Cox’s credibility catastrophe: TV professor’s logic fails him over ‘friends with Tories’ debate

Brian Cox: His head has been above the clouds for so long he has lost touch with what’s happening here at ground level.

I suppose it was only logical that one of the minds behind D:Ream’s Things Can Only Get Better – also known as Tony Blair’s theme song in the 1997 general election – should hold a centrist worldview that absolves Conservative MPs of guilt for their many crimes against the UK’s population.

So it should be no surprise that Professor Brian Cox would take issue with Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell’s statement that he could not be friends with a Conservative politician after the cruelty of their austerity policies over the last eight years.

Here’s what Mr McDonnell said:

To me, it seems unlikely that Professor Cox saw that clip. More plausible is that he read the LBC tweet quoted below – “After John McDonnell reveals he couldn’t be friends with a Conservative, Iain Dale asks: do you struggle being friends with someone of the opposite political persuasion?” The context – that it is a decision reached by observation of the human suffering caused by the Tories – is missing.

Still, the conclusion to which the professor is drawn seems incongruous. Here’s what he wrote:

It is a huge leap of logic to suggest that denying friendship to a politician who intentionally causes suffering is equivalent to wanting a one-party state (like the Soviet Union). It is also an example of thinking in absolutes – Mr McDonnell wasn’t saying the only good people are those who agree with him; he was saying he, personally, cannot accept that there is anything good about the suffering inflicted needlessly on innocent people by the Conservatives. Personally, I’m with him.

In the interests of fairness, it is worth reporting a YouGov poll which states that an “overwhelming majority” (of the 1,000 or so people the organisation asked) said they could be friends with someone who has a different political view.


But it doesn’t say they could be friends with a politician who had inflicted huge suffering on people they know, so is it entirely appropriate to this case?

When a person of Professor Cox’s standing makes a blunder, Twitter pays attention – and his comment attracted a wealth of stinging responses.

Was it a dogpile – an instance in which many people attack someone over a wrong or offensive post because that person is an easy target, or to gain popularity points? I don’t think so. The criticisms of Professor Cox were largely reasonable attempts to show him his error.

For example, Sarah stated: “The issue for many right now Brian is that the game has changed over last 8 yrs (& particularly th last 3) of Tory rule. While you’d be having a friendly debate with Tories about your political differences, this degradation is happening to millions.”

Consider this:

“Bootstrap Cook” Jack Monroe was a little more biting: “If you struggle to understand why that ‘opposite political persuasion’ is not a clever dinner debate but a real harmful ideology that is killing the vulnerable in society, then it seems to me that your wealth, celebrity and privilege are occupying the space your heart should be.”

And perhaps Socialist Voice can be forgiven for the implication that Professor Cox has lost his principles: “Dear Professor Brian Cox,

“Tory MPs laughed and brayed in parliament as they voted against giving nurses a pay rise. Some nurses are now using food banks.

“So, please excuse those of us who have principles and strictly refuse to collaborate with the enemy.”

The suggestion may be more understandable if taken in connection with the exchange that Another Angry Voice discusses, below. After suggesting that Mr McDonnell would deny a voice to anybody who disagreed with him, Professor Cox then did exactly that to a commenter who disagreed with him:

Perhaps, in the heat of the moment, Professor Cox failed to realise his own behaviour resembled his argument far more than Mr McDonnell’s.

At the end of the day, this contretemps won’t matter to Professor Cox. He has a large fan base that is undoubtedly very forgiving and his career won’t be harmed.

But we may hope that, next time, before he jumps to insupportable conclusions, maybe he will take the time needed to consider all the evidence.

Like a scientist.

Visit our JustGiving page to help Vox Political’s Mike Sivier fight anti-Semitism libels in court

Vox Political needs your help!
If you want to support this site
but don’t want to give your money to advertisers)
you can make a one-off donation here:

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Here are four ways to be sure you’re among the first to know what’s going on.

