stupido: The fall of Philip Collins (formerly of The Times) shows the perils of being a fig leaf

A petulant leaving letter doesn't make up for years of snide cheque taking.

So take a look at me now
Well there's just an empty space
And there's nothing left here to remind me
Just old newspapers strewn about the place…

So it has finally come to pass, Philip Collins (no, not that one — this one has a lustrous head of hair) has finally been defenestrated from The Times having spent several weeks rather embarrassingly hanging from the ledge.

And with the competence that News UK executives are so renowned for, he was left with access to his company email account until the very last moment, sparking a leaving email which has been leaked extensively. Jim Waterson of The Guardian had it first, but I was sent it by several Times staffers who obviously have oodles of loyalty for big Rupes and little Phil.

I’m not going to go through Collins’ columns again today as I wrote a whole issue about those textual abominations when news of his sacking first broke. You can read it here…

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

Instead, I want to write about the idea of being the ‘token leftie’ at a paper like The Times, which is something like being the most valued ice cube in hell or a virgin maid in a brothel. Lots of publications have wanted a fig leaf to cover the gnarled genitals of their true political stances. Philip Collins spent 12 years pressed up to the sweaty balls of The Times’ baser instincts.

A line in the typically graceless Guido Fawkes take on Collins’ sacking tells you everything you need to know about the right’s attitude to his work:

His entertaining antithetical attitude towards Corbyn had extended his relevance for years beyond the sell-by-date of most media Blairites. Phil did well to last 12 years…


That’s what Collins was there for: He was nominally a representative of the Labour tribe and his existence on the Comment pages of The Times was predicated on him slapping the party around in print, especially Jeremy Corbyn.

While you can make all sorts of arguments about the ineffectiveness of Corbyn’s responses to many things, what Collins was assigned to do was not to strongly criticise Labour from the perspective of a natural supporter but to use his time in the Blair administration as a stick to beat the current leadership with.

But now Sir Keir ‘Keith’ Starmer is in the driving seat of the clown car and speeding toward electoral irrelevance with an attitude that should get the Labour Party renamed The Managerial Party, Collins’ party tricks are no longer amusing to Murdoch and his men in grey suits. So long and thanks for all the rotten fish.

Collins has fooled himself he was doing something other than providing ideological air cover for even more unpleasant columnists like Melanie Phillips. If he were left-wing in any real sense, he would not countenance spending even a day sharing the same ink as Anders Brevik’s favourite columnist.

But Collins spent over a decade on the same pages as people who essay the vilest positions, both for money and the respect of their fellow racists. He should serve as a warning to all baby hacks — don’t be persuaded to be the ‘alternative view’ in a paper where everyone else hates what you’re supposed to stand for and care about.

While Philip Collins will kid himself that he broadened perspectives at the paper, in truth, he spent 12 years screaming into a tin bath for the amusement of people who thought he was a clown the whole time. He is and was a weapon, a fire-and-forget-and-fuck-it missile aimed at the heart of any left-wing project, at any attempt to persuade the world that it might be possible to make things even a little bit better.

Collins is a “well, actually…” guy, a banker turned think-tanker turned columnist, whose only real contribution is to have made the other Philip Collins — the proper one who did Sussudio — the less Tory man of that name, despite the singer and drummer having at one point divorced one of his wives by fax and jumped the country to become a tax exile.

While Phil Collins gave us In The Air Tonight, Philip Collins only ever gave us another Times column that’s shite.