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Melanie Phillips on why she left the Left – and in particular on antisemitism

Just now, a lot of people have a lot of time on their hands, and might therefore be open to the idea of watching and listening to a talking head for the best part of an hour. Accordingly, I now recommend this video interview, which I myself have just watched for the first time. Steve Edginton of the Sun newspaper asks a few short questions. Melanie Phillips supplies some much longer answers.

At the end of the interview, Phillips mentions a couple of relevant books she has written. These are her novel, The Legacy, and her memoir about how she used to work for the Guardian, Guardian Angel: My Journey from Leftism to Sanity.

A lot of us also now have more time for books. For actually reading them, I mean.

Melanie Phillips did this interview a few days ago. I wrote this Samizdata posting about Labour antisemitism in May 2018. I deduced what I did from the distant din of battles which I was not personally part of. Phillips tells the same story from direct personal experience, along with several other closely related stories.

Like I say: highly recommended.

12 comments to Melanie Phillips on why she left the Left – and in particular on antisemitism

  • Snorri Godhi

    Melanie Phillips’ might have been the first blog i ever saw. It was in early 2006 and i felt utterly betrayed by The Economist after the Cartoon Jihad. The BBC mentioned Melanie (and somebody else) as a dissenting voice, maybe also had a link, and i found her blog. That got me started. After looking around, i settled for Samizdata and Instapundit, but nothing against her.

  • Mr Ed

    She sounds like a female Peter Hitchens, but less pessimistic. Interesting that she traces anti-semitism back as far as 1982, when the PLO was a Soviet protegé, Suvorov called the PLO a child of the GRU. This was a few weeks after Begin had done as much as he could to help Galtieri. I would like to say that The Sun has done some outstanng stuff recently, like this.

  • Paul Marks

    I see little difference between the British political parties on this matter. The ordinary members of the various political parties may have very different opinions – but the H.Q. staff down in London not-so-different.

    They all want Israel to make the sort of “deal” that would lead to the destruction of Israel. For example parts of the “West Bank” are closer to the Mediterranean Sea than the Jordan River, pulling back to the 1948 Cease Fire lines would almost certainly be suicidal for Israel – as an enemy attack could cut the nation in two within hours. Indeed many of the London political H.Q. types even believe there is a “West Jerusalem” and an “East Jerusalem” – which as the Wall of the Temple is in “east” Jerusalem would make a Jewish state pointless (a Jewish state without the very places that are central to Judaism).

    And all the major political parties, at least in London H.Q. circles, regard any opposition to the doctrines taught by Muhammad as “Islamophobia”, Ironically Frankfurt School of Marxism style language – and Marxists are atheists, which is punishable under Islamic Law, although I believe that CAIR (the “Council on American Islamic Relations”), a terrorist supporting organisation based in the United States, were the first people to specifically use the terms “Islamophobia” and “Islamophobic”. Just mentioning what he taught about Jews, or his conduct towards Jews, or what he taught about Christians and his conduct towards Christians is regarded as some sort of crime – to be punished.

    I repeat the ordinary members of the various political parties may be very different indeed – but the H.Q. positions not-so-much.

    And it is not “just” on Jews – it is also on government spending and regulations.

    After all Mr Corbyn and his key supporters have been gloating that the direction of policy he campaigned for December (“investment in the state”, vastly more government spending – and vastly more power for the state over the lives of ordinary people) has been carried out.

    I detest Mr Corbyn and his supporters – but it would be very hard to argue against them on this point. And NO it is NOT just about the virus.

    Even using harsh language about the Mayor of London, the sort of language that American Republicans use against the Mayor of New York City, is forbidden by Conservative Central Office – they understand that they have far more in common with Mayor Khan than they have with ordinary Conservative voters in the United Kingdom (people they are not exactly fond of – to put the matter mildly).

    In short British politics, at least at the centre, appears to be entirely on the left.

    In the United States this is also now true on government spending. Hence my recent Facebook post that fiscal restraint is now dead in the United States – the country (with the consent of both parties) is now committed to bankruptcy – in fact even if not in legal theory. With print-and-spend being the line of destruction.

    However, there are political differences in the United States on such matters as Freedom of Speech (broadly speaking – Republicans in support, Democrats against), the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (ditto), Israel versus Islam (there used to be unity between the American political parties – but the Democrats have changed their position, following the far left universities, which makes it ironic that most Jews still vote Democrat), abortion (whether or not it is a good thing), the nature of the family, sex changes for CHILDREN, and Frankfurt School Marxism – with the Democrats following the Frankfurt School “Diversity and Inclusion” line (sometimes called “Critical Theory” Marxism – although it is also mixed with French “Post Modernism” which is officially not Marxist, but has the same objective – the destruction of “capitalist” society).

