Category Archives: Uncategorized

Keep calm, everyone – now is not the time to do a Nicolas Cage

We Tories look at him – with his pint and cigar and sense of humour – and we instinctively recognise someone who is fundamentally indistinguishable from us. He’s a blooming Conservative, for heaven’s sake; and yet he’s in our constituencies, wooing our audiences, nicking our votes, and threatening to put our councillors out of office. We feel the panic of a man confronted by his Doppelgänger. Omigaaaad, we say to ourselves: they’re stealing our schtick! And we are tempted to do a Nicolas Cage – to overreact, to freak out, to denounce them all as frauds or worse. I think there may have been a few ill-advised insults flying around in the past couple of days.

Well, I would humbly submit that there are better ways of tackling the Ukip problem, if indeed it is really a problem at all. The rise of Farage and Ukip tells us some interesting and important things about what the electorate wants – and it is by no means bad news for the Conservatives. It tells us that the voters are fed up with over-regulation of all kinds, and especially from Brussels. Well, who is going to offer a referendum on the EU? Only the Conservatives – and the trouble with voting Ukip is that it is likely to produce the exact opposite: another Labour government and another five years of spineless and unexamined servitude to the EU.

Or take the Human Rights Act, and yesterday’s astonishing story about a fellow who has been here illegally since 2000, and has just tried to persuade a court that he may not be returned to Iraq – in spite of repeated convictions for drug dealing – because he has tattoos. These tattoos apparently include one of a naked lady, of a kind that may allegedly cause offence in a Muslim country.

As it happens, there is no evidence whatever of anyone being persecuted in Iraq because of his tattoos – even in the Islamist chaos that has followed the removal of Saddam. Why shouldn’t he wear a T-shirt? Why can’t he get the tattoo changed to look like a porpoise or something inoffensive? Why are British courts sitting through this kind of drivel? Why are British taxpayers paying hundreds of millions for the whole carry-on? You read that kind of story, and you can see exactly why people are tempted to go for Ukip – just to give the whole cosy and complacent political establishment a kick in the pants.

It is tempting, but there is only one party that has the remotest chance of getting a grip on this sort of politically correct nonsense, and that is the Conservatives. If you want the party that finally got a grip on mass illegal immigration – after Labour deliberately let the brakes off – it is the Tories. If you want to cut the burdens on small business, it is only the Tories who have a hope of governing and actually doing something about the problem.

Rather than bashing Ukip, I reckon Tories should be comforted by their rise – because the real story is surely that these voters are not turning to the one party that is meant to be providing the official opposition. The rise of Ukip confirms a) that a Tory approach is broadly popular and b) that in the middle of a parliament, after long years of recession, and with growth more or less flat, the Labour Party is going precisely nowhere.

Ed Miliband and Ed Balls were the people who advised Gordon Brown most intimately throughout his profligate reign. It was they who said they had taken Britain “beyond boom and bust” and then produced a spectacular bust.

They have absolutely nothing to say or to offer except to take the Labour Party far to the Left of where it was even under Gordon Brown. Their lead has been cut to single figures in the past few weeks, and if – as I strongly suspect – the economy starts to recover well next year (and perhaps as early as this summer), then that lead will be obliterated.

Now is not the time to do a Nicolas Cage and freak out at our Doppelgängers, or to slag them off just for appearing to think, in large part, what many Conservatives think. Now is the time to keep calm and carry on being Conservative.

Boris Johnson can do anything, David Cameron says

Asked whether the London Mayor could one day become prime minister, Mr Cameron replied: “I’d never want to put a limit on what Boris can achieve.”

Mr Johnson has been linked with several possible Tory constituency, including Louth and Horncastle in Lincolnshire where the incumbent MP, the veteran Sir Peter Tapsell, has informed Mr Cameron he is “keeping the seat warm” for the mayor and could stand down at the next general election in 2015.

It would be a trickier task for Mr Johnson to return to the Commons before the election, as his mayoral term runs until 2016 and he would have to do both jobs simultaneously.

