Had a fascinating time exploring mental health services in Australia. Now back in Europe, and realised I have not exactly been putting much on here! So over the next few days I will post some of the pieces I have written in recent days, starting with this very, very long piece on – well you can see from the title what it is on.

Also, thanks for all the kind comments about the podcast I do with my daughter Grace. We have now concluded the ten episodes of Series 1, all of which you can find here. We loved the Times review yesterday! Oh, and anyone in Edinburgh for the festival, check out Grace’s show, Why I am Never Going Into Politics. Now, time to enjoy the last ‘real day’ of the Tour de France … and I feel for my son Rory who spent all day getting close to the top of the final climb yesterday, only to have the stage called off because of the freak weather before the race reached him!

Meanwhile, back to the more serious topic of the seeds of fascism, and the rise of post-truth, post-shame leaders…

Ronald Reagan was something of a hate figure for the left, on both sides of the Atlantic. Yet watch his speeches now, and you find yourself lost in wonder that his Party and his country are today headed by Donald Trump. If you want to see great, moving oratory, go online and find ‘Reagan’s last speech as President.’ You do not have to agree with anything he ever said or did to be able to see someone of clear vision for his country and its role in the world, empathy for people, and the ability to communicate both in powerful pictures drawn with his words, his voice, and the mood he captured.

There are several highlights in the speech, but for me the finest is when he quotes a letter he received shortly before leaving office, from a man who wrote: ‘You can go to live in France but you cannot become a Frenchman. You can go to live in Germany or Turkey or Japan but you cannot become a German or a Turk or a Japanese. But anyone from any corner of the earth can come to live in America, and become an American.’ 

The whole speech, with his explanation of the symbolism of the Statue of Liberty as one of welcoming outsiders to freedom and opportunity, his focus on how each wave of new arrivals from other lands had renewed and enriched the country, his bold assertion that newcomers from overseas end up feeling more American than anyone, reads like a love letter to immigrants and immigration. ‘We lead the world because unique among nations we draw our strength from every country and every corner of the world … If we ever closed the door to new Americans our leadership in the world would soon be lost.’ How prescient. How different to America’s leadership and place in the world today.

Compare and contrast Reagan’s empathy with the nasty nationalism and the narcissism of Donald Trump. It is hard to see a single word of Reagan’s speech, which came from the lips of a man routinely described as ‘right-wing’, coming from the mouth of the current occupant of the White House, so heaven knows where that puts Trump on the spectrum. The last time Trump spoke of Reagan, it was via a tweet – what else? – to say that he was now more popular among Republicans than Reagan. Me, me, me. The same Trump who once tweeted a photo of himself with Reagan, then President, alongside what turned out to be a fake Reagan quote that ‘I felt like I was the one shaking hands with a President.’ Nobody who voted for Trump can say they didn’t know they were voting for a liar and a narcissist. That is what makes his Presidency so different, and so dangerously unpredictable.

But also compare and contrast that speech by Reagan with Trump’s snarling, sneering rantings and ramblings defending his attacks on four Congresswomen of colour, three of them born and raised in the US, and his suggestion that they should go back where they came from. The othering trope of racists and fascists down the years. The notion that if they raise concerns about things happening in their country, it cannot be their country at all, and they certainly cannot love it, so they may as well ‘just go back home.’ ‘Send her home, send her home,’ being chanted by huge crowds as Trump bathes smugly in their adulation, as happened last night, this is racism, it is white supremacy, it is a sign of fascism.

If you watched or read my GQ interview with Tony Blair a while back, you may remember that we had a bit of a difference of opinion about Trump. I was pointing out the many parallels with the 30s, and my worries that Trump had dangerously fascist tendencies. Tony felt I was going over the top.

AC: So you don’t share my terror that this guy is president of America and the comparisons with Hitler and Stalin are not overdone. It took Hitler a long time to go for journalists and judges. He did it in the first week.

TB: The comparisons with Hitler and Stalin are ridiculous. 

AC: Are you sure?

TB: Yes.

OK, no doubt there, and let me also say this right off – I am not saying Trump is a new Hitler, a new Stalin. I am not saying he wants to murder millions, nor disrespecting those who perished at the hands of monsters by suggesting a moral equivalence with Trump. What I am saying, however, is that he has dangerously fascist tendencies, is shaking loose the guardrails of democracy, and that the best way to respect the memory of past victims of fascism is to be alive and vigilant to the threat of it returning – in any form.

