Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

Shadow foreign secretary accuses “patronising” Sky News presenter of sexism


The shadow foreign secretary has accused a TV presenter of sexism after he repeatedly quizzed her on the names of foreign politicians.

Emily Thornberry was appearing on Sky News’ Murnaghan show on Sunday morning to discuss plans to visit France and Germany for post-Brexit talks. The show’s presenter, Dermot Murnaghan, challenged her to name the French foreign minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault.

“Don’t start pub-quizzing me, Dermot,” responded Thornberry.

It was the beginning of a heated exchange in which Murnaghan also asked Thornberry to give the name and gender of Park Geun-hye, the president of South Korea, and Thornberry alleged that Murnaghan routinely asks her “pub quiz” questions when she appears on his show – a habit he apparently does not perform with her male political counterparts.

“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 to anybody else, you know,” she said. 

“Have you done it to [Brexit secretary] David Davis? Do Sky journalists have a go at [foreign secretary] Boris Johnson on this basis? How about [international trade secretary] Liam Fox? Do you do pub quizzes with them?”


Emily Thornberry said that Dermot Murnaghan's questions were "patronising".

Later in the show, when Murnaghan asked her about allegations of antisemitism and sexism in the Labour party, Thornberry responded: “There is always more to be done… 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 anyone else and I do think that is patronising.”

Read more: Why female politicians could put an end to Brexit chaos

Murnaghan insisted that he had asked male politicians similar questions in the past, citing a 2011 interview where he asked the then shadow chancellor Alan Johnson to give the current rate of employers’ national insurance contributions. Johnson was unable to answer and resigned 10 days later for “personal reasons”.

Murnaghan went on to say that he has asked Thornberry such questions because she is the shadow foreign secretary and the shadow minister in charge of Brexit. At this point, a clearly angry Thornberry asked for their conversation to be taken off the air.

The shadow foreign secretary later told BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour that she had “a bit of history” with Murnaghan.

“When I was first made shadow defence [secretary] I remember getting loads of questions about ‘what do you know about defence? You know nothing about defence’… It was as if I was needing to get permission to be heard.”

Thornberry added: “I'm sure I should know the names of the foreign secretaries of all 192 countries but I don't.”

Read more: Why did it take so long for another woman to rise to the top in British politics?

Opinion was split on Twitter as to whether the shadow foreign secretary had been fair in accusing Murnaghan of sexism.

Isabel Hardman, assistant editor of conservative magazine The Spectator – who sparked a minor political controversy in April after revealing she’d reported a male MP who called her “totty” – tweeted: “Hum. Never realised I could just use ‘sexism’ as a cover-all excuse for not doing my homework.”

Ruth Davidson, the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, tweeted that Thornberry was “debasing” the term. 

However, Labour MP Paul Flynn defended Thornberry, tweeting that “Murnaghan’s cheap smart-aleck pub-quiz question” were distracting from the important issues that Thornberry had been there to discuss – including the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the British woman recently jailed in Iran on "secret charges".

Image: Rex Features



Nicola Sturgeon aims to break “taboo” of miscarriage


New mums face “shocking” discrimination at work, say MPs


Naked breasts are more French than the veil, says Prime Minister

istock accident and emergency nhs.jpg

Here’s what our health service looks like to an outsider


“Politics and glitter don’t mix”

philip davies.jpg

Women hit back at MP Philip Davies’ anti-feminist speech


The best A-list Instagrams from the week so far

From Selena Gomez’s empowering message to Blake Lively making the rounds

by Nicola Colyer
18 Oct 2017

Jennifer Lawrence was forced into a naked line-up by a producer

In the name of weight-loss “inspiration”

by Amy Swales
17 Oct 2017

Abigail Breslin’s photo reveals how domestic abuse can stay with you

The actor has opened up about the realities of living with PTSD

17 Oct 2017

“Why Liar is proof that TV's depiction of rape is damaging to women”

The proliferation of rape in TV and film is a real problem for the representation of women

by Harriet Hall
17 Oct 2017

Nigella Lawson reveals why red is the ultimate foodie colour

As she tracks her gastronomic love affair with all things crimson

by Stylist
17 Oct 2017

Reese Witherspoon says she was sexually assaulted at 16 by a director

“Producers made me feel that silence was a condition of my employment”

by Amy Swales
17 Oct 2017

Courtney Love tried to warn us about Harvey Weinstein in 2005

This video shows her speaking out against Weinstein over a decade ago

by Susan Devaney
17 Oct 2017

Hillary Clinton praises NHS after receiving medical treatment in UK

Clinton spoke about the UK’s health service during an appearance on The Graham Norton Show

by Moya Crockett
17 Oct 2017

Maisie Williams’ response to Sophie Turner’s engagement is perfect

There’s a reason these two have been dubbed #BFFgoals, you know…

by Kayleigh Dray
17 Oct 2017

America Ferrera reveals she was sexually assaulted as a 9-year-old

‘I believed that I was somehow responsible for the actions of a grown man’

by Kayleigh Dray
17 Oct 2017