Mr Johnson gave his strongest hint yet in a recent BBC TV progamme that he would like a tilt at the top job, telling his interviewer, Michael Cockerell: “If the ball came loose from the back of a scrum, it would be a great thing to have a crack at.”

Speculation earlier this year that Mr Cameron could face a leadership challenge before the next election has faded recently, with the Conservatives reuniting after the death of Lady Thatcher, and the Prime Minister extending the hand of friendship to some of his disaffected backbenchers.

However, senior figures in Downing Street are aware that concerns about Mr Cameron’s future could re-emerge if the Tories suffer a very bad set of results in local elections in May.

Last week, the Prime Minister appointed Mr Johnson’s younger brother Jo Johnson, the Tory MP for Orpington, head of his policy unit at No10 in a surprise move.

David Cameron: I am not a Thatcherite

Mr Cameron‘s warm words came despite years of rivalry between the two Old Etonians, with many Conservative MPs believing Mr Johnson is manoeuvring to try to succeed Mr Cameron as Tory leader.

That would depend on Mr Johnson becoming an MP once again – possibly before the next general election – a prospect Mr Cameron appeared to entertain in his remarks.

The Prime Minister said: “Boris can do anything, that’s the moral of the story of Boris.

“Boris is one of the greatest assets the Conservative Party has. I love Boris.”

Asked whether the London Mayor could one day become prime minister, Mr Cameron replied: “I’d never want to put a limit on what Boris can achieve.”

Mr Johnson has been linked with several possible Tory constituency, including Louth and Horncastle in Lincolnshire where the incumbent MP, the veteran Sir Peter Tapsell, has informed Mr Cameron he is “keeping the seat warm” for the mayor and could stand down at the next general election in 2015.

It would be a trickier task for Mr Johnson to return to the Commons before the election, as his mayoral term runs until 2016 and he would have to do both jobs simultaneously.

Mr Johnson gave his strongest hint yet in a recent BBC TV progamme that he would like a tilt at the top job, telling his interviewer, Michael Cockerell: “If the ball came loose from the back of a scrum, it would be a great thing to have a crack at.”

Speculation earlier this year that Mr Cameron could face a leadership challenge before the next election has faded recently, with the Conservatives reuniting after the death of Lady Thatcher, and the Prime Minister extending the hand of friendship to some of his disaffected backbenchers.

However, senior figures in Downing Street are aware that concerns about Mr Cameron’s future could re-emerge if the Tories suffer a very bad set of results in local elections in May.

Last week, the Prime Minister appointed Mr Johnson’s younger brother Jo Johnson, the Tory MP for Orpington, head of his policy unit at No10 in a surprise move.

We can’t afford to ignore our dynamic friends in the East

Not only have the Qataris introduced modern medicine to the ancient custom of the camel beauty parade. They follow their camel races in huge Lexus SUVs, so new that the plastic is still on the seats; and they no longer have old-fashioned child jockeys on the back of the camels – they were banned five years ago after some human rights outcry. So now they have electronic jockeys – little whip-wielding robots on the humps, clad in racing silks – and they control them from the backs of their charging SUVs, strategically timing the use of the whip like kids with PlayStations.

This is a society in the throes of an astonishing and dynamic modernisation over the past 10 years. The skyline in Doha has been forested with vast skyscrapers, each of them striking and often beautiful. They are building new cities on reclaimed land and they are sucking in the sea water, removing the salt and cultivating avenues of trees. Their airport has just run out of room, and they aren’t faffing around with some study into the options – they are building a new one, right on the sea.

They are solving their traffic problems with a brand new metro, and already they have spanking new university campuses, with world-class medical faculties, and their eerily lovely museums are being filled with the treasures of the Earth.

The opportunities for Britain are enormous. But for one reason or another, the last Labour government made the mistake of not paying enough attention to this part of the world.

