AND so it begins ... (this being the favoured idiom of dramatists and film directors to signify an on-coming, cinematic square-go). In these circumstances the words are uttered with a degree of windswept foreboding by a warrior hero prior to eviscerating a sandal-clad barbarian. In Gladiator, General Maximus Decimus Meridius refined this construction still further with “unleash hell” after the severed head of one of his soldiers had been thrown at his feet by the rebel hordes of Germanicus.

On Monday we got to hear the Tories’ 21st-century Brexit version, featuring the word “lethality”. It was uttered by the UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson during a speech outlining a cut-price modernisation plan for the MoD. “Lethality” is an actual word but it should never have been. Each year the Oxford English Dictionary brings us new words which it deems fit for English consumption. They ought to accompany this with a list of those which require decommissioning or simply to be put out of their misery: “lethality” should be near the top along with “functionality” and “awesomeness”.

Last year he unveiled the British Foreign Office’s new, no-nonsense approach to perceived Russian bad behaviour. Thus the Russians should just “go away and shut up”. In the post-Brexit era, according to Williamson, British foreign policy can be summed up thus: “If you don’t watch your step we might come and shoot the boots off you.”

Williamson intends deploying our new aircraft carrier, the HMS Queen Elizabeth, in the manner of a house-master watching for any signs of high jinks in the dormitories. He wants to send it to the Pacific Ocean to put the wind up the Chinese who are being curmudgeonly over disputed navigation rights. He thinks Brexit will usher in a new era of British maritime supremacy. “As we leave the European Union, and with the world changing so rapidly,” he said, “it is up to us to seize the opportunities that Brexit brings. We will build new alliances, rekindle old ones and most importantly make it clear that we are the country that will act when required. We should be the nation that people turn to when the world needs leadership.” His speech can be summed up in one short phrase: Drool Britannia.

It’s easy to deride Williamson, who looks and sounds like he was once Jacob Rees-Mogg’s personal loo-flusher at Eton, but with the impending departure of Theresa May after the next UK election, this is who might be succeeding her. When you look beyond his assault on the English language (standards are slipping at Eton) his speech was effectively a manifesto for post-Brexit Britain, designed to appeal to the bottom-scrapings of its core support. Britain will stand alone, as she always did when she was great, and lay down the law to those nations foolish enough to believe they can take liberties with her.

It is a key element in the softening-up process of the largely English electorate which will be required to hold their attention when the jobs start to disappear in the Brexit strongholds which bought the lie in the first place. It forms part of a nexus of interlocking and carefully cultivated fictions which also includes shifting the blame for a no-deal Brexit on to the EU and blaming the Irish Government for wrecking the still-fragile accords in Northern Ireland. Watch out for an increase in those ridiculous television adverts for the British Army which make it look like the successful applicant will be in for a jolly good adventure with face-paint and gadgets in the jungle or make you think you can operate a nuclear submarine because you can change the battery in daddy’s car. Aye, right.

On the streets of Glasgow it’s well-known that you don’t go out carrying a knife unless you intend to use it at some point. Similarly, when the war-mongers of the British aristocracy start warning global superstates that provoking us will “come at a cost” and that we will use “hard power” against those who “flout international law”, you know what usually follows. We’re talking here about a country that has been at war with someone on the planet for around 250 years and which has recently specialised in targeting nations and peoples lacking the means to put up a proper fight. The generals might call this “strategic”, others might choose to deploy other words like “cowardly” or “bullying”.

Distressingly, the history of British military adventurism abroad shows that such an approach usually works in keeping the idiot punters onside even as they are being exploited at home.

Punditry on to a winner with women

ONE of the most welcome recent developments in television’s traditionally male-dominated and antediluvian coverage of football has been the advent of women pundits and commentators.

Women’s football across the UK has experienced astonishing growth in recent years and improved the mental and physical health of thousands of girls and young women.

In recent months, though, I’ve detected a barely concealed animosity on the part of some established male football panellists towards some of their female colleagues. My favourite pundits are Graeme Souness, Gary Neville and BBC Scotland’s excellent duo of Michael Stewart and Steven Thompson. Souness, though, in a recent broadcast, seemed contemptuous of the views of Alex Scott, his female co-pundit on Sky. Scott was a world-class footballer and Olympian who represented England, one of the best teams in international women’s football, 140 times. She knows what she’s talking about and she is an authoritative presence on Sky’s team of analysts.

There has been an increase in the number of women paying to watch football and purchasing its associated merchandise. Scott and her female colleagues on television are a welcome addition and are fine role models for girls and women who love the beautiful game. They are here to stay and I’m delighted about that.

The balls to foil the Beeb

FEW of us can deny that Twitter has been a positive addition to our democratic process. It’s enabled many people, who were previously locked out of the big political debates, to hold politicians, business leaders and journalists to account for their words and actions.

It’s also made it easy to assemble lynch mobs and firing squads. This might be deemed acceptable when directed at powerful and influential people engaged in folly or bad behaviour, but when ordinary people are targeted merely for holding views with which we disagree I begin to get queasy. I experienced this feeling as Billy Mitchell, the fomer Ukip candidate known as “orange jacket man”, was subject to an outpouring of vindictive rage across the liberal/ left/nationalist spectrum. Mitchell, as far as I can gather, is a supporter of Brexit, a Unionist and may have connections to an Orange flute band. The last time I looked none of his political positions constitute illegality, and nor are any of these organisations proscribed. He is simply a cussed and thrawn wee Scot who has managed to exploit the lax QT selection process. Certainly, his whiny hectoring of assorted SNP and independence panellists can be hard to stomach if, like me, you find yourself lined up against him on just about every issue. But this is not a capital offence.

Instead of hounding this ordinary working-class Scot who possesses the balls to hijack the BBC’s flagship political debate programme, I’d be asking the SNP what their well-paid advisers are doing to counter him and his views. Do the SNP’s bloated spin department not have the connections and foresight to head him off at the pass? I like his style, even if he loathes everything I hold dear.