SHE is best known as one of the most famous faces of breakfast television.
Southampton-born Fiona Phillips was accustomed to grilling top politicians as the presenter of hit ITV show GMTV for more than ten years. Now it has emerged that the broadcaster was Labour’s number one choice to contest the Eastleigh by-election.
The party’s candidate, John O’Farrell, continued his campaign yesterday, canvassing voters in the town alongside Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Rachel Reeves MP.
But agents from Billy Marsh Associates, the company that represents Ms Phillips, confirmed that Labour leader Ed Miliband contacted her personally about the role, before Mr O’Farrell won the party’s approval.
A Billy Marsh Associates spokesman said that the 52-yearold was approached by Mr Miliband in a bid to make her stand for the Eastleigh seat, but she rejected the offer.
Last night Ms Phillips, who is a Labour supporter, declined to make any further comment.
It is the second time the former Millbrook School pupil has turned down an offer from the Labour Party. She previously rebuffed an invitation from former Prime Minister Gordon Brown to become a health minister.
Labour last night issued a brief statement in response to the revelation, but refused to confirm the approach to Ms Phillips.
A party spokesman said: “Labour members in Eastleigh selected the best candidate from a very strong shortlist.”
That candidate was satirist Mr O’Farrell, who was caught in a political storm after claiming in a book that he wished former Tory Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher had died in an IRA bomb attack.
Ms Phillips was at the centre of controversy herself last year following remarks made on a return to her former school.
Ms Phillips was the guest speaker at the opening of the £16m Oasis Academy Lord’s Hill in Southampton.
But her comments about life at its predecessor, Millbrook School, which she attended in the 1970s, provoked a furious reaction in the city.
In her speech, Ms Phillips said: “I’m proud to say I went to Millbrook School.
I’m not proud of the education I had there.”
She went on to claim that it was a “school rampant with hormones and no discipline”, which turned her into a “vile teenager”.