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Neil Hamilton
"If you are goingto be rude I shall put the phone down"
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Wednesday, 22 December, 1999, 11:00 GMT
Hamilton joins TV tantrums hall of fame

Neil Hamilton has earned himself a place in the television tantrum hall of fame by putting the phone down on BBC Breakfast News presenter John Nicholson during a live interview.

He told Nicholson, who had questioned the former MP on his financial backers: "If you are going to be rude and unpleasant, I shall put the phone down."

Libel Trial
Mr Nicholson replied: "Mr Hamilton, that's your right, but you agreed to come onto the programme and I am interested in finding out-"

And the phone went down.

Mr Hamilton's tantrum will probably go down as just a footnote on his failed libel case.

But for others who have been involved in similar storms, their names are forever written in broadcasting history.

nott Sir John Nott: Stormed out
  • In 1982, the then Tory defence secretary, Sir John Nott, stormed out of an interview with Sir Robin Day after he described him as a "here today, gone tomorrow minister".

    Sir John tore off his microphone and walked out.

  • In 1996, Clare Short, the secretary for overseas development but then shadow transport secretary, proved uncharacteristically tight-lipped when she refused to discuss the acrimonious London Underground strike on BBC Newsroom South East.

    She finally snapped off her lapel microphone and walked out.

  • Tory Michael Heseltine walked off the set of Channel 4 News when he saw that Clive Ponting, a former civil servant who had been acquitted of leaking official secrets, was also due to be on the programme.

  • The Bee Gees failed to see the funny side of chat show host Clive Anderson's wisecracks when they were interviewed on his show in October last year.

  • bee gees Bee Gees: Not 'tossers'
    When the Brothers Gibb admitted that one original name for the group had been "Les Tosseurs", Anderson quipped that they would "always be tossers" to him.

    Barry Gibb fired back: "If anyone is a tosser round here, it's you, pal." The trio then stormed out after just five minutes on camera.

  • Grace Jones earned herself the honour of countless repeats on television when she started slapping the late Russell Harty, having objected to his line of questioning.

  • Camille Paglia stormed out of a televised interview with the veteran broadcaster Jonathan Dimbleby last year.

    After 20 minutes of scrutiny of the theories which have earned her the description "the anti-feminist feminist", Ms Paglia decided that she had had enough.

    Jumping up from her seat, she grabbed her shoulder bag and walked off down the corridor.

  • paglia Camille Paglia: Called Dimbleby a "popinjay"
  • But interviewers met their match in Margaret Thatcher.

    During a tense encounter in 1983, she repeatedly referred to the veteran journalist as Mr Day, despite him having received a knighthood at Mrs Thatcher's recommendation, not long before.

    At one point Mrs Thatcher warned him he was going too far.

    Day replied that it was part of his job. "Yes, indeed," the former prime minister retorted. "It's part of my job to stop you."

    He reminded her that it was not a party political broadcast but an interview, which depended on him asking questions.

    At the end of the interview, he apologised for interrupting, to which she coolly replied "That's all right. I can cope with you."

    The Daily Telegraph later described Sir Robin as being "crushed with the effortlessness of a beautiful coiffeured steamroller flattening a blancmange".

  • Neil Kinnock and Peter Mandelson: Minds at one
  • Radio too has had its fair share of testy times. Peter Mandelson, as minister without portfolio, lost his temper with Radio Four's Martha Kearney, on her second day hosting the World at One in 1997.

    Refusing to answer questions about spin doctoring, he berated Kearney: "I think the reason why media people like you like talking about news management is because you really rather prefer talking about yourselves and your work and your lives in the media than talking about things that interest the bulk of the population."

  • Neil Kinnock, then Labour leader, also took issue with the World at One. In 1989, in an interview with James Naughtie, he lost his rag and said he was not "bloody kebabed" by Naughtie, although he did moderate his outburst by calling him "Jim".

    As the Today's programme's John Humphrys has said, it's all a long way from the days when an interview would respectfully ask if there was anything more the minister would like to add.

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    See also:
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    Al-Fayed to show no mercy
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    Hamilton loses libel case
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    Fayed's faith in British justice restored
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    Mobil may have sealed Hamilton's fate
    21 Dec 99 |  UK Politics
    Profile: Neil Hamilton
    21 Dec 99 |  UK
    Profile: Mohamed al-Fayed
    21 Dec 99 |  UK
    George Carman: King of the court

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