Peston v Marr: Daily Mail writer says sorry over 'tipsy conductor' jibe as critics divided over new Sunday show

ITV Peston on Sunday

Daily Mail columnist Quentin Letts has apologised for his “horrid” comments about Andrew Marr, in which he called the recovering stroke victim  a “tipsy conductor” and “Captain Hop-Along”.

Letts was writing about BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show and new Sunday morning rival Peston on Sunday, former BBC economics editor Robert Peston’s solo outing, when he made the jibes.

In his piece, out later the same day, he wrote: “We have Andrew ‘Captain Hop-Along’ Marr growling away on BBC1, throwing his arm about like a tipsy conductor.” The comments make explicit reference to Andrew Marr’s physical impairments after he suffered a major stroke in January 2013.

Marr told the BBC in April of that year he was “frankly lucky to be alive” and explained the stroke had affected “the whole left hand side of my body”, adding: “My left arm isn’t much good yet.”

He returned to work just nine months after the incident, brought on by vigorous exercise following a spell of what Marr described as “heavily overworking”.

Letts comments were picked up by media commentator Roy Greenslade who called them a “graceless remark”. Reaction to the piece prompted the Mail columnist to apologise on Monday afternoon with a tweet that read: “I fear my sketch reference to the admirable Marr today was horrid. Apologies to all concerned and upset.”

Peston on Sunday is believed to have attracted a tenth of the viewers (an average of 167,000 viewers according to the Telegraph) who watched The Andrew Marr Show and only half of ITV’s usual Sunday morning audience.

Peston’s guests included Chancellor George Osborne, documentary maker Louis Theroux and former government aide Alastair Campbell. Marr’s show, which goes out an hour earlier at 9am, included interviews with Prince Harry and Justice Secretary Michael Gove.

Peston, who was heard telling colleagues to “break a leg” beforethe political show’s start has claimed a BBC article rounding up reviews of his show was biased against him.

“I love the BBC, but am not sure this qualifies as impartial journalism. Selective choice of reviews perhaps,” he tweeted yesterday with a link to the article in question.

Pundits were divided, with The Guardian’s John Crace describing it as professionally amateur and revealing a set “that looked like a Teletubbies kitchen dumped inside a Hoxton warehouse”.

The Telegraph’s Ben Lawrence said: “Peston looked uncomfortable as he whizzed through the show’s topics while evoking the false bonhomie of a warm-up act”, while Lucy Fisher for The Times said it was a “must watch”.

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