A breakfast TV appearance should not be an onerous duty for any seasoned politician. So why London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan has allegedly been avoiding ITV’s Good Morning Britain might baffle some. But this is a story that speaks not only to the increasingly confrontational nature of that show, but also the infiltration of the tabloid press into the broadcast arena - and the inability of ITV bosses to keep their hosts under control.
Or, rather, that should be host singular: the presence pushing to get the Mayor on GMB is that of former Screws and Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan, whose rhetoric has been increasingly shrill of late. His behaviour has also been a dead giveaway.
What is also clear is that Morgan’s use of his breakfast bully pulpit to rant at Khan is happening at the same time as one part of our free and fearless press is also attacking the Mayor - the Murdoch Sun. It is almost as if the two are in lockstep.
In late March, Morgan ranted “SIX knife murders in London in the past week. This is appalling. What are you going to do about it, Mr Mayor @SadiqKhan ??” In early April, it was “This is happening on YOUR watch, Mr Mayor @SadiqKhan - what are you going to do about it?”. Then, two days later, came the Sun to back him up.
“MURDER CAPITAL Sadiq Khan faces calls to resign over London’s spiralling murder rate after another teenager gunned down overnight … The Mayor of London, who vowed to increase stop and searches in January to to tackle the issue, is now under huge pressure” screamed the headline. Morgan’s Tweet was included in the attack.
This was supported by so-called “Opinion” columns, typified by miserable bigot Rod Liddle the day after the Sun’s attack. Liddle called the Mayor a “vacuous dwarf”. Thus the level of discourse when it comes to the Sun and politics.
Quoting the Sun - entirely coincidental, you understand
Morgan continued his attack on the Mayor throughout May. “You're not keeping Londoners safe. That's the point. Stop hiding, Mr Mayor @SadiqKhan & come on @GMB tomorrow to discuss this very urgent issue. Our viewers are entitled to hear from you … Another stabbing in London. You prepared to come on @GMB tomorrow & discuss this, Mr Mayor @SadiqKhan - or are you going to keep ducking tough questions? … Great to see @SadiqKhan on @GMB today talking about the terrible threat of junk food on public transport. Especially as he refuses to come on @GMB when I am there to talk about the explosion in knife crime happening on his watch. Grow a pair, Mr Mayor”.
Goading, sneering … and then came the Sun in support. “WHERE'S SADIQ? London Mayor Sadiq Khan ‘would rather share selfies than face up to crime crisis’ as he tweets about electric cars and new museums … Top Tories blasted the Mayor for sharing fluffy pictures online while crime rates spiral”. Top Tories? Well, James “not so” Cleverly, at least.
The following day, the inmates of the Baby Shard bunker were back on the attack. “SADIQ MUST GO Sadiq Khan should QUIT as London Mayor if he can’t end deadly crime wave, says Stephen Lawrence pal who was with teenager when he was murdered”. Only at the foot of the article is it admitted that Duwayne Brooks has joined the Tories.
And, after a two week break, back it was to Piers Morgan. “UPDATE: London Mayor @SadiqKhan will not be appearing on @GMB tomorrow. He's bottled it once again. Meanwhile, moped & knife crime continue to rocket on his watch. Your silence is shameful, Mr Khan”. Guess which paper faithfully reported that?
Yep, the Sun. “PIERS Morgan today tore into ‘gutless’ Sadiq Khan for refusing to appear on TV to address London's crime crisis. The Good Morning Britain host said the Mayor of London had ‘bottled it’ by supposedly pulling out of a planned interview on the ITV show”.
No connection between ITV and News UK ...
Er, hang on a minute, what’s that “supposedly” doing there? Ah well. “Mr Khan hit back, insisting he'd never agreed to talk to Mr Morgan in the first place - and ITV bosses then admitted they had screwed up”. Will Morgan be saying sorry to the Mayor?
... that's totally untrue ...
As if you need to ask. Not a peep from the Morgan Twitter feed. And why Sadiq Khan should subject himself to what would not be so much an interview as a premeditated shouting down is an interesting question. It also speaks to Piers Morgan’s links with the Murdoch press, and ITV’s inability to keep him under control.
... there's no evidence to support that idea ...
Morgan and News UK’s CEO Rebekah Brooks go back a long way together. They look out for one another; old pals, part of the Old Media set and all that. Piers Morgan is especially sensitive to any mention of her name, as Evan Harris of campaigning group Hacked Off demonstrated recently in another of those “interviews” that was anything but.
Harris had been invited on to talk about the Celebrity Couple and that Threesome that we cannot talk about for legal reasons. He mentioned that Ms Brooks and Andy Coulson had used the same kind of injunction to keep their affair out of the papers.
... not so much as a shred
Morgan lost it, shouting down Harris, partly by maliciously lying. More than once. The encounter should be instructive to anyone thinking of subjecting themselves to that same treatment. Once Morgan was off and running, there was little his co-host Susanna Reid could do to stop him. And that is what awaits Sadiq Khan.
Moreover, that an encounter between Khan and Morgan might have, shall we say, other overtones is a thought that is never far away, not after Twitter excursions like “Before we scrap @realDonaldTrump's visit, @SadiqKhan - how about we scrap passports for all jihadists streaming back into UK from Syria?” What does Khan have to do with the potential rescinding of passports? OH WHAT A GIVEAWAY.
ITV bosses know Morgan and Ms Brooks are old pals. They know the Sun is running attacks on the London Mayor alongside Morgan’s own tirades. What this would mean if Khan were to agree to an “interview” is in the realms of the bleeding obvious.
Piers Morgan lied in order to shout down Evan Harris. He lied about Sadiq Khan coming on GMB. ITV’s bosses have failed to keep him under control, with the result that viewers get not so much interviews, but shouting-down exhibitions from a mouth artist promoted way above his pay grade. London’s Mayor is right to give this charade short shrift.
As to where that, and the proximity of the Murdoch press, leaves a supposedly impartial breakfast TV show, well, you might like to ask that - I couldn’t possibly comment.