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George Galloway on how to handle Jeremy Paxman: Pretend to be Rocky

The British politician says there was only ever one way of coping with Paxman’s relentless questioning

George Galloway admits he had a strategy for handling Jeremy Paxman – he pretended he was American boxer Rocky Marciano.

The British politician found himself on the receiving end of Paxman’s hard, relentless line of questioning on several occasions, but maintains that he never lost his cool.

“My technique when faced by him was to try to remain calm,” said Galloway.

“I didn't model myself on Mike Tyson, rushing across the ring like a wild man to try to land the knockout blow. I wanted to be more like Rocky Marciano – jab, jab, jab.

"On the last occasion he interviewed me, after I won the by election in Bradford West in 2012 when he at least gave me some credit for a sensational victory, I said, ‘Don't set yourself up to be my judge, you're not fit to be my judge,’ which was a pretty good line if I do say so myself.”

Paxman tonight hosts his final Newsnight show, stepping down after 25 years. One of his final interviewees, Lord Saatchi, will present him with a present on behalf of the presenter’s many “victims”. The programme will also see "Paxo", as he is nicknamed, ride a tandem with Boris Johnson.

Galloway says that he remained unscathed because he didn’t care what the famed British journalist thought of him, although he says the same strong attitude cannot be expected of politicians in the early stages of their career.


“I am confident enough in my own view of the world not to care,” he said.

“But young politicians with careers to build do worry, and they had more difficulty dealing with his inquisitions. Look at how he eviscerated Treasury minister Chloe Smith in 2012. It was cruel and ended her ministerial career, but she was a minister of the crown and she was found wanting.”

Galloway used journalist and essayist HL Mencken to summarise Paxman’s legendary interviewing style.

“The American writer HL Mencken said that the relationship between journalists and politicians should be akin to that of the dog and the lamp-post,” he wrote in a column for the Guardian.

“Jeremy Paxman certainly took that to heart. We had some memorable encounters and he was very rude to me. But I never took it personally.”