    Almost needless to say any British person who took the position of one of the two American political parties on ANY of the matters of dispute would be savagely attacked by “Central Office”.

    And I do not mean someone who took the position of the Democrats on any of the matters of dispute. I mean a British person who took the position of the Republicans on any of the matters of dispute.

    In short the political conflict in the United States is now, really, about cultural matters (such as Freedom of Speech, Right to Keep Bear Arms, abortion, and so on) – rather than avoiding wild government spending (both parties being committed to wild government spending).

    “And the core of the political conflict in the United Kingdom?”

    I am not sure about that – at least not at the London H.Q. level.

  • Paul Marks

    Snorri – I felt utterly betrayed by the Economist magazine long before you did, but I do not want to get into a misery competition. “I was in despair before you were!” “No you were not – I understood how horrible things are before you did!”.

    I just wish I could open the Economist magazine and read them denouncing the 1965 Act (and the following Acts) as an assault upon Freedom of Speech, and the latest two TRILLION Dollar scheme in the United States as something that must be fought tooth-and-nail.

    But then the editor of the Economist would be James Wilson – not that vile creature Walter Bagehot (who started the decline of the publication).

    Mr Ed – I think Melanie Philips and Peter Hitchens might have a difference of opinion in relation to World War II.

  • Paul Marks

    Mr Ed – I was WRONG.

    On hearing a few minutes of the interview, it is clear that the lady does (basically) agree with Peter Hitchens that it was World War II that sunk us culturally – and politically (as politics is downstream from culture).

    I do not really believe that it was World War II that sunk us (I think that Britain and the United States were basically O.K. culturally in the 1950s) – but I was WRONG about Melanie Philips not believing that, as it is clear that (basically) she does.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Paul: I concede on the misery competition, without reservations.
    But could you please tell me when and why you first felt utterly betrayed by The Economist?
    Just asking out of curiosity.

  • Fred Z

    Foolish to feel betrayed by the Economist. Their socialism was inevitable as noted by Conquest “Any organization not explicitly and constitutionally right-wing will sooner or later become left-wing.”

    Even so, smash them to flinders.

    As the Instapundit notes, one can always vote ones self into communism, but one must always shoot ones self out. Is it time?

  • Johnathan Pearce

    For me, the most interesting segment was when she talked about how so many people are ignorant of Jewish beliefs, of Judaism as a body of ideas and practices. That seems true. I can recommend Paul Johnson’s A History Of the Jews, as a great way to understand and learn.

    Another book, about contemporary Israel and its economics, and therefore very different from standard tales of Israel, is Start-Up Nation, by Dan Senor and Saul Singer.

  • Paul Marks

    Quite correct J.P.

    For example, most people appear to be unaware that Jews hold that non Jews (even atheists) can go to heaven – as long as people have, generally, been righteous in their conduct. Being righteous in conduct being a matter of choice (free will) – this being fundamental to Judaism.

    According to Judaism person can eat pork every day (“you do not think we hold to the 613 points of the Torah for a REWARD do you?”), and hold that Moses never lived, and even hold that there is no God – and still go to Heaven, if they make a voluntary choice to be righteous and actually stick to this (even though it may cost them their life). “Do you hold to what is morally right – do you hold to what is morally right TO THE DEATH?” this is the key question.

    The pro Agency (pro free will) position was at the heart of why the philosopher Spinoza was rejected by Jews (indeed they made it clear that he was no longer welcome to live among them – because he was a determinist, i.e. he denied human personhood) and is at the root of the conflict between Jews and such thinkers as Muhammad and Martin “Bondage of the Will” Luther.

    My own father was Jewish – he was not sure that God existed (he was agnostic) but he would hold to what was morally right, to-the-death.

  • Paul Marks


    I think I first became upset with the Economist publication when James Wilson (good man though he was in many ways) made it clear that he did not believe that an expansion of bank credit was the cause of boom-busts.

    James Wilson (like J.M. Keynes a century later) held that sentiment (what Keynes was to call “animal spirits”) was the cause of boom-busts – with waves of over optimism leading to over investment (not an expansion of bank credit leading to mal investment).

