Emily Thornberry’s gaffe-laden Sky interview was down to incompetence, not sexism

by Kevin Meagher

It’s not particularly hard, being Shadow Foreign Secretary.

Clearly you don’t actually run anything and all you have to do is echo what the government of the day is saying in relation to international events, affecting a suitably grave intonation.

Perhaps you urge a bit of restraint here, a bit more dialogue there, but, in the main, you take a bi-partisan approach.

When he was the Lib Dems’ foreign affairs spokesman, Menzies Campbell turned this into an art form, quoting back to broadcasters the received opinions he has read in broadsheet newspapers’ editorials that morning.

And that’s a big part of the job; skimming through the foreign pages, keeping tabs on the Foreign Office’s website and, if you’re really diligent, reading the Economist and Foreign Affairs.

By osmosis, you will pick up who’s who and what’s what.

Judging by her horrendous, comet-ploughing-into-Planet-Earth interview with Dermot Murnaghan on Sky News yesterday, Emily Thornberry certainly doesn’t know her ‘who’s who’.

When asked the name of the French foreign minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, Ms Thornberry went off, in the vernacular, “on one”.

 “Don’t start pub quizzing me, Dermot” she scolded.

“Do you know what, what really upsets me about your attitude to me is that you do this with me. I don’t remember you doing it with anybody else, you know.

“Have you done it to David Davis? Have you asked these questions? Do Sky journalists have a go at Boris Johnson on this basis? How about Liam Fox? Do you do pub quizzes with them?”

When asked about the on-going incidents and accusations of anti-Semitism in the party, she responded:

“There is always more to be done and do you know what, there is certainly a lot more to be done by the Tories and I certainly think sometimes when it comes to sexism, some Sky presenters need to look at themselves too.

“I really do. It really upsets me that every time I come on here, you do another pub quiz with me because you do not do it with anybody else and I do think that it’s patronising.”

It’s perhaps inevitable she alighted on sexism as the cause of her downfall.

This is, sadly, the familiar refrain of a generation of Labour women politicians, like Thornberry, who find themselves promoted beyond their abilities.

Presumably agents of the shadowy Patriarchy were whispering in Dermot’s ear from the control booth. ‘She’s a woman, so ask her detailed questions, women don’t understand details…’

Thornberry had not done her homework. It was as simple as that. Can you seriously imagine Robin Cook not knowing the name of the French foreign minister? Or, perhaps Thornberry’s predecessor-but-one, Yvette Cooper?

And given Sunday political interviews are so utterly tedious, with presenters desperate to stoke stories of splits or to pile into a floundering frontbencher, any hint of a gaffe is pounced upon and magnified. Gender doesn’t come into it.

No, this was a mess of Thornberry’s own making. As the daughter of a former deputy general-secretary of the United Nations, a degree of intellectual dexterity on matters foreign would be assumed.

But that’s just me being sexist, innit?

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Uncut

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9 Responses to “Emily Thornberry’s gaffe-laden Sky interview was down to incompetence, not sexism”

  1. Tafia says:

    Her gaffes elevate her to an exclusive club which in recent years has inducted by Ed Balls, Ed Miliband, Gordon Brown, Wayne David, Jack Straw (and Will), Chuka Umanna, Yvette Cooper, Carwyn Jones etc etc.

    You can google any high ranking Labour politician since time immemorial and find gaffe after gaffe on camera, on radio, in print.

  2. Mark Livingston says:

    Sky News is a Murdoch mouthpiece and, as such, it routinely supports Labour’s Blairite hardliners and puts down Corbyn. The last thing Murdoch wants is a Labour party which promotes a socialist agenda. He’d have to pay a bit more tax!

    Murnaghan should have gone the whole hog and asked her a) the price of a pint of milk, b) the price of a terrace seat at Norwich City, c) the name of the education minister in Ghana. He’s sure to have caught her out with one or more of those!

  3. Matthew Moore says:

    Meritocracy gives May, the vicar’s daughter. All-female shortlists give Lady Nugee, daughter of a UN deputy DG and utter incompetent.

  4. John p Reid says:

    Typical of the hard left,play the victim,when they’ve lost the argument,play the feminist, when they don’t want you to answer back

  5. Dragonfighter says:

    I have just seen the whole interview and now understand why Murnaghan asked her for the name of the French foreign minister.
    She said that her officials were arranging a meeting with the French foreign minister, without naming him.
    In an interview or conversation if you say that you are meeting someone you use their name unless you don’t know their name, in which case you use their title or position. In some cases you may use both eg. I need to see Sally the branch chair about.. . or I have to see my Doctor, Doctor Smith tomorrow. Only when you don’t know the name do you just use the title, eg I have to meet the new supervisor a work tomorrow.

  6. madasafish says:

    I watched a recording of the interview. I certainly would not expect the Shadow FS to know the names of her opposite numbers.. but I would expect her to know how to deal with questioning.

    Aggressive, rude, arrogant. with no idea of how to conduct herself when in a difficult position are the kindest words I can find.

    But then “white van man” woman is hardly in touch with real people.

  7. Richard MacKinnon says:

    “………..all you have to do is echo what the government of the day is saying in relation to international events……”
    This statement hardly needs a comment. It speaks for itself.
    Kevin Meagher thinks all a SFS has do is read the papers and ” By osmosis, you will pick up who’s who and what’s what.”

    OK Emily Thornberry got caught out on the Sky interview with a clever journalist. I think she handled it reasonably well, she never lost her cool. But to Kevin it was a disaster of Old Testament chapter one proportions. Kevin likes his metaphors so Kevin thought about it for a time, and what is the biggest explosion he could come up with “comet-ploughing-into-Planet-Earth”. Well done Kevin when it comes to a crash they don’t come any bigger.

  8. DJ says:

    “Can you seriously imagine Robin Cook not knowing the name of the French foreign minister?”

    But can you imagine him being asked? The best result from these pub-quiz questions is to answer them correctly but your interview is forgotten in 30 seconds, the slightly less impressive is to carry on with the point you wish to make and appear to ignore the question but then you seem argumentative or shifty. Thornberry’s option is somewhere in the bottom two (is it worse than getting the answers wrong?) but she may, indirectly, have a point….

    It would be interesting to trawl back through Sky’s interviews (given how biased Kay Burley seemed to be to David Cameron compared to Ed Milliband) to see if Conservative voices also got this style of questioning or whether it was just a verson of “no-platforming” voices Sky naturally disagrees with.

  9. John P Reid says:

    Mark Livingston, did you read dragonfighters comment

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