4 June 1951 |
Melanie Phillips (born 4 June 1951) is a British journalist, author and public commentator. She started on the left of the political spectrum, writing for The Guardian and New Statesman. During the 1990s she came to identify with more right-wing ideas and currently writes for The Times, The Jerusalem Post and The Jewish Chronicle, covering political and social issues from a social conservative perspective. Phillips defines herself as a liberal who has "been mugged by reality".
Phillips has often appeared as a panellist on the BBC Radio 4 programme The Moral Maze and BBC One's Question Time. She has written a number of books, including her memoir Guardian Angel: My Story, My Britain. She was awarded the Orwell Prize for Journalism in 1996, while she was writing for The Observer.
Phillips' family is Jewish, and emigrated to Britain from Poland and Russia. According to her account the name "Phillips" was imposed by British officials who were unable to pronounce her family's Polish name. She describes her family as "poor" people living as outsiders in an impoverished area of London, who "kept their heads down and tried to assimilate". Her father, Alfred, was a dress salesman, her mother, Mabel, ran a children's clothes shop and both were committed Labour voters. She too began her career with the left-wing press before seeing the "reality" that "the west has lost its moral compass" and now refuses to see immigrants as culturally inferior, so that she became a "scathing critic of modern Britain" which she regards as "a debauched and disorderly culture of instant gratification, with disintegrating families, feral children and violence, squalor and vulgarity on the streets". She has also stated that her father was "gentle, kind and innocent", an "overgrown child", and that "as my other parent he just wasn’t there", which taught her "how the absence of proper fathering could screw up a child for life". She was educated at Putney High School, a girls' fee-paying independent school in Putney, London. Later she read English at St Anne's College, Oxford.
Phillips trained as a journalist on the Evening Echo, a local newspaper in Hemel Hempstead, as her probationary period in the provinces, then compulsory for the profession. After winning the Young Journalist of the Year award in 1976, she spent a short period at the New Society magazine, before joining The Guardian newspaper in 1977 and becoming its social services correspondent and social policy leader writer.
She was named in 1984 the paper's news editor, and was reported to have fainted on her first day. She started her own opinion column in 1987. As a writer for The Guardian in 1982 she defended the Labour Party at the time of the split with the Social Democratic Party. While working for The Guardian, Phillips wrote a play called Traitors, which was performed at the Drill Hall from January 1986. The play was set at the time of the 1982 Lebanon War and centred around the moral dilemmas of a Jewish journalist who as political editor of a liberal magazine has to decide whether to veto an article written in anti-semitic tones, and also whether she is right to publish a leaked document about the Falklands War. The play was reviewed by John Peter in The Sunday Times as "a play of blistering intelligence and fearless moral questioning", although he considered it bordering on implausible.
Phillips left The Guardian in 1993, saying that her relationship with the paper and its readers had become "like a really horrific family argument". She took her opinion column to the Guardian's sister-paper The Observer, then to the Sunday Times in 1998, before beginning her association with the tabloid Daily Mail in 2001. She also writes for The Jewish Chronicle and other periodicals.
Since 2003, she has written a blog, once hosted by The Spectator, but after a disagreement and her resignation from the magazine in June 2011, it is now hosted on her own website. In September 2013, it emerged that her Mail column was to end, although according to Phillips, the newspaper wanted her to continue to write features and other articles for it.
The BBC has said that Phillips "is regarded as one of the [British] media's leading right-wing voices" and a "controversial" columnist. She began her career on the left with The Guardian. Her drift to the political right has been mirrored by her journalistic career: she wrote for the Daily Mail from 2001 to 2013, and Nick Cohen wrote in 2011 that she has become vilified by The Guardian, while Phillips herself stated in 2006 that her views are often misrepresented by her former newspaper.
She is a staunch critic of Iran and has written and spoken frequently about the threat she perceives it to be, particularly if it were to obtain nuclear weapons. The Iranian regime, she writes, "has seen itself at war with the west ever since it came to power in 1979, and which has been involved in arguably every major terrorist atrocity against it". In her view, Iran's leaders are "religious fanatics" who are "impervious to reason" and who "would be happy" to bring about an apocalyptic end of days. Thus, "there is no alternative to force if it is to be stopped." She has drawn criticism for her hard-line approach from various commentators.
She has said that she supports a two-state solution in theory but that it cannot work in practice, commenting: "I would have no problem with a Palestine that would live in peace alongside Israel ... I respond to the evidence of what is actually happening. Israel is being demonised ... If Israel were to leave the West Bank, it would turn Islamist overnight and become an Iranian proxy on Israel's doorstep. That is why I cannot support a state of Palestine."
