It's Jeremy Paxman's last night on Newsnight. Photo: Getty
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It's Jeremy Paxman's last night on Newsnight: here are his best moments

Whether he's being fierce and feisty, grumpy and grouchy, or beardy and bubbly, Jeremy Paxman is a memorable Newsnight presenter. To celebrate his last appearance on the show tonight, here are his best bits...

1. Silvio Berlusconi: "Is it true you called Angela Merkel an unfuckable lard-arse?" (2014)

Worth watching for the casual frankness with which Paxman asks the former Italian premier about the choice words he apparently used about the German chancellor:


2. Russell Brand: "Grow it longer, tangle it into your armpit hair" (2013)

A modern classic. Brand ribs Paxman about his beard, and Paxman decides his interview subject is "a very trivial man" - but it's clear he likes him really:


3. Chloe Smith: "Do you ever think you're incompetent?" (2012)

When the Chancellor sacrificed his junior minister on the altar of Newsnight for a fuel duty u-turn, it jettisoned the one-time "rising star's" burgeoning political career:

4. Conrad Black: "You are a convicted fraudster" (2012)

Paxman and the former media baron clash as he is questioned over allegations against him. "Will you stop this bourgeois priggishness?" Black spits at one point:

 

5. Boris Johnson: "Tell us how much it would cost" (2008)

Then a London Mayoral candidate, Boris refused 12 times to answer a question about buses:


6. George Galloway: "Are you proud of having got rid of one of the very few black women in parliament?" (2005)

A combative interview with the Respect MP after he famously defeated Oona King in Bethnal Green and Bow:


7. Tony Blair: "I'm just trying to explore the sort of chap you are" (2003)

Paxman goes for the then-prime minister on his "religious conviction":

8. Michael Howard: "Did you threaten to overrule him?" (1997)

Probably Paxo's most notoriously Paxman-like political interview, in which he asks the then-home secretary twelve times whether he threatened to overrule the director general of HM Prison Service.

UPDATE:

Here's what happened on Jeremy Paxman's last night:

He rode on a tandem with Boris

Not sure why.

He mocked the weather report

In an in-joke about his serial derisive attitude to having to tell us the weather, Paxman said: "Tomorrow's weather: more of the same. Don't know why they make such a fuss about it."

He asked Michael Howard ONE LAST TIME

As a nod to his infamous interview with the then-Home Secretary, in which he asked him the same question 12 times "Did you threaten to overrule him?", Howard popped up during the show, and Paxman asked "Did you?" "No, but feel free to ask me another 11 times", came the reply.


He gave one of his classic beleagured-politician put-downs

Ed Milliband is as "popular as a flatulent dog in a lift", he told us with a sneer.


He was low-key about his departure

Paxman had said he wanted "no fuss" about him leaving, but that didn't quite materialise what with the nostalgia and silliness that peppered the programme. But he signed off in an understated manner: "Thank you for watching. I hope you go on enjoying the programme. Goodnight and goodbye."

I'm a mole, innit.

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Why Angela Merkel's comments about the UK and US shouldn't be given too much weight

The Chancellor's comments are aimed at a domestic and European audience, and she won't be abandoning Anglo-German relationships just yet.

Angela Merkel’s latest remarks do not seem well-judged but should not be given undue significance. Speaking as part of a rally in Munich for her sister party, the CSU, the German Chancellor claimed “we Europeans must really take our own fate into our hands”.

The comments should be read in the context of September's German elections and Merkel’s determination to restrain the fortune of her main political rival, Martin Schulz – obviously a strong Europhile and a committed Trump critic. Sigmar Gabriel - previously seen as a candidate to lead the left-wing SPD - has for some time been pressing for Germany and Europe to have “enough self-confidence” to stand up to Trump. He called for a “self-confident position, not just on behalf of us Germans but all Europeans”. Merkel is in part responding to this pressure.

Her words were well received by her audience. The beer hall crowd erupted into sustained applause. But taking an implicit pop at Donald Trump is hardly likely to be a divisive tactic at such a gathering. Criticising the UK post-Brexit and the US under Trump is the sort of virtue signalling guaranteed to ensure a good clap.

It’s not clear that the comments represent that much of a new departure, as she herself has since claimed. She said something similar earlier this year. In January, after the publication of Donald Trump’s interview with The Times and Bild, she said that “we Europeans have our fate in our own hands”.

At one level what Merkel said is something of a truism: in two year’s time Britain will no longer be directly deciding the fate of the EU. In future no British Prime Minister will attend the European Council, and British MEPs will leave the Parliament at the next round of European elections in 2019. Yet Merkel’s words “we Europeans”, conflate Europe and the EU, something she has previously rejected. Back in July last year, at a joint press conference with Theresa May, she said: “the UK after all remains part of Europe, if not of the Union”.

At the same press conference, Merkel also confirmed that the EU and the UK would need to continue to work together. At that time she even used the first person plural to include Britain, saying “we have certain missions also to fulfil with the rest of the world” – there the ‘we’ meant Britain and the EU, now the 'we' excludes Britain.

Her comments surely also mark a frustration born of difficulties at the G7 summit over climate change, but Britain and Germany agreed at the meeting in Sicily on the Paris Accord. More broadly, the next few months will be crucial for determining the future relationship between Britain and the EU. There will be many difficult negotiations ahead.

Merkel is widely expected to remain the German Chancellor after this autumn’s election. As the single most powerful individual in the EU27, she is the most crucial person in determining future relations between the UK and the EU. Indeed, to some extent, it was her intransigence during Cameron’s ‘renegotiation’ which precipitated Brexit itself. She also needs to watch with care growing irritation across the EU at the (perceived) extent of German influence and control over the institutions and direction of the European project. Recent reports in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung which suggested a Merkel plan for Jens Weidmann of the Bundesbank to succeed Mario Draghi at the ECB have not gone down well across southern Europe. For those critics, the hands controlling the fate of Europe are Merkel’s.

Brexit remains a crucial challenge for the EU. How the issue is handled will shape the future of the Union. Many across Europe’s capitals are worried that Brussels risks driving Britain further away than Brexit will require; they are worried lest the Channel becomes metaphorically wider and Britain turns its back on the continent. On the UK side, Theresa May has accepted the EU, and particularly Merkel’s, insistence, that there can be no cherry picking, and therefore she has committed to leaving the single market as well as the EU. May has offered a “deep and special” partnership and a comprehensive free trading arrangement. Merkel should welcome Britain’s clarity. She must work with new French President Emmanuel Macron and others to lead the EU towards a new relationship with Britain – a close partnership which protects free trade, security and the other forms of cooperation which benefit all Europeans.

Henry Newman is the director of Open Europe. He tweets @henrynewman.

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