Radio 4 might have you reaching for the sick bucket. But John Mcdonnell nails why it’s done us a favour.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, John Humphrys and John McDonnell
Emily Apple

Radio 4‘s Today programme on 29 August might have had people reaching for the sick bucket. John Humphrys held a sycophantic interview with Jacob Rees-Mogg where the MP dismissed the outrage people are feeling at the suspension of parliament as a “candyfloss of outrage”.

Luckily, shadow chancellor John McDonnell was on hand to point out why the interview might have done us all a favour:

Stop the coup!

The Queen has granted permission for Boris Johnson to ‘prorogue’ parliament. Johnson claims that the suspension is purely in order to start a new session of parliament. But critics, including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, believe it’s an attempt to force through a no-deal Brexit. McDonnell has also described it as a “coup”. Protests have already taken place. More are planned and calls for a general strike trended on Twitter on 28 August. Meanwhile, over a million people have signed a petition demanding parliament isn’t suspended.

As leader of the House of Commons, Rees-Mogg appeared on the programme to justify the government’s position. Given the context, a casual listener could be forgiven for thinking this should have been a robust interview. But the programme started with a sickening lovefest between Rees-Mogg and Humphrys.

Rees-Mogg thanked Humphrys for his “distinguished service on the Today programme”. He continued:

There is always a frissance in being interviewed by someone who interviewed Margaret Thatcher and Nigel Lawson

Humphrys replied:

since we’re in a friendly mood, tell us about your chat with the Queen yesterday morning

Guess what? It didn’t get any better

The interview largely carried on in a similar manner. After spending time praising the Queen, Humphrys quizzed Rees-Mogg on whether parties should still have their conferences in the UK’s current predicament. In response, Rees-Mogg claimed that:

there’s no pressing legislative issue relating to Brexit that would interrupt the party conference season.

Rees-Mogg described the reaction to the suspension of parliament as a “candyfloss of outrage”:

The people who are banging on about no-deal… [the] candyfloss of outrage that we’ve had over the last twenty-four hours… is almost entirely confected… from people who never wanted to leave the European Union

He also stated:

The Queen’s speech new session of parliament is a completely routine part of our constitution. It’s not archaic. It’s not arcane. It normally happens every year.

Human rights barrister Marc Willers summed up his feelings about the programme:

‘Sneering contempt’

It wasn’t just McDonnell who commented on the interview. Labour MP David Lammy also spoke out about it:

Meanwhile, Green peer Jenny Jones put Rees-Mogg right on his suggestion in the programme that almost everyone who is ‘outraged’ about the suspension of parliament was a Remain voter:

Even a Conservative MP corrected Rees-Mogg’s assertion:

As McDonnell pointed out, Rees-Mogg dripped ‘arrogant contempt’ throughout the interview. And Humphrys essentially propped him up. Although he did offer a few challenges to Rees-Mogg, there was none of the sneering and constant interruptions that Humphrys regularly utilises with other interviewees.

We have an unelected prime minister trying to subvert democracy. The very least our public broadcaster should be doing is properly holding him and his cohort to account.

Featured image via BBC/screenshot, YouTube/BBC Newsnight and Wikimedia/Transition Heathrow

Get involved

  • Protests to stop the coup are taking place across the country. On Saturday 31 August, get active and get on the streets in London, Liverpool and Manchester.

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  • Show Comments
    1. It may be true that the Rees-Mogg interview has done us a favour, but not many people listen to the Today programme. Humphrys seems to be sinking into a relaxed display of his conservative views as he nears retirement. He likes to write about language, mainly what he think of as its misuse, on the level of an 18th century author of a manual of linguistic etiquette for polite young ladies who has a fit of the vapours at “Felicity and me went to Lord Neverwork’s ball.” A misunderstanding of language. He should leave it to Noam Chomsky.
      What was perhaps just as alarming was this morning’s questioning by Justin Webb who suggested that demonstrating makes people extremists. A measure of just how far we have lost a sense of what democracy is. Power is ours. We lend it to politicians. We don’t have to be deferential and apologetic to them. We are not extremists if we refuse to sit at home watching Peaky Blinders while our democratic rights are stripped. The deal is we agree to play by the rules but the politicians must do so too. Justin Webb seemed to imply that blocking bridges etc is extremism. Stopping traffic is extremism and shutting down parliament isn’t? No violence. We reject that out of hand. Violence is the resort of those who have run out of arguments. But peaceful, disruptive protest, that’s legitimate.

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