Emily Maitlis on Newsnight

Emily Maitlis just shut down the government’s misleading coronavirus narrative

Posted by for People

The Newsnight presenter’s powerful 60-second speech about the government’s Covid-19 response has gone viral, for all the right reasons.

Emily Maitlis has never been one to sugarcoat her words. Indeed, it’s her no-nonsense, straight-talking approach to news that has made Maitlis one of the internet’s favourite political journalists today.

Now, more than ever, it’s important that our political journalists hold our leaders to account. That they interrogate the information being given about the coronavirus pandemic. That they seek the truth, and ask the big questions, wherever possible. And, during last night’s episode of Newsnight, Maitlis did just that.

“The language around Covid-19 has sometimes felt trite and misleading,” she said, directly addressing the fact that Dominic Raab has described Boris Johnson – currently in intensive care – as a “fighter”.

“You do not survive the illness through fortitude and strength of character, whatever the prime minister’s colleagues will tell us,” Maitlis continued. “And the disease is not a great leveller – the consequences of which everyone, rich or poor, suffers the same.

“This is a myth which needs debunking.”

Going on to explain that people on lower incomes are much more likely to be exposed to the virus because of the risk posed both by their jobs and their living situation, Maitlis added: “Those on the front line right now; bus drivers and shelf-stackers, nurses, care home workers, hospital staff and shopkeepers are disproportionately the lower-paid members of our workforce.

“They are more likely to catch the disease because they are more exposed.”

Maitlis also highlighted that it is a privilege to be able to stay protected. And, while it’s all too easy to shame those who have left their homes to visit local parks and outdoor spaces, it’s important to remember that there’s often more to it than just a need to sunbathe.

“Those who live in tower blocks and small flats will find the lockdown tougher,” she said. “Those in manual jobs will be unable to work from home.

“This is a health issue with huge ramifications for social welfare, and it’s a welfare issue with huge ramifications for public health.”

Maitlis’ speech, which lasted just 60 seconds, has since gone viral on social media, with many taking to Twitter to praise the journalist for her frankness.

“Emily Maitlis is in a league of her own,” wrote one.

“The strongest minute of current affairs since coronavirus started,” added another. “Well done Emily Mailtis and all at Newsnight.”

Still one more said: “Emily Maitlis is so so so so so (repeat ad infinitum) brilliant.”

However, one – despite praising the “Emily Maitlis Miracle” – pointed out that this is the least we should be expecting from our journalists right now.

“These words were brilliant and most definitely needed,” they said, “ but this needs to become the norm.”

Hear, hear. Until then, though, all hail Maitlis: it’s nice to know that there is someone out there seeking the truth and sharing it with others.

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.

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