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Friday 17 February 2012

Mad Mel Makes Mail Exit?

Last June, Spectator publisher Andrew “Brillo Pad” Neil and editor Fraser Nelson were reputedly left “fuming” as they were landed with a five figure bill for damages and costs after Melanie “not just Barking but halfway to Upminster” Phillips libelled Alastair Crooke. Mel said she left the Spectator because they apologised. Most others reckon she jumped before being pushed.

So Mel was left with her own blog, and the bully pulpit given to her by the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre and the preposterously pompous Simon Heffer at the RightMinds part of Mail Online. Here, she continued to rant and froth at the world, notably in two particularly nasty kicks at Rory Weal, the 16-year-old who committed the unforgiveable sin of speaking at the Labour Party conference.

In the second of her two attacks on young Rory, Mel gloated “Well that didn’t take long, did it” as she gleefully laid in to the teenager, safe in the knowledge that Dacre and Heffer wouldn’t allow someone who associated with the likes of Mil The Younger to have the right of reply. Such people were not the Mail’skind of people”. Mel was at this point dutifully doing her editor’s bidding.

Sadly, though, Mel has a habit of going off-piste whenever she talks about the Middle East, and especially Israel. This, after all, was where she came unstuck in her rant against Alastair Crooke. Thus it was that in late October she penned a post titled “The moderate fanatics of the Islamist Winter”, telling in apocalyptic terms that the “Arab Spring” meant Sharia Law, and that this was A Very Bad Thing.

As she ranted, Mel repeated allegations that one Rashid Ghannouchi had threatened to hang two opponents. This, like so much else in the Phillips oeuvre, was not true, and this time it got past the watching eyes of the Mail’s lawyers, who will no doubt have been suitably wary, given the circumstances of her departure from the Spectator. The paper has now apologised.

What is interesting about the apology is that Mad Mel is not mentioned anywhere in it. And what is yet more interesting is that her last Mail Online piece was a relatively mild one about “Oiky” Gove and education. There hasn’t been anything mentioning Israel for over a fortnight (a post on Syria did not, unusually, say anything about its neighbour to the south west).

Anyone looking at all this might conclude that Melanie Phillips has been warned by the Mail to tone down the ranting and stick to the kind of stuff that Dacre and Heffer want their pundits to produce. It will be interesting to see how much longer she remains a Mail Online presence: after all, if she won’t toe the line there, and the Spectator doesn’t want her, the options don’t look promising.

Well, that didn’t take long, did it?

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