East Anglian MPs reflect on being “paxo-ed” as the presenter retires from Newsnight
Politicians will be breathing a sigh of relief as veteran Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman leaves the programme this evening - not least Norwich MP Chloe Smith who admitted that she couldn’t say she had enjoyed his company.
But Ms Smith, who as junior Treasury minister joined the ranks of the “paxoed”, still wished him a happy retirement from Newsnight.
Her car-crash interview when she was sent to the BBC studios to defend the Government’s fuel tax u-turn in 2012 put Mr Paxman in the news, rather than reading the news, not for the first time.
Reflecting on his departure she said: “He is a national treasure, although I can’t much say I’ve enjoyed his company! I wish him a happy retirement, even though I fear for the poor souls in any retirement home he ever goes to.”
Last year she got her own back, revealing she had snubbed a request from the programme for a “sensible” interview on her ministerial resignation, by not even returning the call.
West Suffolk MP Matthew Hancock, who has appeared on the show a number of times, said the Newsnight presenter was civil 90% of the time. “The danger is the other 10%. His talent is finding the question that you cannot answer,” he said.
He claimed he had avoided being “paxoed”, and hoped that would remain the case.
Former home secretary Charles Clarke, who was often interviewed on the show, said the key had always been to answer his questions directly. “His famous outbursts were generally against those who avoided answering him,” he added. “Jeremy will be a big loss. I always enjoyed interviews with him as he is intelligent, informed and engaged.”
But Broadland MP Keith Simpson, who managed to avoid an interview with Jermey Paxman despite appearing on Newsnight a number of times, was not so complimentary.
“Over the years, by forceful interrogation of politicians, he has got somewhere near the truth or he has exposed them, but you are always rather left with a nasty taste in your mouth. I suspect he feels that privately aswell,”
He said that in the case of his Norfolk colleague it was perhaps the political party or her cabinet boss to blame, sayins they should not put up somebody who was not fully briefed before facing the “formidable interrogator”. “The problem for Paxman was it did look as though this was a bully, bullying a young new minister. But politics is rough trade.” Great Yarmouth MP and local government minister Brandon Lewis said that he regretted that he had not gone head-to-head with Mr Paxman. “He is one of the great political interviewers and I have not had that experience. You kind of want that experience. But there is probably an up side to that aswell.”
Mr Paxman will continue to present University Challenge, which he has fronted since 1994, but it is not clear what other plans he has after his retirement from Newsnight. What did you think of Jeremy Paxman’s interview style? Write (giving your full contact details) to: The Letters Editor, EDP, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email EDPLetters@archant.co.uk