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.

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Who will win in Stoke-on-Trent?

Labour are the favourites, but they could fall victim to a shock in the Midlands constituency.  

The resignation of Tristram Hunt as MP for Stoke-on-Central has triggered a by-election in the safe Labour seat of Stoke on Trent Central. That had Westminster speculating about the possibility of a victory for Ukip, which only intensified once Paul Nuttall, the party’s leader, was installed as the candidate.

If Nuttall’s message that the Labour Party has lost touch with its small-town and post-industrial heartlands is going to pay dividends at the ballot box, there can hardly be a better set of circumstances than this: the sitting MP has quit to take up a well-paid job in London, and although  the overwhelming majority of Labour MPs voted to block Brexit, the well-advertised divisions in that party over the vote should help Ukip.

But Labour started with a solid lead – it is always more useful to talk about percentages, not raw vote totals – of 16 points in 2015, with the two parties of the right effectively tied in second and third place. Just 33 votes separated Ukip in second from the third-placed Conservatives.

There was a possible – but narrow – path to victory for Ukip that involved swallowing up the Conservative vote, while Labour shed votes in three directions: to the Liberal Democrats, to Ukip, and to abstention.

But as I wrote at the start of the contest, Ukip were, in my view, overwritten in their chances of winning the seat. We talk a lot about Labour’s problem appealing to “aspirational” voters in Westminster, but less covered, and equally important, is Ukip’s aspiration problem.

For some people, a vote for Ukip is effectively a declaration that you live in a dump. You can have an interesting debate about whether it was particularly sympathetic of Ken Clarke to brand that party’s voters as “elderly male people who have had disappointing lives”, but that view is not just confined to pro-European Conservatives. A great number of people, in Stoke and elsewhere, who are sympathetic to Ukip’s positions on immigration, international development and the European Union also think that voting Ukip is for losers.

That always made making inroads into the Conservative vote harder than it looks. At the risk of looking very, very foolish in six days time, I found it difficult to imagine why Tory voters in Hanley would take the risk of voting Ukip. As I wrote when Nuttall announced his candidacy, the Conservatives were, in my view, a bigger threat to Labour than Ukip.

Under Theresa May, almost every move the party has made has been designed around making inroads into the Ukip vote and that part of the Labour vote that is sympathetic to Ukip. If the polls are to be believed, she’s succeeding nationally, though even on current polling, the Conservatives wouldn’t have enough to take Stoke on Trent Central.

Now Theresa May has made a visit to the constituency. Well, seeing as the government has a comfortable majority in the House of Commons, it’s not as if the Prime Minister needs to find time to visit the seat, particularly when there is another, easier battle down the road in the shape of the West Midlands mayoral election.

But one thing is certain: the Conservatives wouldn’t be sending May down if they thought that they were going to do worse than they did in 2015.

Parties can be wrong of course. The Conservatives knew that they had found a vulnerable spot in the last election as far as a Labour deal with the SNP was concerned. They thought that vulnerable spot was worth 15 to 20 seats. They gained 27 from the Liberal Democrats and a further eight from Labour.  Labour knew they would underperform public expectations and thought they’d end up with around 260 to 280 seats. They ended up with 232.

Nevertheless, Theresa May wouldn’t be coming down to Stoke if CCHQ thought that four days later, her party was going to finish fourth. And if the Conservatives don’t collapse, anyone betting on Ukip is liable to lose their shirt. 

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