Love him or loathe him, Piers Mor­gan is an unmissable part of morn­ing tele­vi­sion with seem­ingly every one of his in­ter­views mak­ing the head­lines. spends a morn­ing in the pre­sen­ter’s in­flam­ma­tory com­pany

Belfast Telegraph - Weekend - - INTERVIEW -

It’s 6.30am and I’m in the gallery of the Good Morn­ing Bri­tain stu­dio watch­ing le­gions of cof­fee-ad­dled pro­fes­sion­als at­tempt to keep Piers Mor­gan on the rails. Mor­gan — Twit­ter provo­ca­teur, close friend of Don­ald Trump, the coun­try’s most un­ruly TV an­chor­man — is live and on-screen, ca­pa­ble of do­ing any­thing be­tween now and the 8.30am end cred­its. Only the ul­tra-sharp put downs of co-host Su­sanna Reid and the mes­sages the gallery re­lays to Mor­gan through the ear­piece (which he might re­move at any mo­ment) can stop him.

Right now, for ex­am­ple, he is ask­ing Ali­son Saun­ders, direc­tor of pub­lic pros­e­cu­tions — who is on the show to dis­cuss a rise in the re­port­ing of sex­ual ha­rass­ment — how she would feel if he wolf-whis­tled her… Ah, but it’s okay! Saun­ders is blush­ing and say­ing she’d rather like it.

Piers Mor­gan on Good Morn­ing Bri­tain is a chal­leng­ing propo­si­tion. You can’t work out if you want to cringe, laugh or scream at the screen or smack your­self be­cause you just agreed with that last thing Mor­gan said. It is ex­haust­ing, ex­hil­a­rat­ing and em­bar­rass­ing, and view­ers adore it. He is cur­rently on a three-week break un­til next week and peo­ple have been won­der­ing on­line where he is.

Since Mor­gan joined in Oc­to­ber 2015, the show’s au­di­ence share has risen 24% (it now reg­u­larly peaks with 1 mil­lion view­ers).

I ask him why when the show is fin­ished. The two of us sit on a sofa to the side of the stu­dio. He’s tak­ing up a lot of it, one of those rare celebri­ties who isn’t smaller in real life.

He is 52 years old, 6ft 1in, broad-shoul­dered and tubby — though less tubby than he was (he’s got a £5,000 weight-loss bet on with his pseudo arch neme­sis, Lord Su­gar, over who can lose the most weight by the fi­nale of The Ap­pren­tice in De­cem­ber).

He is boom­ing, brash, a shameless ex­am­ple of that rad­dled old cliche about mas­culin­ity: the al­pha male. Piers Mor­gan is all those aw­ful things you think — but he’s also funny, fun, gen­er­ous and game. Also, by all ac­counts, a nat­u­ral on break­fast TV.

“What you’ve got to re­mem­ber is, it’s theatre,” he tells me. “If it’s se­ri­ous news, if it’s triv­ial non­sense. We’re ba­si­cally in a theatre and you want to make ev­ery­thing re­veal­ing, dra­matic, en­ter­tain­ing.”

This would, I guess, ac­count for the on-screen scrap he had the day be­fore with Ge­orge Mon­biot, writer and en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivist, who was on the show to pro­mote ve­g­an­ism (Mor­gan pointed out he was wear­ing a leather watch strap), or the time Ewan McGre­gor pulled out of an ap­pear­ance last minute be­cause Mor­gan was host­ing.

