, in a frantic attempt to dampen down the crescendo of indignation from Parliamentarians and public alike, who were affronted by Miller’s story of how she had somehow ‘found herself’ in this situation, the fact that MPs had ‘marked their own homework’ in adjudicating to what extent Miller should be punished, including the actual amount of expenses that she should repay, and the way that senior Tories had dealt with the matter subsequently.

IN 2005, when first elected as an MP, Maria Miller began claiming the cost of mortgage interest on a house in Wimbledon, which she owned - but sold in February of this year - but which her parents had lived in for twenty years or more.  In the years up to 2009 Miller had claimed £90, 718 in expenses for repayment of mortgage interest on this ‘second home’, whilst maintaining that her rented home in her constituency in Basingstoke was her main home. That was blown out of the water in 2012 when the Daily Telegraph reported that her parents had lived in the property for decades and that this contravened the rules on Parliamentary expenses.

The conclusion of a report by the parliamentary commissioner for standards, Kathryn Hudson, was that Miller had overclaimed by £44,000.  The cross-party parliamentary standards committee, which has responsibility for adjudicating on the report (from where the phrase ‘marking their own homework’ stems) decided Miller should only repay £5,800, little more than a tenth of her overclaim. This was exactly the sum that Miller always maintained had been over-claimed.

The bombshell was really dropped on Friday, when the Telegraph‘s former editor, Tony Gallagher, linked her mis-claimed expenses with a threat made by senior Downing Street advisors, which caused the sky to fall in on the cosy story that had cocooned Miller. He claimed the aide to David Cameron, Craig Oliver, and one of Miller’s special advisers tried to threaten the paper, suggesting it would be unhelpful to push ahead with publication at a time when Miller was dealing with issues of press regulation. Oliver and the adviser deny issuing any such threats.  As a result, Miller’s ministerial position is hanging by a thread, largely with the backing of the Prime Minister, David Cameron.

… but …

 

In the same week, Ministers have been working on a proposal to crackdown on fraudulent claims and overpayments of benefits. The measures will include:

  • Pensioners who fail to make an accurate declaration of earnings from private pension schemes will be targeted.
  • Higher fines imposed for benefit fraud.
  • Overpayments will be rigorously reclaimed through debt collection agencies

In an article in the Daily Telegraph, Iain Duncan Smith, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, said the reforms “strike a fair deal between claimants and the taxpayer, help more people into work and help us build a strong society. If you’d listened to the scaremongers, you’d be forgiven for thinking we were ripping up the welfare state and telling people to fend for themselves. In fact what we are doing is returning the welfare state to what it was meant to be – a safety net, not a way of life.”

The department will also launch a publicity campaign to help determine if claimants details are correct and they are not accidentally receiving too much money. The Daily Telegraph reported how the Government spent £166billion on benefits and state pensions to more than 20 million people last year but ‘lost’ £3.5billion to fraud and payments made in error.

What is interesting here is that the rightful fervour to reclaim overpayments or those claimed fraudelently are not matched with the same zeal where dodgy Parliamentary expenses are concerned.  Short of appointing Neil Hamilton as a new ‘Independent Commissioner for Parliamentary Standards’, the Tories could not have made a more sorry mess of the whole saga. The coming days – not weeks – will determine whether Miller’s tale is enough to save her skin, but the likelihood is that the threat to the press with its chilling reference to press freedom, will likely spell the end of Maria Miller’s career in Parliament.

 

You should see what they’ve charged Muhammad’s wife with …


Lahore Police Serious Crime Agency Bulletin Banner2

Baby-faced killer charged with attempted murder, dubbed the 'rock-a-bye-baby'!

Baby-faced killer charged with attempted murder, dubbed the ‘rock-a-bye-baby’!

A baby boy has been charged with attempted murder in Pakistan after police and government enforcement officials raided a house and arrested the entire family. He has been accused of planning a murder, threatening police and interfering in state affairs. Clutching his bottle he appeared in court for a plea hearing concerning the  charges, along with other members of his family.

The charges stem from allegations that the suspect and his family tried to murder officers investigating an incident of gas theft by throwing rocks at them as they raided his hideout, leading to Muhammad being dubbed ‘the rock-a-bye-baby’. The entire family were detained and hauled dowtown to the central police station in Lahore to be processed and charged. Local sources state that Muslim Town assistant sub inspector Kashif charged the nine-month old Muhammad Mosa Khan, his father Ami and thirty odd other people under Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) sections 324 (Attempt to murder with intention or knowledge) and section 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty). Baby Muhammad had his fingerprints taken and was quickly processed to appear at the local court, which decided to grant him bail. However, the judge expressed his inability to dismiss the case against him as it was not within his jurisdiction to do so.

 

The 'rock-a-bye-baby' gets his fingerprints taken!

The ‘rock-a-bye-baby’ gets his fingerprints taken!

Punjab’s chief minister has ordered an immediate inquiry from the Inspector-General of police, demanding swift and  ‘stern action’ against officials responsible for charging a baby with such serious charges.

Only Pakistan presents itself as living in a paralell universe in this way. As for Muhammad’s wife, in true Bonnie Parker style, she went on the run in her baby stroller and was last seen leading an armed hold-up at a supermarket to get fresh supplies of baby milk before lying low.

Seriously, it makes you wonder if Pakistan aren’t actually trying to claim a world record for complete and utter stupidity!

 

 

Let them eat pork!


let-them-eat-pork

 

In what seems to be a Marie Antoinette, food edict moment, the leader of the French far-right National Front has annouced that her party will prevent schools from offering non-pork alternatives on religious grounds.”We will not accept any religious demands in school menus,’ Marine Le Pen said during a radio interview, “There is no reason for religion to enter the public sphere, that’s the law.” Quite what Le Pen thinks this will achieve has not really been explained.

There are, however, two rather grave errors about the supposedly Marie Antoinette quote, ‘Let them eat cake’. The first is that Marie Antoinette didn’t say anything of the sort. We know because biographer, Lady Antonia Fraser, spoke at length about this at the 2002 Edinburgh Book Fair, declaring that “It was said 100 years before her by Marie-Therese, the wife of Louis XIV,” Fraser explains. “It was a callous and ignorant statement and she [Marie Antoinette] was neither.” As I said, the attribution is doubly erroneous in English, because the word ‘cake’ is a mistranslation. In the original French the alleged quote reads, ‘Qu’ils mangent de la brioche‘, which is not cake but a kind of sweet loaf or bun.

Le Pen might have had a stronger argument to expound had she argued the cruelty of hallal meat, rather than focus solely on the Islamic viewpoint on pork. It may be, however, that I am looking at the matter from a British perspective and that the French might be more indifferent to animal cruelty. Ironic too that the words ‘pig’ and ‘Pen’ are a natural couple for our culture.