Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield may have jumped the queue to see the Queen’s coffin, or they may have been engaged in legitimate journalism, by which terms you are allowed to jump whatever queue you like – it’s called “reporting”. It may have come as a genuine surprise to their many This Morning viewers that what they do day to day is considered journalism at all (surely chatting?), and it may have come as a surprise to them that anyone would mind them queue-jumping (surely the other queuers would have been diverted and delighted to see them?). None of it matters any more, as they fight to survive. Not in their jobs, since there are surely employment rights surrounding “being fired for doing a thing that you were given to understand was your job”, rather, in the public imagination. It is possible to be the bad guy – selfish, abrasive – and still make a good living out of that personality, hence Piers Morgan and Alan Sugar. What you can’t do is change character-horse halfway through your race. You can’t go from nation’s sweetheart to queue-jumper, or guy-next-door to elbows-out pusher-in. They need to rescue their reputations, but they can’t defend their own characters – that never works. And they can’t defend each other’s characters, because they have become one entity, Holly-n-Phillip, who think they’re too important to wait in line.
What I would do, if I were them, is commission a YouGov poll: what punishment do you think is proportionate to this heinous crime? The answers would go on a sliding scale, from “None – it was fine and anyway, it’s now over”, through “They should be subtly but importantly diminished in the eyes of all right-thinking men and women, and for ever”, up to “They should be put to death, in some baroque but apropos manner, maybe by a knight or 50 hungry corgis.” However the results shook down, they would get to the root of the scandal: does this crowd have a sense of proportion? Is it possible for any crowd to have a sense of proportion, or once it has been scandalised, does it have to stay scandalised? I mean, who knows whether it would help the beleaguered pair, but at least I would find it entertaining.
Zoe Williams is a Guardian columnist
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