How NOT to be an MP – and how Sunny Jim said I’d have to ‘smarten down’ to be one

It’s been about four decades since the politics’ bug bit deeply enough to inspire me to join a party. And, in retrospect, when I signed up with Labour I was a Blairite – socially liberal, but sympathetic to the blessings of capitalism – before Blair was even out of short pants.

The dalliance didn’t last long because, frankly, I wasn’t too enamoured at being called  ‘Comrade’ and I thought the far-Left was as inveterately potty as it is now, except in those days of beer and butties for the TUC in Harold Wilson’s Downing Street, the leadership had to pay it lip service.

Wilson’s ‘White Heat of Technology’ revolution energised me; clearly he could walk and chew gum at the same time, a feat that was rumoured to have defeated US President Gerald Ford.

By default, I nearly – well, almost nearly – became an MP, because James Callaghan, who followed Wilson as the UK’s Prime Minister (briefly, thank providence), took a shine to me when yours truly and a fellow hack prised him out of a tight spot.

Tall and avuncular, but the craftiest of operators, Sunny Jim was Foreign Secretary at the time and due to address the faithful at Manchester’s Free Trade Hall, until an event of import erupted and caught him off guard. So momentous was it, it’s completely slipped my memory, but, with no spinmeister on hand, we were drafted in to fettle a few words.

So we banged away on a portable typewriter in his hotel suite at the Midland Hotel until four in the morning, trying to fashion an immortal slogan as the room trembled to Jim’s stentorian snoring.

Work prevented me from witnessing the speech, but he invited me for a drink later and thanked me with a five-bob bottle of Cyprus sherry (whatever happened to Champagne Socialism, I wanted to ask).

Instead Callaghan enquired, ‘Have you ever thought of standing?’

‘I am standing,’ I replied stupidly, leaning against the bar.

‘No, I meant standing for Parliament,’ he corrected me. ‘I think you’d make a pretty fair MP and I’m sure we can find you a winnable seat somewhere. But you’ll have to do something about your attire.’

Clad in one of Cecil Gee’s finest blue mohair creations, crisp white shirt, black knitted tie – a la James Bond – I thought I was the cat’s whiskers or some part of a canine’s anatomy.

‘What’s wrong with the way I look?’ I demanded, a tad irked.

‘Too…er, smart,’ said the Foreign Sec. ‘You’ll need to dress down a bit. Get yourself to John Collier and find something grey, the duller the better. And dump those pointy Italian shoes. You’ll need to be more conservative – that’s conservative with a small C, of course.’

For various reasons – including a word to the wise from an MP friend, who warned, ‘You don’t want to be at the mercy of the public; they’re all b******s’ – I decided to stick around Grub Street and pursue the wordsmith’s trade (besides, way back then, the pay was better and MPs hadn’t cottoned on to being as ‘creative’ with their exes as we journos were).

What prompts me to recall the Callaghan incident is that, according to a new study, reported in the Journal of Public Economics, the electorate prefers good-looking, well-dressed election candidates to dowdy, old frumps, like Jim and pipeman Harold were.

So, regardless of how intellectually shallow they may be, the more attractive someone seeking office is, the more trustworthy, intelligent, likeable and able they are perceived.

MP MATERIAL? A flashback to way back when Callaghan had high political hopes for me

MP MATERIAL? A flashback to way back when Callaghan had high political hopes for me

The study – based on a survey of 2,000 candidates and 10,000 voters in Finland– followed in the wake of revelations that a poster photo of David Cameron had been digitally enhanced to make the Prime Minister look a smarter alec than he is (which, given the self-inflicted lumber he’s currently in, wouldn’t seem too challenging even for a Photoshop novice).

However facile this seems, the authors of this report insist, ‘Attractive people are seen as more successful in general, which is as true of politics as it is of showbusiness.’

Clearly, the Finns hadn’t heard of Britain’s roly-poly Communities minister, Eric ‘Double Chicken Tikka Masala & Chips’ Pickles and UKIP’s Nigel Farage, done up like a distressed turf accountant.