Tony Blair never visited Qatar once, even though it was a British protectorate until 1971. Well, we are making up for that now. I went to the British Embassy party for the Queen’s birthday on Saturday night, and I swear your heart would have burst with pride. There were 1,800 happy people there, most of them Brits, and most of them involved in a surge of UK exports to the Gulf.

The Qataris are wearing M&S underwear beneath their kanduras. They are eating in Gordon Ramsay’s restaurants. They are driving Land Rovers and phoning with Vodafone – and last year the UK exported goods worth a record £1.3 billion to Qatar alone; not bad for a place with only 1.8 million people. It was a joy to hear the natives speak spontaneously of their affection for Britain. I lost count of the number of times I was told: “London is my second home.”

They know the UK capital like the back of their hand; they want to invest even more. Not just in the top-end luxury brands, but in infrastructure and affordable homes, such as the Qatari investment in the Olympic Park. There is so much we can offer, so many ways to build on this partnership. Qatar will host the World Cup in 2022 and they may need our expertise in keeping such a big project to a timescale and on budget.

They want to collaborate on higher education, on culture, on medicine, on science. They want to diversify away from hydrocarbon, and we should be first in the queue to help. I was amazed at the boom in the Gulf, for it is so very different from our wretched European story. For five years the crisis has dragged on, and every time we’ve thought the UK might attain an escape velocity, the euro has had another convulsion and confidence has drained away.

Today, the Gulf is doing well because of resurgent demand from Asia, and above all from China. America is returning to life, too – and as to our continent, well, Europe is a microclimate of gloom. I came away from a week of talking to hundreds of businessmen and political leaders in the Middle East, and I am more convinced than ever that the world has changed profoundly since 2008, and that the pace of change is accelerating.

Since the crisis began, “emerging markets” have provided the growth in the world – at least two thirds of it. Of course Europe will always be vital and we will always have a colossal stake in America. But it is in Asia, the Middle East, Latin America and Africa that we must expand our businesses and restore our instinct as a great trading nation.

It is an extraordinary fact that it is now the Commonwealth countries, so long neglected by the UK, that are turning into the powerhouses of the future. We have more friends than we sometimes imagine.

Thatcherism is no museum piece – it’s alive and kicking

glass-case displays of memorabilia. You know: Scargill’s sweat-stained baseball cap; a Soviet tank of the kind she helped to send scuttling from Eastern Europe; the very milk bottles she snatched from the kiddies. I expect there will be the best quality replica handbag and the gladrags and the deep cerulean-blue ballgowns, all of them tastefully displayed.

But this must be a technologically brilliant place as well, a museum for the PlayStation generation. So I hope that consultants will be brought in to devise the most sophisticated interactive computer games – in which you not only get to gawp at her clothes, but put yourself in her shoes. What we need is YouThatch, the game that tests whether you have the reflexes and the sheer cojones of the Dama de hierro.

It is no use just asking people to take the decisions that she took, though they were difficult enough. Do you take the hellish risk of fighting Galtieri and the repulsive Argentine junta? Do you continue to subsidise uneconomic coalmines? Do you side with Ronald Reagan and face down the Russkies? In all these dilemmas, her choice has been vindicated by history, and young people will (or so we must hope) know the right answer.

No, what we need is a computer program so cunning that it can work out – from her principles – what Maggie would do in situations she never faced. What, in other words, would Maggie do now? I can already see our budding Sir Politic

Would-bes queuing to get their hands on the console, and then mouthing silently as they try to channel her breathy contralto, like Luke Skywalker receiving the astral guidance of the late Obi-Wan Kenobi.

How could we devise a piece of software that would correctly identify the Thatcherian course? It’s easy – you just have to recognise that Thatcherism wasn’t about exalting the rich and grinding the faces of the poor. It was the exact opposite. It was about unleashing talent, and bursting open cosy cartels, and helping people to make the most of their talents and their opportunities. So anyone wanting to work out what Maggie would do today should do whatever it is that helps people make their way in the world – and whatever helps Britain to make its way in the world, too.

