Politics returns to sort-of-normal this week after the Christmas and New Year break, which for the BBC means Politics Live at lunchtimes and Question Time this evening, with new host Fiona Bruce. But one old fixture - less charitable folks might say very old fixture - is unchanged, and that is the presence of some pundits who are well past their sell-by date - like Melanie “not just Barking but halfway to Upminster” Phillips.
Time and again the Beeb has the chance to clear out the Pundit Establishment deadwood, and time and again it opts for another Statue Quo reunion. Few fresh faces, no expertise, just the old propagandists peddling falsehood and misinformation. So the Corporation should have no complaints at the backlash that has been brewing all day.
Responses to her Politics Live appearance included “Was #MelaniePhillips ever any sort of a decent journalist or has she always been like this?” and “Is Melanie Phillips jumping on the ‘we all voted for WTO terms’ bandwagon?” There was more. Much more.
“#MelaniePhillips used to be a left-wing writer for the Guardian. She's now a right-wing writer for the Times. She changed her mind. That's OK. The people may have changed their minds and she doesn't like it... I hate hypocrites … Melanie Phillips says people didn't vote for any one sort of brexit, then states that we should leave with no deal”. And more.
“Again Melanie Phillips denouncing any criticism on Brexit - JLR have cited it amongst other things. I take she’s never ran an international business relying on just in time support? Asking for a country … Melanie Phillips now knows more about running a car company then the people who run the actual company. Next she'll be giving you advice on your marriage without ever meeting you”. And on her Question Time invite?
The feedback has not been too positive. “There'll be no shortage of narrow-mindedness, ignorance and progranda on #BBCQT tonight - James Cleverly and Melanie Phillips … ‘Melanie Phillips’ is on #BBCQT tonight. What a start for Fiona Bruce”. Could it really be Melanie Phillips? Better put her name in quote marks to be on the safe side.
Nor was there much enthusiasm for her presence. “So Melanie Phillips is on #bbcqt tonight. What will you be doing instead? I might clean out my cutlery drawer”. And Matt Thomas pointed out some time back that she’s been on rather a lot already. “#bbcqt appearances: Isabel Oakeshott 8, Julia H-Brewer 10, Kelvin MacKenzie 12, Melanie Phillips 26, Nigel Farage 31, Paul Nuttall 12, Peter Hitchens 21, Piers Morgan 18, Rod Little 8 … Could we have some intelligent scientists, professors, doctors, etc instead of right-wing mouthpieces?” Then there was the punishment element of watching her.
As one Tweeter put it, “Melanie Phillips on both #PoliticsLive and #bbcqt today. Surely that goes against the Geneva Convention”. And on the prospect of having to sit through her appearance on Question Time, the good and great Doc Hackenbush concluded “I’d rather cover my tackle in honey and invite 5000 fire ants to go to town on it”.
If we’re going to have subjects like Brexit and climate change on the menu, it would help if the national broadcaster occasionally invited people who can distinguish one end of the subject from the other. Melanie Phillips is not one of them. Must do better, BBC.
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