Nonetheless, it might explains why super-smoothie Blair could sell fridges to Eskimos, why hunky Nick Clegg leads the Lib-Dems, not baggy-trousered Vince Cable, and why all freshmen/women MPs are packed off to a ‘style consultant’ to be cloned in a make-over before they’re even allowed a sniff of Parliament.

And you’d better not be follicly challenged in British politics. Churchill was the only baldie in over 60 years to be elected Prime Minister, but he compensated for his shiny pate with charisma, cognac and trademark stogie cigars. Helping win WW2 might also have counted.

By the by, just in case political history geeks think me remiss, hair-free Alec Douglas Home was never elected to the job. He was imposed on No.10 by the Tories to oust Harold ‘Supermac’ MacMillan, whose party chums convinced him he was dead or dying.

Therefore, if you’re partial to the chimes of Big Ben, like long holiday recesses, adore the sound of your own voice and can stomach an hour a week feigning sympathy for bleating constituents, your country needs you.

It helps if you’ve never done a proper job – if you’re not an Old Etonian, straight out of uni and a year or two’s apprenticeship as a party HQ dogsbody or political researcher to an unctuous backbencher will do – and you’re half way to being elected.

Don’t forget, either, to dress appropriately…classy, not flashy and something subtle, like a tie or scarf in the party colour, is a useful addendum to demonstrate loyalty (until you join the back-stabbers).

Get your teeth and acne sorted, too, because high-definition TV is a real image-buster and you don’t wanted to be caught out looking like a spotty, buck-toothed loser on Newsnight, while getting a verbal stuffing by Jeremy Paxo.

In short, then, remember: youth and image are cheered, age and experience just jeered.

And me? Obviously, I was way ahead of my time. Today, though, I could have been a contender…but heaven help the electorate if I was!

Is it time Muslim communities did more to combat the fanatics in their midst?

Disbelief! Shock! Horror! Outrage! Revulsion! Imagine the worst, sickest emotion you’ve ever felt and quadruple it again and again.

Because that’s what the grotesque slaying on Wednesday of off-duty soldier, Lee Rigby, yards from his barracks in the multi-cultural, south-east London suburb of Woolwich, demands of everyone with a shard of human decency, regardless of race, creed or colour.

In the immediate aftermath of this hideous crime and too early as it is to draw conclusions, it’s safe to state emphatically that this was a terror attack – of the kind that no country outside the lunatic tinderboxes of the Middle East and Asia has suffered – and the two men who committed it had a religious imperative.

That much is transparent from video footage, captured on the cellphones of witnesses, showing the blood-soaked perpetrators proudly wielding butchers cleavers, knives and what’s thought to be a firearm for all to see.

It’s also fair to conclude this was no random attack. The killers were deliberately seeking a target representative of Britain’s military; Woolwich Barracks is home to soldiers who have served honourably in Afghanistan and Iraq, defending Muslims; the victim, in his ‘Help For Heroes’ T-shirt, was undoubtedly a serviceman.

Further, indisputable evidence stacks up. Witnesses say the men – both British nationals – shouted ‘Allahu ahkbar… God is great!’ and spouted arrogantly of ‘an eye for an eye’, ‘You will never be safe’, and ‘We swear by almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you.’

Then there’s the grisly nature of the murder itself: death by beheading – a ghastly, medieval form of killing and, uniquely, the official form of execution in several Muslim countries, where human rights are rare as hen’s teeth. There is also an especially horrific degradation about it; a total dehumanisation of the victim.

INNOCENT VICTIM: Soldier  Lee Rigby, savagely murdered by Islamic fanatics in a London Street

INNOCENT VICTIM: Soldier Lee Rigby, savagely murdered by Islamic fanatics in a London Street

What many find utterly bizarre is that, before a Met Police armed response unit arrived on the scene, the killers mingled with passers-by, attempting to justify their crazed views on the video apps of witnesses’ cellphones.

