Here’s hoping 2014 is a year to remember – for all the right reasons

HAVING just glanced at what’s slated for 2014, it looks such a yawn I’m tempted to do a Rip Van Winkle and snooze my way through it.

That may sound cynical, but the fact that the United Nations has designated MMXIV the International Year of Family Farming and Crystallography doesn’t enthuse. And, no, don’t ask me what ‘crystallography’ is – look it up for yourselves, because I don’t think I’d stand the thrill discovery may bring.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Latvia becomes the 18th EU state to adopt the Euro. So, maybe family farming will be a timely learning experience to offset the single currency’s dubious bounties…joblessness, austerity and slowly being mashed to death by a German woman sporting a pudding-basin haircut, driving a financial steamroller.

At least February looks promising. Tsar Putin will open the Winter Olympics in Sochi, where his repellent, homophobic laws will be temporarily eased, a grilling over sexual orientation won’t replace drug tests and any competitor found wielding a ski pole in an unseemly manner won’t be banished to a gay gulag.

Long ago I ceased to wonder what went through the rapacious minds of those governing world sport – e.g. the IoC and FIFA – when pariah states like Russia and Qatar were awarded showcase spectaculars, despite appalling human rights violations. Money, though, shrieks louder than morality, so sport is just another bankable commodity.

Moving swiftly on, give March a pass, since Comet Holmes reaches its perihelion (again, don’t ask) and similar galactic conditions apply in May, when Faye’s Comet performs astral acrobatics.

At least there’s a solar eclipse to savour in April, so radio telescopes at the ready.

WORLD CUP WOBBLES: Roy Hodgson's England face a daunting task in Brazil next June

WORLD CUP WOBBLES: Roy Hodgson’s England face a daunting task in Brazil next June

June is jubilee month for soccer…unless you’re an England fan (or my missus), because Hodgson’s plodders have about as much chance of lifting the World Cup in Brazil as a three-legged carthorse has of winning the Derby.

Excuses are already fashioned: it’s was too hot, too windy, the ball too round, the sun was shining in our goalie’s eyes and the other lot had eleven men. Oh, and the ref was blind/bent/barmy (tick whichever is applicable). Besides, he was an Argentinian.

July is another month for sports-averse females to go on a girlie holiday, but it looks marginally brighter for us blokes, with the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. The home nation can expect an avalanche of medals, though – let’s face it – this is a school sports day compared to the Olympics.

Still north of the border, September’s highlight is the Scottish vote on independence. And, since my previous comments on this topic drew threats – of a fate worse than fate worse than death – from stroppy Caledonian separatists, I’ll say no more…except if Scotland braves it alone, I wish them the best of British luck (except they’ll no longer be Brits).

Ditto for Catalans when they hold their referendum in November on whether to quit Spain.

However, whatever your political drift, December should end with a voluble sigh of relief when Western troops finally exit Afghanistan, after 13 years – and 3,395 battlefield casualties – of trying to sort out an intractable conflict against an implacable foe.

If the ongoing aggro following what promised to be the end of the 2nd Iraq War  is any yardstick, the hapless Afghans pack less than a dog’s chance of retaining any vestige of democracy. Certainly not with a government so institutionally corrupt facing a Taliban enemy so fanatically obsessed with a 7th Century religious credo.

It might sound churlish to say the opening years of the third millennium have, so far, witnessed an irreconcilable ‘clash of civilizations’, as American political scientist, Samuel P. Huntington, controversially foretold in 1993.

Those useless idiots on the hard Left still castigate this assertion. But the unassailable truth can be seen across swathes of Africa and the Middle East, where what is tantamount to a patchwork Third World War is being waged by the forces of brutal, jihadi fervour against anyone with the temerity to stand in their way.

This year reminders came closer to home – like the hideous slaying of Gunner Lee Rigby – that the battle-fatigued West is not immune to an overspill of hatred that festers in extremist corners of our own Islamic communities and it’s not going to magically vanish.

Meanwhile, wedded as we are to a dotty construct of political correctness, the idea of a multi-cultural, multi-faith Britain isn’t helped by spectacular own goals.

