You are not supposed to be able to avoid having an opinion about Piers Morgan, and on the first edition of Good Morning Britain after his exciting departure, the references to Marmite were thick and gloopy. “Unique is the word to describe Piers Morgan,” his esrtwhile co-host Susanna Reid said. “You either loved him or, you know, in some cases, people hated him.”
Whenever in doubt, she returned to the binary: “Some of you may cheer and others may boo … He has been a voice for many of you and a voice that many of you have railed against … He has many critics, and many fans.”
Among all these opinions, however, it was impossible to avoid the fact that Reid and her colleagues managed the impressive feat of dodging all of them. Or, occasionally, voicing several at once. “He is without doubt an outspoken, challenging, opinionated, disruptive broadcaster,” she said at 6.30am, a choice of vigorous but value-neutral adjectives that recalled my mother’s advice on how best to compliment an unusual-looking infant: “Now that’s a baby!”
If that line ever ran out of puff, Reid and her stand-in co-host, Ranvir Singh, adopted the strategy of television anchors filling time as they watch a car crash unfold since time immemorial: say what you see. “Piers has decided to leave the programme,” Reid said. “He has been my presenting partner, Monday to Wednesday, for more than five years.” He exists, an event happened, and I am describing it to you, and that is the thing that happened, sentences are constructed of words, and now here’s Laura with the weather.
“It’s all change in the world of weather!” Laura Tobin said, and as with almost every other innocent utterance for almost three hours, you wondered if she MEANT SOMETHING. Singh asked her about a meteor, “Not in this studio, somewhere else.” Morgan’s meteorological adversary Alex Beresford was presumably at home enjoying his day off with some toast and, probably, not Marmite.
Nobody could accuse GMB of dodging the subject, and the programme does, after all, have plenty of experience of weaponising Morganite controversies for ratings. At one point, Singh nearly let a view poke through: “He is someone who had no fear about how people saw him, or the impact, possibly, that what he said had on other people.” Meanwhile, Morgan was on Twitter channelling Winston Churchill, who once said that “some people’s idea of free speech is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone says anything back, that is an outrage.”
Sadly, Churchill is not available for interview on his view of those remarks being deployed by a man who 24 hours earlier had walked off his television set because somebody said something back. Instead there was Paul Burrell. There were Dyson ads about the value of properly cleaning your house. There was somebody with a perma-tan and a pocket square who looked like a disgraced Republican senator trying to explain that his account had been hacked, but turned out to be Dr Hilary Jones. The morning television juggernaut continues to exist, and it rolls along, and that is what is happening, and now let’s talk to Lorraine. “He’s a very loyal friend,” she said. Reid didn’t say anything about that.