Phillips's criticisms of liberal Jews who disagree with her positions on Israel have been condemned by writers such as Alan Dershowitz Rabbi David Goldberg and Jonathan Freedland. Freedland criticised Phillips's labelling Independent Jewish Voices, a group of liberal Jews, as "Jews For Genocide". He wrote in The Jewish Chronicle: "Now, as it happens, I have multiple criticisms of IJV ... but even their most trenchant opponents must surely blanch at the notion that these critics of Israel and of Anglo-Jewish officialdom are somehow in favour of genocide—literally, eager to see the murder and eradication of the Jewish people ... it is an absurdity, one that drains the word 'genocide' of any meaning."
Since the election of Barack Obama, Phillips has accused him of "adopting the agenda of the Islamist" and of being "firmly in the Islamists camp". Shortly after Obama's re-election for a second term, Phillips said that "Four years ago, America put into the White House a sulky narcissist with an unbroken history of involvement in thuggish, corrupt, far-left, black power, Jew-bashing, west-hating politics." She warned that Obama would lead America into a "terrifying darkness". The Independent termed it "rather odd" and an "angry rant", which "sparked debate on Twitter".
Phillips wrote in defence of President-Elect Donald Trump on 14 November 2016: "Believing the smears they have created, the Trumpophobes then smear the public for voting for the man they have thus smeared. This, of course, is precisely why millions voted against the liberal establishment and for Trump, as well as for Brexit, in the first place".
In All Must Have Prizes, published in 1996, Phillips offered a critique of the British education system, saying that an egalitarian and non-competitive ethos (progressivism; multicultural education) had led to a catastrophic fall in standards. She criticised John Dewey's "disastrous influence". A subsequent paper said that "Phillips gets Dewey quite wrong," for example in claims that Dewey promoted ahistoric and cultureless education. Phillips criticized one academic paper—on primary-school children's constructions of British identity. Its authors responded with a follow-up study, showing that young adolescents, in common with their counterparts in primary schools, adopt a pluralist viewpoint with virtually no nationalist or racist comments.
Phillips has commented on the politicisation of education, particularly at Aberystwyth University. In 2005, she said there was an "anti-Jewish witch-hunt going on in our seats of learning" with particular focus on Aberystwyth University, based on an anonymous student's testimony. In 2008, following further allegations (supported by documentary evidence) made by another anonymous student regarding the biased nature and reading list of a course on terrorism convened by politics lecturer Dr Marie Breen Smyth, as well as allegations by the same student regarding bias against Israel by Breen Smyth and her colleague Dr Richard Jackson, Phillips wrote to the Vice Chancellor of the University saying that Breen Smyth was a "subversive" who should not be allowed to teach. These accusations were denied by Breen Smyth.
In 2008, the UK Drugs Policy Commission called allegations Phillips made regarding its work, "an absolute travesty and a wilful misrepresentation".
Phillips in 2011 said there is no "war on drugs" in Britain, rather a "refusal to enforce the law against drug use in a coherent, consistent, and effective manner". She sees the result as a lax attitude to drug use that helps perpetuate drug use. In 2010 she cited the US as an example of strict enforcement, stating "consumption of cocaine has fallen by 75 per cent in the U.S. over the past 20 years—suggesting that the American 'war on drugs' has been rather successful."
Melanie Phillips supported Dr Andrew Wakefield, whose fraudulent work triggered the MMR vaccine controversy and led to his being struck off the medical register. Through numerous articles in the Daily Mail and The Spectator, Phillips championed Wakefield's claims while casting doubt on their rebuttal by scientists, doctors and politicians. Her attacks on MMR attracted criticism from scientists and science writers, yet Phillips continued to support Wakefield even after his research methods and motives began to attract serious scrutiny and criticism: "While Mr Wakefield is being subjected to a witch-hunt, and while the parents of the affected children are scandalously denied legal aid to pursue the court case which may well have finally brought to light the truth about MMR, those powerful people in the medical establishment are continuing to misrepresent the evidence."
In May 2010, Andrew Wakefield was struck off the Medical Register for "serious professional misconduct", and is currently barred from practising medicine in the UK. Phillips's support of Wakefield's "findings" and her campaign against the MMR vaccine has been both widely noted, and credited for significantly undermining public trust in vaccines.
She does not agree with the scientific consensus regarding man-made climate change, and denounced what she claimed was "the data manipulation/shady practices scandal at the high temple of anthropogenic global warming theory". On 26 November 2009, Phillips claimed that there was no evidence of global warming, that temperatures are going down rather than up, and that sea ice is increasing rather than decreasing.