They must have known a shoot-out was coming. In fact, the pair charged at CO19 marksmen, as if welcoming what US law enforcers dub as ‘suicide by cop.’ Alas, for these merchants of terror, they were only wounded and denied their ultimate death wish.

So, were the video confessions intended as ‘martyrdom messages’, like those left by suicide bombers, released after blowing themselves to smithereens with as many innocents as possible as part of the lunatic death cult they’ve inflected on mankind? I rather think so.

As more facts emerge – one of the killers has been named as an ex-student from London’s East End, who had converted to Islam a decade ago – there are, inevitably, more questions than answers.

For instance, were the killers, guilty by their own, recorded admissions and statements of hatred, known to British counter-intelligence (apparently yes) and, if so, why were they still at large? And – importantly – who else knew of their appalling mission?

Until a full enquiry establishes all the evidence, it would be folly to rush to judgement on MI5, GCHQ and Special Branch, gatekeepers of the nation’s security, because, since the 7/7 London bombings, their modus operandi has changed dramatically.

They are, for sure, far more proactive and experienced now in identifying wannabe fanatics, as a slew of prosecutions has proved. But, sooner or later, a bunch of covert crazies – ‘clean skins’, as they’re known – would have penetrated the tightest surveillance dragnet. That ever-present danger is the price we pay for living in a free, democratic society.

BRAGGING KILLERS: The two, bloodied assassins captured on cellphones of witnesses, justifying their grotesque deed

BRAGGING KILLERS: The two, bloodied assassins captured on video by the cellphones of witnesses, justifying their grotesque deed

Remember when the Provisional IRA warned the then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, ‘You have to be lucky all the time; we have to be lucky once.’ And the Brighton Grand Hotel bombing, during the 1984 Tory Party Conference, proved just whose luck was in.

Today, the threat of extremism has a completely different dimension. It is not about republicanism, but a clash of credos that engulfs the world and manifests itself in the West – specifically the USA, Britain, Spain and France – via the brutality of young men, many of whom were born and bred in our midst.

How and where their minds were polluted by radicalisation we can only guess. But the seeds must lie within our own Muslim communities and, specifically, with certain cynical, evil individuals, whose anti-Western venom and religious intolerance has corrupted sections of Islamic youth.

So, far from extolling the privileges they’ve enjoyed from life in the free world, they are indoctrinated with poison and urged to avenge what they’re drilled to perceive as insults to their superior faith by committing outrages against their fellow-countrymen and women.

And within the Internet, of course, lies a ready font of hate-preach to underpin such perverted prejudices.

Many reasonable people would contend our politicians have been too accommodating for too long to the demands of Islam. In the last 20 years lashings of cash has been doled out to often self-appointed organisations claiming to represent the Muslim community, but, in common with other faiths, it does not speak with a single voice.

On the contrary, deep fault-lines exist within it – tribal, ethnic and, indeed, religious schisms – that no amount of government bribery or coercion will fix.

But, like every other minority Britain (and Western Europe) has welcomed, it is the task of that community to embrace our long-cherished, democratic values and not for us to bow to theirs. We don’t expect or seek total assimilation and the sacrifice of identity; but we do deserve some degree of integration and respect for liberties that took centuries to win.

If that is too big an ask, why move to Britain (or Western Europe) in the first place? And if you count yourself unlucky to have been born in a land where the freedoms of speech and worship, plus the freedoms from want and from fear, are pillars of our secular faith, no-one forces you to stay.

Everyone, irrespective of faith or a lack of it, has a moral duty of care to the wider community they are parts of and Islam is no exception.

Whatever it does – and the vast majority of Muslims are as peace-loving as their religion decrees – it clearly is still not enough to identify the fanatics in the ranks of its faithful, who are capable of committing heinous atrocities.

We need and demand their help. All our security depends on it.

