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David Cameron should say no to Paxman

Screen shot 2010-04-12 at 19.53.40 Nick Clegg gets the Paxman treatment tonight. Up until now neither Brown nor Cameron have agreed to be interviewed by Newsnight's main man. I think they are right to reject the invitation.

Here are my four reasons:

  1. The debates have already taken at least six days out of the leaders' election schedules when you add up the debate days themselves and prep. Given the scrutiny implicit in the debates something has to give.
  2. If I was Team Cameron I wouldn't want to give up the opportunity to speak to GMTV, Metro newspaper and important regional TV programmes. These are watched/read by millions of floating voters, not hardened politicos.
  3. Newsnight has a relatively small if very influential viewership. Very few Newsnight viewers are waverers. Worse, Newsnight seems more interested in Gotcha-style interviews, rather than anything enlightening. Cameron won his last encounter with Mr Paxman but it was a demeaning affair. Lots of questions about alcoholic drinks sold at a chain of bars that Mr Cameron was once associated with and the interview was conducted in front of a painting of grapes. It was the second venue after Cameron's advisers had rejected Newsnight's first set up, I mean suggestion; a country mansion. One or two weeks earlier David Davis had been Paxo-ed. He was interviewed in front a portrait of Margaret Thatcher and made to look sweaty by intensive studio lighting. Both interviews were policy lite.
  4. Cameron should, of course, subject himself to serious interviews and I think he's been probed much more frequently by the Radio 4 Today team, than Gordon Brown, or any major leader. He's also regularly on Marr, Boulton and in front of the whole lobby via monthly press conferences.

So - as much as I love Mr Paxman and his programme - Cameron and Brown are right to say 'no'.

Tim Montgomerie


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