Why Did Jeremy Paxman Give Tommy Robinson Such An Easy Time On Newsnight?

On Monday, Newsnight - the BBC’s flagship current affairs analysis programme - interviewed the Cookie Monster from Sesame Street. By Tuesday the pace of news had changed.

Earlier in the day Tommy Robinson, a man who has carved out a career as a hater of Islam, street protester and criminal, quit as self-appointed leader of the English Defence League (EDL).

Robinson and the rest of the media (including The Huffington Post) made a big fuss of this and Newsnight, anchored by pitbull Jeremy Paxman managed to get a sit down, in-studio interview with Britain’s most talked about man.

Robinson, who most recently served time for "possession of a false identity document with improper intention," wants people to believe he’s changed. He wants to go mainstream.

Hmmmmm: Jeremy Paxman listens as Robinson talks and talks and talks

This was Paxman’s chance to show his teeth and give Robinson the grilling of his life. Paxman, the man who quizzed Tony Blair about Mega Boobs and Horny Housewives. Paxman, the man who smashed Michael Howard with the repeated ‘Did you threaten to overrule him?’ question.

Here’s what Paxman actually asked with the time he allowed Tommy Robinson to offer his uninterrupted response.

- When precisely did you decide you had to leave?

Tommy Robinson speaks for 57 seconds

- What was the EDL if it was not racist?

TR speaks for 25 seconds

- But you did say there should be no more mosques built in Britain unless Islam reformed...

Technically not a question, but TR was allowed to speak for 39 seconds

- Have you changed your views?

TR spoke for 12 seconds

- You want to stop mosques being built…

Technically not a question, but TR was allowed to speak for 22 seconds

- Do you still think this country is in danger?

TR spoke for 26 seconds

- Sure, but you haven’t changed your views...

Technically not a question, but TR was allowed to speak for 60 seconds

- Are you more optimistic now?

TR spoke for 30 secs

- It’s not so long ago you were standing up in front of crowds and were saying EDL ‘til I die...

Technically not a question, but TR was allowed to speak for 28 secs

- Do you think there are too many Muslims in this country?

TR spoke for 24 seconds

- But you can be British and black, or brown obviously, and you can be a Muslim British…

Technically not a question, but TR was allowed to speak for 53 seconds

Tommy Robinson, thank you.

This section of the programme lasted for 13mins 20 seconds of a 48 minute programme. Robinson was allowed to speak uninterrupted for 6minutes.

It was in stark contrast to what editor Ian Katz had promised via Twitter before the programme.

Katz has not responded.

It’s not the first time Paxman has interviewed Robinson, who previously was quizzed under his real name Stephen Lennon. In October 2011 a similar interview took place where Paxman offered a few more jabs at the significantly less polished EDL leader.

Paxman’s interview stands in wild comparison to one last week with the Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who exposed NSA abuses after working his contact Edward Snowden.

Newsnight presenter Kirsty Wark took him on in a hugely testy interview which you can read about here.