Anyway, I saw Tony a couple of weeks ago, and while chatting he told me he was reading The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, written in 1960 by an American journalist, William L Shirer, who covered Germany for the Chicago Tribune during the Hitler years. ‘I just can’t put it down,’ he said. ‘You have to read it.‘ So I am. I am about a sixth of the way through the 1200 pages. It is indeed utterly gripping. And on virtually every page there is something, large or small, that makes you think of today. The abnormal becoming normalised. That which is deemed ‘impossible’ by conventional wisdom happening. The turning against elites in the wake of financial crisis. The sense that institutions are failing. The exploitation of grievance, rather than the hard graft of policy development to address the grievances. The succumbing of weak personalities, in politics, business and the media, to those perceived as strong because they bully and intimidate and silence. The failure of political colleagues at home, and fellow leaders abroad, to speak real truth to power. The desire to believe things will turn out fine. Cultism. The constant repetition of lies about yourself and your opponents. Relentless focus on propaganda. Nationalism. The deliberate creation of social and cultural division. The vile othering of those deemed not to be somehow truly German, for which today read truly American which in the President’s eyes would seem to mean – White. Christian. Above all pro-Trump.

Where TB is right in saying the comparison between Trump and Hitler is ridiculous is in their rise to power.  Hitler had a political worldview which developed early in his life, and Mein Kampf, written in prison, laid it all out in black and white. Trump has been less motivated all his life by ideology than fame and fortune, has adopted different political views depending on time and circumstance. The Art of the Dealis no manifesto for world domination. And whereas Hitler was long driven by the improbable idea that he would one day be the dictatorial leader of Germany, conqueror of Europe, and slayer of the Jews, with the Shirer book showing with what force and improbable genius he first slowly, then quickly, bent so many to his will, Trump’s rise to the Presidency was much more accidental.

But now he is there, what motivates him? When he looks in the mirror in the morning, is he thinking about the lives of those who elected him, the struggles they face in their lives, or about himself, the next tweet, the next piece of abuse, the next slight he will have to address, the next whimsy picked up on Fox and Friends? I don’t think I am being wholly unfair in suggesting that he thinks more of his own interests than those of the American people, or his responsibility to the world. In so far as he does think of the people, it is of his solid base of supporters, who must be kept loyal, angry at anyone who disagrees with their leader, blameful and hateful of Democrats, suspicious of most media, believing nothing but the Trump tweets and the Fox News fandom. Where most Presidents sought to unite behind a vision, Trump seeks to divide, to polarise, to force people to take sides, for him or against him. Being hated is fine, so long as the hate fires up the base, gets them ready to work for a second term, after which, who knows, I wonder if the same man who suggested he would not have accepted the result had Hillary Clinton won, would want to try his luck at changing the Constitution and going for a third term. The abnormal normalised; the impossible happening. Tony told me that was over the top too. I’m not so sure. Ask yourself – if he could, would he?

Of course it is not just in the US that heads shake in disbelief at the kind of leadership we now have. Reagan’s time in office coincided with that of Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister of the UK. 

As with Reagan, I was no fan, but it was fascinating to watch the recent BBC series on her. Fascinating to wonder how on earth the Tory Party has gone from Thatcher then to a final choice today of Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt; with the doctors, despite all they know, rooting for Hunt? Fascinating to see Neil Kinnock in reflective mode and wonder also, how has Labour gone from that kind of leadership, via John Smith, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband, to Jeremy Corbyn and current poll ratings often closer to single figures than what is needed for a majority.

It was fascinating to be reminded that there was so much division and anger back then too, and a fair amount of violence alongside it. The poll tax riots. The miners’ strike. The terror campaigns in Northern Ireland. Fascinating to reflect on the question ‘how would she have dealt with Trump?’ and concluded that it would not have been with the invitation of a State visit the moment he took office; and ‘what would she have done with Brexit and the mess the country is now in?’ and concluded ‘not this, not what this bunch are doing.’ No way, not when you KNOW it is going to damage the country, as the Cabinet does.

And then there was Mikhail Gorbachev, as significant an agent of change as any in that era, and between them that generation of world leaders helped lower the Iron Curtain, bring down the Berlin Wall, and usher in what Francis Fukuyama prematurely celebrated as the ‘end of history.’ I wonder if his fellow futurologist Samuel Huntington was not nearer the mark when he warned we might be headed for the ‘clash of civilisations.’

