Jeremy Paxman is to step down from presenting Radio 4's Start the Week. He will be succeeded by Andrew Marr, the BBC's political editor. Paxman has presented the popular Monday morning show for nearly five years. He took over from Melvyn Bragg, when BBC chiefs thought it inappropriate for Bragg to continue after becoming a Labour peer.
Paxman said yesterday: "'I've had a wonderful five years, full of interest. But now it's time to let someone else have a go." Some listeners thought Paxman's style too combative for the programme, whose first presenter 32 years ago was Richard Baker. But it does not appear there was pressure on him to stand down.
Start the Week is among the jewels in the Radio 4 crown. The unpredictability caused by throwing novelists, scientists, celebrities and politicians together for miscellaneous debate has led to the show being both an agenda-setter and a place to catch a good, unscheduled shouting match. Henry Kissinger walked out on Paxman after a debate which included criticisms of American policy; but the BBC still claims he was merely rushing to another appointment.
The most unusual moment in the show's history may have been the occasion when the Ugandan dictator Idi Amin played the accordion on air. Devotees who remember that will also remember that the show in its early days the show had a cookery slot. Even the notably eclectic Marr has not pressed to revive that.
Helen Boaden, controller of Radio 4, said: "Jeremy has done a tremendous job and I hope he will continue to broadcast on Radio 4. I'm delighted that Andrew Marr has agreed to become the new presenter. Andrew has the kind of wide-ranging interests and intelligent curiosity that makes him ideal for the role. I'm looking forward to hearing how the programme develops with him at the helm."
Marr will present the programme when it returns in November. The show's return has been delayed until September to allow him to cover the party conferences for the BBC. Marr, a former editor of The Independent, said: "It is one of the most daunting and thrilling jobs in radio. I suppose I'm daunted and thrilled."