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A TV champion for country ways, Jeremy Paxman

Friday 09 March 2007

Our countryside and rural affairs commentator John Sheard delights in a very public row which has pitted the townies that run the British media up against one of their very own pit bulls, Jeremy Paxman

IT IS always a delicious delight when London's chattering classes fall out amongst themselves. It causes me to borrow that university adage about academic feuds: they get so vicious because there is so little at stake.

When the two proponents are media stars, it makes it all the more fun because being on the telly or the radio turns many very ordinary people into prima donnas quite unaware how stupid they sound when their pomposity is exposed.

Jeremy Paxman
Bravo to Paxo
Photo: BBC

So what gave me one of the biggest laughs of the New Year so far was a public fall out between BBC2 pit-bull Jeremy Paxman (known to his mates as Paxo) and one-time Radio 4 Today programme big-wig Ron Liddle.

The bone of contention was a subject very close to my heart, fly fishing, and the fact that Yorkshireman Paxo had the temerity to write in praise of this, his favourite hobby, for a magazine produced by the Countryside Alliance, the outspoken voice of country sports.

Liddle, you see, was the editor of the Today programme who was in charge the day of the great march on London, organised by the alliance, in which almost one million country folk descended on the capital to protest against New Labour's treatment of rural issues and, in particular, plans to abolish fox hunting.

Now Today journalists have been attacked a thousand times for their pro-Labour bias (several are said to be paid-up party members) and Liddle took an amazing decision on how they should cover the Great March.

They didn't. They did not say a word about the biggest demonstration in London of the 21st Century. They simply ignored it - a decision that even the Left-leaning governors of the BBC found hard to explain of a publicly-owned corporation which is supposed at all times to be free of political bias.

Later, Liddle tried to justify his position by writing in his regular column in (of course) The Guardian an outspoken attack on fox hunting. This time the BBC whipped up some courage and ruled that its employees should not write for newspapers. Liddle was offered the choice: radio or the Press? He chose the latter and quit Today in a sulk.

All that was water under the bridge until this week when Liddle moaned to (again, of course) the Independent saying that because Paxman had written a pro-angling article for the Countryside Alliance, he should lose his job as presenter of the BBC2 Newsnight programme.

why does it take a Yorkshireman to stand up to the sniping and snarling from far less talented

What a laugh. Paxman is probably the best-known political commentator in the land - one of the few at the BBC which has conspicuously declined to lick New Labour boots - and the BBC would not dare sack him for such a trivial "offence."

Paxman's immediate family hailed from Bradford, where they worked their way up from abject poverty (workhouse poverty, at that) to prosperity in the wool trade. Young Jeremy's reward from this social elevation was to be taken fly fishing by his grandfather on the River Ure in Wensleydale, a hobby which he has proudly maintained to this day.

Attempts to undermine him by members of the self-styled London media "elite" are repeated elsewhere, most obviously against another big-star Tyke, Jeremy Clarkson, whose Top Gear programme has faced down dozens of demands to have it taken off air from politically correct insiders at the BBC.

It may be coincidence but Clarkson is also a country sports fan, in this case at game shooting, yet another anathema in the full-bag of PC prejudices. All I can ask is why does it take a Yorkshireman to stand up to the sniping and snarling from far less talented metropolitans? But, make no mistake, the BBC would be even less worthy of its inflated licence fees without them.

Your views:

  • What a wonderful article...

    I would therefore hope that the popularity of the outspoken Clarkson and Paxman could herald a new beginning with regard to the so called "political correctness" of the Auntie. It takes a Yorkshireman to call a spade a spade, and these two deliver the point so well.

    I believe political correctness is becoming more of a state of mind than a brigade of arm-wavers chanting "you cant say that". Who are these people? do they actually exist? If Clarko calls a car a vision of ugliness is it ugly people or the owners of the aforesaid cars who are more upset?

    I find it difficult to believe that because a man fly-fishes he should be removed from his position of employment, that is nonsense; Liddle should never have been given the right to air these views, to me it is laughable that a thinking, clever man like Liddle should use playground tactics to assault Paxo through his love of fly-fishing.

    As for Clarko, I blame points-of-view; as far as I can remember the complaints have always been written by the same PC idiot in Basingstoke initiaing his communication "as a licence-fee payer I find it..." These people have too much time on their hands... putting it in really simple terms, so that even idiots would understand, "if you don't like Clarkson, don't watch him". Ahh well there's always the re-runs of 'Aint half hot mum' on UKGold!

    Ian Black - Horton-in-Ribblesdale

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