Before Melanie Phillips was ‘mad’: Her role in uncovering the ‘virginity testing’ controversy

Daily Mail columnist Melanie Phillips is retiring from writing for the newspaper. Amongst the right-wing columnists that abound in the British tabloids, Phillips’ often bizarre rants have earned her the nickname ‘Mad Mel’. The blog Left Foot Forward has posted a collection of ‘Mad Mel’s top five rants, which make for some great (yet bleak) reading.

Guardian front page

But I thought I’d mention that before Melanie Phillips became ‘Mad Mel’, she was a social affairs journalist for The Guardian and broke the ‘virginity testing’ story for the newspaper in 1979, as seen in this archival piece from The Guardian‘s website. The ‘virginity testing’ controversy centred around the gynaecological examination of a South Asian women at Heathrow when she tried to enter the country on a fiancee visa, and soon led to a widespread investigation into racially discriminatory practices within the UK immigration control system (you can find out more about our research into this here).

It is bizarre how the investigative journalist who broke this story in 1979 has become the right-wing columnist that we know (and don’t love) today. I wonder what she would write if the ‘virginity testing’ story broke now…

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3 comments

  1. I was going through the archives on a social care mag I used to work for a few years back in order to write the “funny page”. Came across a story about Philips being sent to Newcastle to cover the impact of the social work strike.
    Apparently she was being the good journalist, knocking in doors, asking the locals. However, at one door a little kid start screaming out the window shouting at his mother not to answer the door. So it seems she was a bit scary even then. The mother quietened the child by telling him that the visitor was only a journalist and not a new social worker.

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