His on-air tussle with Boris Johnson was one of the most bizarre clips of the election campaign – and Andrew Gwynne has now revealed just how to get under the Foreign Secretary’s skin.
Labour’s election guru memorably clashed with Johnson in the spin rooms of two leaders debate – with the Tory Brexiteer almost pushing Gwynne into a TV camera during as the two scuffled.
Speaking to HuffPost UK’s Waugh Zone Live fringe at Labour conference, Gwynne let the audience in on how he managed to unnerve the usually unflabbable Johnson.
Recalling the pair’s first clash after a Sky News leader’s debate, Gwynne said: “We did this interview and Boris so rude and just condescending, and I do think it’s a class thing: ‘How dare this oik who was educated in some comprehensive school in eastern Greater Manchester, how dare he challenge and speak up against this great Foreign Secretary who was Eton-educated’.
“I held my ground but one of the things I very quickly noticed was when I put my arm on Boris’ shoulder he hated it, he absolutely hated body contact, so I remembered that for the second time.”
The pair were due to take to the airwaves together ahead of another the BBC’s Question Time special from York, but, according to the Labour man, Johnson chickened out.
But as the Foreign Secretary began his interview, Gwynne decided he would doorstop Johnson live on air.
“I put my hand on his shoulder because I know it winds him up,” he said, adding: “‘Boris, long time no see! Why won’t you debate with me? Weren’t we supposed to be doing this head to head?’”
Gwynne walked off, prompting Johnson to accept his challenge and say: “Come on then, you big girl’s blouse’.”
As the pair clashed over Brexit and the Tories’ social care policy, Gwynne decided to make Johnson feel uneasy.
“He got really flustered because I put my hand on his shoulder again and went: ‘Boris answer the question!’ at this stage he just grabbed hold of the scruff of the back of my neck and pushed me forward, and I very nearly lost balance and crashed into the camera.
“I think at that split second he thought: ‘Oh shit I shouldn’t be doing this’.
“He pulled me back and I said: ‘Boris don’t be a pillock’. The rest is history.”
Gwynne also used the Waugh Zone Live fringe to reveal Labour’s internal polling showed it was on course to lose 75 seats in the General Election until the campaigns officially kicked off.