And here is tonight’s main news… Jeremy Paxman has shaved off his headline-making beard.
Exactly 147 days after the greying growth made its Newsnight debut, Paxman has returned to our screens clean shaven.
New Year, new razor blades.
Just hours before going on air tonight he gave RadioTimes.com this exclusive reaction: “If a chap can’t shave on holiday, what can he do? Beards are so 2013.”
It was, of course, over his last summer holiday that the 63-year-old presenter decided to give the razor a rest. His return appearance on August 12 with what was, in all honesty, a fairly insubstantial piece of facial decoration caused a media storm.
The Twitter highway was gridlocked with comments both favourable and hostile while newspaper columnists had a field day pondering the place of beards in public life. Paxman was even invited onto the BBC’s own Today programme to contribute to the ensuing debate. He declined.
He admits to being perplexed, if not a little amused, by the reaction. “I had not seen it coming,” he wrote a few days later. “The thing is I don’t normally like beards. A shave makes a clean start to the day. But it is also a waste of time. At a rough guess I calculate that all those five minutes every morning have devoured months of my life.”
But there was also a sense – though let’s not get too chin-scratchingly analytical about it – that it represented something of a belligerent refusal to conform. After all, as he put it, the BBC has a “very obvious conviction that the only beards allowed on screen belong to characters like Uncle Albert in Only Fools and Horses.” He was enjoying representing a constituency of marginalised beardies. “For a glorious few days I have been a poster boy for a shadowy group called the Beard Liberation Front, which claims that facial hair invites discrimination,” he wrote. “I’m finding it quite a heavy burden.”
For so gamely championing the wearing of beards in high places, Paxman earned himself a nomination from the BLF in its Beard of the Year competition. Sadly he couldn’t translate column inches into votes and was roundly beaten by the likes of Gareth Malone and John Hurt in the poll just before Christmas.
Perhaps it was this defeat that persuaded him to pick up the razor again. At least one BBC colleague, former Beard of the Year winner Robin Lustig, is dismayed that Paxman is no longer with facial hair.
“I am very disappointed,” he told RadioTimes.com tonight. “I had high hopes that Jeremy would pave the way for very many more men with beards to appear on our screens. I hope the fact that he has decided to get rid of his won’t deter others.”