Oldie Cuddly Rottweiler of the Year
By John Lloyd
Jeremy Paxman, known for his roasting skills as ‘Paxo’, cruised the British airwaves for 50 years, taking off at Radio Brighton in 1972, and landing this year in a brave and poignant film Paxman: Putting Up With Parkinson’s.
He worked on Tonight, Panorama, Breakfast Time, Start The Week, Did You See…?, and the Six O’Clock News, reported on the Troubles from Belfast and, for a quarter of a century, gripped the nation as the dyspeptic star of Newsnight.
In that guise, he famously asked Michael Howard the same question 12 times in a row. This was later revealed to be merely a response to the producer’s frantic request in his ear to play for time because the next item wasn’t ready.
Jon Snow said Paxo’s greatest strength was that he was ‘not very political’. He himself disavowed his supposed watchword, ‘Why is this lying bastard lying to me?’, attributing it to the veteran Times foreign correspondent, Louis Heren.
Leaving the programme in 2014, Britain’s favourite rottweiler looked forward to going ‘to bed at much the same time as most people’. In his spare time, he wrote a dozen books (including several bestsellers), wrote and presented two admired documentary series (on the Victorians and the British Empire), played himself in Who Do You Think You Are? and The Thick Of It, and was the longest-serving host of University Challenge, a role he thoroughly relished.
He has been garlanded with prizes: 2 BAFTAs and 2 university fellowships, 3 honorary degrees and 5 RTS Awards. In 2000, he made the headlines when he inexplicably received in the post a German Enigma machine, stolen from Bletchley Park Museum.
Jeremy and I belong to a tiny, secretive, four-man organisation which meets monthly in a Notting Hill hostelry in a futile attempt to set the world to rights. There, a year before he was diagnosed, Jeremy complained of stiffness and shyly asked if I could recommend him a yoga teacher – something he had thitherto caustically disparaged. I put him in touch with my friend Kathy, with whom he grumpily consented to adopt the downward dog once a week.
If Paxo is sometimes criticised for treating people worse than a dog, you should see him contentedly downing a pint with his faithful rescue pup, Derek, whom he treats with benign respect and never attempts to stuff.