One hack’s response to the rioting stands out from all the others for its wilful inaccuracy, its outpouring of bile, and most of all its screaming incoherence, and it deserves a reply. Yes, making an extra special appearance in the Daily Mail has been Melanie Phillips, whose District Line outing has gone beyond Barking and is in danger of overshooting the buffer stops at Upminster.
For this is vintage Mel: she identifies her demons at the outset – basically, the “liberal intelligentsia” – and ratchets up the ranting, making up whatever she needs to demonise the target. We are told that there has been a three decade campaign to smash all sorts of things, especially the “married two parent family”, as well as “punishment of criminals”, “educational meritocracy”, “national identity” and of course “enforcement of the drugs laws”.
But poor Mel goes wrong almost at the outset: it’s a three decade campaign, but then it only started in 1997. And she talks of “a mountain of empirical research” backing her up, yet predictably cites not one example of it. She talks of lone parenthood being “encouraged” and even incentivised, apparently solely due to the Blair Government. But evidence there is none.
For Mel, children end up illiterate and innumerate, which does not survive a factual comparison: the 2009 literacy figure is 99%, equal with France, Germany and the USA, and better than Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece (and, Mel, two whole points better than Israel – you’d want to know that).
And if we aren’t punishing criminals, maybe Mel would like to explain away the expanding prison population under Labour. Or, when she talks of education and meritocracy, how GCSE and A-Level qualifications are graded – isn’t that a mark of merit or otherwise? And what is this “national identity” drivel, apart from another topic for ranting where she has no evidence to back up the screaming rhetoric?
At least Mel has a solution to her problem: “a return to the energetic transmission of biblical morality”. Yeah, right. Let’s just hope those opening the Bible don’t do so at the two books of Kings (being Old Testament, I presume they are also present in the Torah). Plenty of bloody struggle there. I never did see the righteous side of Elijah putting the prophets of Baal to death – you know, mass murder.
Melanie Phillips in full, ranting and appallingly intolerant flight is a wonder to behold. But it does not mean that this supremely righteous being is right. And until she actually stands up one of her rants with some of that “mountain of empirical research” she doesn’t have, she will remain a figure of ridicule, and possibly even among those Daily Mail readers she seeks to influence.