Labour’s ex-press secretary Alastair Campbell accused a BBC presenter of allowing Brexiteers to “talk utter rubbish” in an angry exchange on Newsnight.
Mr Campbell was in turn accused of “bullying, intimidation and thinly veiled misogyny” by Alex Phillips, a former Brexit MEP with whom he appeared on the programme on Thursday.
The former spin doctor has since apologised to presenter Victoria Derbyshire after the terse exchanges were shared online and viewed by more than 4 million people.
The fiery debate about the current state of Brexit and its impact on the UK began to break down when the pair rowed over the enactment of EU laws.
Mr Campbell accused Ms Phillips of “talking such rubbish when you come on these programmes”, to which she replied “that is just unnecessarily rude”. “Well, it’s true,” he retorted.
Ms Phillips went on to argue that the current government did not have the “courage or the conviction to see Brexit through” and that Rishi Sunak should be “seizing the opportunity to take control”.
Mr Campbell replied: “Will any of these people who fought so hard for Brexit ever face up to their own responsibility and face the fact that what they all promised was a pack of lies.”
Directing his comments to his opponent, he continued: “All your lies about taking back control, more money for the NHS, sovereignty, immigration, all the rest of it – you fall on every single one.”
Ms Phillips replied: “I knew you were going to come up with the money for the NHS. Nothing to do with me, not my campaign.
“It’s very rich from the man who essentially was part of telling lies to invade a country to accuse me of dishonesty”, referring to the Iraq war and the infamous dodgy dossier that made the case for it.
“I think you may have lost the argument there, my dear,” Mr Campbell said, “if I may patronise you even more.”
As Ms Derbyshire tried to intervene, he told her: “I’m sorry, you bring these people on – you never challenge them. You let them talk utter rubbish about Brexit.
“And it has happened on the BBC for year after year after year.”
Bringing the row to a close, the presenter said: “I am not going to take that from you, with respect, Mr Campbell.”
As the camera panned away, Mr Campbell huffed ‘for god’s sake’ and stretched an arm out onto the table in front of Ms Phillips.
Tweeting about the encounter later, Ms Phillips, now an adviser to the Reform Party, claimed she came off air shaking at Mr Campbell’s “rudeness”.
Ms Phillips described his actions were “quite frightening” and claimed the hairs on her neck stood up.
Mr Campbell later responded on Twitter: “Accepted it was not exactly disagreeing agreeably but I think every now and then people who are given a free ride to talk absolute nonsense and face no responsibility for their role in damage to the nation are challenged.”
He later tweeted that he had apologised to Ms Derbyshire, adding that she was “one of the best”.
“It is infuriating to seek to debate serious issues with people who despite all the damage their beloved Brexit has done continue to talk absolute rubbish,” he added.
Ex-Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage waded into the row on Twitter, branding Mr Campbell “a thug and a bully” and said he should never be allowed on the BBC again.
“Is that why you asked me to co-present a show with you on GBeebies…?” Mr Campbell retorted.