MARKS MAKE SPARKS: The UK supermarket caused a consumer storm by telling Muslim staff they didn't have to handle alcohol and pork products

MARKS CAUSE SPARKS: The UK supermarket faced consumer uproar after telling Muslim staff they didn’t have to handle alcohol and pork products at check-outs

Following hard on the skid-marks of Universities UK’s decision – later revoked – to allow gender segregation at Islamic events on campuses, high street chain, Marks & Spencer, boobed monumentally by absolving Muslim check-out staff from handling pork products and alcohol.

Both were crass, ill-conceived decisions, which backfired by insulting all faiths (plus those of no faith at all), again highlighting how the UK has allowed nonsensical PC to take a wrecking-ball to the nation’s social cohesion.

On a broader canvas, Barack Obama’s lamentably foreign policy will, no doubt, bumble on, frustrating the West’s traditional, regional allies – Saudi Arabia, Israel, Jordan et al – and reinforcing the view that the President is not the Messiah, just another inept, egotistical politician.

After backtracking on his ‘red lines’ warning to the odious Syrian regime, utterly misreading both Egyptian revolutions, then capitulating to Iran’s lust for nuclear weaponry, Obama is in danger of retreating so far he’ll fall into the Pacific.

There is even a growing belief the President will leave Bashar al-Assad in power, since the secular rebels – who could have toppled the Butcher of Damascus with US support two years ago – have now been ousted by Al Qaeda-affiliated cutthroats, ready to use Syria as a launch-pad to export terror to the West.

Meanwhile, John’s Kerry’s bid to forge a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians is downgraded to attaining a mere interim deal, as the Arabs use every ruse to achieve their sole aim of airbrushing the Jewish state from Holy Land history.

But maybe my cynicism will be unfounded, because a New Year should signal a fresh start, with rekindled hope and revitalised spirit.

Like you, I very much yearn for that and 2014 proves to be a happy, healthy, prosperous, peaceful 12 months for all of us.

Why I’m going back to the future in 2014 – and getting all ‘tied’ up

IN an evermore quirky quest to mimic King Canute and stem the tide of history, one of my resolutions for 2014 is to wear more ties.

Well, not actually more ties, just the ones I’ve got (four…I’ve just counted them) more often. And I’ll wear them properly, not affectedly post-modern (see thoughts on that later).

Once upon a time a necktie meant dignity, status, sophistication. In some quarters it was an indication of power and camaraderie – the old school, the club or one embossed with a regimental insignia – and not, as Sigmund Freud suggested, a symbol of male genitalia.

In those halcyon days I had a wardrobe full of specimens so magnificent they humbled Imelda Marcos’s collection of J3 stiletto heels.

Favourites ranged from the James Bond, black-silk, knitted – a superb adornment for a midnight-blue, mohair suit and obligatory white shirt, cut-away collar recommended – to the diagonal striped, much favoured by US Congressmen. And let’s not forget that antidote to depression: a tie so exotically audacious, it turned heads if not stomachs.

Though usually trending toward the conservative, ties like these nonetheless exuded confidence, strength and, as I liked to believe in my case, individuality so subtle only those on the same uber-voguish wavelength recognised a style soul-mate.
Yes, I was a tie snob. And proud to be, I can tell you.

In pre-boutique days, only certain exclusive emporia stocked my choice of neckwear; definitely not Marks & Sparks, Debenhams or – heaven forefend – that refuge of the sales rep and carbuncle of the high street, The Tie Rack.

Still, it brought a tear to my eye the other week that a combination of recession and disdain for dress sense had forced The Tie Rack to down shutters, though no longer will I be confronted by one of its naff outlets in the shopping malls of every UK airport I land at.

Where did it all go wrong and the tie die, I often wonder.

TOP TIE MAN: Pop icon Gary Barlow shows how a necktie should be worn

TOP TIE MAN: Pop icon Gary Barlow shows how a necktie should be worn

Well, the rigor mortis had certainly set in about a dozen years ago when my City lawyer of a daughter told me her firm had commanded all junior associates to have in their office lockers a set of casual, dress-down clobber.

This, explained Lauren, was because a tranche of pongy, pubescent, new clients were dot.com entrepreneurs and ‘they do T-shirts, not ties, Dad.’

‘I bet they don’t even bother to shave,’ I scoffed, unknowingly.

‘You’re absolutely right, they don’t,’ replied said daughter. ‘They prefer stubbly beards.’

For once words failed me as I tried to imagine a bunch of necktied legal leeches forsaking bespoke tailoring for Gap just to screw a bunch of uppity kids for a few hundred thou in fees. How low could lawyers stoop, I fumed. Clearly a lot nearer the canine excrement adorning pavements that’s probably already up their nostrils.

