Jeremy Paxman’s greatest on-air assassinations

In the wake of Chloe Smith's Newsnight appearance, re-live some classic toe-curling political interviews


For most politicians, finding themselves in front of Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight and being met by what Malcolm Tucker called “that big rubbery horse-face of mock incredulity” as they flounder helplessly live on air is the stuff of nightmares.


But that’s what happened to junior Treasury minister Chloe Smith last night when she was grilled by Newsnight’s no-nonsense anchor about the government’s controversial stance on freezing fuel duty.

Stumbling over her words and facing constant interruptions, Smith’s interview has become the latest in a long line of wince-inducing viral video sensations to emanate from the BBC2 current affairs show:

She’s far from the first public figure to face the wrath of Paxman though, and during his career on Newsnight the fearsome broadcaster has been largely responsible for eradicating all traces of sycophancy from the media’s dealings with our political overlords. Indeed, Paxman famously describes his mantra for interviewing members of the government as: “Why is this lying bastard lying to me?”

And so, to reassure the Member for Norwich North that she’s not the only politician to have been dealt with rather brutally on Newsnight, here’s a collection of Paxo’s greatest ever on-air assassinations for your viewing/squirming pleasure…

Michael Howard (1997)

A media appearance which I’m sure still haunts the former Conservative leader to this day, this clip from 1997 saw Paxman going on the offensive and refusing to back down no matter how many times he was fobbed off…

Tony Blair (2002)

Paxo didn’t half put the former PM on the spot in this interview, in which he questioned how the former New Labour leader reconciled his religious beliefs with his party’s acceptance of donations from the publisher of magazines Horny Housewives, Mega Boobs and Skinny & Wriggly…

Simon Hughes (2010)

A classic stitch-up from Paxman here, which saw the broadcaster confronting prevaricating Lib Dem MP Simon Hughes with an unwelcome photo from the politician’s past. Even the camera-man can’t help laughing at the moment of the big reveal…

Nick Griffin (2010)

Dripping with disdain, Paxman had the BNP’s leader on the ropes from the get-go in this interview rubbishing his party members, his definitions of “Britishness” and the far-right party’s plans for a penal colony near Antarctica.

Ben Swain (2007)


While not strictly a real politician, The Thick of It’s pompous, braying minister Ben Swain was reduced to a gibbering wreck by Paxo to the delight of Olly Reeder and chums in this clip from the show’s 2007 special Rise of the Nutters.