The pair were discussing whether or not the media was partly responsible for the rise of the far-right in the UK, in light of the alarming incidents of MPs and journalists – including Jones himself – being verbally abused outside Westminster in recent weeks.
The discussion got off to a positive start when Neil praised the “huge courage and dignity” Jones demonstrated in his video of the incident.
Then things got heated, to say the least.
Here’s the exchange in full:
″[Phrases like] ‘Traitor’, ‘enemies of the people’ and ‘crush the saboteurs’, all end up on the front page of newspapers and then are regurgitated by these people.”
“You are beyond naive if you think the media doesn’t have a role in it.”
ANDREW NEIL: “I am many things Owen Jones, but I am not naive.”
JONES: “You are. The Spectator is a classic example...”
NEIL: “I knew you were going to bring that up and I won’t let you hijack [the BBC]. Your smears and lies about me are not going to be dealt with tonight so just move off it. I’m not going to let you hijack the BBC to do this, it’s got nothing to do with them.”
JONES: “I will finish my point about The Spectator.”
NEIL: “You won’t.”
JONES: “That magazine has defended Greek neo-Nazis.”
NEIL: “No it hasn’t.”
JONES: “It has...”
NEIL: “No, you’ve ran out of time, you’ve failed to answer the question.”
JONES: “Well, everyone can look at the record of The Spectator which has incited racism against Muslims and refugees and backed Greek neo-Nazis.”
As he reiterated on Twitter on Friday, Jones was referring to a number of articles featured in The Spectator including one which defended the Greek neo-Nazi group, Golden Dawn.
This is what The Spectator has helped to mainstream and legitimise. If we don't challenge the media helping to mainstream racism and fascism, then our country has no future. pic.twitter.com/ViZrZPtvRQ— Owen Jones🌹 (@OwenJones84) January 11, 2019
It's quite incredible that @afneil isn't held to account like this at least once a week. God bless @OwenJones84. For the record, Neil is the only one lying here. As is demonstrated by this article: https://t.co/m72xkzd8h1https://t.co/Yog2aZwdEq— James O'Brien (@mrjamesob) January 11, 2019
Andrew Neil describes Owen Jones questions about his relationship with the Spectator as ‘smears & lies’. Smears & lies is what you directed at me, @afneil. These were facts. The BBC has rules on presenter impartiality. What is baffling is why they don’t apply to Neil https://t.co/SBmCq59TLT— Carole Cadwalladr (@carolecadwalla) January 11, 2019
But Mail on Sunday commentator, Dan Hodges, said in a tweet that the “most high-profile and influential racism in British politics is still to be found in the anti-Semitism of the Labour Party”.
Just caught up with @bbcthisweek. @OwenJones84 right to highlight the rise of the far-Right, particularly in the context of the Brexit crisis. But the most high-profile and influential racism in British politics is still to be found in the anti-Semitism of the Labour Party.— (((Dan Hodges))) (@DPJHodges) January 11, 2019
Neil has since reiterated his point made during the show that as chairman of The Spectator, he is not responsible for the articles that appear in it.
As a matter of practice, convention and legal precedence, The Editor is always responsible for what is published. I’m sure as a law professor you know that ... https://t.co/j00esFBm2f— Andrew Neil (@afneil) January 11, 2019
Jones and Conservative MP Anna Soubry were both harassed by protesters in favour of Brexit earlier this week.
Theresa May has condemned the threats of violence and intimidation and said politicians and the media should be able to “go about their work without harassment and intimidation” as tensions heightened in Westminster.