You are currently browsing the daily archive for March 17, 2021.

Last week, the United Kingdom saw three significant developments curbing freedom of expression.

This post explores the first incident.

On the morning of Monday, March 8, 2021, the nation received snippets of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex interview with Oprah Winfrey.

ITV broadcast the interview in full that evening.

ITV is also home to Good Morning Britain (GMB), the rival programme to BBC Breakfast.

Until last week, Piers Morgan was a co-host on the show with Susanna Reid. Weatherman Alex Beresford also sits down to join in the conversation.

ITV recruited Piers several years ago to help prop up the show’s sagging ratings. The strategy worked. Regardless of what one thinks of him, he is a polemicist sans pareil.

On September 25, 2019, the show welcomed then-MP Rory Stewart (Conservative) to talk about the court case against Boris Johnson’s prorogation of Parliament and Brexit. It was a dismal time for the Government.

Piers noted that Stewart had won the award from GQ: Politician of the Year.

The Express reported (emphases mine below):

“You’ve had the old GQ curse,” Morgan added. “Because I was made GQ’s Editor of the Year and later GQ’s TV Personality of the Year, both cases I lost my job that I got it for within several months.

Rory Stewart became confused and walked off the set, by mistake. For whatever reason, he thought the interview was over.

However, although Piers Morgan’s remark was blunt, it ended up being true. Not only did Stewart not stand for re-election in December 2019, he also packed in his campaign to run for Mayor of London in 2020.

On November 18, Morgan rightly took issue with Prince Andrew’s interview with the BBC’s Emily Maitlis. The Express reported about Morgan’s tweet, which read:

“Brilliant forensic dissection by @maitlis – desperate, toe-curling bulls*** from Prince Andrew.

“Why on earth did he do this? Insane.”

Morgan is known for his continuous tweeting. One wonders how he manages to find time to do anything else.

On Friday, December 13, there was a right royal row on GMB after Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour lost in the worst drubbing since 1935. I watched this and it was magic. The Conservative pundit Iain Dale, who was part of the mostly female panel, actually walked off the set. This was pure ratings heaven, partly thanks to Piers Morgan:

The Sun has more about Morgan’s scathing views of Labour and celebrity Remainers from that day.

Here’s one of his tweets, which, like it or not, is spot on:

In 2020, just after the New Year, the Sussexes announced they would be pursuing their life together away from the Royal Family.

Morgan tweeted furiously on January 8, replying to cricketer Kevin Pietersen:

He tweeted about their announcement, his dislike of the Duchess, his disappointment in the Duke, the couple’s hypocrisy, their media rules, the shabby way they treated the Queen and his criticism of people who know nothing about the Royal Family.

The following day, Morgan wrote a column for the Daily Mail railing against the couple. The newly elected Conservative MP Jonathan Gullis was so taken aback that he invited the Duchess to his constituency of Stoke-on-Trent North to see the sights:

Guido Fawkes has more on the story.

By the middle of January 2020, the couple were living in Canada. Piers’s column for the Daily Mail on January 15 criticised the Duchess for visiting a homeless women’s shelter. He tweeted like mad that day, too.

The Mail promoted his article:

One week later, Morgan and weatherman Alex Beresford had a discussion about the backlash against the Duchess. Both points of view are understandable, but you can see Morgan’s skill as a polemicist in play, thanks to his long background as a journalist and tabloid editor:

The perspectives in that exchange resurfaced in March 2021.

On Monday, March 8, before the interview was aired, GMB had ITV’s royal correspondent Chris Ship on to discuss the snippets that had appeared so far from Oprah’s interview broadcast in the US on Sunday:

Already, there were calls for Piers to go:

Tuesday, March 9, proved to be the final straw. Here he is with Alex Beresford discussing the interview which ITV had aired the night before. Piers had enough and walked off:

He later returned to finish the show:

Remember that a big part of a polemicist’s role is to attract attention. In the case of GMB, Morgan was after ratings. He was not wrong.

Like it or not, his strategy worked:

Hours later, he and ITV agreed he should leave GMB (more here):

Here is a short version from the Daily Mirror‘s Showbiz Editor Mark Jefferies:

The next day, Chris Ship tweeted that the Duchess had complained about Morgan’s polemics:

In his farewell tweet to his colleagues, Morgan mentioned ratings. Job done!

A lot of people seriously dislike Piers Morgan. I am in complete disagreement with his support of the Government’s coronavirus damaging strategy. Americans dislike him for his views on gun control. Millions of Britons are angry with him about his views on the Sussexes.

However, there is something important for us to bear in mind, in Piers Morgan’s own words:

We have to get comfortable talking about the uncomfortable.

I fully agree. We used to be able to have civilised debates on television. Sadly, we have lost the ‘lively art of conversation’, as the late Chicago talk show host Irv Kupcinet used to say.

In closing, Piers Morgan encouraged the participation of his son in last summer’s protests and tweeted about it at the time.

So, rather than censor, let’s have the maturity to discuss and listen to all points of view, few of which are as binary as censors — official or unofficial — like to claim.

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