Come Off It, Paxo! If You Earn a Million a Year the Licence-Payer Has a Right to Know

Last night’s Newsnight saw Old Malvernian millionaire interrogator Jeremy Paxman clashing with Old Etonian millionare Mayor of London Boris Johnson. But according to Paul Waugh the most exciting bits of the interview weren’t included:

In what insiders described as “fantastic political theatre”, Mr Johnson clashed repeatedly with his interviewer over his stance on an EU referendum, on his membership of Oxford University’s Bullingdon Club and on David Cameron’s public image.”

Mr Johnson raised the issue of Paxman’s pay, saying: “You are paid elephantine sums by the taxpayer.”

Paxman replied: “If only that were true. You don’t know [what I earn]. I should stop making assertions.”

In unscreened exchanges, Mr Johnson pointed out that Londoners could see how much he earned as Mayor but licence-fee payers were not allowed similar transparency. At one point, Mr Johnson said: “Why don’t you get a proper job?”

When asked about drunken antics in his Oxford days, the Mayor replied: “Ask me a serious question…”

Splendid stuff and I quite agree with those “Mayoral Aides” (Boris?) who are urging that the full interview be put up online.

What interests me especially is the question of Paxo’s alleged £1 million salary. It interests me first as a nosey bastard. It interests me second as a licence-fee payer. But most of all it interests me ideologically.

They can be terribly grand BBC presenter types – the Paxos and Dimblebys – when quizzed about their personal lives. The salary issue, especially, they seem to think is tantamount to asking the Queen whether or not she goes to the loo. And up to a point I agree with them. A BBC political interviewer’s private life, in so far as it does not bear on his public role as frank and fearless interrogator of slippery MPs, is none of our ruddy business.

Where it is our business, though, is in cases like the Paxo/Bozza clash above. The ideological undercurrent to Paxo’s line of questioning (he may not share it but tough: that’s his karmic price for working for the pinko BBC) goes like this: “You are a toffy public school boy. David Cameron is a toffy public school boy. You were both in the Buller. You both earn way, WAY more than the national average. How can throwbacks like you possibly be fit to run modern Britain?”

This tack is outrageous and deserves to be challenged at every turn, as vigorously as possible. (Can you imagine a similar line of questioning being adopted if Boris’s and Dave’s “crimes” were to be, say, black or female or homosexual or physically handicapped?) Boris was quite right to make his response personal, for an ex public schoolboy on a million a year (or whatever Paxo earns) by asking such a question lays himself open to a charge of  hypocrisy.

No more do Boris Johnson’s or David Cameron’s class, background and income rule them out of being great, effective and morally decent politicians than Paxo’s class, background and income rule him out of being a first rate interviewer.

If Paxo wishes to be impertinent (and disingenuous) on this score, then he should damned well expect some impertinence back.

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Wind Farms: Will Paxo Ride to His Brother’s Rescue?

On telly Jeremy Paxman is a terrifying figure: combative, irascible, impatient, contemptuous and ungenerous. (For an example of the latter, do check out how he begins his interview with right wing US commentator Ann Coulter – who promptly wipes the floor with him). But in real life he is an absolutely sweetheart. On several occasions I’ve watched him compere charity quizzes and prove himself to be such a cuddly, good-natured, double-cheek-kissing, borderline luvvie I wondered whether perhaps he suffers from Jekyll/Hyde syndrome. Either that or the Paxman you see on TV is some kind of evil killer replicant version of the real Jezza, with all the human qualities removed.

It’s this nice, sensitive side of Paxman, I hope, which will ride to the rescue of his brother James – currently fighting a valiant campaign to prevent a wind farm blighting a beauteous stretch of Devon overlooking Dartmoor national park. Presumably the brothers get on (I’m way too scared to ring up and ask, in case the evil TV replicant answers the phone) and go to stay with one another. In which case, Jezza will surely have been to his brother’s Dartmoor pad, noticed the region’s rugged magnificence, and been struck by the fact that what the area really doesn’t need is nine wind turbines on 120 foot high sticks dominating the horizon and quite removing all sense of the natural from the landscape. And will thus be compelled to lend his weight, as a public figure, to this tremendously worthwhile cause.

Or will he? Paxman is an ostensibly bright man. But unfortunately there are an awful lot of ostensibly bright people who have been taken in by Al Gore’s Man Made Global Warming Myth, in much the same way as many global “intellectuals” were seduced in the Thirties (and Forties, Fifties, Sixties, Seventies, Eighties, Nineties and Noughties if your name’s Professor EL Hobsbawm) by Josef Stalin. Even more unfortunately, Paxman works for the BBC where to question the Al Gore version of “climate change” is about as career safe as it would have been for an ambitious SD officer in Nazi Germany to start championing the human rights of Jews, gypsies and homosexuals.

A bit like the Queen, leading BBC interviewers have to adopt a guise of impartiality so it’s not always easy to know what they really think. (Actually I lie, it’s pimpsqueak: they’re tree-hugging pinkoes, every man Jack of them). When I Googled to find what Paxo’s views are on “climate change”, all I could find was a piece he wrote in the BBC’s in house magazine Ariel, in which he lambasted his employers for their ecological hypocrisy.

He wrote: “It strikes me as very odd indeed that an organisation which affects such a high moral tone cannot be more environmentally responsible.”

“The BBC’s environment correspondents, even the makers of series like Planet Earth, are trapped in a bizarre arrangement in which they travel the globe to tell the audience of the dangers of climate change while leaving a vapour trail which will make the problem even worse.”

How are we to interpet this? The charitable interpretation is that he is not taking a stance on “climate change” per se, merely on the inconsistency of the BBC’s attitude, viz: ‘If you really believe all this green drivel you’re spouting, at least show some kind of intellectual and moral consistency.’

What makes me fear that Paxo is very much part of the problem not the solution, however, is his apparent belief in ‘carbon credits’. Elsewhere in the article, he complains that BBC staff are being forced personally to fork out for the cost of carbon-offsetting the air-, land- and sea-miles for all their BBC junkets to the Olympics, Glastonbury, and God knows where else. He speaks as if, somehow, this were a bad thing; as if – heaven forfend – it ought to be the licence-payer who ought to be funding these carbon-offsets.

“Come off it, Jeremy!” as I’m sure his killer TV replicant would say under different circumstances. There are varying levels of credulousness and air-headed stupidity among warmists. But only the really thickest of thick actually believe that paying fifteen quid so that some bloke in India can plant a mango tree so as to carbon-neutralise the cost of your eco-junket in Copenhagen is anything other than silly, pointless and redolent of the Emperor’s New Clothes.

Still, here is the perfect opportunity for Paxo to prove me wrong. Go on Jezza! Come out for your bro! Speak up against the wind farm menace! Otherwise, it may be that I shall be forced to distrust anything you say on any subject ever again, for I will know that you are not the  questing, intellectually fearless empiricist you claim to be but, well frankly, that you’re just another of Al Gore’s useful idiots.

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