But worse followed.

Suddenly, all manner of previously sartorial members of Her Majesty’s Press were appearing tieless on telly.

And just when I was thinking the sight of ex-Sunday Times editor and BBC political pundit, Andrew Neill’s bulging, jowly neck laid bare, top button of two-hundred quid shirt undone, was the giddy limit, lo and behold, British Prime Minister (‘Call me Dave’) Cameron – and his glove puppet, Nick Clegg – decided to join the tie-drain.

Even roly-poly UK Communities Minister, Eric ‘Double Chicken Masala & Chips’ Pickles, tried the man-of-the-people fad. But such is his abundance of chins, nobody really noticed.

Now don’t get me wrong. There’s a time and place for appropriate attire and laid-back Majorca is generally a tie-free environment. But Westminster, City boardrooms and the TV news progs – not even weekends being an exception – are what I’d describe as bastions of Establishment convention and, hence, require the necessary dress code (i.e. smart, sober suit and tie).

And, unless I was reporting from a war zone or scene of Third World devastation, I’d never think of assaulting viewers with an image that was anything less than professionally formal. Not even on the radio.

TIE-LESS SHAME: Prime Minister Cameron and his deputy, Nick Clegg, gatecrash the bare-neck trend

TIE-LESS SHAME: Prime Minister Cameron and his deputy, Nick Clegg, gatecrash the bare-neck trend

I would, however, draw the line at the monstrosities sported by Channel 4’s Jon Snow, whose neckwear appears to be the result of a deranged artist puking on his shirtfront, after a breakfast of muesli and raw pig’s liver.

At least Gary Barlow remains a trenchant tie-man, though his black Slim Jims are more funeral director than pop icon.  And, on the occasions I’ve bothered to notice, Barlow doesn’t subscribe to that modish craze of not pushing his tie to the top of the triangle of his collar.

This is an irritation I find so grating that I’ve actually considered emailing the producer of Strictly Come Dancing and demanding Bruno Tonioli wears his tie properly or waltzes off to The X Factor (in last night’s final, at least, he’d gotten the message).

For those of you who think I’m pushing the tie debate to bonkers extremes, I assure you I’m not. To me they are a flourish of distinctiveness that’s intended to liven up the traditional image of masculine dourness – providing you don’t ape Snow’s example – and I believe it’s an accessory most women appreciate.

Maybe I am trapped in a time warp, like the one that decrees you drink beer out of a glass, not by necking it straight from bottle and giving the brewer a free plug.

Nonetheless it saddens me to see the demise of the tie.

In 2008, a survey reported that only 21% of men had bought a tie that year and by 2012 the figure had slumped to 18%.

This descent into tieless anarchy wasn’t helped by one Matthew Thompson, a Job Centre worker from Stockport, who won an action at an industrial tribunal against his employers for insisting he wore a tie to work when female colleagues turned up in T-shirts.

I wonder if the women were allowed to go au naturel. Because if not and they were required to wear bras, why wasn’t Mr. Thompson told to follow suit on the grounds of gender equality?

So what do I want for Christmas? Yes, you’ve guessed it…a Maserati V6 Ghibli, preferred colour: Siena Bronze.

A tie? Why would I want one of those? I’ve already got four.

UK’s ‘martyr’ MPs should stop griping, take their pay rise – and do a better job

EXCUSE me sir/madam, but I’d like to give you some dosh. It’s around £7,600 – €9,000 or thereabouts – and there’s nothing funny about the money, because it comes from that most unsullied of sources: the British tax-payer.

What! You don’t want it, because apparently it’s an 11% pay rise just at a time when most of the hoi-poloi are stretched to near bankruptcy on the rack of austerity. What’s more, accepting it would look…er, embarrassing.

But you’re an MP, for heaven’s sake. You’re a gravy-train cruiser, so why break the habit of a lifetime? At this rate, you’ll be swapping your Savile Row threads for sackcloth and demanding BBC1 televises the entire cast of the House of Commons whipping their naked buttocks in a Lenten purge at Westminster Abbey.

Now I know I’m probably in a minority of one on this, but I believe MPs should take the largesse they’ll be awarded in 2015 by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) with magnanimity, not mock indignation.

I well understand, though, that the great British public thinks boosting their stipends from around £66,000 per annum to over £74K is scandalous.

