We weren’t expecting much, yet Boris Johnson still managed to disappoint. No thinking person seriously expected a vigorous response to Vladimir Putin’s invasion of the Ukraine from a man who snuck away from his security detail while Foreign Secretary to go to a party at a Perugian castle owned by the son of a former KGB agent.

No one thought a man who spent 2016 blaming the EU for Russia’s previous incursions into Ukraine would suddenly insist that the person responsible for Putin’s actions was Putin himself. No one really predicted that the Boris who ennobled Baron Lebedev (owner of a dog called Boris he keeps on a tight leash) would have the strength of character to challenge Russia.

However, even those of us whose opinion of the PM is so low that translucent creatures at the bottom of the Marianas Trench watch it drift past, were surprised at the half-heartedness of the government’s response, with sanctions weaker than church lemon squash. Of course, they were accompanied by much harrumphing.

Liz Truss gave the Russian ambassador a very stern talking-to in the manner of a careworn supply teacher sent to tame St Trinian’s bootleggers. She told Andrey Kelin he should be ashamed of his government’s lies, and his failure to tell the truth had led to his country being deemed an international pariah, before cutting the meeting short. Presumably because she realised that if she refused to spend time with liars, she wouldn’t be able to attend Cabinet meetings.

Truss also did the rounds of the morning shows, telling everyone that nothing was off the table when it came to Russia. Nothing, except returning the money KGB-connected billionaires had given the Conservative party. Which was, presumably, under the table. Embarrassingly for Truss, there were pictures on her Instagram partying with Lubov Chernukhin, who’s given the Conservative party more than £2 million over the past decade, including many donations at charity auctions. Tories have been quick to deny that they were unduly influenced by someone who came to events specifically to buy them.

Over the years, Chernukhin won a dinner with Theresa May, and another with Ruth Davidson (who didn’t turn up), and got two games of tennis with Johnson. At least the last one must have been amusing, like watching a walrus trying to swallow a moth. She also gets to have regular meetings with both Johnson and Rishi Sunak. One might wonder where Mrs Chernukhin got the £2 million she gave to the Conservative party. Fortunately, a company in the British Virgin Islands has her registered as an owner and lists her occupation as “housewife… financially supported by her husband”.

Her husband is Vladimir Chernukhin, a “non-dom”, accountancy slang for those who don’t pay regular UK income tax, and one of Vladimir Putin’s former ministers. According to news reports, unlike some Russians who had to flee his old boss’s regime, Chernukhin remains on good terms with the wife of one of Putin’s ministers with whom he co-owns a factory. Could this be construed as fortunate for those who are dependent on his financial support?

In 2018, he testified in the High Court in London that he’d used his girlfriend at the time (not Lubov) as a front in a property deal in Moscow in 2005. His current wife is one of the biggest donors to the Tories. Just two facts, sitting side-by-side. Make of them what you will.

This isn’t new, of course. George Osborne had great times swanning around on Oleg Deripaska’s yacht, and in 2012 Sergey Nalobin, the son of another KGB officer, set up Conservative Friends of Russia. The only person who can compete with the KGB in the production of incredibly-wealthy sons is Johnson. Another founding member of CFR was Matthew Elliott, known for founding the Taxpayers’ Alliance and being Chief Executive of Vote Leave. In 2012 he went on a ten-day trip to Moscow paid for by the Russian government. When, in 2014, he announced his engagement on Twitter, the first person to congratulate him was Sergey Nalobin.

This isn’t the first time certain Conservative party members and other assorted head-banging right-wingers have been bought and paid for by a foreign power. In 1939 Captain George Drummond – who taught the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret to ride horses – hosted a fancy-dress party for Joachim von Ribbentrop at Pitchford Hall where everyone had to come dressed as a Nazi. This might seem incredibly racist but having a fancy-dress party for rich people where the dress code is “strict Nazi” is about the only way to guarantee at least half of them won’t show up in blackface.

Fritz von Nidda was an arms dealer in the UK, who threw lavish parties to recruit a Met police inspector, two army officers, two knights, two Conservative MPs and an admiral to Hitlerism. Arthur Ronald Nall Nall-Cain, the second Baron Brocket and Conservative MP for Liverpool Wavertree went to Berlin to help Hitler celebrate his 50th birthday in 1938. Admiral Sir Barry Domvile, an ex-director of Naval Intelligence, wrote in 1939, “The great work done by Herr Hitler and his associates… [is] one of the greatest and most bloodless revolutions in history.” Domvile enjoyed hunting with Heinrich Himmler.

Anthony Ludovici was left in charge of an MI6 department until well into 1940 despite writing glowing descriptions of Hitler at his meetings, publishing the antisemitic screed Jews and the Jews In England, and being included in plans for a fascist coup in Britain that had been intercepted by MI5. Whole swathes of English Conservatism were distinctly unconcerned by Hitler because the Nazis spent a decade throwing lavish parties, subsidising book publications, taking people on all-expenses paid tours, and occasionally just slipping people cash.

It’s an unfair comparison to make, obviously. It’s clear today’s politicians haven’t been swayed by their love of watching young people marching in uniforms, their deep-rooted antisemitism, or by a vigorous approach to national economy, and it would be unfair to suggest they were. Our politicians aren’t Nazis. They’re just greedy. 

Nathaniel Tapley is a comedy writer and performer on the TV shows you hate

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