But if you are measuring them purely on values, vision, and truthfulness, surely none but the cultists would dispute that Reagan trumps Trump, Thatcher trumps Johnson, and Gorbachev trumps Vladimir Putin. Measure them on longevity and survivability in power, however, and Putin beats the lot of them, and there are lessons in that which Trump seems determined to learn.

Nothing is true and everything is possible is the title of a superb book written by Peter Pomerantsev – a Brit – about Putin’s Russia. It exposes what is a Kremlin strategy, in which truth is just one more weapon in hybrid warfare, to be shaped according to what Russian interests are deemed to be at the time. From denied tanks in Ukraine to denied massacres in Syria, from denied fundings of electoral campaigns in the EU to denied missions in Salisbury where assassins are re-packaged as tourists, to the disbelief of most in the West, and the belief and/or amusement of the Russian audience, and Putin’s sometimes bankrolled useful idiots dotted around hard right and hard left parties and causes around the world. Pomerantsev has written a follow up, This is not Propagandawhich shows that the Putin game is now played by others, from Brexit to Trump and far beyond.

According to Washington Postfact-checkers (cue ‘fake news’ from any Trump fans who have stayed with me this far) the President has made misleading claims or told outright lies twelve times a day since taking office. That is just the public tally. One imagines there will be many more behind the door of the Oval Office, and in his private life too. But twelve a day means he lies to the American people more often than the average American person washes their hands (ten times a day, apparently.) Worse, it is a strategy. That much became clear on his first full day in office. I woke up, turned on the news, and heard he was heading to the CIA HQ in Langley, Virginia, to address the intelligence community. ‘Ah,’ I thought, ‘that’s smart. After all those rows during the campaign, he is going to build bridges. Maybe the grown-ups are getting in charge after all.’ How wrong I was. He used a speech, standing in front of the wall of stars commemorating CIA agents killed in action, to attack the ‘fake news’ media for claiming there had been more people at Barack Obama’s inauguration than at his. Er, which there had been, with photo and transportation systems data to back the reports. Then his aide Kellyanne Conway proudly told the media they had better get used to ‘alternative facts,’ and that is when I realised, yes, Trump may genuinely have trouble differentiating between what is true and false, but members of his team have sufficient lack of morality and principle to go along with that as a matter of both strategy and tactics. Provided nothing is true, everything is possible.

Would he imprison political opponents if he could? The incessant chanting of ‘lock her up’ during the campaign against Mrs Clinton gave a fairly good answer to that. Would he, if he could, do the same as Putin, Erdogan and others who prefer to imprison, torture or kill journalists and critics rather than engage with them in debate? Condemning great American newspapers like the New York Times as ‘fake news,’ applying the same label to anything broadcast on CNN, seeing any and all critics as liars rather than critics, his regular expressions of support for ‘tough guy’ leaders, his joke with Putin that he doesn’t have to worry about the press, again gives you part of the answer. Giving serious policy and administrative roles to family members, whose qualifications seem not to extend beyond sharing his name, or marrying someone who shares it, likewise smacks of behaviour Americans condemn when done by African, Asian or Latin American despots and dictators. 

Fascism doesn’t start with gas chambers, or Nuremberg trials, and the use of an atomic bomb. It ends there, or at least did in the case of the German and Italian variety that led to the second world war. History does not repeat itself identically. And no, I do not look at Trump and see a man determined on genocide. But we do not have to imagine the very worst that fascism can lead to, the pure evil that Hitler and Stalin came to represent, to worry about what there might be between fascist tendency, and the worst that fascism can bring. To be fair to Trump, hard though he makes it, he does seem genuinely to want to avoid war. Hitler and the Nazis saw war as a necessary part of a State’s development, to accrue power certainly, but also to purify the race, and weed out the weak. Hitler hated the disabled almost as much as he hated the Jews. Trump sees things differently partly because he sees trade as war by other means. He is a protectionist more than an imperialist. It is also to differentiate with his predecessors, Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama, and incidentally, the inability to see any good in those who have gone before, the sense that the world only really began when the current leader took power, that is another fascist tendency box ticked. And though he says he doesn’t want a war, it is not difficult to imagine him engaging in one, by accident or design and, if and when he does, unleashing the kind of lethality he has already threatened to foes such as Iran and North Korea. Fire and fury.

