Even the most combative of couples don’t disagree quite so fervently – or as often – as Piers Morgan did with Susanna Reid, his long-suffering co-presenter on ITV’s Good Morning Britain.
Piers used to call Susanna his ‘TV wife’ and their love-hate relationship made compelling breakfast-time viewing until Piers left after a row over comments he made about Meghan Markle back in March.
‘Piers felt very strongly about everything. He could start an argument in an empty room,’ laughs Susanna, who now presents GMB with a succession of less abrasive co-hosts. ‘He had very strident views about actor Daniel Craig carrying his baby in a papoose and about Greggs’ vegan sausage rolls.’
In case you missed these, Piers mocked the James Bond actor as ‘emasculated’ for his mode of carrying his baby daughter and proclaimed, ‘They stink! Urghhh!’ when he bit into a meat-free sausage roll. Meanwhile, Susanna expressed the contrary view, ‘I like them. They’re really tasty!’
Susanna Reid, 50, (pictured) reflected on the day her co-host Piers Morgan stormed off Good Morning Britain after a row about Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s interview with Oprah
Little wonder then, that one of the year’s most incendiary news stories – that infamous Oprah interview with Harry and Meghan – sent Piers into meltdown. He stormed off, to the astonishment of Susanna and GMB viewers, after raging, ‘I’m angry to the point of boiling over. I’m sickened by what I’ve just had to watch.’
What rankled most with Piers was Meghan’s implication that her son Archie was being barred from being a prince because of his skin colour, which he later decried as ‘complete nonsense’ because great-grandchildren of the monarch are not given titles unless they’re in direct line to the throne.
‘OK,’ said Susanna at the time in her usual placatory tone, ‘but some people might be upset and moved by what they’ve just heard.’
She went on to cite Meghan’s claims about her mental health – her protestation she ‘didn’t want to be alive any more’ and her claim that when she asked for help she was told she couldn’t get it because it wouldn’t be good for the royal image. But Piers wanted names.
‘Who did Meghan go to? What did they say? Then he added that he didn’t believe a word Meghan said – and wouldn’t ‘if she read me a weather report’.
‘Well, that’s a pathetic reaction to someone who’s expressed those thoughts,’ Susanna responded.
Susanna, who describes Piers’ departure as ’emotional’, admits that she didn’t think he would really leave the show. Pictured: Susanna and Piers on Good Morning Britain
Then weatherman Alex Beresford pitched in, berating Piers for ‘trashing’ Meghan and calling his behaviour ‘diabolical’. This was the final straw: Piers marched off. Susanna called an early ad break and cajoled him into coming back on set, after which further heated debates ensued.
Then, following the most tumultuous morning in the history of breakfast TV, Piers resigned from the show. Phew! What was going on in Susanna’s head as the episode played out? ‘I was in shock,’ she says, speaking about it for the first time.
‘It felt surreal as Piers got up and left. I went out to talk to him; we had an animated discussion. I don’t remember what I said, it’s all a bit of a blur now, but back he came.
Piers and I disagreed 95 per cent of the time
‘I didn’t think he’d really leave the show. That was definitely another shock. The whole thing was intense, raw and emotional. Piers had been the person I’d sat alongside and forged a successful partnership with for five years.
‘I thought, “Whoah! What happens next?” He was controversial, outspoken, stimulating and provocative. So there were going to be reverberations for me and the show.’
There were, indeed, repercussions. Susanna was temporarily left to steer the GMB ship solo. The next day she sat, stony-faced, perhaps even a little tearful, in front of the cameras and announced, ‘Piers has decided to leave the programme.
Some of you may cheer and others will boo. He has been my presenting partner for more than five years and has been a voice for many of you, and a voice that many of you have railed against. It is going to be very different but shows go on and so on we go.’
Susanna revealed she hasn’t seen Piers since the debacle but they phone and text regularly. Pictured: Susanna on the cover of Weekend magazine
Piers accused her of being ‘frosty’. How does she plead? ‘I was quite emotional about our partnership coming to an end. My feelings were swirling. I needed to say something dispassionate about what had happened.
