Diary: Savagery, moral depravity... Welcome to the world of 'Mad Mel'
Monday 21 March 2011
What desperate moments for all among us who revere Melanie Phillips and the rigorous self-restraint she brings to her work. In the coming days, the Metropolitan Police must decide whether to prosecute her over a classically thoughtful posting on her Spectator-hosted blog.
No one could argue with Melanie's outrage at the brutal murder of a family of West Bank settlers. What roused Muslim lobby group Engage to write to the Press Complaints Commission and Trevor Phillips, as well as the law, was her wontedly subtle extrapolation from the specific to the general... the extension of one horrendous crime to "the moral depravity of the Arabs"; one reference to Arabs as "savages"; and another to "the moral depravity of the Arabs".
Some will wonder about the public reaction were a parodist to rework this piece by substituting "Arabs" with "Jews", and perhaps they have a point. Even so, we ask the Met to show clemency. Clearly an investigation is required, recalling the hate-crime inquiry into Mr Tony Blair once referring to "the f***ing Welsh". But I hope the police conclude that our prisons are already adequately clogged with those who need treatment rather than punishment. The last spectre that Mad Mel supporters such as I would welcome is the weekly internal-cavity search on visiting day at HMP Holloway.
* Whether the BBC will now retain MM on Radio 4's The Moral Maze may depend on whether its commitment to positive discrimination outweighs its concern about the excitement of hatred for minorities. One for Mark Thompson to ponder there, though the director-general shouldn't hang around. Thommo is believed to be seeking alternative employment, and according to one executive was recently "spotted in swanky offices on the US west coast".
Mr Spielberg, prepare to stand aside. The British are coming!
* With her approval ratings sinking fast, Sarah Palin embarks on a tour to India and Israel to bolster her foreign-policy credentials – and there's work to be done. At a recent roast, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels – the most impressive Republican in the field, though unlikely to run – teased Mike Huckabee over his misspoken claim that Barack Obama grew up in Kenya. "Sarah Palin pounces," he added, "and says, 'Wrong, Mike, he's never been to Europe'."
* Daniels isn't the only Wildean political wit of the age, of course, as ribcages still aching from David Cameron citing Nick Clegg as his favourite joke confirm. Finally, in a long-delayed counter-strike, Nick responds with a zinger of his own by revealing that he will not forsake the Coalition if the AV vote is lost. The hilarity here rests on Nick self-mockingly raising the satirical notion that he has anywhere else to go. As if he could walk out now if Mr Cameron diverted war aircraft from Libyan skies to do to Sheffield what Bomber Harris did to Dresden.
* It wouldn't be Sunday morning without Andrew Marr in lieu of the church bells, and he wore his gravest "ladies and gentlemen, we are at a war" face with distinction yesterday. For once, he said, there would be no music, and in Dame Vera Lynn's place was nation's sweetheart George Osborne. Maybe this was a slip of the tongue born of pre-Budget fatigue, but it was a shock to hear George, leader of the Coalition's provisional neo-Con wing, say: "We are not considering ground forces... at the moment." From what the PM told the Commons on Friday, ground forces seemed to have been permanently and categorically ruled out. A clarification would be nice.
* Sadly Gordon Brown couldn't attend Friday's debate, and some claim to find this odd. Cobblers. It's hardly as if accepting a package worth some £250,000 per annum obliges a former PM and current MP to play a part in the democratic process. Don't people understand that Gordon's a very busy man? And wasn't he good in that brilliant Comic Relief sketch – you can forgive James Corden everything, even the World Cup shows on ITV, for that gem – with JLS, ousted England captain Rio Ferdinand and Davina McCall? Gordon did his bit for Africa on Friday. Let Parliament go hang.
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