    Both the “Banking School” (of which James Wilson was part) and the “Currency School” in Britain wanted to keep fractional reserve banking – i.e the blowing of Credit Bubbles which inevitably collapse (leading to screams of BAILOUT, I MUST HAVE A BAILOUT!) rather than bankers just acting as old style money lenders – lending out cash money (actual gold – or whatever the commodity money is) and NOT claiming to have this money till when and IF they are repaid.

    The Banking Act of 1844 (of Sir Robert Peel) just MISSED THE POINT – by forbidding new banks issuing bank notes, but not even touching the principle of Credit Bubble (“fractional reserve”) banking.

    Of course boom-busts continued after the Act of 1844 – because Credit Bubble banking continued. And not a single British economist (not Banking School or Currency School) made this point. Murray Rothbard was wrong about a lot of things – but he was right in condemning British Victorian thought (it was awful – for example J.S. Mill was totally muddled and contradictory, in his economics and in just about everything else). All the British economists of the late 19th century fell into the “sentiment” trap – blaming boom-busts (as Keynes was to do a century later) on “waves of over optimism” (and so on) rather than the expansion of bank credit – of bankers creating a Credit Bubble and pretending it is “broad money” (backed by the Bank of England – which posed as a restrainer, but was NOT).

    Bankers refuse to be “just” money lenders (“Shylocks” – or the “Iron Bank of Braavos” in “Game of Thrones” lending out physical money and insisting on being repaid with physical money) – and insist on being Bubble Blowers. “Shylock” might not have been a nice character, but he did not create a Boom-Bust (his conduct could not possibly do that), “modern” bankers do – and Central Banks push them onwards (the do not “restrain” the bankers – quite the opposite, they encourage them in their folly).

    By the way ask Mr Ed about how old I really am.

  • Paul Marks

    As for modern times….

    The support of the Economist for that slimy nonenity “Tony” Blair disgusted me.

    But it was actually their support for Barack Obama in 2008 that made me really hate them. They ignored his Marxist background and all his filthy associations – they knew of it all (because I, and other people, sent the evidence to them), but they CHOOSE to ignore what they knew.

    So I actually finally broke with them AFTER you did Snorri (looking back I have to admit that now) – you in 2006, me in 2008.

    Before then I thought of the Economist as something that I disagreed with on certain things – but that I was (broadly speaking) on the same side as – but after 2008 I have seen them as an enemy of the West.

    I came close to that in 2004 – when they supported John Kerry (a man of the left – he had the most leftist voting record in the United States Senate, before Barack Obama arrived there), against the ultra moderate (indeed RINO) George Walker Bush.

    The support for Senator Kerry (and for Democrat candidates before that) totally baffled me – “do they not the background of these people?”.

    So in 2008 I (and others) made it our business to tell the Economist exactly what the background of Senator Barack Obama was – just how terrible that political background of beliefs was.

    They then made a choice to support Barack Obama in spite of everything they had been shown (not just by me – but also by many other people).

    After that the scales fell from my eyes – and I understood that the publication was not misguided or uninformed, it was on-the-other-side.

    Lastly on banking – if Central Banks did not exist then Credit Bubble banking would still exist, but the Credit Bubble bankers would go BANKRUPT – really bankrupt.

    They would close in a “bust” and NOT reopen their doors.

    At least as long as the courts were not corrupt – in both Scotland and the United States courts have sometimes “suspended cash payments”.

    This means that, for example, if a banker has agreed to pay a certain sum of silver when presented with a piece from his bank the judge says “you do not have to pay physical silver”.

    In such a case the judge is just as much a criminal as a mugger or a house breaker.

    “Free Bankers” who rely on the courts (the judges) to rip up contracts by “suspension of cash payments” are just scum.

    The only sort of Free Bankers who have any moral or intellectual merit are those who pay “cash on the nail” (physical money – when they have contracted to do so).

    “But then a banker would just be a Shylock” – YES and that is all they should be. No more Bubble economy.

  • Tom M.

    In regard to Paul Marks, “They ignored [Obama’s] Marxist background…”

    That’s because they understood that Obama simply didn’t have much of one.

    There’s no shortage of people on the right who had much stronger Marxist backgrounds, such as Robert Conquest (a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain) and David Horowitz (a prominent New Left author and Huey Newton associate) to name just two. Not to mention the many conservatives with social-democratic pasts like Jeane Kirkpatrick.

    There’s plenty of criticisms of Obama on both right and left, but stuff like “while in college Obama attended Cooper Union meetings where he heard socialists speak!” simply isn’t persuasive. It’s on the same level as discrediting Lincoln by pointing out that Marx wrote a letter congratulating him on his re-election and that Marxists served in the Union Army.