UK Politics

Paxman 'sneering' about politics, says Clegg

Russell Brand and Jeremy Paxman
Image caption Jeremy Paxman said he agreed with some of Russell Brand's political analysis

Nick Clegg has criticised Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman's "sneering" attitude towards politicians.

The deputy PM said the presenter made a living off politics but treated all politicians as "rogues and charlatans".

His comments follow Paxman's admission that he did not vote at a recent election because he had found the parties "unappetising".

The presenter also called the Lib Dem tuition fees U-turn "the most blatant lie in recent political history".

Mr Clegg conceded politics was imperfect but asserted that "of course you should vote".

The Lib Dem leader, appearing on his regular LBC radio phone-in, said that not voting in elections was a total "abdication of responsibility".

'Get your hands dirty'

On Newsnight last month, presenter Jeremy Paxman berated comedian Russell Brand, who has urged revolution and non-participation in elections, for not bothering to vote.

But Paxman later admitted he did not vote in a recent election "because I thought the choice so unappetising".

Mr Clegg said: "Here is a guy who gets paid a million pounds, thereabouts, paid for by taxpayers. He lives off politics and he spends all his time sneering at politics.

"We know that politics is not perfect, but at the end of the day it is the way that we decide how you pay your taxes, how we support our hospitals, our schools, whether we are going to war or not, how we deal with climate change."

He continued: "Of course it's sometimes unedifying but this idea that you can sneer at the whole thing, dismiss everybody as somehow being rogues and charlatans and say, 'Well, therefore I'm going to wash my hands of the whole thing,' I think is a total abdication of responsibility.

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Media captionNick Clegg accused Jeremy Paxman of treating all politicians as "rogues and charlatans"

"I just have this old-fashioned view, if you want to improve something get stuck in and get your hands dirty and change it.

"Don't somehow pretend you can turn your back on it."

In the Newsnight interview with Paxman, Brand argued he had never voted because of "absolute indifference and weariness and exhaustion from the lies, treachery and deceit of the political class".

At the time, Paxman responded by asking: "If you can't be arsed to vote, why should we be arsed to listen to your political point of view?"

But Paxman later told the Radio Times he had some sympathy with Brand's position.

"I can understand that: the whole green-bench pantomime in Westminster looks a remote and self-important echo chamber. But it is all we have," he said.

On his decision not to vote, he said: "By the time the polls had closed and it was too late to take part, I was feeling really uncomfortable: the person who chooses not to vote - cannot even be bothered to write 'none of the above' on a ballot paper - disqualifies himself from passing any comment at all."

On BBC Radio 4's PM, comedian Ken Dodd was asked what he thought of Brand's stance, replying: "It's stupid. To be able to vote is a great privilege.

"It's a privilege granted to every citizen, and we are citizens of the greatest country in the world and therefore we must preserve that."

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