As it happens, I think her record on education was far from perfect: she was so heavily engaged in hand-to-hand economic warfare that she did not focus as closely as she did on other dossiers – and if she closed fewer mines than Harold Wilson, it is also true that she closed more grammar schools than Shirley Williams.

But what would she do today? It is obvious. She would do anything to smash down the barriers that prevent talented young people from rising on sheer academic merit; and if the teaching unions had said that they were against narrative history – as they are – I think she would have made sure they became history themselves.

What would she do with the economy? She would do anything to help the small businesses that are the backbone of the nation, and to make it easier for them to take on new workers.

She would swing that iron handbag at ’elf and safety and the deranged compensation culture. She would cut business rates, and she would tell the banks that they should either lend to British business or get broken up.

She would naturally keep good and strong relations with America, but she would build links way beyond Europe and the Atlantic – with the Brics, with the African countries that are now showing such amazing growth (many of them Commonwealth members) and with the Middle East. She would be more friendly with Germany these days, but in renegotiating the EU treaty she would make the basic point that sovereignty lies with Parliament, not with Berlin or Brussels.

And yes, as the builder of the last truly transformative piece of transport infrastructure – the Chunnel – I think she would use her fantastic will to cut the cackle and get this country the aviation capacity it needs. We wouldn’t even need to name the airport after her, because 23 years after she stepped down, and after her death, her ideas are still being exported to democracies around the world. Thatcherism lives! Ding dong!

Margaret Thatcher: brave, principled, electric

She was the greatest Prime Minister since Winston Churchill, we say – and the comparison is apt, because she was as brave as Churchill; indeed, you could argue that she was even more combative than the wartime leader, more willing to pick a fight on a matter of principle.

First I remember the horror of the IRA hunger strikes, and my teenage disbelief that the government of this country would actually let people starve themselves to death. But I also remember thinking that there was a principle at stake – that peace-loving people should not give in to terrorists – and whatever you thought of Margaret Thatcher’s handling of the tragedy, you could not fault her for consistency.

Then I remember watching that Task Force head for the Falklands, when I was doing my A-levels, and thinking the whole thing looked mad. The islands were thousands of miles away and seemed to be mainly occupied by sheep. The Americans weren’t backing us with any particular enthusiasm, and the BBC was endlessly burbling on about some “Peruvian” peace plan, under which we would basically accede to the larceny of Argentina.

I could see that the Prime Minister’s position was desperate; and yet I could also see that she was right. She was sticking up for a principle – the self-determination of the Falkland Islanders; and I remember a sudden surge of admiration.

And when Arthur Scargill and the miners tried to unseat her in her second term, I remember the other students passing the bucket round in the Junior Common Room. I thought about it, since I could imagine that things were tough for communities where coal had been a way of life for generations. I could see how it would eat away at your self-esteem to be told that your labour was no longer necessary.

Then I reflected on what was really going on, and the way Scargill was holding a strike without a proper ballot, and the fundamental dishonesty of pretending that there was an economic future for coal. I suddenly got irritated with my right-on student colleagues, and was conscious that some kind of line had been crossed.

I was now a Thatcherite, in the sense that I believed she was right and the “Wets” were wrong; and I could see that there was no middle way. You either stuck by your principles or you didn’t. You either gave in to the hunger strikers, or you showed a grim and ultimately brutal resolve. You either accepted an Argentine victory or else you defeated Galtieri.

You either took on the miners or else you surrendered to Marxist agitators who wanted to bring down the elected government of the country. You either stuck by America, and allowed the stationing of missiles in Europe, or else you gave in to the blackmail of a sinister and tyrannical Soviet regime.

That was what was so electric about Margaret Thatcher, and that was why I found myself backing her in her last great battle, over Europe. Once again, it was a matter of principle.

The first time I found myself in her presence was at the Madrid EEC summit in 1989, which I reported on for this paper. I remember distinctly how she bustled into a packed and steaming press room – brushing right past me. “Phwof,” she said, or something like that, as if to express her general view of the Spanish arrangements.

