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Why Jeremy Paxman quit Newsnight – after 25 years

30 April 2014

After 25 years in the hot seat, Jeremy Paxman is finally stepping down from Newsnight. Following months years of will-he-won’t-he speculation, Newsnight’s star draw has finally had enough. According to the BBC press release:

‘He informed Tony Hall, the Director General, and James Harding, the Director of News and Current Affairs, of his decision last summer, but with the appointment of a new editor and following a difficult period for Newsnight, Jeremy generously agreed to stay to help the new team bed down.’

As Mr Steerpike reported last year, Paxo has not been happy with the BBC — in particular with Ian Katz’s tenure as editor of Newsnight — for some time. The BBC of course, doesn’t believe in radical change and this posed a dilemma for the new editor of Newsnight. Until Paxman went, the BBC couldn’t radically change the programme. Lacking the guts to do anything, Auntie just waited, and waited, until Paxo took the decision for them.


Paxo’s relationship with his employers has been particularly strained of late. Just a few weeks ago, he hit out at the BBC’s huge size, corporate and cultural attitudes. He told The Guardian:

‘There’s a pile of stuff on the BBC I can’t stand. My idea of hell is going down in one of the lifts in that ghastly new building [New Broadcasting House] in a lift which has Radio 1 Extra plumbed into it. I don’t quite understand why the BBC does Radio 1 Extra.’

Following these remarks, Mr Steerpike understands the presenter received a caustic email from the head of Radio 1 telling him to keep his opinions to himself. The question is now: can Newsnight survive without him?

According to Paddy Power, these are on the odds on who might replace him as the main Newsnight presenter:

  • Laura Kuenssberg – evens
  • Emily Maitlis – 7/1
  • Mishal Husain, Gavin Esler and Eddie Mair – 8/1
  • Kirsty Wark – 9/1
  • Stephen Sackur and James Landale – 14/1

UPDATE:  Potentially successors are already queuing up, including one Piers Morgan. Mr S would give 100/1 odds on that:

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  • Your Correspondent

    Kuenssberg has the vocabulary of a poorly educated sixteen year old, Wark gabbles over the top of everyone, seemingly incapable of grasping a single point put forward by any of the guests. Maitlis is utterly exquisite which works well for drawing in the mainly male and middle aged viewers. Also highly effective at her job. What male politician is going to turn down the opportunity of being interviewed by, and flirting with Emily? Even Cameron goes all gooey-eyed over her.

  • andy_gill

    Am I alone in finding Emily Maitless deeply sexually attractive? She is one hunk of woman.

    • Terry Field

      One man’s meat……………………

  • Donafugata

    Who will replace him as main presenter?

    Please God, don’t let it be Kirsty Squawk, an interviewer who is concerned to get her own opinions across rather than allow the interviewee to speak.

    • Terry Field

      Gordon Brown????? The BBC is the Guardian made videomedia, so he would slot in quite nicely with the corporate bigotry.

  • Grey Wolf

    C’mon BBC. Now find someone who has solid LGBT cred and give it the role!!

  • Its_not_craig

    Oh how I long for Eddie Mair to take the chair.

    • Simplisticus

      Hmmmmmm.. a rather sinister and unpleasant leftie …

  • CharlietheChump

    20 years past its sell by date, it is Newsnight that should go. Paxman has also been there too long, while his attempts at other forms of broadcasting have been mixed he still has the ability to shake the truth out of the interviewee

  • zanzamander

    Someone, anyone, from the Religion of Peace, should be an odds-on favorite.

  • Nkaplan

    Does the rest of Morgan’s tweet read – “which is a vacancy I can very well fill.”

  • Iain Hill

    Soyez raisonnable! So a clapped out presenter leaves a clapped out programme!

  • Blindsideflanker

    I wonder if someone has the nerve to ask Paxman if he thought it was a high point of his journalistic career when he went off with the IRA to film and report on some terrorists give an IRA bomber( who had managed to kill himself with his own bomb) a military salute and send off?

  • Gwangi

    It’s just like when Limahl left Kajagoogoo, innit?

    • Gwangi

      Although I must admit that, if I do watch Newsnight, Paxo is my favourite.

      I usually turn off the Scottish women they seem to parachute in to most TV shows these days. It’s just that voice… Like being nagged by a haggis…

      The only thing worse than a Scots woman is Hardeep Singh Kohli (and I am sure some women would agree…)

      • La Fold

        I dont know, ive had many a cracking night out with a scots woman… Thankfully couldnt tell you a thing about a night out with Hardeep Singh Kholi.

      • Donafugata

        Absolutely spot on, Gwangi, the Scottish woman indeed or Kirsty
        Squawk, as I call her.

