Fresh humiliation for Cleverly as claim to sidestep ’empty chair’ scandal exposed as false

Right-wing attempt to escape humiliation gets Tory chair double dose

Humiliated afresh: James Cleverly

A right-wing attempt to get James Cleverly off the hook of his cowardly embarrassment on Wednesday morning’s media has backfired, heaping fresh humiliation on the Tory chair’s head.

Cleverly was ’empty-chaired’ by Sky News presenter Kay Burley when he refused to come on-screen for an interview in which he was meant to be trying to defend the appalling comments of Jacob Rees-Mogg about victims of the Grenfell Tower blaze.

Kay Burley and Cleverly’s empty chair

Cleverly’s failures on earlier media programmes were presumably too much for him – but he was humiliated when Burley pointed out he was in the studio only fifteen feet away and asked her questions of the empty chair instead. Many wags said it was the most credible Tory interview in a long time.

Cleverly’s come-uppance quickly went viral – and Tory campaign chiefs were clearly desperate to rubbish Burley’s version of events, because reports began to circulate that Cleverly had only failed to appear because he was involved in a phone interview at the time with right-wing radio host Julia Hartley-Brewer.

But one sharp-eyed Twitter user very rapidly – and incontrovertibly – exposed the claims as absolute nonsense.

Alex Andreou pointed out that at the time Cleverly was supposed to be on Sky with Burley, Talk Radio was advertising that Cleverly was “coming up next” half an hour later:

Not only that, but the time-stamp on the catch-up version of the programme made it clear that Cleverly was appearing later:

And Hartley-Brewer asked Cleverly on the programme about his empty-chairing by Burley – proving definitively that the attempt to whitewash his Sky News cowardice was desperate invention by Tory spin-doctors:

Instead of diverting Cleverly’s shame, the desperation of his handlers has simply given it fresh legs, making it loom even larger – and compounding the Tories’ disastrous start to their election campaign.

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  1. Burley: “[the chair] was supposed to be filled by the chairman of the Conservative Party. I’ve been in to see him during the break and he said he wasn’t due to talk to us today, although they had said that they would talk to us.
    That’s not the same as saying that he’d been booked to appear, and she specifically didn’t say WHEN ‘they’ had said said that ‘they’ would talk to ‘us’.
    Sounded to me like she was being economical with the truth.

    If he hadn’t been booked – even if he WAS sitting just 15 feet from her waiting for his Talk Radio interview to start – is it possible she saw him and got her producer to ask his aide on the spur of the moment to be interviewed and that she was pissed when the aide said “yes” and Cleverly said “no” after she’d announced he’d appear?

    What if he said something like “Sorry, no, it’s nearly time for my Talk Radio interview. They booked me and it wouldn’t be fair to broadcast a spoiler on your programme immediately before theirs.”

    I don’t want to make excuses for ANY Tory but I just don’t see a proven case here.

    1. Sorry, David but I don’t think that Cleverly was on a sightseeing tour of the studios at the time. Why was he there? I, for example don’t go to a cafe just to watch other people eat lunch….

      1. I was dimly aware of BBC and Sky being at Millbank Studio and assumed the fact that he was on air with talk radio less than 20 minutes later meant they had facilities at Millbank too.
        Ass and umption.
        Now I’m assuming that “down the line” from Millbank, the significance of which escaped me, must mean an electronic connection.
        It’s not an expression or a technique I’m familiar with.
        I get it now, thanks.

  2. It wasn’t nearly time for his radio interview…

    No way they would have done this if it hadn’t been booked. And Definitely not during an election!

    1. I don’t know whether it was booked or not – but if it had been I’d have expected her to say so in no uncertain terms, because it’s crucial to the rights and wrongs of the situation.
      “He said he wasn’t due to talk to us today” – nothing vague or wishy-washy about that.