She opposed the introduction of civil partnerships for gay couples in the UK, and has said that what she calls "the traditional family [...] has been relentlessly attacked by an alliance of feminists, gay rights activists, divorce lawyers and cultural Marxists who grasped that this was the surest way to destroy Western society." She has said that giving IVF fertility treatment to lesbians would "help destroy our understanding of human identity", and expressed her opinion that opposition to it represents "a fightback to save our civilisation". She said the UK government was brainwashing children by including references to gay people in lessons about censuses and population movement. Philips called it "an abuse of childhood", part of a "ruthless campaign by the gay rights lobby to destroy the very concept of normal sexual behaviour". She received the 'Bigot of the Year' award from gay equality organisation Stonewall in 2011.
Phillips has argued that the Conservative Party lost its way after the retirement of Margaret Thatcher. She also stated that the UK Independence Party is prepared to embody "truly conservative attitudes" and has attracted a sizeable protest vote, despite its "unsustainable spending policies". However, she has also offered tempered praise of Tony Blair's attitude to radical Islam, and she supported his policy of joining the Iraq War.
She is ambivalent about the Northern Ireland peace process, stating that, on the one hand, it has strengthened the Union with Great Britain and saved lives, but that, on the other hand, it has rewarded terrorism, "undermined the rule of law", and exchanged bombs for "paramilitary, mafia-style control of some areas of Northern Ireland". In June 2014, in the context of Britain's first entirely secret trial for centuries, and despite condemnation of such trials by more than 700 lawyers and QCs, Phillips said that such legal proceedings are justifiable in certain circumstances.
- The Divided House: Women at Westminster, Sidgwick and Jackson, 1980, ISBN 0-283-98547-X.
- Doctors' Dilemmas: Medical Ethics and Contemporary Science by Melanie Phillips & John Dawson, Harvester Press, 1985, ISBN 0-7108-0983-2.
- All Must Have Prizes, Warner, 1998, ISBN 0-7515-2274-0.
- The Sex-Change Society: Feminised Britain and the Neutered Male, Social Market Foundation, 1999, ISBN 1-874097-64-X.
- America's Social Revolution, Civitas: Institute for the Study of Civil Society, 2001, ISBN 1-903386-15-2.
- The Ascent of Woman: A History of the Suffragette Movement and the Ideas Behind it, Little, Brown, 2003, ISBN 0-316-72533-1.
- Londonistan: How Britain Is Creating a Terror State Within, Gibson Square Books Ltd, 2006, ISBN 1-903933-76-5.
- The World Turned Upside Down: The Global Battle Over God, Truth and Power, New York, Encounter Books, 2010, ISBN 978-1-59403-375-9.
- Guardian Angel: My Story, My Britain, emBooks, 1 edition (1 May 2013), ASIN B00CMA0KP6
- Andy Beckett "The changing face of Melanie Phillips", The Guardian, 7 March 2003
- Hinsliff, Gaby (17 May 2013). "Guardian Angel: My Story, My Britain by Melanie Phillips – review". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 August 2013.
- "Orwell Prize Melanie Phillips – Columnist, Daily Mail". The Orwell Prize. Retrieved 25 November 2011.
- Why the Left hates families: MELANIE PHIILLIPS reveals how the selfish sneers of Guardianistas made her see how the Left actively fosters – and revels in – family breakdown..., Daily Mail', 3 May 2013
- Daily Mail article:
- Guardian article
- Peter Hillmore "NS Profile - Melanie Phillips", New Statesman, 10 March 2003
- John Peter. "Amoral acquiescence". The Sunday Times. 26 January 1986.
- Greenslade, Roy (28 June 2011). "Why Melanie Phillips quit The Spectator". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 4 May 2013.
- "Goodbye, Melanie!". News Statesman (blog). 24 June 2011. Retrieved 4 May 2013.
- Phillips, Melanie (16 June 2011). "My blog's new home". The Spectator. Archived from the original on 7 May 2012. Retrieved 17 December 2011.
- William Turvill "Melanie Phillips bows out after 12 years as Mail columnist, Dominic Lawson tipped to replace her", Press Gazette, 12 September 2013
- "Joshua Rozenberg". Noel Gay. Retrieved 11 June 2010.
- Jackie Ashley (16 June 2006). "The multicultural menace, anti-semitism and me". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 17 December 2011.
- List of Panelists for Question Time, BBC website, 6 June 2007.
- Nick Cohen (6 December 2011). "A regiment of women monsterers". The Spectator. Retrieved 17 December 2011.
- Phillips, Melanie (2 August 2006). "Hezbollah cells await Iran's orders". The Spectator. Retrieved 21 June 2013.
- Phillips, Melanie (25 January 2012). "Why Iran will not 'come to its senses'". Mail Online. London. Retrieved 21 June 2013.
