Steph McGovern used to be a familiar face on BBC Breakfast for almost a decade before stepping down in 2019 to join Channel 4. Since then, the presenter and journalist has gone on to enjoy huge success on the network, having hosted her very own talk show Steph’s Packed Lunch since March 2020. In Tuesday’s episode, Steph was joined by guests Denise Van Outen, Jacqui Smith, Marcus Brigstocke and chef Romy Gill to discuss a new report that states Essex and cockney accents are judged to be “less intelligent” than others, and it prompted Steph to share a story about her own experience.
The moment came after Essex-born Denise weighed in with her own criticism on the report.
Chef Romy then shared her own account after working with another famous face from Essex, Rylan Clark-Neal, on Ready, Steady, Cook.
“You shouldn’t judge anybody,” she insisted. “People are intelligent, just because you speak different languages or speak different dialects doesn’t mean you’re not intelligent, you know.”
Steph nodded in agreement before reminiscing about how her accent was judged when she first went on-screen at the BBC.
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“When I first started at BBC News, that was all anyone ever went on about was my accent,” she said.
The Packed Lunch host continued: “It was like, constantly.
“All the letters were like, ‘how can she possibly be intelligent with that voice?’
“’She can’t have gone to university,’” Steph added before revealing one viewer even sent money to the studio for “elocution lessons”.
“They’re no indicator of intelligence or the ability or keenness to work.”
Steph also spoke with guest Milly who appeared on the show to discuss the prejudice she’d faced after being from the travelling showman community to study at Oxford University.
Having grown up working on the fairground, Milly is now studying Classics at Oxford University but admitted she’s faced judgement and prejudice along the way.
And it didn’t take long for fans to weigh in with their praise of Milly and the rest of the Packed Lunch line-up for the candid discussion.
“@PackedLunchC4 Loved the segment on accents & the industry,” one fan said on Twitter.
They added: “Even @BonnieTOfficial has had elocution lessons at one time! We want a mix of all accents – the UK is so diverse. #stephspackedlunch.”
A second added: “@PackedLunchC4 I agree with Steph I have a northern accent too but it’s funny how others don’t think they have an accent ! Oh and yes I went to university too.”
While a third said of Milly: “What a remarkable young lady. Oxford are lucky to have her.”
Steph’s Packed Lunch airs weekdays at 12:30pm on Channel 4.