As breakfast TV aficionados may have noticed, the team at ITV’s offering Good Morning Britain has recently been augmented by the presence - for three mornings a week, at least - of former Screws and Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan, who, it is not giving away any secrets to say this, has a Print Media Establishment background, with fierce loyalties to his many friends in that arena. So ITV knew who they were hiring.
Additionally, Ms Reid warned that things were going to get lively. So there can be no doubt that ITV knew who they were inviting on, and that Morgan and Harris were unlikely to feature on one another’s party guest lists. The discussion initially focused on the “Celebrity Threesome” and the injunction against its reporting, but to make the wider point about the press’ selectivity when it comes to invading privacy, soon arrived at Morgan’s past.
Evan Harris pointed out to Morgan that the kind of injunction he was railing against was used by his pals Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson to conceal their affair. Piers hadn’t had any problem with that, had he? It was this that wound Morgan up to the point of bursting. It got worse: Harris then reminded Morgan that the Mirror, under his editorship, had been involved in phone hacking on a significant scale.
The Hacked Off man surmised that Morgan was either incompetent, or had been complicit. By this time, former Lib Dem MP John Hemming, the other participant in the debate, had been forgotten as a desperate Piers Morgan accused Harris of having demanded that the press run the John Whittingdale story for a fortnight (wrong and wrong), insisting that there was no public interest aspect in that story (and thrice wrong).
Hacked Off issued no press release before Brian Cathcart was invited on by BBC Newsnight to comment. This was after Byline Media had run two articles on the Whittingdale story, Zelo Street had covered it in several posts, Private Eye had done a full page feature, and Newsnight had run its own report. There were several public interest aspects pointed up by all of those. Piers Morgan is plain flat wrong.
Normally unflappable, Morgan ended the encounter actually looking shaken (give or take the odd parting insult at Evan Harris), as Ms Reid was forced to intervene - I suspect the GMB team had given the signal to forcibly end hostilities - and save his blushes. It’s not a good look to have to make a repeated and dishonest allegation against a guest in order to shut them up, and that is what it looked like.
But neither Morgan, nor those who run GMB, can have any complaints. Free speech, which the press says it favours, doesn’t half wind up its pals sometimes.