Today, in their wisdom, the bookers for BBC Politics Live invited Melanie “not just Barking but halfway to Upminster” Phillips to pontificate on the subject of racism, which for all those followers of The Prophet might not be as bad as having Fred West explain the finer points of patio-laying, but they can probably see it in the distance. One has to hope that there was someone from the legal team keeping watch, just in case.
Not really fair or balanced
Predictably, she steered well clear of her inclusion in the manifesto of Anders Behring Breivik, and instead laid into the Labour Party, which on an organisational level she declared to be A Very Bad Thing. “I think Keir Starmer’s a very decent guy” she began, to the sound of Labour members rushing to vote for Becky Long Bailey and Lisa Nandy.
There was more. “I’m sure he is going to take measures which are eye-catchingly good in terms of getting rid of people who have not been got rid of”. What, she was asked, about Ms Long Bailey’s response to questioning yesterday? “I mean, she’s just trying to avoid … having gone along with something which she should never have gone along with, and that goes for a lot of Labour Members of Parliament”. Which means what, exactly?
“The point I was going to make about Keir Starmer is that, despite the fact that I think he’s going to try to get on top of this particular problem, I don’t think he’s going to succeed”. This is code for “Starmer, if he wins, may find himself smeared as an enabler of anti-Semitism”. But do go on. “Because I think this is a problem that goes very deep, not just in the Labour Party, but throughout progressive politics”. Who is this “progressive politics”?
And she wasn’t finished. “It’s wrapped up in attitudes to Israel. It’s wrapped up with beliefs that what’s being talked about isn’t really anti-Semitism, it’s not really prejudice, it’s simply an attempt to stop criticism of Israel. In other words, even among people of goodwill, there is a very widespread failure to understand quite what this thing is that has come out of the woodwork, and until and unless people are prepared to acknowledge precisely what it is, and acknowledge the enormity of it, and the depth of it, no-one’s going to get on top of it”.
Quite apart from the miraculous convenience here - that she gets to define what “It” is, even if what she is defining - presumably as anti-Semitism - appears to include legitimate criticism of the state of Israel, which the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism allows - a non-trivially sized problem enters. And that problem is with things called facts.
All that evidence which was passed to the Police has resulted in just one person being charged. One. And that one person was no longer member of the Labour Party. As the Guardian has told, five were arrested but “four individuals - three men and a woman - had been told they would face no further action”. In a party of over 500,000 members.
If what Melanie Phillips was talking about “goes very deep”, how come only one person was charged with an offence? After all that evidence was handed over to the Police? After all the hype, if there was such a serious problem, wouldn’t one expect the numbers to be rather more significant than that? It’s almost as if someone was exaggerating.
Not that one could ever accuse Melanie Phillips of such behaviour. Perish the thought!
Enjoy your visit to Zelo Street? You can help this truly independent blog carry on talking truth to power, while retaining its sense of humour, by adding to its Just Giving page at
[The Legalballs Fund has now closed]