You might be a genius, Prof, but you’re an idiot for falling for the boycott bigots

He’s been variously described as ‘the man who invented time’ and ‘Britain’s most brilliant physicist’, a genius whose academic intellect dwarfs we humble cabbages.

Professor Stephen Hawking’s celebrity has even transcended the dreamy spires of Oxbridge, because he’s risen to be an international icon, made all the more charismatic by crippling disability.

His body contorted by motor neurone disease, the 71-year-old sits in an ultra-high-tech wheelchair, oozing thoughts on the origins of the universe that are broadcast via a robotic voice, laden with a trans-Atlantic accent.

For long he espoused the view that scientific advances – and the exchange of vital information between those at its cutting edge – should be accessible to all, regardless of creed, colour or origin…in essence the noblest sentiments for the betterment of mankind.

Now, for quixotic reasons, Hawking has had a change of heart, perhaps allowing the festering prejudices of others to colour his judgement, though – some argue – these might also be chime with his own resentments.

Because the lodestar of science has allowed himself to become the pin-up boy of the Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions movement (BDS), a group composed mainly of vengeful, academic Left-whingers, whose goal is the demonization, delegitimisation, and ultimate demise of one country and its people.

That nation isn’t an autocratic monarchy, a fanatically-religious theocracy or tyrannical one-party state where minorities are crushed. On the contrary, it’s a vibrant, liberal democracy, with a free Press, independent judiciary and an oasis of sanity in one of the planet’s craziest neighbourhoods.

Yet, so far as the gobby BDS heavy mob is concerned Israel is the crucible of world ills.  What sticks in their craw is it’s a dynamic, secular, Jewish state – the only one – created from the ashes of the Holocaust by United Nations decree as a homeland for a long-persecuted, dispossessed people, with incontestable rights to the ground their ancestors dwelt upon.

But, ignoring blindingly glaring truths – including Israel’s long search for peace – hysterical BDS bigots dispute its very right to exist and tar it with the accusations of ‘racism’ against Palestinians, likening Israel to South Africa’s repugnant Apartheid regime.

GULLIBLE GENIUS? Professor Stephen Hawking backed boycotters, but without Israeli technology he couldn't function

GULLIBLE GENIUS? Professor Stephen Hawking opted to back anti-Israel  BDS, but without Israeli technology he couldn’t function

Co-incidentally, its seeds were first sewn there, in Durban at the (anything but) 2001 World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, which even moved Mary Robinson – a former Irish President, UN human rights chief and partial to the Palestinian cause – to say was infected with ‘a horrible anti-Semitic presence.’

However, BDS didn’t gain traction until a few years later, after the ghastly, Egyptian-born Mona Baker, head of translation studies at the University of Manchester Institute of Science & Technology, sacked two Israelis from a journal she headed, simply because they were Israelis.

From there it flowered among the right-on, far-Left, especially in Britain quirkily, who smugly contend they are such a learned elite, they know everything better than anyone else (except, perhaps, common sense).

Hence, they are happy to fall for seductive Palestinian spin without questioning its lack of validity. And their blunderbuss vilification of all things (and people) Israeli undermines any objective discussion of Israel government policies.

So, conveniently forgetting that 1.5-million Israeli Arabs enjoy more freedoms than their brethren in surrounding Muslim countries, that women have equal rights and aren’t stoned to death for adultery, that gays are not persecuted, that Israel is more culturally diverse than most Western nations, BDS hate-spewers subscribe to Iranian headbanger, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s madness to ‘wipe it off the face of the earth’

Far be it for them, then, to criticise Palestinian terror-mongers for suicide bombing outrages or launching indiscriminate rains of rockets from Gaza, where kids are used as human shields and cuddly Hamas murders opponents. And don’t ever imagine these uber-smart alecs vent their spleen on countries like Saudi Arabia, China, Russia, North Korea, Egypt, Syria and, most particularly, Iran, which richly deserve censure for their appalling human rights violations.