It struck me then that she was much prettier than I had expected, in an English rose kind of way. I also thought she seemed in a bad mood. She was. As we were later to discover, she had just been ambushed by two very clever men – Nigel Lawson and Geoffrey Howe – and told that she must join some European currency project called the Exchange Rate Mechanism. She resisted, and they had threatened to resign.

She objected to their proposals, because she didn’t believe you could solve the country’s economic problems by trying to align sterling with other currencies in a kind of semi-straitjacket. “You can’t buck the market,” she said, and she was proved resoundingly right. The ERM turned out to be a disaster, and the British economy only started to recover when the pound crashed out on September 16 1992.

She was right not just about the ERM, but about the euro itself. She was virtually alone among all European leaders in having the guts to say publicly what many of them privately agreed – that it was courting disaster to try to jam different economies into a currency union, when there was no political union to take the strain.

Look at the unemployment rates in Greece and Spain, look at what is happening in Cyprus, and the sputtering growth of the eurozone. It is impossible to deny that she has been vindicated – and she was right because she took a stand on principle: that it was deeply anti-democratic to try to take crucial economic decisions without proper popular consent.

I cannot think of any other modern leader who has been so fierce in sticking up for her core beliefs, and that is why she speaks so powerfully to every politician in Britain today, and why we are all in her shade. In the end she was martyred by lesser men who were fearful for their seats.

But by the time she left office she had inspired millions of people – and especially women – that you could genuinely change things; that no matter where you came from you could kick down the door of the stuffy, male-dominated club and bring new ideas. She mobilised millions of people to take charge of their economic destiny, and unleashed confidence and a spirit of enterprise.

She changed this country’s view of itself, and exploded the myth of decline. She changed the Tory Party, she changed the Labour Party, and she transformed the country she led: not by compromise, but by an iron resolve.

Boris Johnson: ‘Margaret Thatcher was a revolutionary and a liberator’

The Mayor of London said that Margaret Thatcher’s greatest achievement was to “knock on the head the defeatism and the pessimism of the post-war consensus”.

“She freed millions of people to buy their own homes, to buy shares in British companies and yes, sometimes the things that she said were tough, but I think when you look back, she was overwhelmingly right in her judgements,” he said.

“She was right about the unions, she was right about the threat of Soviet communism and I think she’s been proved overwhelmingly right about the euro.”

He added that her memory would live on and that Britain remained “very much in her debt”.

Email your tributes or memories to [email protected]

Source: ITN

Migrants get jobs because we’re not prepared to work as hard

Then a thought occurred. “Er, tell me,” I said, “what proportion of the people you employ are, you know, from London? I mean, how many of them are, ahem, British?”

Katie looked embarrassed. She knew exactly what I was driving at.

“To be honest, about 10 per cent,” she said. “But why?” I asked. “Why is it that these jobs are not being done by London kids? What can I do about it?” The restaurant recruitment consultant looked thoughtful. “It’s the schools, I think,” she said. “They teach the kids that they can earn all this money but they don’t explain that they will have to work hard. The people I recruit — they have a different work ethic.”

Now we all know that what Katie is saying is true, and we all know that it isn’t enough to blame the immigrants. For starters, we can’t kick people out when they are legally entitled to be here under EU rules. Second, and much more important, it is economically illiterate to blame Eastern Europeans for getting up early and working hard and being polite and helpful and therefore enabling the London catering trade to flourish.

There isn’t some fixed “lump of labour” that means these jobs would otherwise be done by native Britons. The chances are that there would be fewer restaurants, since the costs would be higher and the service less good and the reputation of London as the world capital of posh tucker would be less exalted than it is today.

The failing lies with the last Labour government, which did not do enough to reform our education system and to make sure that young people were prepared for the jobs market.