But what other tenets of fascism – or might seeds of fascism be fairer, can we spot? Ultra-nationalism (‘America First’ as a governing strategy comes to mind.) Authoritarian tendencies (see above re press, opponents). Demonising minorities (the Muslim travel ban, the caravan of ‘rapists and criminals,’ the caged kids.) Cult of the leader. (No explanation required – if it is good news, stand by for ‘thank you Mr President’ tweets – by the President; bad news, shift blame.) Being ‘for the people’ and ‘against the elite.’ Conditionality in respect for the rule of law dependent on the law upholding what you do. (Judges attacked.) Contempt for political institutions. (Like Congress). Slogans promising huge success without saying how. The love of big shows of loyalty (remember the toe-curling filmed Cabinet meeting where they went round the table telling him how marvellous he was) and big parades (like the one he had for Independence Day, complete with tanks. We can blame President Macron for that one – Trump saw France’s Bastille Day parade and said: ‘I want one! I want one!’)

Former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright knows more than most about fascism. Born in Prague, the daughter of a diplomat forced into exile at the signing of the Munich Agreement, the Korbel family were Jews who converted to Catholicism in an attempt to evade the Nazis, finally settling in London, living through the Blitz, returning to Czechoslovakia after the war, only to be exiled again because of her father’s opposition to Communism. They travelled to New York, Madeleine now aged eleven, her father sought and won political asylum, and a new life began. What was it Reagan said? ‘If we ever closed the door to new Americans our leadership in the world would soon be lost.’ As yet another Old Etonian becomes PM – that one school has provided three times as many Prime Ministers as the Labour Party in its entire history – I think we need to be honest that the rise of such a child to being her country’s most senior diplomat is less likely in Britain than the US.

I don’t want you to think I do nothing but read books about fascism but I recently read Albright’s book, ‘Fascism: A Warning’. I will have to send it to TB. Albright, for whom he had a lot of time when she was Bill Clinton’s Secretary of State, goes a lot further than I do in drawing parallels between Hitler and Trump, and Mussolini and Trump, saying the latter is a ‘giant elephant rampaging through the pages’ of her book. ‘Mussolini called on his followers to believe in an Italy that would be “prosperous because it was self-sufficient and respected because it was feared”’ she writes. ‘This was how twentieth-century fascism began: with a magnetic leader exploiting widespread dissatisfaction by promising all things. Il Duce, Italy’s Prime Minister from 1922 until 1943, said that his mission was “to break the bones of the democrats . . . and the sooner the better.” He used the term “drenare la palude,”  or “drain the swamp.”’ (It was actually a real swamp, mind you.) ‘He had a talent for theatre, and was a poor listener who disliked hearing other people talk. He discouraged cabinet members from “proposing any idea that might cause him to doubt his instincts,” which, he insisted, were always right.’ Certainly sounds and feels familiar.

Hitler, she says, projected himself as the leader capable of acting in a way that conventional politicians could not. He ‘lied incessantly about himself and about his enemies. He convinced millions that he cared for them deeply when, in fact, he would have willingly sacrificed them all.’  Even Winston Churchill, initially at least, was taken in, praising Hitler’s competence and charm, his charisma and magnetism. Today, she worries that ‘anti-democratic leaders are winning democratic elections, and some of the world’s savviest politicians are moving closer to tyranny with each passing year.’ She spares Putin the label of ‘full-blown fascist’ – for now, but adds: ‘He has flipped through Stalin’s copy of the totalitarian playbook and underlined passages of interest to call on when convenient.’

Just as I separate out Hitler and Trump, amongst others things, on the grounds of one having a powerful ideology and the other not, so she separates out Hitler and Mussolini, saying the German leader had that clear, fixed ideology, whereas the Italian was driven by ‘populist nativism.’ Like Matteo Salvini perhaps. Marine Le Pen. Nigel Farage. Steve Bannon. Populist nativism. That is their song. But also Donald Trump’s. Trump, she argues, ‘won the Presidency because he convinced enough voters in the right states that he was a teller of blunt truths, a masterful negotiator, and an effective champion of American interests. That he is none of those things should disturb our sleep, but there is a larger cause for unease. Trump is the first anti-democratic president in modern U.S history.’