Echoing that other bastion of unfettered prejudice, the UN Human Rights Council – a misnomer in every sense and, until his welcome demise, heavily under the influence of Libyan despot, Muammar Gaddafi – bullying BDS-ers see only one rogue state: Israel, which refuses to cave into Palestinian double-dealing and has the temerity to combat blackmail by terror.

Now, shamefully, Hawking has become a willing dupe of the BDS ship of fools, whose agenda runs exactly counter to all that academic and artistic freedom purports to represent.

UN human rights chief, Mary Robinson said 2001 Durban conference into xenophobia was rife with anti-Semitism

RACISM RIFE: UN human rights chief, Mary Robinson said 2001 Durban conference on xenophobia was infected with ‘a horrible, anti-Semitic presence’

Despite visiting Israel four times, the man who penned the best-selling baffler, A Brief History of Time, signalled his boycott sympathies earlier this month, by reneging on his acceptance of an invitation to attend Israel President, Shimon Peres’s annual conference.

In a lame attempt to justify his volte face, Hawking says his second thoughts were swayed by Palestinian academics, but that’s disingenuous. The fact is he was pressured by purblind BDS-ers – plus the American linguistics expert, Noam Chomsky, an ardent fan of Hezbollah and one-time guest of Hamas – whose tacit solution to the Israel-Palestine issue is a ‘one-nation state’ that doesn’t include ‘a Zionist entity’.

By his gullibility, Hawking has cast a dark cloud over academic integrity and lent his name to a gang of fanatics who judge a scientist only by his or her nationality, not the sum of all the health and wealth-giving breakthroughs they have pioneered.

However, his sad, flawed judgement has only accentuated the merits of Peres’s conference. Titled ‘Facing Tomorrow’, its intention is to address key issues than impact on mankind – from global politics and economics to the environment, education and much more.

Hawking would have been sharing a forum with former US President Bill Clinton, ex-British prime minister, Tony Blair, one-time Russian leader, Mikhail Gorbachev and an array of prize-winning, fellow academics, politicians and business innovators from every civilised corner of the globe.

Probably also in attendance would be the geniuses who created NurOwn, the very medicine Hawking relies on to stall the progress of his illness, and the people who invented Intel’s Core i7 microchip that powers the awesome technology of his wheelchair-communications system.

Without either, he’d be trapped, wordless and immobilised; a physical and intellectual basket case.

Incidentally, his benefactors are Israelis, who shared their innovations with the world, otherwise nobody’s cellphone and laptop would work.

However, now he’s endorsed the boycotters’ credo of hate, it remains to be seen whether Hawking will surrender the life-enhancing gifts Israel’s scientists have brought him. Because, after all, that’s what BDS is all about.

Britain should take French lessons in how to get rid of Islamo nasties

Zoot alors – or words to that effect! Here I am, breaking the habit of a lifetime and actually singing the praises of French politicians.

First, let me state emphatically this is entirely unrelated to President Francois Hollande’s crass mismanagement of an economy that’s stinks worse than an over-ripe Camembert, where recession deepens and a record 3.22 million – 10.6% of the workforce – are jobless.

Indeed, I’ll even desist from naming and shaming the host of Champagne Socialists in Hollande’s regime, who put the flushest of Old Etonians in David Cameron’s Cabinet to shame when it comes to piling up the moolah.

So what am I doing extolling the virtues of Gallic lawmakers and some of their loonier edicts – retaining a 35-hour week and thinking you can compete with the Germans…words fail me – whose peccadilloes are very much in keeping with notoriously lax, French political custom and practice?

Where France excels, however, is in its attachment to the principles of La Révolution of 1789, when aristos were trundled off to the guillotine in tumbrels without so much as a by-your-leave trial (okay, okay…there was a pretence of one, but it was a foregone conclusion they’d always end up several inches shorter later that day).

Today, it applies rather differently, but nonetheless with the same ruthless efficiency.

