Holly Willoughby will have to leave This Morning, says ex-ITV director

Holly Willoughby should move on and ‘cannot be associated with This Morning’, ex-ITV boss says as he warns there is ‘much more to come’ out of Phillip Schofield scandal

  • Willoughby is due to return to This Morning next Monday after half-term break 
  • Ex-ITV commercial director Ian McCulloch says she appears to be ‘clinging on’ 

Holly Willoughby will have to leave This Morning amid the scandal over Phillip Schofield because she is now ‘damaged goods’, a former ITV director said today.

Willoughby is due to return to This Morning next Monday following the half-term break, having taken an early holiday when news of Schofield’s departure emerged.

Former ITV commercial director Ian McCulloch said although it appears she is ‘clinging on’, producers now need to make a clean break and ‘move the show on’.

It comes after former presenter Eamonn Holmes predicted that Willoughby, 42, will not return to the sofa on ITV’s daytime show following Schofield’s bombshell exit.

Schofield, 61, resigned from ITV on Friday and was dropped by his agency YMU after admitting to an ‘unwise, but not illegal’ affair with a younger male colleague.

The relationship took place while Schofield was still married to wife Stephanie Lowe and before he came out publicly as gay. After his resignation, the show has been plagued by allegations of ‘toxicity’ – which has also impacted Willoughby’s standing.

Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby on the sofa of ITV’s This Morning earlier this month 

Producers have also faced guests turning down offers to appear on This Morning – and its biggest sponsor, car dealer Arnold Clark, has revealed it will not be renewing an existing multi-million-pound deal with the channel in autumn as planned.

READ MORE Amanda Holden says she’ll never make up with Phillip Schofield after he ‘ghosted’ her following This Morning feud in unearthed clip

Mr McCulloch, who left ITV in 2007 after 27 years with the broadcaster, told GB News today: ‘I do absolutely agree that none of the on-screen talent, well, those two, they cannot be associated with the show. She’s damaged goods.

‘They need a fresh start. I’m not sure that the talent that they’ve got, sort of running through at the minute, is the right talent. But I think the show is a good show, but you certainly can’t have those two.

‘There is so much more to come out in this story. And I don’t think her statements are particularly plausible, though it looks as though she’s clinging on. I think they need to make a clean [break] and just move the show on.’

In a discussion with the Daily Mail’s Andrew Pierce and former Daily Star editor Dawn Neesom, Mr McCulloch said: ‘I think from an advertiser’s point of view, they buy the programme. 

‘I think if Phil and Holly are no longer there, the programme runs on.

‘I suspect ratings are probably going up as people want to watch the unfolding car crash. But as you know, it reaches people. It’s a great show. They just let it go off the rails.’

He added: ‘This is about governance. It’s about creative governance, refreshing shows, not creating monsters that you then can’t control and we’ve seen it in so many shows.

Former ITV commercial director Ian McCulloch said Willoughby appears to be ‘clinging on’

On Saturday, Willoughby wrote on Instagram that it had ‘taken time to process yesterday’s news’ following Schofield’s statement

‘It’s happened again, the creative control isn’t there. They haven’t refreshed the show. We’ve got it in peak time with ITV, where you can see some shows are starting to look tired and they need resting.

READ MORE Phillip Schofield ‘begged YouTuber who filmed shamed star with This Morning lover not to post video of them together – telling him it could ‘ruin my career” 

‘I think from the public’s point of view, this almost looks like an episode of Love Island. You put a bunch of egomaniacs together and see what’s going to explode, and over time this has exploded.’

It comes after a source said Willoughby will return to present This Morning next week and ‘carry on like the professional she is’.

The source told The Sun: ‘She has made it clear she was one of the people Phil lied to and she has nothing to hide.

‘She will return to This Morning as planned on Monday and carry on like the professional she is.

‘Holly has been affected by Phil’s actions and it has been very difficult. She is devoted to This Morning, however, and will continue to do the best job she can for them.’

On Saturday, Willoughby wrote on Instagram that it had ‘taken time to process yesterday’s news’ following Schofield’s statement, adding: ‘When reports of this relationship first surfaced, I asked Phil directly if this was true and was told it was not. It’s been very hurtful to now find out that this was a lie.’

Willoughby’s return comes as This Morning has been plagued by allegations of ‘toxicity’ since Schofield’s exit, with Holmes alleging there was a ‘total cover-up’ over the Schofield affair.

Dame Carolyn McCall, ITV’s chief executive, could face questioning next week from MPs

This Morning’s former resident doctor, Dr Ranj Singh (pictured in 2019), has hit out at the show

The show’s former resident doctor, Dr Ranj Singh, also hit out at the show’s ‘toxic’ culture, saying he raised concerns about ‘bullying and discrimination’ two years ago when he worked there and afterwards felt like he was ‘managed out’ for whistleblowing.

READ MORE This Morning goes into damage control with social media blackout as they stay under the radar with NO posts since Phillip Schofield’s affair was exposed

ITV bosses are expected to appear before MPs on the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, where the issue of Schofield’s conduct could be raised.

The session is expected to focus on scrutiny of the forthcoming Media Bill, with SNP MP John Nicolson – a committee member – writing on Twitter: ‘The issues erupting around ITV have been a cause for concern.

‘I look forward to getting some answers from ITV bosses.’

Dame Carolyn McCall, ITV’s chief executive, could be among those to face questioning next week from MPs, The Times reports.

In an Instagram post on Monday, Schofield hit back at critics, saying that there was ‘no toxicity’ on This Morning.

Referring to those comments, Holmes, who previously presented ITV’s flagship daytime show on Fridays with wife Ruth Langsford, instead accused Schofield of ‘toxicity’ adding: ‘But, my friend, the toxicity is not with me, Dan Wootton or anyone else. The toxicity is with you.’

Yesterday, the Prince’s Trust charity dropped Schofield as an ambassador, saying it is ‘no longer appropriate’ to work with him.

A Prince’s Trust spokesperson said: ‘In light of Phillip’s recent admissions, we have agreed with him that it is no longer appropriate to work together.’

ITV also said it was ‘deeply disappointed’ by his ‘admissions of deceit’ but it had not found ‘any evidence beyond hearsay and rumour’ about the relationship in its own investigation.

 Phillip Schofield with Holly Willoughby, Eamonn Holmes and Ruth Langsford in February 2020

On Saturday, a spokesperson said: ‘Further to our statement last night, ITV can confirm that when rumours of a relationship between Phillip Schofield and an employee of ITV first began to circulate in early 2020 ITV investigated.

READ MORE ITV bosses to face grilling by MPs next week over Phillip Schofield affair scandal as broadcaster faces questions about who knew what and when

‘Both parties were questioned and both categorically and repeatedly denied the rumours, as did Phillip’s then agency YMU.

‘In addition, ITV spoke to a number of people who worked on This Morning and were not provided with, and did not find, any evidence of a relationship beyond hearsay and rumour.

‘Phillip’s statement yesterday reveals that he lied to people at ITV, from senior management to fellow presenters, to YMU, to the media and to others over this relationship.’

When This Morning aired on Monday, hosts Dermot O’Leary and Alison Hammond and contributor Gyles Brandreth appeared to defend the show from the toxicity allegations.

Schofield had presented This Morning since 2002, with Willoughby joining the programme in 2009.

The pair’s friendly relationship and informal nature on the programme resulted in viral segments and industry recognition, including multiple National Television Awards.

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