Friday 17 May 2019


A couple of new pieces by Melanie Phillips are out. The first one covers very important issues and I commend it to this house.

Isn’t it odd how many below the line contributors respond to Melanie’s pieces with a preliminary disclaimer that goes something like: “I don’t usually agree with Melanie Phillips, but…”

The other one, which appears in The Times (£) addresses Andrew Neil’s confrontational head-to-head with Ben Shapiro. It’s an interesting read, but I think Melanie was being over-generous to Andrew Neil, who subsequently seemed quite taken aback by the negative reaction to his interviewing style, while Shapiro’s critics were thrown into confusion by his abject, post-interview apology. 

Below the line opinion is divided. Towards the end of the article, she describes audiences’ inability to accept nuance and subtlety, especially in America, where you’re rigidly viewed as either one thing or the other; no room for Mr In between.  I totally get that. I litter everything with ‘on the one hand, and on the other.’ ‘I used to be indecisive but now I’m not so sure’-ism.

One paragraph in Melanie’s article that caught my eye was:
“In similar vein, I’ve found to my cost that among many conservatively minded Americans it is not acceptable, for example, to oppose Tommy Robinson for his thuggish approach to Muslims in general and the rule of law; ….”
Obviously, the confusing bit is: 
“Tommy Robinson for his thuggish approach to Muslims in general” 
because ‘the rule of law’ could be: ‘potentially causing a trial to collapse’. However, I understood that that allegation was thrown out by the court. I’m still genuinely wondering what she means by  ‘his thuggish approach to Muslims in general”

I’d really like to know, because it seems to me that Tommy Robinson is a critic of Islam, just as Melanie herself is, and, like Melanie, Tommy Robinson takes pains to point out that he’s not a racist and he’s not simply “against Muslims”.

I’d also like to know - perhaps someone will explain it to me - why critics of Islam, or as some would have it, the Islamophobic community, are, to a man, loath to be caught out expressing anything less than outright hostility towards “the thug Stephen Yaxley”.

Is there one ’mainstream’ critic of Islam who hasn’t distanced him/herself from Tommy Robinson? Brendan O’Neill, Melanie Phillips, the entire Jewish community, Nigel Farage, I can’t quite remember what Douglas Murray has said but I’m betting it ain’t complimentary - and now Rod Liddle.  His piece was particularly sour, and below the line, he got a jolly good hammering for it.

One often thinks that the terrifying rise of Islam would be better countered if all its critics were able to band together. Take, purely as a model, our traditional political system. Both main parties describe themselves as broad churches; both are made up of individuals from all corners of the political spectrum, but at least they all recognise that ‘united you stand, divided you fall’. The only other anti-Islam politician I’ve heard not criticising Tommy Robinson is Anne Marie Waters, and now I come to think of it, it was the other way round. He said nice things about her.

Of course, there’s Gerard Batten, and his relationship with TR has done him nothing but damage.

Maybe that’s what they’re all afraid of. “Frit,” as Margaret Thatcher might say.  I do realise that Tommy Robinson can be embarrassingly impetuous and reckless. But he’s fundamentally rowing the same boat as the rest of them, which suggests they’re either huge snobs or plain frit.


  1. Everyone's a bit frit these days. Even Paul Joseph Watson has admitted he's been careful about what he says on the remaining platforms he's allowed on.

    Rod is likeable but wayward. Throwing stones at Tommy Robinson is not advisable given he lives in a glass house with such thin panes.

    In a Carl Benjamin moment he asked: "So — Harriet Harman, then. Would you? I mean after a few beers obviously, not while you were sober." Does his latest party, the Contuining SDP, support him in that comment? Perhaps we should get Andrew Marr to ask them.

    He accused an ethnic minority community (the African-Caribbean community) of being responsible for "The overwhelming majority of street crime, knife crime, gun crime, robbery and crimes of sexual violence in London"

    Wikipedia also reports that The Mail on Sunday and The Observer drew attention to allegedly racist and misogynist comments he made in 2010 on the Millwall Online site under a pseudonym. He apparently admitted he had written some of the posts that were being criticised, including one in support of the BNP excluding Black and Asian people from the party. Another post, in which he joked about not being able to smoke at Auschwitz,led to his being asked to explain what he meant in The Jewish Chronicle.

    I didn't know about the Millwall Online stuff - I assume the Wikipedia report is accurate - but suffice to say I have never heard TR say anything halfway as offensive as that.

    1. And look at this - Rod got off v. lightly compared with Tommy Robinson when he committed a clear contempt of court - one I might suggest was far more serious than Tommy's alleged offence, which amounted to shouting a few rude things about defendants:

      "In November 2011, an article by Liddle for The Spectator suggested the trial of two men accused (and later convicted) of murdering Stephen Lawrence would not be fair.[50] It was referred to the Attorney General (Dominic Grieve) by the judge for possible contempt of court, and he ordered the jurors not to read it. Having decided that it might have breached a court order, Grieve passed the case on to the Crown Prosecution Service and the Director of Public Prosecutions. The decision that The Spectator was to be prosecuted by the CPS for breaching reporting restrictions was announced on 9 May 2012, with a court hearing scheduled for 7 June, although Liddle as the author was not himself liable for prosecution. Fraser Nelson, the magazine's editor, announced that the prosecution would not be contested, and the magazine pleaded guilty at the hearing. The magazine's fine was £3,000, plus £2,000 compensation to Stephen Lawrence's parents and £625 costs." (Wikipedia)

  2. Liddle has always been thuggish, in my opinion, although I didn't know any of those things cited above. He's directed it at women, a 'safe' target and one that will resonate more widely. It's disappointing that the challenge to the excesses of the BBC or its default cronyism / leftyism often comes in that sort of package or from such bitter ugly people. It doesn't make the left right (correct) but it does make them look better.
    Isn't Andrew Neil something at The Spectator and we know what he's also like about Tommy Robinson or Real Name - what's that again?

    1. Maybe it's my own character fault but I do find Rod Liddle likeable...I just don't like him trying to make out he's ethically superior to Farage or TR.

      Andrew Neil definitely writes for the does Andrew Marr I believe occasionally. Not sure he holds any formal post. Yep, Neil positions himself in the anti-Tommy crowd. It's really the equivalent of knowing in what order to pick up the cutlery at the dining table for those who aspire to be considered part of the elite. Pretty pathetic really.

  3. Douglas Murray actually offers a sympathetic view of Tommy Robinson, close to my own.

    Regarding Melanie Phillips, her position seems to be unclear and tracking other political developments. She used to maintain that there was nothing problematic about the Islamic belief system, only a particular strand of it.

    We need honest debate about Sharia and its implications but of course that is exactly what Baroness Warsi (well done there, Dave - good choice eh?) wants to close down: honest debate.

    We must vigorously reject the Islamophobia Trap.

    1. Meant to include a link to Douglas Murray talking about Tommy Robinson:

    2. Yes, thanks for that. I remembered had actually seen that video - and Douglas Murray does indeed defend TR in a way - but I think he’s primarily attacking the state’s underhand methods of demonisation and vilification of TR, rather than unambiguously recognising him as a fellow spirit, or offering an outright approval of his views. D’you agree?

    3. Indeedy I do!


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