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:
Let me thank Boris Johnson or Cummings or whoever decided to put up Jacob Rees Mogg for the BBC’s Today programme. He displayed their arrogant, “born to rule”, contempt for our Parliament democracy, for many of his colleagues and for our people that marks out the Johnson regime.
— John McDonnell MP (@johnmcdonnellMP) August 29, 2019
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
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
— BBC Radio 4 Today (@BBCr4today) August 29, 2019
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:
— Marc Willers QC (@mwillersqc) August 29, 2019
It wasn’t just McDonnell who commented on the interview. Labour MP David Lammy also spoke out about it:
Sneering Jacob Rees-Mogg's contempt for our democracy epitomises what's gone wrong in this country.
— David Lammy (@DavidLammy) August 29, 2019
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:
Hi @Jacob_Rees_Mogg I not only voted Leave, I campaigned for it, as @DanielJHannan will confirm. But I do not want no deal. And as Molly says, I am outraged by your disregard for our democracy. https://t.co/aDJmOT8kPb
— Jenny Jones (@GreenJennyJones) August 29, 2019
Even a Conservative MP corrected Rees-Mogg’s assertion:
Jacob Rees-Mogg continues to peddle the line @BBCr4today that all MPs worried by NoDeal only want to remain in EU. It’s untrue,he knows it. I’ve voted to leave consistently since accepting Referendum result. He has not. That’s why we’re where we are. Pandora’s Box now open wide. https://t.co/Oq0H1BGVDV
— Alistair Burt (@AlistairBurtUK) August 29, 2019
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.
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