London schools have been getting better — and it is a fact that even in some of the poorest parts of the city, schools are now performing better than those in many other parts of the country. Some good work was done by Tony Blair and Andrew Adonis in trying to free up education — and yet they were blocked at every turn by Gordon Brown and the teaching unions. As Blair once said, he had the scars on his back to prove it.

The result is that huge numbers still leave primary school — about one in four — unable to read or write properly or to do basic maths. No wonder they will lose out, in the jobs market, to industrious people from Eastern Europe who can take down a telephone message correctly.

Labour spent its time in government — a long period of economic plenty made possible by the Thatcherian supply-side reforms — on a protracted borrowing binge.

They borrowed people from other countries to fill this country’s skills gap and to keep costs down — and did nothing like enough to reform our education system to enable young people to cope with that competition. They borrowed astronomic sums to maintain the welfare state and all its bureaucratic appurtenances — and did absolutely nothing to reform the system so that we could cope when money was scarcer.

All these reforms must now be carried out, by Conservatives, against a tough economic backdrop. It is not easy, and it means saying some hard things. We need to explain to young people that there can be glory and interest in any job, and that you can begin as a waiter and end as a zillionaire. And it is time, frankly, that London government — boroughs and City Hall — had a greater strategic role in skills, so that we can work with business to make sure that (for instance) catering gets the home-grown talent it needs.

Above all, we must support Michael Gove in driving up standards in schools — and what does Labour have to say? Nothing, except to join the chorus of union-led obstructionism. What does Labour have to say about welfare? Nothing, except apparently to support every detail of the system that gave Mick Philpott the equivalent of £100,000 a year. Well, nothing will come of nothing.

Why would anyone give the Treasury back to the people who wrote these vast blank cheques against the future? Why give the key back to the guys who crashed the car?

Pippa Middleton challenges Boris Johnson to ping pong match

In her article, she writes of taking part in the “haute route”, a 111-mile ski trek from Chamonix in France to Zermatt in Switzerland. Earlier this year she took part in a similar, shorter, event called the Engadin, a ski marathon in St Moritz.

“Back home in London after my Alpine challenges, I can now pursue less demanding hobbies in my spare time, such as ping-pong,” she writes.

“I’m informed that Boris Johnson, former editor of this magazine, wants to be ‘whiff-whaff’ world king even more than he wants to be prime minister.

“I’m also told the Johnsons are almost as competitive as the Middletons. So I’d like to lay down a challenge to the Mayor.

“My only stipulation is that I can use my favourite Dunlop Blackstorm Nemesis bat, which I used when I played in the Milton Keynes U13 National Championships, don’t you know. Bring it on, Boris.”

The challenge is the first time Miss Middleton has spoken of her enjoyment of ping-pong, although she and her sister, the Duchess of Cambridge, are known to be sporty, having played hockey at school.

However, Miss Middleton, 29, has become better known throwing herself enthusiastically into her celebrity lifestyle, and last month started writing a column in Waitrose Food Illustrated magazine, after her book on entertaining, which became the subject of widespread ridicule.

In her Spectator diary she mocked her first recipes for Waitrose, which included sushi and desserts made of sake, as she described her diet during the five-day ski challenge.

“For at least a week before any major physical challenge, I try to load up on carbs to boost my energy levels,” she said.

“This time, I ditched the usual diet of sushi, Vietnamese spring rolls and tangerine and saké jellies, and feasted on Alpine food, which I love: tartiflette, rosti and raclette. Nothing better.

“Yet what really sustained me on the Engadin and the Haute Route were the energy gel packs — tubes of unpleasant fruity slime. It’s like drinking mayonnaise in a Frubes packet. I have been to Snow+Rock several times this year already just to stock up on this horrid substance. The thought of it now gives me shivers, but it keeps you going.”

The mention of a retail outlet will raise questions over whether she is acting as a celebrity “endorser” for the shop.

In her diary she hints at the level of interest she experiences from public relations companies, joking that her rucksack was weighed down during the ski trip by “my Cheltenham fur hat, various other bits of clothing that PR people have sent me, and several signed copies of my book Celebrate”.