That’s because politician-bashing is the one sport we Brits excel at nowadays – apart from shove-ha’penny down my local, where I defy even the Germans to best us – and predictably the Press echoed the populist theme, with banner headlines shrieking ‘Shocking’, ‘Disgraceful’ and ‘The Wages of Sin’.

So, in an act of contrition bordering on self-immolation, in waded the MPs, huffed on by Squire Cameron (£142,500 p.a. + free digs and motor), the Prime Minister, and his pet serf, Lib-Dem Nick Clegg, (£134,565 + chauffeured limo), who said he was so proud to be Deputy Dawg, he’d do the job for nothing.

As both are multi-millionaires, an extra few thou would hardly cover the bill for re-stocking a bin in the wine cellar with a few cases of Chateau Latour ready for the Yuletide rush.

Meanwhile, Labour cheerleader, Ed Miliband (£132,387 + perks) led a chorus of the righteous Left by calling for cross-party talks to stymie the parliamentary watchdog’s insult to members’ over-inflated opinion of their integrity.

You’d think the cash was contaminated by anthrax, because, in my memory never before have so many of the nation’s chosen lined up to distance themselves from a hand-out.

It reminds me of a time when I was hiring a sub-editor, to whom I’d offered the going rate, which then was about £25,000. Despite my protests, he refused to settle and I had to allow him to beat me down to £20,000 before he agreed to start the following month. Talk about tough negotiator.

PARLIAMENT POSER:  MPs are split on whether or not to take the 11% rise in pay

PARLIAMENTARY POSER: MPs are split on whether or not to take the 11% rise in pay

As now with members, honourable or otherwise, the point is there should be a salary yardstick for any job and it should chime with the ethos of value for money, coupled to talent and desire.

Hence, if you are of the mind that MPs don’t do what it says on their tins, then they aren’t worth what Americans dub a mess of beans, irrespective of what’s in their wage packet.

The constant thorn plaguing their worth, however, is how can it be gauged. GPs, teachers, even us journos, have weighable pay scales, with family doctors and secondary school heads often now receiving in excess of £100,000 p.a.

But wage inflation in parts of the UK public sector has been rife in recent years yet, somehow or another, parliamentarians have fallen by the financial wayside.

Once the case was MPs pay was set at 2.25 times the average national wage. So, given today’s guestimate of that is £25K, then the £66,000 they currently trouser would seem bountiful.

But living in London – as they do part or full-time – is increasingly costly and, following the Daily Telegraph lifting the lid on parliamentary expenses scams in 2009, now even the usual suspects are more circumspect about making fanciful claims, like for constructing a duck house or cleaning one’s moat on one’s castle.

GREEN FOR 'NO': Caroline Lucas, Britain's only Green MP, is against the watchdog's recommendation

GREEN FOR ‘NO’: Caroline Lucas, Britain’s only Green MP, is against the watchdog’s recommendation

An alternative solution would be to link MPs’ remuneration to those in similar circumstances, but that’s likely to ignite further fury.

US Congressmen, for instance, receive the dollar equivalent of £126,000 – plus exes British MPs would swim the Atlantic for – while Members of the European Parliament scoop a basic €96,000 (circa £80,000), along with €304 (£255) a day simply for clocking in.

As regards national legislatures across Western Europe, French senators fair worst, though perks – such as mini-interest mortgages and a penchant for ‘slush’ funds – act as tax-free incentives.

Contrarily, Italian politicos top the pay league, presumably on the basis that ‘bunga-bunga’ parties and nubile companions don’t come cheap.

So, as it transpires, British MPs enjoy middling pay by comparison and many could bag considerably more elsewhere, even if it meant a sacrifice in kudos.

Meanwhile, methinks there’s more than a little posturing, politicking and PR going on in their display of ‘we’re all in this together’ martyrdom.

For a start, in the wake of the Telegraph’s revelations, MPs demanded an impartial arbiter to oversee their conditions of employment and they got precisely that with IPSA.

Now, apparently, it isn’t fit for purpose, forcing some blustering members to act like turkeys voting for Christmas.

However, there are salient caveats in IPSA’s award, which are conveniently lost in the foggy brouhaha: MPs pensions, allowances and golden goodbyes will all be trimmed, reducing the actual cost of running parliament by £2.2-million a year.