Because, when it comes to dealing with nasties – particularly of the Islamic persuasion, foaming at le gob with notions of imposing sharia rule on the nation where liberté, égalité, fraternité were invented – the French retain the final word…and it’s ‘Non!’

Instead of ‘Off with their heads’, nowadays it’s ‘Au revoir and off you go’ and Abdul, Ali or Mo are on the first plane out of Paris De Gaulle to be delivered to from whence they came.

MOCKING JUSTICE: But hate preacher, Abu Qatada, wouldn't have escaped expulsion in France

GOING, GOING…NEARLY GONE: Hate preacher, Abu Qatada,  has  agreed to quit the UK, but he wouldn’t he have escaped French expulsion  for so long

So why has Britain been stuck with the ogrish spectre of Abu Qatada, who made a mockery of five Home Secretaries’ attempts over the last 10 years to deport him back to his native Jordan, where he has been convicted on terror charges in absentia.

At least, the odious, hate preacher – who arrived in the UK on a false passport in 1993 and was described by a judge as ‘Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe’ – threw in the towel yesterday (April 10) and agreed to hop it home, once a new treaty guaranteeing him a fair trial is ratified.

However, had he chosen La Belle France instead of Angleterre in the first place, he’d already be banged up in an Amman jail, counting his prayer beads and ruing his luck.

Like Britain, France is a liberal democracy, a member of the EU, a signatory to the convention on human rights and, likewise, at the mercy of the boneheads who sit in judgement at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg. Unlike Britain, it is also a member of the Schengen Bloc, so its borders are porous to the sort of people you’d rather not have sharing a garden fence.

Moreover, even with several million Muslim votes at stake, French politicians have passed edicts banning religious symbols – principally the burqa – in public.

Meanwhile, between 2001 and 2010, the French expelled 129 Islamic headbangers while Britain’s Home Secretary, Theresa May, and four of her frustrated predecessors managed to shift only an abysmal nine nasties deemed to pose a threat to national security.

And, bizarrely, France’s Interior Minister didn’t have to jump through legalistic hoops, scurry back and forth to Arab countries – like Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt, whose justice systems are similarly as whiffy as over-ripe Camembert – gaining assurances the jihadi detritus being returned to sender would be treated fairly.

On the other hand, Mrs. May went to immense pains to wring out of the Jordanians guarantees Qatada would not be tortured or that any evidence used against him had not been tainted by brutal interrogation.

This baffling double-standard hasn’t escaped the attention of counter-terrorism expert, Dr. Frank Foley, whose new book, Countering Terrorism in Britain & France (Cambridge University Press), highlights the discrepancies between the Gallic and Anglo approaches to eradicating the dangers posed by extremists.

His conclusion is it that the framework of Britain’s legal system – and how it differs from that across the Channel – is as much to blame as that deservedly much-maligned, judicial joke, the ECHR.

Foley says, ‘In France, individuals only have limited means of preventing their deportation, because of the relevant legal regulations and because of the swift expulsion practices of the French authorities.’

NO, MINISTER: Like her four predecessors, Home Secretary Theresa May can't get rid of Qatada

NO, MINISTER: Like her four predecessors, British Home Secretary Theresa May couldn’t get rid of odious Qatada

There, an appeal does not immediately suspend expulsion, so an individual can be deported and afterwards petition a judge to overrule it from the discomfort of his homeland.

Foley explains, ‘The authorities have pre-empted such legal moves by putting the individual on a plane home within just a few days of the order being issued.’

Nor is France particularly fazed by the niceties of other nations’ notions of justice.

‘The French courts have not overturned any of the government’s deportation decisions on the basis that radical Islamists face a risk of torture or mistreatment if they are returned,’ reports Foley.

However, in Qatada’s case, neither did UK courts. Since 2001, British judges twice upheld efforts to boot him out. And, in 2007, the Special Immigration Appeals Commission agreed Jordanian assurances were enough to override human rights fears. This was upheld in 2009 by the Law Lords, who also ruled that it wasn’t for British courts ‘to regulate the conduct of trials in foreign countries’ or decide on the merits of evidence.