Mor­gan promptly turned McGre­gor’s noshow into a story in its own right. No one, Mor­gan tells me, is more sur­prised than he to find him­self do­ing this. “Never ap­pealed to me. I thought the hours would be com­pletely bru­tal. And they are.” He was orig­i­nally asked to fill in on GMB for a brief week in 2015. “He­len Warner, who was run­ning day­time, rang and said: ‘Would you con­sider a week?’ I said: ‘I’d rather shoot my­self,’ which would have been ironic, given my gun stance. Then I thought about it, said: ‘What can go wrong for a week?’” What in­deed? “Within one hour, we had to is­sue a first apol­ogy for my be­hav­iour, which led to an Of­com rul­ing. We had a French guy and he kept say­ing some­thing that sounded like the F word, only we thought it was a French word — but it wasn’t. And I kept laugh­ing.” Much of the aw­ful, com­pul­sive bril­liance of GMB is de­rived from the un­usual dy­namic Mor­gan shares with co-host, Su­sanna Reid. The pair tease, snip, snipe, fall out and fall back in again, like rau­cous sib­lings. Did their re­la­tion­ship show in­stant prom­ise? “No! She thought I was ab­so­lutely hor­rific. This beast comes in, crack­ing ter­ri­ble jokes. She was very much queen bee on break­fast TV for a long time, I was very al­pha male, and when you’re putting an al­pha male and a queen been ear each other... let the en­ter­tain­ment be­gin.” Mor­gan’s week of fill­ing-in evolved into a three-day-a-week com­mit­ment, and two years later — hav­ing en­am­oured him­self to Reid (“my jokes, she now gets”) and ne­go­ti­ated with ITV so that he might roll into the stu­dios at 5.30am rather than at 4.15am with ev­ery­one else — he has just signed up for another year. Are they pay­ing him ex­tor­tion­ate amounts? “They pay me what I’m worth.” Which is? “A lot.” More than Reid? “I have no idea what she’s paid. I don’t think it would mat­ter to her even if she found that I was be­ing paid more, be­cause she, I think, would be the first to ac­cept that I’ve slightly re­done the wheel here. I bring a com­pletely dif­fer­ent kind of feel. I think she’s truly bril­liant, worth every penny ITV gives her, but I don’t know what that is.” Does he fancy her? “Of course. Who doesn’t?” Does he think Reid se­cretly fancies him back? “Ab­so­lutely not.” Mor­gan has a com­pli­cated RISE AND SHINE: re­la­tion­ship with women. I’ve never had any doubt he likes us; and not just be­cause he’s a fan of our aes­thetic. Heaven knows, he is: in his first week at Good Morn­ing Bri­tain, co-pre­sen­ter Kate Gar­raway re­minded him live on air that when she’d mar­ried lob­by­ist Derek Draper, Mor­gan had sent a wed­ding mes­sage say­ing: ‘If I’d known the bar was set so low, I’d have had a crack my­self!’ Yet at the same time: the first time I in­ter­viewed him, he told me he thought women make bet­ter jour­nal­ists, and he’s proud of how many he em­ployed as a news­pa­per editor.

“I think I’m an ab­so­lute fem­i­nist!” he tells me now. “I’ve only had bat­tles with the more rad­i­cal end of fem­i­nists over stuff like The (2017) Women’s March, which wasn’t a gen­uine march for equal­ity but just Trump bash­ing.” Right, I say, but Trump ad­vo­cates the grab­bing of women by the p **** …

“I just felt (The Women’s March) didn’t ad­vance women’s equal­ity one iota.”

Who wears the trousers in his mar­riage (his sec­ond, to the writer Celia Walden, mother of his five-year-old daugh­ter, Elise)? “She does!”

He romps through some of the big politi­cal and cul­tural sto­ries of the day. “Opin­ions are my job,” he says. The We­in­stein rev­e­la­tions have just bro­ken — Mor­gan, who has known We­in­stein for years, swears he had no idea. “I knew he had a tem­per, but not this”. The Las Ve­gas shoot­ings are barely two weeks old. Mor­gan is pas­sion­ate about gun con­trol. He cov­ered the Dun­blane shoot­ings in 1996 while at the Mir­ror, “the sin­gle worst story I ever cov­ered, I had re­porters ring­ing me in tears”.

In 2012, while he was host­ing his own nightly CNN news show, Piers Mor­gan Tonight, in the US, he be­came vo­cal about re­duc­ing gun ac­cess in the wake of the Sandy Hook shoot­ings — a stance widely be­lieved to have con­trib­uted to the can­celling of that show in 2014. How does he square that passion with his friend­ship with the US President, who is do­ing noth­ing to re­form gun con­trol laws? “I’ve got lots of friends with dif­fer­ent points of per­sua­sion. I’ve got fam­ily

Piers Mor­gan and Su­sanna Reid. Be­low: the pair on Good Morn­ing Bri­tain and be­low right, with his wife Celia Walden

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