I can only imagine some of the most vocal anti-pay rise crusaders – such as lone Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas, who seems green in more ways than one – neglected to read IPSA’s small print, before sounding off as holier-than-thou.

So, no, I don’t think £74,000 a year is an indecent sum for an MP to earn and, based on merit, many are worthy of even more.

Besides, in the real world talent follows the money and I’ve no wish to turn the clock back to pre-1911 – before MPs were first paid – when politics was just a rich man’s sport.

I want quality, not quantity and genuine people with deep experience of life to represent me, not a privileged few, for whom parliament is a passport to power and a gong, or spotty nerds, straight up from Oxbridge, who’ve never done a day’s hard toil in their little lives.

If paying MPs an extra 11% achieves those aims, it will be cash well spent.

Rajoy throws a Spaniard into the works to scotch Salmond’s independence bid

ALAS, the likelihood of Alex Salmond downing a pint of ‘heavy’ in the Jaggy Thistle next summer is growing more remote than the Loch Ness Monster popping into the celebrated Mallorca hostelry for a deep-fried Mars Bar marinated in Glenfiddich.

I’d even venture to say the independence-minded Scottish National Party chieftain will shun Spanish soil forever…even the mere mention of a paella will leave him gagging.

To quote Scotland’s great poet, Robbie Burns, ‘The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft agley’ (Sassenach translation: ‘The best laid schemes of mice and men / Often go awry’).

Because, just when Salmond was leading his tartan army on a charge to end 300 years of Union with the United Kingdom, along comes Spain’s Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, to rain on his parade.

At the risk of sounding contemptuous of the Scots perfectly reasonable entitlement to vote in a plebiscite on their future next September, you could almost say the man from Madrid has thrown a Spaniard into the works.

Rajoy warned, ‘It is clear to me that a region which asks for independence from a state within the European Union will be left outside the EU. It is good thing the Scottish people know this, along with other Europeans.’

Rubbing salt into the Celtic secessionists wounds, he said that EU treaties only apply to states that have agreed and ratified them, not ‘regions’ of member states embarking on ‘solo adventures (where) the destination is unknown.’

SCOTS FREE? That might be SNP leader, Alex Salmond's New Year wish, but the odds are against independence

SCOTS FREE: That might be SNP leader, Alex Salmond’s New Year referendum wish, but the odds are stacking up against the ‘Yes’ vote winning

Not that it’s any consolation to cheeky chappie Salmond, I don’t think Rajoy could care a half-baked haggis about Scotland splitting from England, Wales and Northern Ireland. And – given the on-going aggro over Gibraltar – truth be told, anything seen to be giving the UK a bloody nose would be greeted with a crescendo of olés from the majority of Spaniards.

No, Rajoy was unsubtly cautioning Catalan and Basque nationalists not to bother imitating the SNP’s lead in demanding break-away statelets of their own.

That, though, is not the worst of worries for the man who would be Laird of Scots, because Salmond was rather relying on keeping the good, old GB£ as he preferred currency (even those weird, Scottish tenners most English shopkeepers won’t touch with a Highland caber).

That pipedream was spelt out in the SNP’s 670-page, pro-independence White Paper last month – only to be met by a rejoinder from the Bank of England amounting to: ‘You can stick that up your kilt, Ally; there’s no way we’ll be your lender of last resort.’

In fact, quite how much the SNP manifesto will weigh on the minds of voters is anyone’s guess. My bet is most canny Scots, whether they declare ‘yea’ or ‘nay’ in the referendum, would roll it up and use it as a faggot to warm the fire.

That might also help cast some light and closer scrutiny on Salmond’s vision of a liberated, real-time Brigadoon, since it smacks more of aspiration than actual fact.

For instance, among other goodies, he promises 30 hours of free childcare per week for all bairns of three and four years (worth £4,600 and available now, if he were minded to do so); an end to Westminster’s pernicious ‘bedroom tax’; and a Scottish broadcasting service to replace the BBC (och aye to that, if they take the grating Kirsty Wark with them).

PUTTING EL BOOT IN: Spain's PM, Mariano Rajoy warns Scotland independence  won't guarantee a free pass into the EU

PUTTING EL BOOT IN: Spain’s PM, Mariano Rajoy warns Scotland independence won’t guarantee a free pass into the EU

Alistair Darling, leader of the cross-party, Better Together ‘No’ campaign, called the pledges ‘cynical’. The former UK finance minister also challenges Salmond’s arithmetic and questions the SNP’s ability to deliver on time, on cost and if at all.