So what was Qatada – who demands Jews and converts from Islam (plus their kith and kin) be murdered and declared it is forever open season on annihilating Americans – still doing dodging Jordanian justice in Britain, while in possession of an £800,000, 4-bedroom house in West London, courtesy of the taxpayer?

The problem stems from various UK governments’ tardiness in reacting to jihadis in the Nineties, when they could have copied the French example and closed a glaring loophole.  Had this been done, a legal cottage industry defending the indefensible wouldn’t have mushroomed, costing millions in Legal Aid, and would have subverted European meddling.

Instead – as Qatada’s case disgracefully demonstrated – knowing Strasbourg would overrule them, powerless UK judges began caving into Abu’s appeals…until Friday’s voluntary game-changer.

So while liberals may insist the French judiciary is more arbitrary and authoritarian, there’s no denying in Britain, with all its traditions of free speech and civil liberty, the law is an ass when it comes to dealing with nasties like Qatada.

Which is why – just before I wash my mouth out with lye soap – I’ll say, ‘Vive la France!

Why you never find a ‘peacenik’ when you need one (clue: the ‘anti-war’ lobby only picks fights to fit its political agenda)

There’s only one given in warfare and it’s that people get killed, maimed or wounded, mostly minus discrimination between innocent civilian or trained military.

Even the shortest conflict on recent record, the Anglo-Zanzibar War, which broke out at nine a.m. on August 27, 1896, and finished 40 minutes later, claimed 501 casualties.

However, now it seems the debate regarding victims, whether in or out of uniform, has progressed to something bordering on the darkly ridiculous. Because, it’s no longer a simple matter of who war’s grim harvest reaps, but what strikes the deadly blows.

For instance, last week four Western intelligence agencies – the CIA, MI6, France’s SDECE and the Israeli Mossad – confirmed that a ‘red line’ had been crossed in the vicious, internecine Syrian conflict by the use of chemicals, probably the nerve agent, sarin.

This, of course, wouldn’t be the first time such weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) had been used in the Middle East.

They certainly didn’t induce insomnia in Saddam Hussein, after he ordered the gassing of tens of thousands of Kurds in the Iraqi town of Halabja, in 1988, during the Iran-Iraq War. And my guess is they’d get a hero’s reception from Hamas and Hezbollah.

However, under the arcane rules of conflict etiquette, antagonists usually agree to abide by the 1925 Geneva Protocol banning such WMDs.

Even Hitler, who had no compunction in gassing six million defenceless Jews and countless others with cyanide-based Zyklon B, drew back from employing chemical agents on the battlefield. Maybe experience of being temporarily blinded by mustard gas in WW1 weighed heavily even on his psychopathic conscience.

The dilemma facing the West over poisoned gas attacks in Syria is where to pin blame. The odds are heavily stacked in favour of Bashar Al Assad being the culprit, but President Obama is demanding incontrovertible proof it wasn’t the motley bunch of rag-tag rebels – which includes elements of Al-Qaeda and rabid Salafist extremists – ranged against the Demon of Damascus, however unlikely that scenario is.

Quite what America will do when cast-iron evidence is presented is, as ex-US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld might have said, an ‘unknown known’ or even a ‘known unknown.’ Take you pick from Don’s gobbledygook.

But that’s not to belittle the fact that a ‘red line’ – as laid down by Barack Obama and, more emphatically, by Hillary Clinton in her tenure as US Secretary of State – has been crossed. And, if such boundaries are to mean anything, some kind of counter-measure has to be fashioned, especially since an estimated 70,000 Syrian civilians have already perished and a million-plus more have become refugees.

