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“This should be fun”: Jeremy Paxman to front Channel 4’s election night coverage

The former Newsnight host will be in the chair for Channel 4 on election night 2015.

As was rumoured back in August, Jeremy Paxman has indeed made the hop over to Channel 4 after his departure from Newsnight. He will be anchoring Channel 4’s election night coverage. No doubt the lure of “actually being allowed to have opinions” was too strong for him to resist – he recently came out as a “One Nation Tory”, so we can look forward to hearing more of that sort of thing in between counts in the middle of the night.

The acquisition of Paxman suggests that Channel 4 is going for something a bit more, ahem, serious that their 2010 Alternative Election Night, which featured Jimmy Carr, David Mitchell, Charlie Brooker and Lauren Laverne (and let us not forget, resulted in everybody’s least-favourite attempt at political satire, 10 O’Clock Live). Channel 4’s press release is keen to stress that their 2010 effort pulled in a massive 10.4 per cent audience share (and even outperformed ITV1).

Paxman commented: “There are new and interesting questions to ask about the way we choose our governments. This should be fun.”

But what about Jon Snow, I hear you cry? He “should not be worried in anyway”, Channel 4 creative officer Jay Hunt has said.

Considering that it was Snow who did Paxman’s exit interview when he left Newsnight (an occasion that ended with Snow performing a sung tribute to his fellow broadcaster, see below), this mole thinks they’re going to get on famously.

I'm a mole, innit.

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Jeremy Corbyn's Labour conference speech shows how he's grown

The leader's confident address will have impressed even his fiercest foes. 

It is not just Jeremy Corbyn’s mandate that has been improved by his re-election. The Labour leader’s conference speech was, by some distance, the best he has delivered. He spoke with far greater confidence, clarity and energy than previously. From its self-deprecating opening onwards ("Virgin Trains assure me there are 800 empty seats") we saw a leader improved in almost every respect. 

Even Corbyn’s firecest foes will have found less to take issue with than they may have anticipated. He avoided picking a fight on Trident (unlike last year), delivered his most forceful condemnation of anti-Semitism (“an evil”) and, with the exception of the Iraq war, avoided attacks on New Labour’s record. The video which preceded his arrival, and highlighted achievements from the Blair-Brown years, was another olive branch. But deselection, which Corbyn again refused to denounce, will remain a running sore (MPs alleged that Hillsborough campaigner Sheila Coleman, who introduced Corbyn, is seeking to deselect Louise Ellman and backed the rival TUSC last May).

Corbyn is frequently charged with lacking policies. But his lengthy address contained several new ones: the removal of the cap on council borrowing (allowing an extra 60,000 houses to be built), a ban on arms sales to abusive regimes and an arts pupil premium in every primary school.

On policy, Corbyn frequently resembles Ed Miliband in his more radical moments, unrestrained by Ed Balls and other shadow cabinet members. He promised £500bn of infrastructure investment (spread over a decade with £150bn from the private sector), “a real living wage”, the renationalisation of the railways, rent controls and a ban on zero-hours contracts.

Labour’s greatest divisions are not over policy but rules, strategy and culture. Corbyn’s opponents will charge him with doing far too little to appeal to the unconverted - Conservative voters most of all. But he spoke with greater conviction than before of preparing for a general election (acknowledging that Labour faced an arithmetical “mountain”) and successfully delivered the attack lines he has often shunned.

“Even Theresa May gets it, that people want change,” he said. “That’s why she stood on the steps of Downing Street and talked about the inequalities and burning injustices in today’s Britain. She promised a country: ‘that works not for a privileged few but for every one of us’. But even if she manages to talk the talk, she can’t walk the walk. This isn’t a new government, it’s David Cameron’s government repackaged with progressive slogans but with a new harsh right-wing edge, taking the country backwards and dithering before the historic challenges of Brexit.”

After a second landslide victory, Corbyn is, for now, unassailable. Many MPs, having voted no confidence in him, will never serve on the frontbench. But an increasing number, recognising Corbyn’s immovability, speak once again of seeking to “make it work”. For all the ructions of this summer, Corbyn’s speech will have helped to persuade them that they can.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.