‘Piers and I talked on the phone about my statement. It wasn’t about disowning him. He’s a good friend. He understood why I spoke the way I did.
‘You couldn’t inflame the situation because there were so many raw feelings – and the show was quite unsettled as well.
‘Piers and I had a very combative, very close professional relationship. I disagreed with him 95 per cent of the time. But that dynamic worked well. It was very stimulating to work with him, having come from the BBC [where she presented the breakfast show for 11 years].
‘There you always countered one view with “on the other hand”. But Piers would always say something with which I vehemently disagreed.’
Susanna, 50, manages to combine her TV role with single motherhood – she has three teenage boys, Sam, 19, Finn, 17, and Jack, 15 – and now sits alongside a succession of presenters.
If she’s divorced from her TV husband, is it like having lots of affairs? I joke. ‘No! It’s like having lots of friends! And I wouldn’t want to choose between any of them.’
There’s ‘beloved’ Bill Turnbull, with whom she co-hosted BBC Breakfast, and Richard Madeley (‘a TV legend’). There’s Alastair Campbell (‘as passionate about politics as football’) as well as (‘fiery and feisty’) Adil Ray, Ben Shephard, Kate Garraway, Charlotte Hawkins, Sean Fletcher and Ranvir Singh.
Lorraine Kelly has suggested Piers might even come back, but Susanna is adamant he won’t. ‘He’s not left ITV – he’s still doing Life Stories. But no, he won’t be back on the GMB sofa.’
She hasn’t seen him since the debacle but they phone and text regularly and Piers has invited her to meet for a ‘boozy’ dinner or lunch ‘when the dust settles’. Susanna gave up alcohol two years ago when a dermatologist (recommended by Piers) advised her it could be causing the ‘flare-ups’ on her skin.
‘When I first gave up I lost a chunk of weight,’ she says, ‘as white wine, my tipple, is so calorific. But you compensate with other calories. My weight definitely fluctuates.
‘My stylist said, “Can you let me know just before you come back from your holiday what size you are and I’ll get the right dresses in.” I put on a stone in lockdown. I’m lucky that the dresses I wear tend to hold you in.’
You mean they have a built-in corset? ‘No! But on certain days you can wear Spanx, which has a similar effect.’ In our photos she looks glowing with health and not an ounce overweight. She’s also chatty and informed – a vital mix for a presenter who switches seamlessly from gravity to levity as the day’s news requires.
The GMB team does seem genuinely mutually supportive. When Ranvir was on Strictly last year, I wonder if Susanna – a runner-up with Kevin Clifton in 2013 – offered advice.
‘I didn’t need to!’ she cries. ‘Ranvir was the most beautiful dancer. It’s a terrible shame because I thought she’d win it [she was a runner-up too].’
Susanna’s been coy about her private life since a nine-month relationship with Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish ended in 2019. The two have been spotted together since but when I ask about their relationship she politely declines to comment.
So our conversation meanders back to her amicable ‘divorce’ from Piers. ‘We’re in touch a lot,’ she says. ‘He’s had Covid and texted me to say he couldn’t taste fine wine. I said that makes getting presents for him a lot cheaper. We’ll have to make it a sparkling water lunch when we get together.’
They’re still awaiting that dust-settling. ‘But I don’t know if the dust ever really settles with Piers,’ she says.
Susanna also keeps in touch on social media with Piers’s wife, author Celia Walden. ‘I know her through Piers and I’ve ordered her new novel,’ she declares.
She says she once asked Piers if he often rowed with his wife. ‘He said, “I could count on the fingers of one hand how many times I’ve argued with Celia.”’
She chuckles. ‘I wouldn’t have enough fingers to count the number of arguments I’d had with Piers on the show in five minutes. It’s as if all his rows are with people at work and then he leaves it all behind him.’
It’s a compelling thought, isn’t it? That the most bellicose man on TV is actually quite a pussycat at heart.
Good Morning Britain, weekdays from 6am, ITV; Susanna presents Mondays-Thursdays