President Putin landed a political blow on Tony Blair during the G8 Conference in St Petersburg. Questioned by the British press about criticisms of his government and asked if he would discuss them with the Prime Minister, he said "There are also other questions. Questions, let's say, about the fight against corruption. We'd be interested in hearing your experience, including how it applies to Lord Levy."
I don't blog about Russian politics. I am a guest in Moscow and it's not my place. Forgive me, however, if I enjoy the President's wit on the subject of British politics.
Growing up in the Labour rotten boroughs of the North, I am unsurprised by the ethical shabbiness of New Labour. I never believed for a second Blair's 1997 pledge to be "whiter than white" and was quietly confident that he would live to regret it. John Prescott's taste for the high life at public expense was no surprise to me, growing up as I did in the same area, surrounded by lots of such people.
A relative was approached to run for the council in the last elections. A lifelong Labour supporter she listened to the pitch from the Party's representatives with interest. She was promised the ability to claim "expenses", whether or not she bothered to turn up; free repairs and upgrades to her home carried out by council workers and numerous other "perks" all - as the Labour man said - for "next to no work". She sent him away in disgust, but someone took the offer.
I have blogged before about how a Labour local authority abused its powers to strip my family of a business permit, not because of any breach of its terms, but because it wanted to buy the land and thought it could get it cheaper.
I grew up in an area where, for twenty years, Labour councils ran their childrens homes so badly that they were largely staffed by predatory paedophiles who rented the children out for sex as well as abusing them themselves. New Labour appointed as "Minister for Children" a woman who had presided over another such scandal when leader of Islington Council.
This is not because British socialists are particularly bad. During the great 20th Century experiment with Socialism it was the common experience of people living under Socialist governments (more than half of humanity at one point) that their rulers lived like mediaeval kings; sometimes even exercising the droit de seigneur. John Prescott seems to have believed he had some modern version of that right in relation to his own staff.
Socialism is not about fairness. In practice it has always been a system under which wealth, privilege and power are allocated according to political rather than economic criteria. Socialists, caught out, always condemn the "abuse" and say that it was not "true Socialism" but time and time again that is the practical result of the system. It is always embraced by men, be they Josef Stalin or John Prescott, who have no talent or ability to earn wealth, but who have the low cunning to win power.
After the clear and abject failure of the 20th Century Socialist Experiment, only Britain still clings to the wreckage of a comprehensively discredited ideology. Why?