        The voice is painful and she uses it far too much.

  • The Masked Marvel

    Good riddance. Paxman has been phoning it in two nights of three for ages. One is sorely tempted to laugh out loud at his moaning about “biddable people” ruining Newsnight, the lack of resources causing the shoddy journalism and so on, never noticing, apparently, that the ideological bias amongst his colleagues caused most of it. How many times in the last three years or so has he been unprepared – or perhaps more accurately, wrongly prepared – for a segment? It wasn’t Katz who was useless during that tedious and pointless shoutfest between Maajid Nawaz and Mo Ansar. Paxman takes no responsibility? He’s always been just a humble employee doing what the bosses put on his desk, has he? The vaunted Paxo sat there and watched it all happen because he couldn’t give up the fat pay packet and prestige, and had the privilege of staying away as long as he liked until Savile/McAlpine blew over. Now he sounds like a whining footballer past his prime on a formerly top-tier club, all ego and no mirror at home. He can take his patented sighs and sneering elsewhere.

    Newsnight was clearly on the path to self-destruction after the McAlpine fiasco, which was not caused by a lack of resources, despite Paxman’s protests to the contrary. Either he was lying to himself or lying to everyone else about that. It and everything else in the last several years was caused by a lack of integrity. Paxman gave up his own some time ago. The BBC, of course, will probably see this as some golden opportunity to take Newsnight from strength to strength and a chance to increase the diversity of presenters, something which is clearly more important to them than merit. They’ll try to pretend all will be well, but nobody outside the bubble will buy it. HookesLaw in his comment below gets that.

    One pities the next batch of University Challenge contestants.

  • jazz606

    I’m part of a no doubt growing band of people who couldn’t give a XXXX about Newsnight or J Paxman.

  • Liz

    Well that was a surprise choice to replace Brucie.

  • RavenRandom

    Who will take over? I expect the BBC will employ another Guardian or ex-Labour person.

    • Greenslime

      Spooky. Kirsty Wark!

      • Blindsideflanker

        Wark has something else going for her, she is Scottish Labour and broadcasting royalty.

        So even though Newsnight has time set aside for Scottish viewers, the BBC won’t consider it odd to have a Scottish broadcaster also broadcasting to the English.

        • Greenslime

          We shouldn’t consider it odd either. If and until they vote for independence, the Scottish are also British and it should be as normal to hear and see Scottish presenters as it is to hear and see presenters from any other part of the UK.

          She might be broadcasting royalty too, but only in Scotland. Outside of the Newsnight audience, she is barely known by anyone else. If you stopped people randomly in the street in England, Wales or Northern Ireland and asked them who she is, they might think that she is R2D2’s sidekick in the new Star Wars film. Come to think of it, with a voice like hers, that is a great idea!

          But there is no doubting that she is a Labour luvvie which fits with the BBC’s current, er, camber. That’ll give her a head start with the Beeb and almost certainly with Katz (although she may not be left enough for his liking).

          Anyone know a black, one-eyed, trans-gender, Muslim, with a history in left-wing politics and broadcasting? They’d be a shoo in.

          • Blindsideflanker

            No problem with it being a British program and so staffed British presenters , but NewsNight is not a wholly British program, for half way through the program the Scots get their own special NewsNight program for Scots. So it is extremely odd to have a Scottish Labour luuvie continue to broadcast to England, while the Scots get their own designated bit of the program.

          • jesseventura2

            And with a couple of illegitimate disabled kids?

  • black11hawk

    Paxman was brilliant, I’d like to see Eddie Mair take over, but it’s probably going to be some annoying twerp.

    • Greenslime

      Mair is just more of the pink, soft lefty clique that is filling up the BBC. These people don’t test the edges of the news envelope, they just make sure that you stay within it. JP may be pompous, but at least he put pressure on everyone

  • McRobbie

    He had to go, he’d criticised the big wigs who get paid a lot..the self servers he told the world about cannot live with that truth and let the whistle blower survive.

  • roger

    I hope he gets down to some serious writing, the history of the decay of the BBC would be worth reading.

  • terence patrick hewett

    Given the advances in cognitive science he could be replaced by a Paxo algorithm.

  • Doggie Roussel

    Piers Moron… the man who couldn’t crack America… the cheap,shoddy, soap TV variety, that is… Alistair Campbell’s bosom buddy… more proof.. cheap red top journo… married above himself… living on borrowed time need we say more ?

  • Doggie Roussel

    Piers Morgan… not fit to tie Paxo’s shoe laces… and that’s not saying much…

  • Smithersjones2013

    I’d like to pay my own heartfelt personal tribute to #Paxman – he’s a smug, supercilious, pompous, overrated weasel.

