Shorter Melanie Phillips: Shannon Matthews had it coming

March 17, 2008 at 8:04 pm | Posted in Working Class Britain | 4 Comments
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It’s difficult to react substantively to Melanie Phillips’ frenzied hate speech, largely because most of the articles she writes substitute substance for vicious, fear-mongering missives against whomever she considers complicit in Britain’s societal collapse. Today’s screech of self-righteousness tries to turn the murder of Scarlett Keeling & the safe return of Shannon Matthews into a requiem for the death of family values. Specifically, she reheats the old arguments about absent fathers & the existence of an underclass:

The reasons this has happened go far beyond mere criticism of individuals. For these events reveal the existence of an underclass which is a world apart from the lives that most of us lead and the attitudes and social conventions that most of us take for granted.

But it is an underclass which affluent, complacent, materialistic Britain has created.

An underclass composed of whole communities where committed fathers are so rare that any child who actually has one risks being bullied.

Where sex is reduced to an animal activity devoid of love or human dignity, and boys impregnate two, three, four girls with scarcely a second thought.

Where successive generations of women have never known what it is to be loved and cherished by both their parents throughout their childhood.

How can such women know how to parent their own children?

Fuck knows; maybe they saw it on Jeremy Kyle. Of course, she can’t name one child who’s been bullied for having a father, and she can’t name one boy who would readily impregnate four girls without a second thought, and I doubt she’s even known three working class women from successive generations who’d validate her claim that they’ve never known love from their parents. Yet despite offering no evidence for these hysterical caricatures, we apparently have to take Phillips’ word for it that the working classes stew in a cesspit of animalistic iniquity, devoid of love or manners, decency or dignity. In Mel’s world, it’s a surprise Karen Matthews was even upset by her daughters’ disappearance, but no surprise that Shannon disappeared.

But whilst she’s happy to use so much energy dehumanising the victim and her family, the wider family of Dewsbury Moor and thousands of other families who try to make the most of a poverty and urban decay from which they can’t escape, she doesn’t do so out of unbridled spite. No, the Matthews’ are too pathetic a people, too small a target to deserve the full-on-Phillips hatchet job. What’s more worthy of her wrath? I don’t know why you had to ask:

Even though fractured family life vastly increases the risk of abuse, violence and murder, our deeply irresponsible overclass has put rocket fuel behind its exponential growth through tax and welfare incentives.


The people who are really culpable are all those who, intoning the mantra of “alternative lifestyle choice”, have defeated every attempt to shore up marriage and the traditional family.

In its place, they have deliberately and wickedly created over the years a legal and welfare engine of mass fatherlessness and child abandonment, resulting in a degraded and dependent underclass and a lengthening toll of human wreckage. (emphasis mine)

Expoilting a nine year old girl’s twenty four day disappearance, and in the process vilifying her family and an entire community, to microwave a set of by-numbers arguments against the welfare state. Vile, just vile.

Here are the facts: a little girl went missing for 24 days. Her family was worried sick. Her community was united in solidarity. With luck, hard work and a tireless police investigation, she was eventually found safe and well. Anyone trying to use this case to further their own agendas is just sick. From an earlier post:

Though it wasn’t widely reported in the national media, the people of Dewsbury Moor were magnificent. From the moment Shannon’s disappearance was publicised, hundreds of people dropped what they were doing to try to help. They combed the streets looking for her, organised marches to publicise her plight. They put up posters, made banners and pushed flyers into the palms of passers-by. People who on another day might’ve seen the police as an intrusive enemy put that to one side to volunteer any information they had. On modest resources, they did everything they could think of to help bring her back home. So much for ‘broken Britain.’

They did these things because, whether fractious or not, the complex social lives in this small, densely-populated community are what make it a community in the first place – nearly everyone knew someone who’d dealt with those associated with the Matthews family, whether it was Karen or Shannon, her father, step-father, grandparents, cousins or friends.

The right-wing press is already trying to frame the Matthews case as a sign of the moral & societal collapse of working class Britain. But they can’t have it both ways: if being poor is part of the reason why Shannon went missing, then it’s also responsible for outpouring of humanity, generosity and hard work that came as a response to it.

Everything else is just bullshit.



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  1. […] dirt cheap. It’s cheap when you blame Fiona MacKeown for her daughter’s murder or Karen Matthews for her daughter’s abduction. It’s cheap when you blame the country’s problems on […]

  2. […] Shorter Melanie Phillips – Shannon Matthews had it coming Filed under: British Politics, Working Class Britain   |   Tags: Allison Pearson, Karen Matthews, Melanie Phillips, Shannon Matthews, Working Class Britain […]

  3. Yeeees … except it turns out she probably staged the whole thing to try and get some money, and now has her house boarded up because the community – which, as you say, threw itself into helping her at the time – didn’t take kindly to being betrayed like this.

  4. […] there more serious focus on the poverty kids like Shannon were growing up in, rather than the snobbish seething over her mother’s personal […]

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