The crux of the debate, however, will hinge on whether Scots vote with their emotions or wallets. And despite their reputations for being Bravehearts, the ones I know all take this fanciful stuff with a large dose of pragmatism.

A Scot I spoke to the other day predicted witheringly, ‘We’ll end up being crushed by far-Left socialism, the English forever doomed to be ruled by Tories.’

So far, this isn’t reflected in the latest opinion surveys, indicating 47% of Scots wish the Union to continue against 38% who don’t, with 15% undecided.

However, that will change, especially with so many ‘don’t-know’ votes at stake and Salmond tilting balloting rules in his favour.

For instance, Caledonians living south of Hadrian’s Wall – who could boost the turn-out by 16% – can’t take part, though 400,000 non-native Scots resident in Scotland, can.

And Salmond’s cunning plan sees the franchise extended to 17-year-olds, even if the saltire cross of St. Andrew can’t be traced in acne across their bonny cheeks.

To me, there’s a slight whiff of gerrymandering in some of this, particularly that ban on expats having a say. Presumably the SNP reckons they’re now such Anglicised wimps they’d opt to remain part of the Union rather than risk being deported on the next train to Auchtermurty by Nigerian-born members of the UK Border Agency.

However, Ivor Knox, whose company, Panelbase, carried out the poll, gives a hint of what may come to pass when he says: ‘If patriotism and national pride were the key issues, [the] Yes [vote] would win hands down. They aren’t…Scots remain unconvinced independence would bring economic benefits.’

Contrarily, there’s no reason why Scotland can’t survive as a stand-alone nation, given its people’s tenacity, creativity and £30-billion a year income from North Sea oil/gas, though this is a finite resource and already dwindling.

And, despite having a population of around only five million, it certainly wouldn’t be the smallest nation on the planet. Plus, you have to admire any people who’ve sired the inventors of TV, the telephone, Tarmac and single-malt whisky, among other notable, life-enhancers.

Hence, there’s all to play for, so – to borrow an expression from one of Scotland’s favourite sons, no less a personage than Sir Alex Ferguson – it’s ‘twitchy bum time’.

However, there’s one, sure-fire way the SNP can deliver victory: include English voters in the referendum, because 66% of them would be delighted to see Scotland take the high road to freedom.

Just a wee thought, Ally.

How Iran conned the trusting West into the great Geneva ‘giveaway’

AT around 5 a.m. a week last Saturday, when the various parties yawned their way through the obligatory photo-shoot after the night-long charade that passed as ‘nuclear peace talks’ in Geneva, who had the most to smile about?

It was a no-contest, because the jubilant grins, lit up like a torchlight procession of skiers descending a Swiss Alp, all belonged to the Iranians.

And the biggest winner wasn’t even there. The crafty, turbaned 74-year-old, Ali Khamenei, a religious fanatic who styles himself Supreme Leader, was sitting several thousand miles away in Tehran, no doubt stroking his beard, eyes agleam at how the UN-anointed delegation of pliant diplomats, the P5+1, could be so easily conned.

After a decade of deceit, deception and time-wasting, the world’s premier purveyor of terror had won the most decisive war of words with the West since Hitler convinced Neville Chamberlain back in 1938 his intentions towards Czechoslovakia were entirely honourable and pigs could fly.

So, following the shameful Munich Pact, say hello to the great Geneva ‘giveaway’. And, replacing the plucky Czechs, insert Israel, Saudi Arabia and most Sunni Muslim states, including Jordan and Egypt – in fact, all the West’s Middle East allies, who’ll be the first fall-guys in Obama’s gamble on appeasing a rogue state that doesn’t even bother to hide an ambition to extend its headbanging hegemony across the world’s powder keg.

No surprise, then, that the bunting also went up throughout the Islamic Republic’s vassal states: Iraq, where Shiite lackeys suppress Sunnis, Christians and Kurds; Syria, where Iranian arms and manpower underwrite the repellent Assad mafia; and Lebanon, indirectly ruled by Iran via its cutthroat proxies, Hezbollah.

