Page 3 Profile: Jeremy Paxman, Newsnight presenter


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The Independent Online

Time to say goodbye? Answer the question!

Jeremy Paxman presented his final edition of Newsnight last night after 25 years at the helm of BBC 2’s flagship current affairs programme. The 64-year-old inquisitor announced his departure from the show in April, saying he wanted to “go to bed at much the same time as most people”.

Did he go out with a bang?

The veteran broadcaster, who was born in Leeds and lives in Oxford, took viewers by surprise by conducting his final interview with London Mayor Boris Johnson on a tandem bike ride, during which he probed his long-time sparring partner on cycling safety in the capital.

Have they buried the hatchet then?

Not quite. As ever, Paxman didn’t shy away from laying into his victim, sorry, guest. “It is not delightful to cycle in London, it is a bloody nightmare,” he told Johnson as they set off along London’s streets.

He’s never been backward in coming forward…

Talk about an understatement. During his tenure as the BBC’s resident Rottweiler, he has torn into a host of politicians and public figures. His 1997 interview with Michael Howard, who had been Home Secretary until 13 days previously, will go down in television history. Paxman repeated the same question (“Did you threaten to overrule him?”) 12 times about a report that was critical of Howard’s handling of the prison service and whether he had threatened to overrule the director of prisons, Derek Lewis.

Who else has Paxman eviscerated?

The question should be, who hasn’t he eviscerated? In 2003, the then Prime Minister Tony Blair attempted to make the case for the invasion of Iraq via questions from a studio audience. Paxman memorably asked Blair if he and his US counterpart George Bush prayed together. He later informed George Osborne “You’re like the man who walks behind the horse with the bucket,” describing the Treasurer’s former ministerial role as shadow Chancellor.

His wrath isn’t reserved solely for deceitful politicians though…

Paxman was none too pleased when he was instructed by his superiors to deliver the weather forecast instead of financial reports. He openly ridiculed the decision, dispensing wisdom such as: “And for tonight’s weather – it’s April, what do you expect?” The financial reports were re-instated after a few weeks.

On to pastures new now?

Of his departure, Paxman said: “It’s been fun. I have had the pleasure of working with lots of clever, creative and amusing people.” However he added it was “time to move on”. He is reportedly considering offers from Channel 4 but for the time being he will continue to reduce students to gibbering wrecks on University Challenge.