DIARY: Fired by John Birt's Phillippic
Prolific writer and commentator John Walsh contributes columns to the paper as well as writing features, interviews and restaurant reviews. He has been editor of The Independent Magazine, literary editor of the Sunday Times and features editor of the London Evening Standard.
Thursday 09 February 1995
The subject under discussion was veal. On the left, Carla Lane, the Sindy's-Mum-haired animal rights activist; on the other side, Barbara Smith, a dairy farmer; beside her, a suit from the RSPCA who didn't get a word in because the, as it were, meat of the discussion lay with the women. Are you, Jeremy asked Carla, on an unstoppable bandwagon? Are you, Barbara, part of a dying industry? Carla, do you believe animals have rights? Barbara, do you treat animals well and, if so, why? Paxman was a Platonic ideal of even-handedness and politeness. When he once accidentally cut across one of his guests, he stopped as if guillotined and said: "So sorry, go ahead."
It couldn't last and it didn't. A stray remark from Carla Lane, about separating calves from their weeping mothers, brought out the Paxman demon. His body language went haywire (vampiric chin on chest, hand clutching face, body arched like Anglepoise lamp) as he demanded: "I'm sorry ... I don't want to appear rude here, but you've just talked about a grieving mother cow. We're about to hear a report from Chechnya, we hear terrible reports every day from Bosnia. What is it about you people that engages youso much, to the exclusion of other issues that are about human beings?" An unfair question, of course, and one that Carla Lane handled easily. But in those two words, "you people", the Paxo gene was isolated. It isn't rudeness, or John Humphries-style bullying, or parti pris point-scoring. It is a note of utter exasperation with the world's peculiar hierarchy of causes, sympathies and solutions that is unique to Paxman and should be treasured. And at least he didn't call anyone a dimwit.
- 1 UK weather: Snow to fall in the coming week with sub-zero temperatures to last until early February
- 2 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 3 The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
- 4 Phil Neville backtracks on Tomas Rosicky 'I'd smash him' comments from Match of the Day 2
- 5 SAG Awards: Fake applause track interrupts Reese Witherspoon
Rowan Atkinson to sell £10 million McLaren 'supercar' he crashed into a tree and a lamppost
Paris attacks: Do not call Charlie Hebdo killers 'terrorists', BBC says
Asteroid narrowly scrapes past Earth: how to watch the closest space rock for decades as it flies by
UK weather: Snow to fall in the coming week with sub-zero temperatures to last until early February
Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
Nigel Farage: NHS might have to be replaced by private health insurance
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
George Galloway condemns 'racist, Islamophobic, hypocritical rag' Charlie Hebdo at freedom of speech rally
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
£45000 - £50000 per annum: Investigo: My client, a global leader in providing ...
Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: WEST LONDON - An excellent new opportunity wit...
£8 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A Florist Shop Manager is required to m...
£15000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading supplie...