NUCLEAR WINNER: Iran's Foreign Minister, Javid xxxxxx, has much to smile about after Iran again duped the P5+1

NUCLEAR WINNER: Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammed Javad Zarif, has much to smile about after Iran again duped the UN-backed P5+1

Oh, and let’s not forget how it was hailed as a triumph by those woolly-minded bien pensants, the trusting Left-leaners, who’d give Beelzebub a free pass for inventing the Seven Deadly Sins. If they’re clapping, you know something’s gone badly pear-shaped.

So what precisely is the much-trumpeted deal that’ll prelude ‘peace in our time’ and had the Iranians believing they were floating on a Persian carpet to nuclear paradise, after a decade of biting sanctions?

From its narrow perspective, they insist it entitles them to continue developing dubious nuclear hardware it denied for years it ever had in defiance of six UN resolutions; au contraire, says the P5+1 – purblind America, a supine UK, the occasionally feisty French, scheming Russia and China, plus Germany – who claim they’ve rolled Iran back in exchange for easing financial manacles.

But, without digging deep into the nitty-gritty, here’s how one, independent US foreign policy analyst explained it, ‘Iran will get to pocket billions in [sanction] relief, use the funds to stabilize its economy, bolster its nuclear program and fund its global terror network.’

Indeed, that sentiment was echoed by Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammed Javad Zarif, who said the deal – ‘cave-in’ is more apt – represented ‘a big success for Iran.’

Underlining victory, he told Iran’s parliament last week that work would even continue on the Arak heavy water, plutonium plant in direct contravention of the P5+1 agreement.

But was it ever going to be anything than thus?  Short answer: No.

Because President Obama’s skewered vision of Western foreign policy has tilted 180 degrees on its axis in favour of opponents, not proponents.

Admittedly, especially in the Cold War era, some ‘friends’ – Chinese nationalist warlord, Chiang Kai-shek, the Shah of Iran and, briefly, Saddam Hussein spring to mind – were not exactly paragons of democratic virtue.

However, this most naïve of US leaders’ belief that he can placate lunatic, Islamic extremists is the most deranged, fanciful gambit of modern times, because they represent a bloc that not only vilifies the West, but has the avowed intention of destroying it.

Simply put, there cannot be a happy accommodation with radical, repressive, expansionist theocrats, who want a new world order based on a 7th Century credo, which defines Western liberalism as decadent, inferior and ungodly.

So an interim deal that’s just a dab on the footbrake of Iran’s headlong rush to tool itself up with nuclear goodies is about as useful as putting a nappy on an elephant.

And the question that shrieks to be answered is: if tough sanctions were working, why shelve them just on the dodgy premise the maverick Iranians – who freely admit they’ve brazenly lied in the past – will keep to a deal they’re already unpicking at the seams?

Meanwhile, in leading the world down Appeasement Avenue, another facet of Obama’s flawed psyche has surfaced: he’s shown he’s not averse to a tad of skulduggery either.

It’s now emerged that his sidekicks held back-channel talks with the Iranians – and, apparently, Hezbollah – for 12 months to slick up the detail, while the perfidious president lied through his pearly teeth to erstwhile allies that all’s well and will end well. Only he neglected to say for whom.

REPEAT ROUTE: US negotiator, Wendy Sherman, failed to rein in the North Koreans and fails again with Iran

REPEAT DEFEAT: US negotiator, Wendy Sherman, failed to rein in the North Koreans and fails again with Iran

Students of diplomatic cock-ups will remember how President Bill Clinton once tried to stymie North Korea’s nuclear ambitions in 2001, only to end up being suckered.

Kim Jong Il, the Beloved Leader of the pariah state and, unsurprisingly, a playmate of Iran’s Supreme Leader – don’t these loony despots adore grandiose titles – promised not to produce, test or deploy missiles and halt the export of nuclear technology.

Clinton’s chief coordinator, Wendy Sherman, noted then that Kim ‘appears ready to make landmark commitments’.

Alas, appearances can be deceptive and, predictably, the North Koreans reneged on every promise they made.

Ironically, witless Wendy was tasked by the visionary Obama to reprise her stunning debacle, this time with the Iranians. So, small wonder they’re cock-a-hoop.

Meanwhile, the US President looks still more a busted flush, his credibility holed below the waterline over the humbling, bumbling Middle East shambles created under his watch, while his ratings at home plummet to near-record lows.

At a seminal moment in world history, clearly Obama and his appointees – especially Sherman – are ignorant of the wisdom of Spanish philosopher-poet, George Santayana.

Just for the record, a century ago he wrote, ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’