Of course because America is America, and as Trump gets more attention around the world than any other political leader on the planet, ever, even if he wants to close the borders and always put America First, he has huge influence on politics in the other democracies too. On the odd occasion I have been on the receiving end of banter and/or abuse from Brexit supporters, often in and around College Green opposite the House of Lords, it has been interesting to note the Trumpian tone. ‘Fake news,’ they will say when you try to inject fact into the debate on Brexit. ‘Why do you hate the country so much? …. If you hate it so much, why don’t you fuck off and live in Europe?’ ‘I do live in Europe,’ I say. ‘We haven’t left.’ That takes you into patriotism and before you know it you are into ‘traitor’ territory and, as anti-Brexit MP Anna Soubry found when surrounded, ‘fascist’ territory too. Brexit, don’t you know, will ‘make Britain great again.’ Two World Wars and one World Cup and all that. Indeed, some wear the red Trump ‘Make America Great Again’ cap, and argue that ‘if Trump was in charge of Brexit, he would sort it out.’ Polling shows he is profoundly disliked by majorities in most countries, Russia an exception to the rule, but he does have fans worldwide nonetheless, and is the global poster boy for populism. His kind of politics, progressives and liberals have to admit, is winning more than ours. 

So what is populism? Often, I think we see it as doing and saying things to be popular. It’s not. Populism today is the relegation of fact and reason to lies and emotion. Boris Johnson is about to become Prime Minister on the back of it. There is a real risk, not least here in the UK, and indeed in the US, that the left thinks the response to the populism of the right is populism of the left. Trump, and Johnson, are both politicians of the post-truth, post-shame world. They lie. They invent. They exaggerate. They deny saying things they’ve said, and wave away evidence that proves the lie. They answer difficult questions with answers to one that wasn’t asked. They take credit when it is not due, and spread blame that should be theirs. They are unabashed by scandals, and rely on fawning mainstream media supporters, outriders and sock puppets to help them through them. 

Like Trump, Boris Johnson does not really have an ideology. He built a successful career as a journalist in part through his personality, his ability to make people laugh – with or at him, he didn’t really mind – and by lying. It is somewhat symbolic of the post-truth, post-shame world that Boris Johnson once lost his job at The Times for lying, and the self-same newspaper, despite its own experience of the character of the man, endorsed him to be the Prime Minister. His main lying era, however, was his time as Brussels editor of the Daily Telegraph, when his love of making up stories that made Europe’s institutions look power-crazed and ridiculous helped not only make his name, but prepare the ground for the kind of media-fed Euroscepticism that eventually forced David Cameron to feel he had to call an In/Out referendum. We all know it ended with a win for Leave, a win helped across the line in large part by Johnson and Michael Gove’s belated desertion of their leader, followed by a campaign built on lies about the NHS, and lies about Turkey, pumped out on social media, the NHS funding promises reneged on almost immediately after the votes were counted, and the lies about millions of Turks heading our way forgotten as new Foreign Secretary Johnson headed to Ankara – to offer his support for Turkish accession to the EU. Post-truth. Utterly without shame.

That Johnson had two versions of his Telegraph column ready to go ahead of the 2016 referendum campaign, one for Remain, one for Leave, tells you that he was not driven by principle, firm belief, or ideology. Likewise, he became Mayor of London by projecting himself as a liberal progressive and has risen to Prime Minister by shifting significantly to the right to meet the demands of the Tory party membership. There are those who argue – a bit like Americans used to say Trump would moderate his conduct once in office – that Johnson will switch back to something more centrist. I fear they are making the same mistake as people made with Trump. Johnson is not a detail man, as Andrew Neil exposed superbly in his BBC interview during the leadership election. He is a headline-writer, a gag-writer, a grand gesture man, a showman. And if you ask what style of leadership he will be likelier to emulate – Trump or Angela Merkel, or even Trump or Emmanuel Macron – I think we already know the answer. Trump. 

‘Populism is the art of agitating the disaffected voters to vote against their best interests, by amplifying problems and not really offering anything in return.’ So said an Australian commenter, who called himself ‘sleuthfortruth’ below an interview I did that was published there recently. Trump, Johnson and Farage, Salvini, Orban in Hungary, Bolsonaro in Brazil, that is their hymnbook. As ‘sleuthfortruth’ also put it: ‘Voting for a populist party is like diving head first into an empty swimming pool, because you’re angry that there’s no water in it.’

Anger, the great currency in populist politics, wide open for this as an electoral model: ‘You are angry. You are right to be angry. I get your anger. Because they (elites/vague enemies often undefined) are not giving you what you want and need and deserve. They keep everything for themselves. Because they are not on your side. I am on your side. Because only I understand you, and only I have the strength to deliver for you.’ It is truly remarkable that Trump the inherited wealth billionaire, Johnson the Eton/Oxbridge/Telegraph son of a Eurocrat, Jacob Rees-Mogg the multi-millionaire son of a Times editor, Farage the private school City trader, have been able to pull this off. But thus far, they have. 