      “It wasn’t nearly time for his radio interview…” suefewuk?
      Talk radio interview was time-stamped almost 20 minutes after Burley empty-chaired him – so less than 20 – according to Alex Andreou.
      To me less than 20 minutes qualifies as ‘nearly’.
      Time for prior discussion of rules of engagement between interviewer and guest or both their assistants is also expected with interviews as I understand them.

      Again – I don’t want to give the liars an inch – but part of being better than them is not knowingly twisting or skating around facts like they do.

  3. Just been listening to Rebecca Long Bailey being monstered by Rachel Burden on Five Live, nowt wrong with that if its justified,
    I dont know,
    As a matter of policy questions on ONS measurements of inequality and a Dianne Abbott style accusation that RBL got wrong previously should be looked at
    Take a breath, tear the interview apart and if it was unjustified either RBL or the next Labour spokesperson should put the record straight with 5 live and Ms Burden
    If it was justified then do your home work and do better next time

    1. Who or what is RBL? Has Rachel Burdon got another name or is this a third person? Or is her programme called Rachel Burdon Live?
      Did somebody get something wrong?

  4. And when your being monstered and the interviewer is being rude you are allowed to be rude back an stand up for yourself, give them a taste of their own medicine

    1. Another carreer politician,doesn’t defend because she actually does not believe in much of what she says.Most good politician’s have a passion for the partys beliefs and manifesto , its not difficult to push the message you believe in…..and thats the problem with the career shows.forget double barrel Bailey for interveiws,and the deputy leadership.

      1. “forget double barrel Bailey”

        You are a bit governed by knee-jerk assumptions about the superficial that you see as markers, Joseph.

        I hold no candle for Long-Bailey, and I didn’t see that interview, so can make no judgment about her performance.

        But a lot of women these days do either simply keep their own surnames after marriage or use a joint double-barelled name as a sensible alternative. It has nothing to do with aristocratic roots or aspirations!

    2. “Allowed?” Morally, yes. Thing is though, broadcasters editing output is standard practice. It’s far more effective when it’s subtle and goes unnoticed rather than being ridiculously blatant like the Tories editing Starmer to appear stuck for an answer.
      The fact that interviewers have notes and an earpiece for the editors to guide their questions makes TV news almost invincible.
      They always try to rattle MP’s into angry responses – it’s a great boost for their job prospects. I believe it’s called “doing a Paxman.”
      If all our MP’s could be as calm, collected and well informed as Barry Gardiner the Tories would probably surrender rather than face an election.
      Any ill-tempered reply will be all over the airwaves for days – and the interviewer gets away with a shrug and “Holding MP’s to account on the public’s behalf is our job.”

      1. Politicians know what they’re in for, and should be prepared for it.

        We can argue about the protocol, common politeness and the effectiveness of aggressive interviewing – but it is a fact of life on air, and whining about bias rather misses the point. It gets dished out to both sides – and many of the older farts here will remember the classic hissy fit of John Nott removing his microphone and walking away from a Robin Day interview at the time of the Falklands war.

        The point is – the foot-stamping didn’t harm Day at all, but made Nott a well-remembered laughing stock.

        My own view is that the Paxman/Humphreys style of interview isn’t very clever (and in the case particularly of Humphreys did indeed betray his own predilections). Probing questions delivered calmly by an incisive intellect are generally much more effective than constant interruptions to put pre-conceived lines of provocation.

        But we are where we are – with relatively few calm and ‘incisive intellects’ in the interviewing business. Spokespersons need to be prepared and armed with rebuttal techniques and information without getting wound up. There have been plenty of comments here about the opposite happening – particularly when the interviews touch on the ‘antisemitism’ scam, which provides clear test cases of what *not* to do when faced with attack.

        Above all, although it’s not easy, it is a necessary part of the essential equipment for any PPC.

  5. Javid’s on his feet, rambling and bumbling incoherently like he did in his Budget speech. His timing and phrasing is just dreadful.
    Shame there’s no Bercow today to put him out of his misery.
    Victoria Derbyshire saved him greater embarrassment by cutting him off to go back to the far more important issue of unfairly withheld deposits on student accommodation.

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