The diary also makes no mention of her new boyfriend, Nico Jackson, the 35-year-old son of a stockbroker, instead noting the presence of “our strikingly handsome guide, Matthieu”.

She also confesses that she failed to finish, due to bad weather and the threat of avalanches, after five nights spent in “dormitories with numbered beds; women alongside men, who are generally unwashed and snoring”, adding: “Another year, perhaps.”

Justice is put to the sword by Moscow’s greed and corruption

Back in the 1990s, Moscow was a kind of Wild West. Business deals would be terminated in restaurant massacres. It was a world of eye-popping swindles and bribes, and for a while Browder’s fund prospered. With a team of ace financial investigators, Hermitage Capital would dig up the pilfering and peculation that was rife in Russian capitalism, and expose it to the media. As the firms were cleaned up, the share prices rose, and so did the profits of Browder’s fund.

All went well, as long as this had the tacit support of Putin, who seemed initially content to allow dodgy Russian business practices to be laid bare. The turning point came in October 2003, with the Kremlin’s astonishing decision to arrest Mikhail Khodorkovsky, then the richest man in Russia and the cleverest oligarch of them all. As Browder puts it: “Imagine you are one of the lesser oligarchs, and you are on your yacht at the Cap d’Antibes, and you have just finished making love to your mistress and you turn on the TV and you see the number one oligarch in a cage. What do you do? You go to Putin, and you say, Vladimir Vladimirovich, what can I do to help you? And he says, 50 per cent. Not 50 per cent to the Russian government, but 50 per cent to me, Vladimir Putin.” You can follow makersfestival to know more.

From that moment on, it was no longer cool for Browder to lift up the big flat rocks of Russian business. It was no longer safe to tweak the tails of people who had Putin’s protection. In 2005, he was stopped at the airport and deported. Browder liquidated his Russian businesses, paid his taxes — of about $230 million — and quit Moscow, leaving just an office and a secretary. He counted himself lucky to have escaped.

But someone important had been hacked off by Browder and Hermitage, and that someone began a bizarre revenge. First, the police raided his offices and seized all documentation relating to his now dormant companies. Next, they secretly and fraudulently re-registered the companies in the name of a former sawmill worker from Tatarstan — a man who had been convicted of manslaughter and was released two years early from prison in exchange for his help.

Then they hired lawyers — unbeknownst to Browder — to represent these companies, and sent them to court to claim that these companies were in fact massively in debt at the time that Browder had liquidated them and that the companies — now effectively owned by the tax police, the tax officials and their accomplices — should be reimbursed the taxes Browder had paid before he left.

Incredibly, the court agreed — though I suppose they had no one before them to dispute what the lawyers were saying. On Christmas Eve 2007, Browder’s ex-companies received a staggering $230 million tax rebate — thought to be the highest ever. No one would ever have known, had it not been for Sergei Magnitsky, who was hired by Browder to find out why his shell companies seemed to be in court.

Magnitsky went to the authorities — of course he did: the very authorities that were involved in the fraud; and in October 2008, they imprisoned him and threatened him until he eventually died of a “ruptured abdominal membrane” or a “heart attack” or — according to the Moscow Helsinki Group — from being beaten and tortured by several interior ministry officers. No one knows exactly where the stolen millions went — though some tax officials and prosecutors seemed to enjoy vast and unexplained increases in wealth.

No one knows who sanctioned the operation, or how high the conspiracy goes.

I don’t know if Browder is right to say that Russia is now a gangster state and that Putin is effectively the biggest thief in history. What is clear is that Magnitsky was a martyr trampled by a corrupt system. Barack Obama was right to sign the Magnitsky Act, and ban anyone associated with his death from entering the US. This country should follow suit. When I was a student we used to name buildings after those who had suffered in the fight against oppression — Biko, Sakharov, Mandela. Magnitsky deserves the same recognition.