Wednesday 31 May 2017

BBC's Own Brand National Treasure gets stuffed

Own Brand National Treasure

You’ll have already read the abundant criticism of Jeremy Paxman’s disappointing performance on Channel 4’s much anticipated Great Political Event. I haven’t got much to add, but I felt that Paxo deserved a mention purely because of his status as the BBC’s Own Brand National Treasure.  

After all, Channel 4 and Sky had gathered together a politically balanced audience and bagged The Great Paxo to eviscerate the leaders of the two main parties. What’s not to like.

Personally I’m not a fan of Paxo’s stock-in-trade repetitive-questioning technique, which proved to be such a hit with Michael Howard’s enemies. Cornering interviewees into making panicky and convoluted attempts to avoid incriminating themselves merely for your (and the audience’s) amusement is a tactic of the bully. Especially if the admission you’re trying to force out is about as deceitful as getting an interviewee to confess to cutting the flesh of his fellow man but not letting him say he’s a surgeon. If you see what I’m getting at. 
I particularly dislike it when other interviewers emulate this unfair tactic; making a spectacle of an interviewee who is already at a disadvantage because you’re ‘at home’ and he’s ‘away’. 

Viz. Mishal Husain’s notorious, “How many Israelis?” question, repeated over and over. Hoping to score a devastating point against ‘Zionists’ by trying to force Gil Hoffman to utter the word “none”, having asked, over and over again “how many Israelis have been killed by Hamas’s harmless home-made contraptions?” But she came off looking biased and cruel, and I’m not the only one who thought this reflected badly on her.

I suppose Channel 4 and Sky thought they were hiring a titan, but Paxo’s failure to deliver proved universally disappointing. Everyone was so looking forward to it as well. 

First of all people were disappointed by his rudeness, which backfired spectacularly, diverting sympathy from interviewer to  interviewee. 
Secondly people were appalled by his ineffectual lines of questioning. He seemed so out of touch. He persisted in a line of attack  that was obviously going nowhere, something that should have been evident as soon as Jeremy Corbyn produced the first answer. 
Q: “Why haven’t you managed to get your radical, hard left policies into the Labour manifesto? “ A: “Simples. We’re a democracy, not a dictatorship. Next! “ 
But cloth-eared Paxo wasn’t for moving on. 

In today’s Times (£) Matthew Parris explains why he believes Corbyn’s affiliation with the IRA hasn’t dented his popularity.

Why Corbyn isn’t being hurt by the IRA issue”

Apathy? Yes. Ignorance of, and boredom with recent history? yes. But crucially:

We hate and fear terrorists, of course, but the English have never warmed to Ulster's orangemen, I have the feeling that though in England knowledge of the Irish Question is hazy to the point of ignorance, there's a deep if vague collective recognition that, over centuries, England screwed the whole thing up horribly: that it was us who started this"

The very same phenomenon applies to Israel and antisemitism. If the Labour Party plans to officially recognise Palestine first thing sharp on the morning of June 9th, or if Emma Barnett receives a few antisemitic tweets after exposing Corbyn's ineptitude, so what? As for Israel, "Britain screwed the whole thing up horribly: that it was us who started this"

We don't know history and we don't like Zionists anyway. Antisemitism in the Labour Party?
We. Ain't. Bovvered.

The BBC's veteran presenter used a similar approach in his questioning of Theresa May. Of course she was at a disadvantage, being part of the sitting government. A P.M. has a lot of policies to defend; Policies with records.
Instead of choosing the government's failure to deal with immigration or the chronic underfunding of everything but overseas aid, Paxman decided to attack May's ability to negotiate a 'good' Brexit on the grounds that prior to the referendum she had campaigned for Remain. "Simples. I'm acting on behalf of the people. Next!"  But Jeremy wasn't listening.

Faisal islam didn't do much better, but the audience managed to get some important points across. Particularly notable was the Irishman who criticised Corbyn for attending a commemoration for an IRA terrorist. Corbyn's well-trodden claim that he wasn't honouring a terrorist but commemorating "all who died" wasn't allowed to stand unchallenged. One point to the member of the audience, nil points to Jeremy Corbyn. There was also the small business owner and disillusioned labour voter who questioned the Labour party's plans for increasing corporation tax and raising the minimum wage. Why, he wondered, should he vote Labour when such policies would damage or destroy his business?

The unsustainable policy of "hammering the industrious to fund the idle" is the fundamental weakness of the Labour party's 'vision', but the birthday boy didn't give the businessman the opportunity to protest at his question being side-stepped, when it so very plainly had been.
I'm sure a lot of small, and not so small, businesspeople wanted to hear the answer to that one.


  1. I`d have thought that somebody would have given Paxman a trial before inflicting his tired schtick on the nation.
    But privilege is letting his Overclass off from such matters as competence and relevance. The BBC has got to go, as have Channel 4.
    Why pay for this dross-has beens and never-weres

  2. I wonder why Paxman upped the antics with his constant interruptions. Was he told to do so by Chan 4? It almost reminded me of last year when we saw that disgraceful interview with Michael Gove where Faisal Islam simply wouldn't stop interrupting the poor man during the Euro exit debates.
    Perhaps they learnt their interrupting skills from Fox News and the King of interrupters Bill O'Reilly. He was unbearable to watch. He loved the sound of his own voice.
    Of course now he is no longer on tv thanks to his misdemeanours.

    But how is it we're still seeing Paxman. Didn't he decide on early retirement from the BBC? And every time I switch on Classic FM Radio I keep hearing retired BBC Breakfast presenter Bill Turnbull who seems to be working more than ever now.

    But Aisla, your statement "The BBC has got to go" is music to my ears.

    John - London.


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