Phillip Schofield has rejected calls to stand down from This Morning despite his popularity with the show’s viewers being in free fall.
It comes as ITV bosses were left with ‘their heads in their hands’ after the deputy prime minister used reports of an off-screen feud between Schofield and co-presenter Holly Willoughby as fuel for an attack on Labour in the Commons today.
Explaining his statement, Mr Dowden said: ‘All lovey dovey on the surface, they turn it on for the cameras, but as soon as they’re off, it’s a different story. They’re at each other’s throats.’
One ITV insider described the MP’s comments as a ‘cheap shot’. The embarrassing episode prompted yet another crisis meeting at the broadcaster, with one source saying: ‘Enough is enough.’
Phillip Schofield has rejected calls to stand down from This Morning despite his popularity with the show’s viewers being in free fall
Oliver Dowden, standing in for Rishi Sunak at Prime Minister’s Questions, described opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer and his deputy Angela Rayner as ‘the Phil and Holly of British politics’
The duo have failed to address their rift since returning to This Morning, but it’s been rumoured Phil faces the axe if they are unable to reverse a decline in viewing figures
They added: ‘You know things have got really serious when they’re mentioned in the House of Commons. This is no longer just a bit of beef on Twitter.
‘Those upstairs know they have to act – they just don’t know what to do.’
Another ITV insider described the situation between the two presenters as being like a ‘runaway train that cannot be stopped’.
Schofield, 61, is standing firm amid calls for his resignation due to his appeal to viewers being on the wane.
Sources say it is causing a headache for ITV bosses because they are desperate to keep Ms Willoughby while they would be inclined to depart with Schofield.
One told the Mail: ‘Phil doesn’t see why he should go. It’s his job, he has steered the show for more than 20 years.’
This Morning fans were left cringing today after an attempt to present a united front saw Ms Willoughby, 42, giving Schofield a kiss and cuddle goodbye as she left the show early.
Holly was seen at the Palace alongside Stanley Tucci as she introduced the winners of the Prince’s Trust Awards to King Charles
Her early departure was a pre-planned commitment to introduce the Prince’s Trust winners to King Charles at Buckingham Palace.
Holly said: ‘I have put my posh dress on today because later on this afternoon I am heading to Buckingham Palace and there the King will be and we will get to introduce the winners.’
‘I just saw Phil and Holly hug and kiss like besties. Full of s***,’ wrote one Twitter user.
On Tuesday ITV bosses were ‘beside themselves’ on learning that the audience had dropped an almost unprecedented 20 per cent from 894,000 last week to 724,000 for Monday’s episode.
The fallout began in September when the pair were criticised after avoiding the queue for the Queen’s lying in state.
Body language expert Judi James called the moment ‘rather awkward’, adding that it was ‘instigated by Holly after a flurry of shyness signals that included stroking her hair and placing one hand over her mouth as she giggled’.
Fans took to social media to joke that Holly ‘looked happy’ to be able to leave the episode early.
One wrote: ‘Given the, erm, *circumstances* I reckon Holly jumped at the chance to knock off half an hour early.’
A second said: ‘No wonder Holly looks happier. She gets to leave early.’
Analysing today’s episode, Ms James said Phil appeared ‘more relaxed’ than he did on the previous two shows.
She told MailOnline: ‘His pose was all casual angles, from the tilted head and shoulders to the bent knee and the asymmetric smile, and his hands looked as though they were hanging casually from his pockets rather than being stuffed there.
Viewers jokingly praised the online duo for their ‘Oscars level performance’
‘In contrast, Holly’s pose looked straight to attention, with her torso upright and her arms straight to her sides.
‘She looked shocked at Phil’s sudden, playful ”Tell me all about it!”, which came with a dramatic circling of the head and a lift of the brows as he twisted his neck at a 45-degree angle to look back at her in a wide-opened-eyes stare.
‘Holly’s ”I had a lovely day yesterday” received another flattering comment from Phil that looked overkill enough to hint at a teeniest dab of sarcasm. ”You looked gorgeous’,’ came with a raised chin and closed eyes.’
Ms James noticed another change in the pair’s body language when Holly announced she was leaving early for the Palace.
‘Holly clasped her hands in a barrier gesture here but her pulled-in-chin smile suggested self-pride while Phil flashed a rather forced-looking grin in her direction.
”’It’s fine” he told the camera, with the corners of his mouth curling down.’
The body language expert said the duo’s behaviour during a section of the show about lawncare – which prompted several suggestive jokes – was particularly notable.
‘As Holly bent to peer at the video clip from the garden she nudged Phil quite hard with her elbow as though either sharing a joke or inviting him to mirror her,’ she said.
‘Were they indulging in a nudge-fight? If so it could signal two options, either a sighting of a tiny scuffle or a moment of genuine shared and private fun between the couple.’