An angry Richard Madeley terminated a live TV interview with Gavin Williamson after the Defence Secretary dodged his question four times.
The ITV Good Morning Britain guest presenter demanded to know whether Mr Williamson regretted telling Russia to “go away and shut up” after Moscow denied responsibility for the Salisbury poison attack.
The Defence Secretary responded by paying tribute to health workers who treated Sergei and Yulia Skripal and highlighting the support offered to the UK by the international community.
But Madeley – who described Mr Williamson’s earlier comment as “Trump-esque” – repeatedly interrupted him to demand an answer, before finally pulling the plug.
The exchange went:
RM: You told Russia to ‘shut up and go away’. Do you regret that now? Do you think it was a bit too informal?
GW: I’d like to pay tribute to the health service personnel who did an amazing job…
RM: No sorry, could you answer the question? No, no, no, no, no, no, no. I’m sure you do want to pay tribute to them. No, no, Mr Williamson. I asked you a straight question. We can talk about tributes to the health services in a minute. Do you regret using that kind of casual language? That’s the question. Could you answer that question, please?
GW: Well, what we saw is we saw an atrocious attack on British soil. You saw a British citizen and his daughter were targeted. And actually, how we responded to that is the world united behind Britain and we showed Russia we wouldn’t be divided…
RM: Yes. Do you regret telling Russia to shut up and go away’? Mr Williamson, please answer the question. Mr Williamson, you are just not answering the question. I’m asking the question not on my behalf but on behalf of our viewers, so on behalf of the viewers, would you please answer the question. Do you now regret telling a nation state to ‘shut up and go away’? Do you think that was too casual an expression? Could you please answer that question?
GW: Well, I think that what everyone saw is Russia’s actions against our citizens in a city here in the United Kingdom…
RM: Yes, you’re telling us what we know. We know what happened in Salisbury, we know how atrocious it was, we know how close these people came to death. The question is – I’ll try it one more time – do you regret using very casual Trump-esque language like ‘shut up and go away’? Please don’t tell me what happened, because we know what happened. Do you regret using that language? That is the question.
GW: What was right was actually that we came together with our allies and made it absolutely clear to Russia that they couldn’t act in that…
RM: Right, you’re not going to answer, are you? OK. All right, interview terminated because you won’t answer the question. It would be helpful if you answered a straight question with a straight answer.
After the Defence Secretary had disappeared from the screen, a clearly exasperated Madeley said: “What are they like? What are these politicians like, when you give them a straight question?
“It would have been so easy to say, ‘No, I don’t, I think it was an appropriate expression’, or to say, ‘Yes, probably, on reflection, I should have perhaps been a little more formal’.”
Mr Williamson was speaking from West Midlands Safari Park in Worcestershire, where he was meeting military personnel preparing to go to Malawi to train park rangers to protect elephants and rhinos from poachers.