    Once again Morgan demonstrates how jealous he gets of his superiors. That’s both Paxman and weasels in this case of course………

    • Ooh!MePurse!

      Ha ha! Brilliant!

  • Bonkim

    Will miss Paxman. All others no match for the the inquisitive questioning, and intelligent repartee.

    • HookesLaw

      No – he has long been past his sell by date. The likely scenario is that he will drag Question Time to even lower depths.
      The real question is why these personalities – like ‘the spice girls’ – cannot recognise how lucky they have been not to have been found out before now and have retired gracefully long ago. But no they still desperately have to parade before us.
      What is wrong with Newsnight is the mindset that lies behind it. Paxo is just the talking head that fronts it. His replacement (and he misses quite a few editions already) is irrelevant.

  • Moira Speed

    thus spake the expert then, Mr Morgan.

  • Lady Magdalene

    Not surprised. Since the new Guardian-luvvie became Newsnight Editor, it’s gone completely down the tubes.
    It’s an embarrassment to watch now …. so I don’t bother.

  • Raw England

    Like all Leftists/Marxists do in their decrepid old age, I think he’s realised the repulsive, horrific, putrid mess and suffering that multiculturalism and immigration has brought to us.


    If the new presenter is black or Muslim, it’ll mean immigrants have almost totally hijacked our TV screens.

    • jesseventura2

      Gay muslim transgender would be a leftie coup?

  • Ricky Strong

    Oh look it’s Piers Morgan accusing someone of being a weasel. Not quite the same as hoaxing photos of our soldiers abusing Iraqi’s though is it you utterly vile disgusting and peutrid traitor.

    • Drabble

      Sorry Mr Strong to go off point but The Spectator needs to explain why we cannot comment on the Adams arrest.

      • grammarschoolman

        Well, presumably it’s sub judice like any other arrest.

        • Drabble

          Respected Spectator commentators understand sub judice.
          We do not need to speak of the subject of the arrest.
          We can speak about the man.
          I was interested that her son said he would not be a witness because someone in his family would get shot.

          • tjamesjones

            evidently you don’t understand sub judice.

      • Ricky Strong

        This week on the Spectator comments section I have been addressed as Sir and Mr Strong. I really cannot name the last time I experienced honest courtesy.

  • Guest

    Why isn’t Eddie Mair on the list?

    • HenryWood

      Beacause he is a tw*t. (Or twit, TYP.)

    • Chris Morriss

      Sadly he appears to be on the list. He really is an unpleasant, self-obsessed little creep, who really needs to be able to differentiate the pronunciation of ‘your’ and ‘you’re’.

      • HenryWood

        Very sad indeed if he is on the list and your description of him is absolutely perfect. It should be entered on his CV.

        • realfish

          Yes. Mair seems to be a nasty piece of work.

  • you_kid

    Who will replace him? Cheaper foreign Labour? Kirsty? Hardly, given what’s about to happen in September.
    In other news we note that salaries are rising above inflation… w-ahahaha!

    • HookesLaw

      ‘Cheaper foreign labour’ – like Farage’s German wife taking a good Brits job away from her. Indeed given to huge 24hr a day nature of looking after poor St Nigel’s lunch and dinner arrangements, and the ready supply of Euros to pay for it, Farage’s wife is taking way the job of 2 stout Brits.
      Mind you – give us your definition of ‘foreign’ first before you spout off your rubbish.

      • you_kid

        Mrs Two Jobs Farage? Is this your new all time low, Hookster?

  • Mistress76uk✡

    Who in their right mind would watch Newsnight without Jeremy Paxman…….RIP Newsnight.

    • Andy

      Who in their right mind would watch Newsnight with Jeremy Paxman ?!

      • Makroon

        I think we should be told which member of “the team” our artful Jeremy is “bedding down” with.

        • Andy

          I think we should be told what he gets paid.

    • HenryWood

      I stopped watching News*ite a long time ago, even *with* Paxman.
      Is this another sign of the crumbling Beeb? (Oh, how I pray for it!)

    • El_Sid

      Me – it was always much better when Gavin Esler was on. Paxo became irrelevant the moment Lehmans blew up, he’s been living on borrowed time since 2008 because since then the news has been all about economics and he just didn’t know about the subject to do the job. He’d have been better off doing the Sunday political show instead of Marr – perhaps that’s a change that could yet happen?

      • HookesLaw

        No the news has not been all about economics. Ask Gadafi ask the inhabitants of Alepo ask sick people in Staffordshire ask various Commisioners of the Met and tonight ask Mr G Adams.
        Thanks though for a useful illustration of how dumb you are.

  • Mark McIntyre

    YO, PAXO – goodbye great growler !

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