In the air, he's sh*te: The Times and the defenestration of Philip Collins

The circle jerk of praise for the fired columnist rings hollow if you've actually read him

Cue the drum machine pattern and the slightly-distant electric guitar solo. Bring in the keys. And now, the signing…

I can feel it coming in the air today that Philip Collins, the now-former Times columnist, will continue to get publicly fellated by former colleagues and ‘foes’ from across the media as the fallout from his defenestration continues.

Collins was, until the end of this week, a fixture on The Times editorial pages.

But, according to that source of sewer gossip, Guido Fawkes, he’s now been binned because:

If that’s true — and the IF you should deploy whenever Guido Fawkes reports something should be large enough to squash the Hollywood sign — then Collins’ entire raison d’etre at The Times was to pour buckets of shit on Corbyn. That’s a job he did with relish, being, as he is, so Blairite he probably sings Things Can Only Get Better just before he cums.

Collins’ CV makes it abundantly clear why he was a useful chump for The Times. His Wikipedia page — again about as reliable as Times editors when it comes to removing bigotry from Giles Coren’s 1,000 weekly columns — describes him as “a British journalist, academic, banker and speechwriter.” So a jack of all trades and a snide git in all of them. After working as an equity strategist in investment banking (mmm, what ethics), he became an advisor to pseudo-Labour MP Frank Field before hopping over to UCL’s Institute of Education then the BBC and London Weekend Television.

Of course, he spent some time at a think-tank — the terribly un-Labour-like Social Market Foundation (described as “John Major’s favourite think-tank…” and founded by now Tory peer Daniel Finkelstein (another Times columnist) — and then into Tony Blair’s speechwriting team. He wrote Blair’s final speech as Leader of the Labour Party but despite getting his name nudged onto a list of candidates for the Bolton South East constituency, he didn’t stand. Fucking around with theories in columns is a lot easier than the practical application of politics.

As well as being a leader writer and columnist for The Times, he did double and triple duty as a Visiting Fellow at the LSE and associate editor at the drippy centrist Prospect. In 2009, he wrote a pamphlet with Richard Reeves, who went on to become Nick Clegg’s director of strategy. It’s called ‘The Liberal Republic’ and is somehow both a turgid read and maddening. It shares those qualities with Collins’ work for The Times so it maybe that’s just his style.

In an edition of Private Eye earlier this month, it was reported that:

"Collins is currently working out his notice after being sacked by editor John Witherow for being insufficiently boosterish about the Woosterish Boris Johnson."

I believe the original source for that news line was a Mr P. Collins, but I obviously have no proof other than my eyes, ears and experience

Collins is married to newsreader Geeta Guru-Murthy who is the sister of Krishnan Guru-Murthy of Channel 4 News. Being excellent at the news obviously runs in the family, but has sadly not rubbed off on Collins.

It’s fair to say that as a regular reader of The Times, I was not a fan of Collins’ oeuvre…

… but, as is so often the case when a fellow Verified Twitter user hits the skids, the Blue Ticks* have swarmed to praise Collins as though he is their king:

While I stop laughing at Montgomerie’s contention that Unherd publishes a ‘diverse’ range of voices — from quite mad to totally batshit — please note that all of those tweets of praise were easy to find, Collins has been retweeting the lot.

And, of course, with all that ego burnishing, he has been crowing on about how ‘no one tells me what to write’. As I covered early on in this newsletter’s life, the notion that columnists need to be told what to write is false. They simply understand the boundaries of what they are allowed to stay and navigate within them to keep favour and ultimately their jobs.

Throughout his time at the… uh… Times, Collins represented the most mildly left of positions, existing as he does on the left of the centre-right. That he evidently sees himself as Che Guevara with a beard trimmer and a ‘nice’ suit is as tragic as it is funny. He was a stooge but seemingly never realised.

Collins has not been fired because he was ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know,” but because he is a used prophylactic. The Times got what it needed and has now flung him towards the waste bin where he will be snatched up by some other newspaper like one of those mortifying scenes where a dog runs off with a full condom.

Enjoy your breakfast!

*Yes, yes, I’ve got a Blue Tick on Twitter but it’s from a previous permanent role and a bit like a vestigial tail