One day, Richard Burgon’s good day on TV will come. I’ve no idea when, but it’s bound to happen eventually, that’s just statistics.
In the meantime, the Shadow Justice Secretary’s persistence against the odds in a fight to the death against his own opinions continues to produce regular nuggets of TV gold.
It’s too early for a collection of Greatest Hits – I have faith that more classic moments are yet to be minted – but here, for now, are the six best Burgonisms so far.
There was the time he denied giving a standing ovation to a speech demanding a General Strike, despite having done so on camera the day before:
Or the time he told Andrew Neil not only that he had never said “Zionism is the enemy of peace”, but that it was “not my view” and therefore “I wouldn’t have made those comments”, only for footage to emerge of him, er, making those comments:
With a broadcast pedigree like this, it would have been wrong to deny the public the ultimate showdown. The Alien vs Predator of the Westminster comms machine, the Rumble in the Jungle of baffling rhetoric. Yes, in September Burgon was unleashed on the task of explaining the Labour Party’s Brexit policy.
Neither combatant survived.
Watch out particularly for 1 minute 36 seconds, when he seems, horrifyingly, to have just woken up to find himself on live television:
But like a rail replacement bus following an unfamiliar route, he didn’t stop there.
A couple of weeks ago, the Shadow Justice Secretary levelled up by inventing a whole new form of facepalm.
To perfect this technique, you need three things. A sharp interviewer, challenging you on something verifiably true. An instant reply, issued in a tone that confidently implies you’re presenting evidence that rebuts the criticism, but actually saying words that accidentally prove the interviewer’s point. And a belated, blunt realisation that it’s all gone dreadfully wrong:
— Rob Joyce (@RobJoyce156) October 23, 2019
It’s hard to know what goes on in the World of Burgon, obviously. If he could tell us, he would, but it’s our tragedy that that seems unlikely to ever be possible.
We therefore have no explanation why he went on the same show, with the same interviewer, a week later, and blundered into exactly the same self-laid trap again:
My god, how has she done this to him again just one week later pic.twitter.com/jX7bwF1yKY
— Rob Joyce (@RobJoyce156) October 31, 2019
The other inexplicable element of this cult sub-genre of television is even if the man himself is keen on continuing his broadcasting career, why on earth are Labour’s spinners willing to let him out at all, still less in front of a camera?
Last night they laughed in the face of experience by putting Burgon up to represent Labour on Question Time, on the day of their manifesto launch. He did not disappoint, and turned in this instant classic:
— Mark Wallace (@wallaceme) November 21, 2019
It had everything: the patronising overconfidence as he set off down the road, the spreading grin as the line seemed to be going ok, followed by the inevitable moment in which you can literally see him realise that it’s gone wrong again.
Whatever happens in the election – and let’s hope to goodness it isn’t Richard Burgon being put in charge of the nation’s courts and prisons – please let him stay on the airwaves. Maybe he and Kay Burley could get a show specifically for this purpose?