If you want confirmation that TV walkouts never benefit the walker, have a glance at the footage of Piers Morgan in action.
Ha, ha! Yes, this is one of those hilariously misleading openings that refers to something other than the week’s favourite virtual-watercooler debate. Why are you unpinning your lapel microphone? We have another 700 words to go. Okay, well I’ll just have to continue without you.
If you were still here I’d ask if you remembered the briefly infamous American politician Christine O’Donnell. In 2010, the Tea Party favourite ran in the special election to replace Joe Biden as Delaware senator when that veteran became vice- president. O’Donnell’s losing campaign was not helped by an ancient video in which she admitted to experimenting with witchcraft while at college. A year later, promoting a new book, she walked off Morgan’s CNN show after he probed her gently about her views on gay marriage.
“Don’t you think, as a host, if I say ‘this is what I want to talk about’, that is what we should address,” she said. “Not really, no,” Morgan replied (correctly, to be fair). After claiming she was being summoned away, O’Donnell made to stand up. “I’m still here,” Morgan said with an implied chortle.
Even Morgan’s worst enemy would admit he was not the one left looking foolish. “Christine O’Donnell is the first author in the history of publishing to walk out of a TV interview because the host apparently read her book,” he later said.
Never start a land war in Asia. Never go into coalition as the junior party. Never storm off a television show
The dynamics of Morgan’s recent stomp from the Good Morning Britain show were somewhat different – not least because he was the host. “You can trash me, mate, but not on my own show,” he said following weather presenter Alex Beresford’s criticism of his comments regarding the duchess of Sussex. Morgan did, however, again hand advantage straight to those left behind. “You know what, that’s pathetic. This is absolutely diabolical behaviour,” Beresford remarked as Morgan made like the character on My Super Sweet 16 who had been given a Porsche in the wrong colour.
Never start a land war in Asia. Never go into coalition as the junior party. Never storm off a television show. Complete retreat in warfare should, at least, bring the conflict to an end. If, however, you walk away from a live broadcast, those remaining will be left with another five or 10 minutes to pull faces and make onanistic hand gestures (not that nice Susanna Reid would dream of such a thing).
The most famous TV walkout in British political history occurred in 1982 when John Nott, defence minister at the time of the Falklands War, went for the lapel when Sir Robin Day, famously owlish interlocutor, referred to him as "a transient, here-today and, if I may say so, gone-tomorrow politician". Day smirked. A contemporaneous news report referred to "the brittleness of John Nott's mood". Mr Nott was, nonetheless, sufficiently good natured about the incident to title his autobiography Here Today, Gone Tomorrow.
The broadcast huff-away is more often associated with entertainers. The Bee Gees’ famous exit from The Clive Anderson Show in 1997 is worth revisiting for Maurice Gibb’s apparent bewilderment at his brothers’ evacuation. “Oh well I guess I’d better join them,” he says, rising from his chair and going for the lapel. “You can stay,” Anderson pleads. “Well, I’d love to but I don’t do impressions,” Maurice sighed.
Any decent chap would have sympathy for Samuel Preston – the artist more commonly known as Preston – when, after Simon Amstell repeatedly read extracts from his girlfriend Chantelle Houghton's memoir, he gallantly walked away from a recording of Never Mind the Buzzcocks. But even he later admitted it was the wrong strategy. "I'm struggling to think why I would have acted so weird," Preston told the BBC a decade after the retreat.
The unhappy truth is that it is almost impossible to storm off with dignity
A media strategist highlighting the dangers of the televised self-ejection could do worse than point to footage of Jack O'Connor's extended exit from Tonight With Vincent Browne in 2017. The Siptu general secretary turned to his own lapel after pressing Browne about TV3's position on collective bargaining. "I ask you questions. Not the other way around," the great man kicked back.
Following a few minutes of Browne attempting to talk his guest from the metaphorical ledge – during which Ruth Coppinger and Eamon Delaney adopted the lowered-eye look of damaged children during a ferocious parental row – O'Connor finally made his way into the wings.
Rarely has Vincent Browne looked so delighted. As the producers played Hit the Road, Jack over the end credits, he chirped excitedly like a canary who’s noticed that the next pile of seed is on its way to his cage.
The unhappy truth is that it is almost impossible to storm off with dignity. There may be extreme circumstances when such an exit is necessary – realising your host is a neo-Nazi, say – but, in the normal run of affairs, it is never wise to abandon the battlefield to your unopposed interlocutor.
If you were still here you’d admit this was true.