- "The personal jihad of Melanie Phillips". 31 October 2009 – via The Guardian.
- "What drove Melanie Phillips to the right?". 18 June 2010 – via The Guardian.
- Glazov, Jamie (24 July 2009). "Alan Dershowitz vs. Melanie Phillips". FrontPage Magazine. Retrieved 2 August 2009.
- Dershowitz, Alan (9 July 2009). "A reply to Melanie Phillips". The Spectator. Press Holdings. Retrieved 10 May 2016.
- Freedland, Jonathan (30 March 2007). "The danger of Melanie Phillips". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 3 August 2010.
- Husain, Ed (31 October 2009). "The personal jihad of Melanie Phillips". The Guardian. London.
- Davis, Laura (8 November 2012). "Melanie Phillips' rather odd reaction to Obama's win". The Independent. London.
- "Melanie Phillips Claims Barack Obama's Reelection Brings World War Three 'A Lot Closer'". The Huffington Post UK. 8 November 2012.
- Phillips, Melanie (14 November 2016). "Trump's opponents are the bigots and racists". The Times. Retrieved 14 November 2016. (subscription required)
- Petrovic, J.E. (1998), "Dewey is a Philistine and other grave misreadings", Oxford Review of Education 24 (4), pp. 513–20
- Carrington, B., Short, G. (1998), "Adolescent discourse on national identity—Voices of care and justice?", Educational Studies 24 (2), pp. 150–52
- Phillips, Melanie. The Spectator, 15 April 2008, Terror in academia
- "UK Drugs Policy Commission responds to Melanie Phillips" Spectator.co.uk 19 April 2008 Retrieved 6 February 2012.
- Melanie Phillips (17 November 2011). "Drug legalisation? We need it like a hole in the head". melaniephillips.com. Retrieved 13 April 2015.
- Melanie Phillips (21 September 2010). "George Michael being jailed is pointless when our prisons are awash with drugs.". Daily Mail Online. Retrieved 13 April 2015.
- Helen Bedford & David Elliman (29 March 2003). "MMR: the onslaught continues". BMJ. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
- Smith, Joan (12 September 2004). "The real MMR conspiracy". The Independent. London. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
- Goldacre, Ben (2 November 2005). "The MMR sceptic who just doesn't understand science". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
- Fitzpatrick, Michael (12 November 2005). "Why can't the Daily Mail eat humble pie over MMR?" (PDF). BMJ, Vol. 331. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
- MMR : the facade cracks, published 7 February 2006, retrieved 13 November 2013.
- Meikle, James; Boseley, Sarah (24 May 2010). "MMR row doctor Andrew Wakefield struck off register". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 27 May 2010. Retrieved 24 May 2010.
- Paul A. Offit. Autism's False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure Columbia University Press, 2013: p. 56.
- Malcolm Dean. Democracy Under Attack: How the Media Distort Policy and Politics The Policy Press, 2012: p. 371.
- "Global warming is a 'scam' says Melanie Phillips" bbc.co.uk 27 November 2009 Retrieved 21 July 2012.
- "Melanie Phillips's Articles " A fatherless law". Melaniephillips.com. Retrieved 28 November 2009.
- "Yes, gays have often been the victims of prejudice. But they now risk becoming the new McCarthyites" By Melanie Phillips, Daily Mail 24 January 2011]
- "Storm over Stonewall's Cardinal Keith O'Brien 'bigot' award". BBC News. 2 November 2012.
- Hugh Muir, "Stonewall's bigot award prompts banks' threat to withdraw sponsorship", The Guardian, 30 October 2012
- ["Melanie Phillips: Would you buy a used manifesto promise from this lot?]".
- ["Daily Mail: I know where the political common ground is, Dave. The question is, do you?]". Mail Online.
- Phillips, Melanie. "Tony Blair on Israel and Islamism: Home Truths and One Illusion". Family Security Matters. 12 October 2010. Retrieved 26 April 2014 .
- "Hysteria and irrationality over Iraq". Melanie Phillips. 24 September 2004. Retrieved 26 April 2014 .
- "The Faustian pact of the Northern Ireland Peace Process". Melanie Phillips. 23 June 2004. Retrieved 26 April 2014.
- Jones, Owen (5 June 2014). "Britain's first secret trial: this way lies trouble". theguardian.com. Retrieved 9 June 2014.
- Chapman, James (27 February 2013). "Scrap 'dangerous and unnecessary' secret justice bill, hundreds of lawyers and QCs urge the Government". Mail Online. Retrieved 9 June 2014.
- Phillips, Melanie (9 June 2014). "Sometimes justice has to be done in secret". The Times. Retrieved 9 June 2014.
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