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.

Getty Images.
Show Hide image

Jeremy Corbyn challenged by Labour MPs to sack Ken Livingstone from defence review

Former mayor of London criticised at PLP meeting over comments on 7 July bombings. 

After Jeremy Corbyn's decision to give Labour MPs a free vote over air strikes in Syria, tonight's Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) meeting was less fractious than it could have been. But one grandee was still moved to declare that the "ferocity" of the attacks on the leader made it the most "uplifting" he had attended.

Margaret Beckett, the former foreign secretary, told the meeting: "We cannot unite the party if the leader's office is determined to divide us." Several MPs said afterwards that many of those who shared Corbyn's opposition to air strikes believed he had mishandled the process by appealing to MPs over the heads of the shadow cabinet and then to members. David Winnick declared that those who favoured military action faced a "shakedown" and deselection by Momentum activists. "It is completely unacceptable. They are a party within a party," he said of the Corbyn-aligned group. The "huge applause" for Hilary Benn, who favours intervention, far outweighed that for the leader, I'm told. 

There was also loud agreement when Jack Dromey condemned Ken Livingstone for blaming Tony Blair's invasion of Iraq for the 7 July 2005 bombings. Along with Angela Smith MP, Dromey demanded that Livingstone be sacked as the co-chair of Labour's defence review. Significantly, Benn said aftewards that he agreed with every word Dromey had said. Corbyn's office has previously said that it is up to the NEC, not the leader, whether the former London mayor holds the position. In reference to 7 July, an aide repeated Corbyn's statement that he preferred to "remember the brilliant words Ken used after 7/7". 

As on previous occasions, MPs complained that the leader failed to answer the questions that were put to him. A shadow minister told me that he "dodged" one on whether he believed the UK should end air strikes against Isis in Iraq. In reference to Syria, a Corbyn aide said afterwards that "There was significant support for the leader. There was a wide debate, with people speaking on both sides of the arguments." After David Cameron's decision to call a vote on air strikes for Wednesday, leaving only a day for debate, the number of Labour MPs backing intervention is likely to fall. One shadow minister told me that as few as 40-50 may back the government, though most expect the total to be closer to the original figure of 99. 

At the end of another remarkable day in Labour's history, a Corbyn aide concluded: "It was always going to be a bumpy ride when you have a leader who was elected by a large number outside parliament but whose support in the PLP is quite limited. There are a small number who find it hard to come to terms with that result."

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.