NEWS

How Jeremy Corbyn Survived Jeremy Paxman's 'Over The Top' Interview

'Corbyn is untroubled by Paxman's fast bowling'.

29/05/2017 22:26 | Updated 30 May 2017

Jeremy Corbyn survived - and even at times thrived - when coming under scrutiny from Jeremy Paxman, with many arguing the broadcaster’s abrasive style felt tone deaf and dated.

The Labour leader, as expected, was given a tough time by the former Newsnight host when facing the journalist in the Sky News and Channel 4 head-to-head leader interviews.

But observers felt Paxman’s confrontational style was too much, and meant he failed to quiz Corbyn properly.

In particular, Paxman zeroed in on long-held Corbyn beliefs that are not in Labour’s election manifesto, which was supposed to expose him as weak but in reality made the party leader look reasonable. 

PA Wire/PA Images
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn adjusts the tie of Jeremy Paxman as they stand alongside Sky News political editor Faisal Islam during a joint Channel 4 and Sky News general election programme

These were five times Corbyn dealt with Paxman pretty soundly:

1. Keeping the Queen.

Notably, Paxman asked Corbyn, a republican, about abolishing the monarchy and why it was not in the manifesto. Corbyn’s response was succinct: “There’s nothing in there because we’re not going to do it.”

It produced a round of applause, before he added he had a “very nice conversation” with the Queen, and getting rid of her is not on Labour’s agenda because the party is more interested in “social justice”.

2. ‘I’m not a dictator’.

As noted, Paxman was anxious to press Corbyn on why his ideas including nationalising banks failed to make it into the manifesto. But Corbyn suggested he didn’t understand how a manifesto is written. The Labour leader said he’s “not a dictator” and the document is a process from the whole party.

3. Panto season.

Proceedings began in pantomime style with Paxman brandishing the manifesto. Corbyn smiled and said he was glad Paxman had it.

Paxman: “I had to read it!”

Corbyn: “I had to write it!”

4. Is Osama bin Laden’s killing a ‘tragedy’?

On another apparent vulnerable spot, Corbyn was asked why he described the killing of Osama bin Laden as a “tragedy”, which has been used repeatedly in Tory attack ads. Corbyn said he thought bin Laden should have been arrested and put on trial. A tricky sell, but it elicited applause from the audience. 

5. Support for Trident?

Corbyn refused to say that renewing Trident is “morally right”, but Paxman didn’t get the killer blow he craved. In fact, in pursuit of his prey, he asked Corbyn six times.

Corbyn again refused to answer directly, but said he wanted to work for a nuclear-free world.

That’s not to say the Labour MP didn’t struggle on benefits and his Shadow Chanellor, John McDonnell, calling for disarming the police and disbanding MI5. But this was no turkey shoot.

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