PROTEST ENDGAME? The marchers haven't much left on their anti-imperialist agenda to take to the streets

PROTEST ENDGAME? The marchers haven’t much left on their anti-imperialist agenda to take to the streets

As an aside, what strikes me as odd is this vile crime against humanity has barely raised a peep from the lippy, self-appointed ‘peace lobby’ – the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), Stop The War Coalition, War On Want et al – who believe they hold the patent on the moral high ground.

So where are the protest marches against Assad? Why no  banners hoisted high? What’s happened to the masses who throng Trafalgar Square? Have rabble-rousers, like George Galloway, Ken Livingstone and Tony Benn, been inexplicably struck mute?

No, the unvarnished truth is there’s nothing in it for them; unlike Iraq or Palestine/Gaza, say, Syria lacks a far-Left, anti-imperialist/Western narrative and if they can’t cherrypick their agenda, the ‘peaceniks’ retreat into the shadows.

Which is exactly where they’ve been skulking during the last decade, as the implacable headbangers of Iran lie, obfuscate and torpedo talks about their nuclear ambitions, while inching ever closer to an atomic bomb.

Perhaps, too, CND has become passé, because it’s achieved zilch since its inception in 1957, except drum-banging and giving purblind appeasers the odd day out. In fact, it might as well transpose its initials to CDN and accepted it Can Do Nothing.

But, hark! I hear the rumble of a grumble festering in the ranks of the pacifist diehards, though it’s not remotely connected to Assad’s murderous tactics in keeping his grisly mitts on Syria or Iran’s mad ayatollahs threatening Armageddon.

Instead, its unrighteous indignation is aimed at a ‘smart’ weapon in the West’s arsenal call the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle – a.k.a. UAV, Reaper or drone – which has been employed for some time against Al Qaeda and Taliban cadres, mainly holed up in the hostile badlands along Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

DOWN WITH DRONES: The peaceniks hate them, but UAVs are the ultimate, battlefield weapon

DOWN WITH DRONES: The peaceniks hate them, but UAVs are the ultimate, battlefield weapon

What’s raised the dander of the do-gooders is the drones are now being controlled by trained pilots based 3,500 miles away from the battlefront, in RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire.

And, according to the ‘peace lobby’ that’s grossly unjust, even in an asymmetrical war against an enemy that wears no uniforms, doesn’t mass in serried ranks, pursues a ruthless terror strategy and uses the local populace as human shields.

Rafeef Ziadah, senior campaigns officer at War on Want, claims: ‘Drones, controlled far away from conflict zones, ease politicians’ decisions to launch military strikes and order extrajudicial assassinations, without democratic oversight or accountability to the public.  Now is the time to ban them – before it is too late.’

Democratic oversight and accountability to the public?’ What utter drivel, because since when did we hold a plebiscite every time a NATO squaddie lines up a terrorist in his crosshairs?

And too late for what? Saving Allied and civilian lives? Terminating religious fanatics, who want to impose a 7th Century religious credo on the world, enslave women, decapitate homosexuals, persecute infidels and export terror attacks to distant New York, London and Madrid?

One can only presume Mr. Ziadah and those who share his hypocritical alternative universe will be happy to sit on the next Clapham omnibus that gets eviscerated by a jihadi suicide bomber.

Or perhaps he ought to listen to John Taylor, who lost his daughter, Carrie, in the 7/7 London attacks and speaks for a great many more decent, enlightened folk than the entire ‘anti-war’ lobby put together.

He said: ‘If Al Qaeda wants to fly aircraft into buildings and send people with backpacks on to trains, I am quite happy for us to use UAVs, drones and the lot. It is part of modern warfare. These people brought the war to us, so anything we can do to stop them killing us and our soldiers I am quite in favour of.’

This isn’t the sentiment of revenge, but common sense. Because if wars must be fought – and, incredible as it may seem to the ‘peace-at-all-costs’ fraternity, nobody but nutters want them – we’re entitled to use whatever legitimate weapons we possess to protect ourselves.

If we didn’t, and the views of Messrs Ziadah & Co had prevailed 75 years ago, by now all in the UK would be speaking a language other than English.