1) Register with us by clicking on ‘Subscribe’ (in the left margin). You can then receive notifications of every new article that is posted here.

2) Follow VP on Twitter @VoxPolitical

3) Like the Facebook page at

Join the Vox Political Facebook page.

4) You could even make Vox Political your homepage at

And do share with your family and friends – so they don’t miss out!

If you have appreciated this article, don’t forget to share it using the buttons at the bottom of this page. Politics is about everybody – so let’s try to get everybody involved!

Buy Vox Political books so we can continue
fighting for the facts.

The Livingstone Presumption is now available
in either print or eBook format here:

HWG PrintHWG eBook

Health Warning: Government! is now available
in either print or eBook format here:

HWG PrintHWG eBook

The first collection, Strong Words and Hard Times,
is still available in either print or eBook format here:



  1. Lauretta Pearson November 23, 2018 at 1:45 am - Reply

    Maybe it is too much for Professor Cox’s con-science that he could possibly be a Tory?

  2. Lauretta Pearson November 23, 2018 at 1:50 am - Reply

    Maybe it is too much for Professor Cox’s con-science to bear. Could he possibly be a Tory?

  3. nmac064 November 23, 2018 at 12:28 pm - Reply

    I have a lot of friends who have different politician opinions to me – but they are Lib Dems and Greens – no Tories. Like John McDonnell I would find it difficult to be friends such people.

  4. Dan Delion November 23, 2018 at 12:53 pm - Reply

    There is a context where one might understand Prof Cox’s point of view – the idiotic UK system of adversarial two party politics. If there are only 2 effective parties, then logically, excluding one of the two leaves you with a one party system. However, while we may have two main adversarial political parties, there are significant other parties that must be considered: LibDems, Greens, for a start and where would without the DUP? Give us a better voting system and this debate doesn’t arise.

  5. Helen R Beer November 23, 2018 at 2:22 pm - Reply

    I feel a tory supporter lacks compassion and tend to be shallow thinking. Tories, represent the corporate world and tend to be in it for themselves. They have never cared for the working class. This government has used the politics of austerity as an excuse to sell of the NHS, make cuts to education, reduce police budgets therefore, backing private policing, libraries have been sold off as they want to keep the working class ignorant, deferred the state pension for women then accelerated the age hikes in 2011, for 1950’s born women, who have to wait another 6 years for their reduced pensions beause of the new way NIC’s are calculated, the welfare state is sold off, the mental health budget was reduced by 600 milion then given a ,poxy,bit extra, after the princes spoke about the subject, they have killed 110, 000 people due to their policies, they have made it, just about, impossible to get legal aid and Citizens Advice centres are disappearing, disputes, for example, tribunals, maybe,in regard to the hire and fire way of our service industries have to be paid for by the complainant, The tory party have their eyes on the booty to be made from privatisation, they have many conflicts of financial interest and pander to the lobbyists including the utility companies, they own the right wing media and are very wealthy, financially backed by those who gain from a tory reign. The UN report gives, more than a clue to how this country is in crisis, oh! Brexit was started by them and they have no plan post Leave.
    There are the other tories, the working class who believe the lies in tge gutter press and turn on whoever they are told the enemy is. No, I I don’t hate them, I cannot be friends with the cruel, lying, despots or the ill-educated, easily duped. It seems very lonely here.

  6. rotzeichen November 23, 2018 at 5:27 pm - Reply

    Even very competent people can become outwitted by the corrupt and unscrupulous. If Professor Cox believes the Tories are doing everything out of necessity, then clearly he has been duped, and it well behoves him to understand money creation in order to fully understand why thinking people can dislike Tories with an intensity reserved for the most despicable in society.

  7. Pat Sheehan November 25, 2018 at 1:58 am - Reply

    Doesn’t Professor Cox believe in those historic Apollo moon landings that we can’t do now (apparently) with all the new technology?

Leave A Comment