Even the most combative couples don’t disagree as fervently – or as often – as Piers Morgan did with Susanna Reid, his long-suffering co-host of ITV’s Good Morning Britain.
Piers called Susanna his “TV wife” and their love-hate relationship made breakfast watching appealing until Piers left after an argument over comments he made about Meghan Markle in March.
Piers felt very strongly about everything. He could start a fight in an empty room,” laughs Susanna, who now introduces GMB to a succession of less abrasive co-hosts. “He had very sharp views about actor Daniel Craig carrying his baby in a papoose and about Greggs’ vegan sausage rolls.”
In case you missed this one, Piers mocked the James Bond actor as ‘exposed’ for his way of carrying his daughter and exclaimed, ‘They stink! Urghhh!’ when he bit into a meat-free sausage roll. Meanwhile, Susanna expressed the opposite opinion: “I like them. They are really tasty!’
Susanna Reid, 50, (pictured) reflected on the day her co-host Piers Morgan stormed Good Morning Britain after an argument over Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s interview with Oprah
No wonder, then, that one of the most incendiary news stories of the year — that infamous Oprah interview with Harry and Meghan — Piers collapsed. He stormed off, to the amazement of Susanna and GMB viewers, after being furious: “I’m so mad I’m boiling over. I’m sick of what I just saw.’
What irritated Piers the most was Meghan’s implication that her son Archie was barred from being a prince because of his skin color, which he later denounced as “complete rubbish” because the monarch’s great-grandchildren are not given titles unless they are in direct line to the throne. .
“Okay,” Susanna said in her usual conciliatory tone at the time, “but some people may be upset and moved by what they’ve just heard.”
She went on to cite Meghan’s claims about her mental health – her protest that she “didn’t want to live anymore” 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? He then added that he didn’t believe a word Meghan said — nor would he “if she read me a weather report.”
“Well, that’s a pathetic response to someone who has expressed those thoughts,” Susanna replied.
Susanna, who describes Piers’ departure as “emotional,” admits she didn’t think he would actually leave the show. Pictured: Susanna and Piers on Good Morning Britain
Then weatherman Alex Beresford intervened, scolding Piers for “polluting” Meghan and calling his behavior “devilish.” This was the last straw: Piers marched away. Susanna called for an early commercial break and forced him back on set, which led to further heated debates.
Then, after the most tumultuous morning in breakfast TV history, Piers resigned from the show. Relief! What was going on in Susanna’s head as the episode unfolded? “I was in shock,” she says, talking about it for the first time.
“It felt surreal when 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 blurry now, but he came back.
Piers and I disagreed 95 percent of the time
“I didn’t think he would actually leave the show. That was certainly another shock. The whole thing was intense, raw and emotional. Piers was the person with whom I had forged a successful partnership for five years.
‘I thought, ‘Hey! What’s happening now?” He was controversial, outspoken, stimulating and provocative. So there would be resonance for me and the show.”
There were indeed consequences. Susanna was temporarily left to steer the GMB ship solo. The next day, she sat in front of the cameras gritty, perhaps even a little in tears, announcing, “Piers has decided to leave the program.
Some of you will cheer and others will cheer. He has been my presentation partner for over five years and has been a voice to many of you, and a voice that many of you have yelled at. It’s going to be very different, but the shows go on and so on and so on.’
Susanna revealed that she hasn’t seen Piers since the debacle, but they call 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 the end of our partnership. My feelings swirled. I had to say something indifferent about what had happened.
“Piers and I spoke over the phone about my statement. It wasn’t about denying him. He’s a good friend. He understood why I spoke the way I did.
“You couldn’t stir up the situation because there were so many raw feelings — and the show was pretty restless too.
Wild times in the garden
Susanna talks to me from her home in South London as she prepares for a holiday with her sons from her 16-year relationship with former sports correspondent Dominic Cotton, which ended in 2014.
‘Sam’ [the eldest] still wants to go out with his mother’, she says lovingly. ‘I feel really happy.
‘He has just finished his first year at university and of course he also wants to see his friends, but he also likes to go out with family. It’s very important to me – and the boys – that we all leave together.’
