Chris Bryant calls Kay Burley “a bit dim” live on air

Sky News presenter clashes with Labour MP over phone-hacking saga.

Kay Burley -- the Sky News anchor whose aggressive interview technique during the lead-up to the election triggered an online campaign to sack her -- has had another heated on-air exchange, this time with the Labour MP Chris Bryant, who called for a debate on the phone-hacking scandal.

It gets heated just before the two-minute mark. When Burley repeatedly asks whether he is comfortable making the assertion that phone-hacking was "endemic", he calls her out on not having read the Information Commissioner's report, or listened to the debate. She responds:

KB: You are in a position to have listened to the debate, and have read the report. As a result, you are content to say that on telly?

CB: [Incredulous] I have just said it. You seem to be a bit dim, if you don't mind me saying so.

And it's not over there. The following exchange comes at about 3.55 minutes, after Bryant says that sensitive constituency calls could be accessed:

KB: [Dismissively] You changed your Pin, so that wouldn't have happened.

CB: No, no, see, that's not true. [Shouting] No, no, no, LISTEN. That is simply untrue. It was nothing to do with Pin numbers in my case.

KB: OK, well that was the impression we got from Yates at the Yard.

CB: Well don't lie, then. Don't lie. Don't say what you don't know, madam.

KB: If Andy Coulson is guilty of phone-tapping -- and it seems that that will eventually . . . may or may not become the case -- what should happen to him?

CB: To be honest, I think Andy Coulson is a sideshow in all of this. That's not my interest. I didn't refer to Andy Coulson in the debate at all.

KB: But I am now.

CB: Well you've obviously got a view, so tell the nation what you think your view is.

KB: I'm here to play devil's advocate, sir -- you may know how these sorts of programmes work. I just wondered what you thought. Nobody cares what I think. We care what you think, because you wanted the debate.

CB: I wanted the debate not to talk about Andy Coulson, as I've explained.

It's not the first time that Burley has come to blows with an interviewee. Back in May, this interview with David Babbs of the campaign group 38 Degrees also triggered criticism:

 

Who will be next?

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

How Jim Murphy's mistake cost Labour - and helped make Ruth Davidson

Scottish Labour's former leader's great mistake was to run away from Labour's Scottish referendum, not on it.

The strange revival of Conservative Scotland? Another poll from north of the border, this time from the Times and YouGov, shows the Tories experiencing a revival in Scotland, up to 28 per cent of the vote, enough to net seven extra seats from the SNP.

Adding to the Nationalists’ misery, according to the same poll, they would lose East Dunbartonshire to the Liberal Democrats, reducing their strength in the Commons to a still-formidable 47 seats.

It could be worse than the polls suggest, however. In the elections to the Scottish Parliament last year, parties which backed a No vote in the referendum did better in the first-past-the-post seats than the polls would have suggested – thanks to tactical voting by No voters, who backed whichever party had the best chance of beating the SNP.

The strategic insight of Ruth Davidson, the Conservative leader in Scotland, was to to recast her party as the loudest defender of the Union between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. She has absorbed large chunks of that vote from the Liberal Democrats and Labour, but, paradoxically, at the Holyrood elections at least, the “Unionist coalition” she assembled helped those parties even though it cost the vote share.

The big thing to watch is not just where the parties of the Union make gains, but where they successfully form strong second-places against whoever the strongest pro-Union party is.

Davidson’s popularity and eye for a good photo opportunity – which came first is an interesting question – mean that the natural benefactor in most places will likely be the Tories.

But it could have been very different. The first politician to hit successfully upon the “last defender of the Union” routine was Ian Murray, the last Labour MP in Scotland, who squeezed both the  Liberal Democrat and Conservative vote in his seat of Edinburgh South.

His then-leader in Scotland, Jim Murphy, had a different idea. He fought the election in 2015 to the SNP’s left, with the slogan of “Whether you’re Yes, or No, the Tories have got to go”.  There were a couple of problems with that approach, as one  former staffer put it: “Firstly, the SNP weren’t going to put the Tories in, and everyone knew it. Secondly, no-one but us wanted to move on [from the referendum]”.

Then again under different leadership, this time under Kezia Dugdale, Scottish Labour once again fought a campaign explicitly to the left of the SNP, promising to increase taxation to blunt cuts devolved from Westminster, and an agnostic position on the referendum. Dugdale said she’d be open to voting to leave the United Kingdom if Britain left the European Union. Senior Scottish Labour figures flirted with the idea that the party might be neutral in a forthcoming election. Once again, the party tried to move on – but no-one else wanted to move on.

How different things might be if instead of running away from their referendum campaign, Jim Murphy had run towards it in 2015. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

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