The question is can they be stopped? Can the populist virus be reversed? If it isn’t, what kind of world are we creating? We will know soon enough. If Trump is re-elected, which is not impossible, and depends so much on the Democrats making the right choice of candidate – please not a populist, but instead someone who takes populism head on – he will double down, go for more. If Johnson tries to leave the EU without a deal – for which there is no specific mandate, given he and everyone else said three years ago this was not an option – then it is impossible to see how he even begins to try to re-unite the country. As Denis Staunton, London editor of the Irish Timesput it, ‘This is a country where consumers get upset if their Amazon Prime delivery arrives a few hours late. They are not going to put up with shortages.’ Johnson is kidding himself if he thinks Brexit can inspire some kind of Blitz spirit. The country united behind Churchill in the face of an existential threat. Brexit is a self-inflicted act of damage and division, and he is a prime author of both. And what if there was civil unrest and disorder, as many in the security forces fear there would be, not least in Northern Ireland? Might Johnson decide to dust down his old plans for the use of water cannons to quell protest? And if he can’t get his way on Brexit, would the proroguing of Parliament he has refused to rule out not fall into one of those categories set out above? Contempt for political institutions. Likewise, the slogans he spouted for Brexit, and the slogans he spouts now about solving the Irish border issue, tax cuts, vast money for any public service you care to mention, the ‘vanishingly inexpensive’ cost of no deal … oh, it is all going to be easy, and wonderful, just like we said it would be three years ago. No, I am not saying Johnson is a fascist. I am saying a Johnson Premiership could go any which way.

Let me let you in on a secret. Johnson will not get a better withdrawal agreement than Theresa May did. He will therefore either have to pretend he has, or move to a different battlefield. It will probably be no deal, or an attempt to get a mandate for one. He is a gambler, and he will fancy his chances against Jeremy Corbyn in an election, whatever denials he and Dominic Cummings make. Given Labour’s current standing in the polls, continuing divisions on Brexit between the clique around Corbyn and most of the elected shadow cabinet and the members he said he would listen to, and the cesspit that anti-semitism has become, perhaps one can see why an election appeals. And how tragic is it that it should be in the UK, and in the Labour Party, that anti-semitism has reared its head, when most decent people thought surely the Hitler years had inoculated the world against it. How dreadful too, looking at the way the Party leadership responded to the testimony of former staff members in the BBC Panorama programme, that it seemed to be characterised by post-truthery – ‘we are dealing with the problem, it is all being exaggerated’ – and post-shame – ‘these people have an axe to grind and they have always hated Jeremy.’

It may be on the left that it is happening, and it may well be mirrored by Islamophobia in parties of the right. But look at the way Viktor Orban and other right wing leaders use Jewish billionaire George Soros, and the Rothschild legend, in their propaganda, and anti-semitism left and right provides yet another sign that the parallels with the 30s are not to be sniffed at. 

Hitler was a menace because his views and political beliefs were so strong. Trump and Johnson are a menace because their egos are so large, their tendency to tantrum when they don’t get their own way so instinctive, their desire to be centre of attention so narcissistic and all-consuming. They will fit their views and decisions and actions according to the broader narrative they seek to communicate. That is very different to Hitler, but still worrying nonetheless. Politics without a moral compass can go in any direction, but if you are basically a bad man – I believe both of them to be so, based on considerable evidence provided by both – then it is not unwise to imagine the worst not the best when they are put in a tight spot. And with the world as it is right now, there are tight spots galore ahead of them.

If the next national vote in the UK is a referendum on Brexit, and Remain wins, I believe we can begin to reverse the political virus here, and begin to re-unite the country much more than a Johnson No Deal could ever do. If a Democrat can be found to take on and beat Trump, it can be done there too. They are very big ifs indeed, and all I am saying is that without going overboard, as TB clearly thought I was, we need to pay really close heed to the signals of fascism, the subtle ones as well as the obvious ones, and to keep in mind the frontispiece quote on the first of the 1,200 pages of Shirer’s masterpiece, from Spanish-born American philosopher George Santayana … ‘Those who do not remember the past are condemned to relive it.’

Anyone writing a book about today might be tempted to add the next sentence in Santayana’s most famous quote. ‘To covet truth is a very distinguished passion.’ Given the leaders of our politics home and abroad, we are in a real fight to keep the passion alive, and the consequences if we fail are dark, and dangerous.