They go to her brother in the West Country, and she runs through her kitchen making coffee, gently interacts with a mouse that Suki has dragged her cat in, and marvels that Suki has “seen a fox” in the yard.
“Who needs the West Country when there’s a wildlife park in your backyard?” she smiles.
“Piers and I had a very combative, very close professional relationship. I disagreed with him 95 percent of the time. But that dynamic worked well. It was very stimulating to work with him because he came from the BBC [where she presented the breakfast show for 11 years].
‘There you always refuted one opinion with ‘on the other side’. But Piers always said something I strongly disagreed with.’
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 is separated from her TV husband, is it like having a lot of affairs? I’m kidding. ‘New! It’s like having a lot of friends! And I wouldn’t choose between them.’
There are ‘beloved’ Bill Turnbull, with whom she co-hosted BBC Breakfast, and Richard Madeley (‘a TV legend’). You have Alastair Campbell (‘as passionate about politics as football’) and (‘fiery and spirited’) Adil Ray, Ben Shephard, Kate Garraway, Charlotte Hawkins, Sean Fletcher and Ranvir Singh.
Lorraine Kelly has suggested that Piers might even come back, but Susanna is adamant he won’t. “He hasn’t left ITV – he’s still doing Life Stories. But no, he will not return to the GMB bank.’
She hasn’t seen him since the debacle, but they call and text regularly and Piers has invited her to a “boozy” dinner or lunch “when the dust settles.” Susanna gave up alcohol two years ago when a dermatologist (recommended by Piers) told her it could be causing the “flashes” on her skin.
“When I first gave up, I lost a lot of weight,” she says, “because white wine, my drink, is so caloric. But you compensate for that with other calories. My weight definitely fluctuates.
“My stylist said, ‘Just before you get back from vacation, can you let me know what size you are and I’ll get the right dresses for you.’ I locked a stone. I’m lucky that the dresses I wear often hold you.’
You mean they have a built-in corset? ‘New! But on certain days you can wear Spanx, it has a similar effect.’ In our photos she looks radiant with health and not an ounce overweight. She’s also chatty and informed – an essential mix for a presenter who transitions seamlessly from gravity to frivolity depending on the news of the day.
The GMB team seems really mutually supportive. When Ranvir was on Strictly last year, I wonder if Susanna – a runner-up with Kevin Clifton in 2013 – gave any advice.
“You didn’t have to!” she is crying. Ranvir was the most beautiful dancer. It’s a terrible shame because I thought she would win [she was a runner-up too].’
Come on Boris, it’s time we had a chat
Returning to the GMB bench this month – spirited, fit and full blast – Susanna looks forward to holding politicians to account. And how much she would like to skewer Boris, who hid in a refrigerator during the 2019 election campaign, so he wouldn’t have to talk to the program.
‘This is my invitation to Boris: come on, Prime Minister! It’s like the start of a new school year and for God’s sake, he first has to answer some questions about raising children, and what’s going to happen with exams.
“I would have a million questions for him: about dealing with the pandemic, mistakes that were made, what we’re going to do with the economy.”
Susanna has 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 ever since, but when I ask about their relationship, she politely declines to comment.
So our conversation swings back to her amicable “divorce” from Piers. “We have a lot of contact,” she says. “He’s had Covid and texted me to say he couldn’t taste good wine. I said getting presents for him is a lot cheaper. We’ll have to make it a sparkling water lunch when we’re together.’
They’re still waiting for that dust. “But I don’t know if the dust ever really settled on Piers,” she says.
Susanna also keeps in touch with Piers’ wife, author Celia Walden, through social media. “I met her through Piers and I ordered her new novel,” she says.
She says she once asked Piers if he often rowed with his wife. He said, ‘I can 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 fights I’d had with Piers on the show in five minutes. It’s like all his arguments with people are at work and then he puts it all behind him.’
It’s a compelling thought, isn’t it? That the most warlike man on TV is actually quite a pussy at heart.
Good morning UK, weekdays from 6am, ITV; Susanna presents Monday-Thursday