‘AS prime minister would you seriously consider massacring an entire civilian population in a blaze of atoms – and if not, why not?” That, it seems, is the point we’ve reached in this slogan-heavy, braincell-light election campaign, as the main UK contenders struggle to establish their credentials as the coldest-hearted bastard in town.

Think of it as the “Come friendly bombs and fall on Milngavie” stage of the campaign. Apparently, the British people want their politicians to pretend they’d commit war crimes before they’re considered credible for high office – as if admitting you’re prepared to burn the shadows of thousands of civilians onto the shattered concrete of a major conurbation was a sign of strength of character.

From 2015 onwards, Jeremy Corbyn has taken flack for failing to demonstrate the gratuitous bloodthirstiness which parts of the media seem to regard as a necessary qualification. Corbyn indicated he’d never authorise the use of Britain’s warheads, telling the BBC: “I am opposed to the use of nuclear weapons. I am opposed to the holding of nuclear weapons. I want to see a nuclear-free world. I believe it is possible.”

Worse than this, the Labour leader is also known to favour criminal trials over drone strikes, preferring the rule of law over summary execution of UK citizens abroad who have been convicted of no crime. For much of the UK media, these attitudes are – at best – quaint and unworldly positions – and at worst, just more evidence that Magic Grandpa isn’t sound and can’t be trusted with “the defence of the realm.”

As propaganda goes, it isn’t exactly subtle. You can’t trust someone unprepared to inflict a nuclear winter on another country to defend Britain. Vote Tory.

But is this really the lesson we ought have taken from the last few decades of UK foreign policy? Despite the unpardonable folly of almost all of Britain’s military adventures this quarter century, despite the disasters these military actions wrought, the good they did not do, the deaths they caused, the civilians who suffered, and the men, women and children who survived, blighted, broken and maimed – much of the UK press still suffers from a persistent tremor. They have itchy trigger fingers.

Even if it is just a thought experiment about ordering Trident missiles to atomise St Petersburg – or Our Brave Boys raining death from on high on some anonymous human settlement far away – most of the press are always primed to shout “chocks away!” and to contemplate with considerable suspicion anyone who seems less than enthusiastic about the next cockamamie ploy to get some use out of Britain’s bloated military budget. Much of the Tory press have never recovered from their Falklands priapism.

Although the Scottish Tories constantly clutch their pearls about “the SNP not representing Scotland” – attacking the patriotism of their opponents, and appropriating the symbols of the British state for partisan political purposes is just standard Tory procedure. You don’t become the “natural party of government” without learning a dirty trick or two.

And then there are the LibDems. In blandly responding “yes” to the query about whether she’d left fly with nuclear warheads in the entirely improbable circumstances of becoming PM – Jo Swinson was just playing the media game, soulless and glassy.

I have more sympathy with the argument that there’s no point in investing in a deterrent you admit you’d never use. If the only purpose of investing billions of pounds into nuclear weapons is to discourage the French from nuking Lenzie – then giving the world advance notice you’d instruct the Trident subs to stand down seems a little confusing. Why invest in weapons of mass destruction which you freely concede you’d never contemplate using?

But this, perversely, is the position Labour has got itself into, through a combination of the leader’s personal views, and attempts to keep the unions onside. Even Corbyn’s studied neutrality on Brexit looks a more comfortable perch to sit on than this.

“Labour supports the renewal of the Trident nuclear deterrent,” their new manifesto says, but “Labour will also actively lead multilateral efforts under our obligations to the Non-Proliferation

Treaty to create a nuclear-free world.”

In defence of the policy, Labour’s shadow defence secretary made the jingoistic pitch which tends to catch in Corbyn’s throat. Nia Griffith said: “We feel it’s a very important part of our defence, particularly now as we see a resurgent Russia and the US being a bit lukewarm about Nato.

“It’s very important the UK takes a leading role there.” You hear the trade union voice from Gary Smith, the Scottish secretary of the GMB. He criticised proposals to ditch nuclear weapons as “nothing short of a campaign for mass unemployment”.

One of the stubborn perversities of this General Election is that there are only two groups of people who are determined to believe Labour is running on a dyed-in-the-wool, red in tooth and clause socialist manifesto – the Conservative Party and Jeremy Corbyn’s cheerleaders. This belief seems impervious to the manifesto’s actual contents.

I AM not a socialist. I’m perfectly content for Corbyn to make his political pitch for sensible social democratic measures, taking public goods into public ownership, and emphasising the benefits of universal provision of public services. But it strikes me that packaging up sound and achievable social democratic measures as radical socialism is just an excellent way of losing voters who might have given your policies a fair hearing. Why campaign to be misunderstood?

You’d need a heart of stone not to laugh at the hysteria characterising much of the coverage of Labour’s manifesto this week. The Sun described it as a “Marxist catalogue of hate and intolerance”, depicting its policies as a “hard-left” butcher’s bill of “terrifying socialist ideas”.

This includes such petrifying notions as abolishing prescription charges and bringing the Royal Mail back into public ownership. Consider my blood curdled.

But worse was yet to come for “the successful and the affluent”. For spiteful Corbyn has a “hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness” in store for Britain’s men and women of property. “We’ll ask those who earn more than £80,000 a year to pay a little more income tax, while freezing National Insurance and income tax rates for everyone else,” the manifesto says.

Have you stopped screaming yet? Digging into the figures about the likely impact of this reform is illuminating. The average salary in Boris Johnson’s Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency is £34,840 per annum, and £39,000 in

Jeremy Corbyn’s seat of North Islington.

Outside London, constituents in Jo Swinson’s affluent East Dunbartonshire seat take in £36,400 on average. In Ross, Skye and Lochaber, Ian Blackford’s constituents live on £27,560. The national average is just shy of £29,700. It goes without saying that anyone earning £80k isn’t exactly the common man and woman of the Tory imagination.

Don’t take my word for it. Crack open the taxman’s books and look at their takings. Around 66.44 million people call the UK home. According to official HMRC figures for 2018/19, there were some 31,700,000 individual income taxpayers in the UK that year. Of these, just 4,260,000 pay some income tax at the higher 40% rate. In the same year, from Out Stack on Shetland to St Agnes isle, only 410,000 people paid taxes at the “additional rate” of 45% on annual earnings over £150,000.

Nothing better demonstrates that the socialist derangement syndrome cuts both ways than Labour’s income tax policy. After enduring years of carping from Scottish Labour about the alleged timidity of SNP tax reforms, this is Jeremy Corbyn’s radical plan for income redistribution? Once the tramadol has set in, teasing up taxes for those earning more than £80k is hardly the kind of thing to make most prosperous Britons tremble.

If you earn more than £40,000 a year, you’re already in the top 15% of earners. Middle Britain needs a telescope to see any of the changes this manifesto proposes, and most well-off people would find their incomes entirely untouched by the plans. It’s a deeply strange death spiral for Labour and the Tories to lock themselves into. Whether you’re condemning Labour’s manifesto as full-blooded Marxism – or supporting it as full luxury communism now – you’re just kidding yourself on.