EIBF 2017: Jeremy Paxman with Ruth Wishart in the Chair, Questions,Questions, Questions

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Jeremy Paxman with Ruth Wishart in the Chair
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Ruth Wishart had a quick barbed comment when she saw that Jeremy Paxman had brought in a glass of wine: "Dutch courage!" But she went on to say that the two most feared words were 'Jeremy' and 'Paxman' - how, she asked, do you feel about that? Paxman replied, "Well, perhaps when I've found a lying husband who's just discovered the power of prayer, or possibly being locked in a room with a lot of bad-tempered bees, then it pleases me."

Ruth Wishart asked if there was any interview that had made a lasting impression and stood out? Paxman initially said that there had been nothing memorable, but then mentioned Chloe Smith who had been a junior Treasury Minister and asked to defend the U turn in Government policy for a reduction in fuel duty as put forward by the Chancellor, George Osborne.

Paxman said that in his view this had been a painful change in policy which had not been discussed with Chloe Smith herself. He admitted that he felt a little sorry for her as she had been surrendered like a sacrificial lamb to the slaughter.

Paxman said that he would prepare for the audience and decide in advance the way an interview would go. He stressed that an interview was not a gladiatorial event, but people need to be prepared and aware that they are going into a different environment. There should be no question of a "poor little me" approach. People can sense when others are lying, but don't want necessarily to mention or take advantage of nervousness.

He was asked by Ruth Wishart for his views on the May vs Corbyn pre-election separate session that he hosted. He said that he was surprised how relaxed Corbyn was - and even that his assistants choose to go first, having won the toss of the coin. On the other hand May had appeared to be tense and had given the impression that she was not a natural campaigner. He could not believe that she should have called an election and still managed to effectively lose.

Paxman railed against presenters who took the trouble to stand when they were presenting or interviewing - "does this make them more effective?" he asked. He was strongly of the opinion that there was absolutely no need to stand up as a presenter or an interviewer. On the BBC, which he compared to Stalin's Russia when he gave the MacTaggart lecture in 2007, in general he was even more forthright and considered that it was, "a cosy little club which should be shut down tomorrow!"

He was asked about University challenge by Ruth Wishart, and he said that he had never really wanted to be involved as he regarded the concept as one belonging to Bamber Gascoigne, however, after much prevarication he met Bamber in the Reading Room of the former British Library and asked him if he wanted to be the question master, to which Bamber said, "no, by all means you take it on!" He stressed that although he had asked for some authority in selecting questions this had always been ruled out. However, he did ditch questions that seemed to play to a team's strengths - but he always asked the very next question on the sheet.

When it came to questions the matter of the gender gap in pay was raised; Paxman was firmly of the view that people had to negotiate for the salary they felt they were worth, however, he thought that the BBC would reduce some of the male salaries to get them on a par with their female counterparts.

Asked if he would like to interview Donald Trump; Paxman said he would like the opportunity to do this, if only to try and establish whether his claims such as those about groping women and the wall with Mexico could be established as realistic policies.

As ever Paxman finished on a high note. He had denied ever being offered "a gong", as he put it, however, he was able to get back at Ruth Wishart, by asking, "well have you ever been asked?". His final cry was, "tell us about the gong, Ruth!"