Why Jeremy Paxman thinks we’re a nation of ‘snowflakes’

In his first column for the over-50s magazine Saga, the TV host and author has claimed older people are the only ones who can take a joke. But is he right – or does he just have too much time on his hands?

Name: Jeremy Paxman.

Age: Somewhere between the Ordovician and the Jurassic.

I say, that’s unfair, isn’t it? He’s not that old. Oh, come on, he’s positively antique, antediluvian, fossilised, yesterday’s man. The day before yesterday’s man, in fact.

Can you put a number on it? He’s 69.

So not too old at all – and, in any case, age is not something to make jokes about. That’s where you’re wrong. Paxman says older people are the last group you can make fun of because every other section of society is now too sensitive to take a joke.

Where did he say this? In Saga magazine, which has just hired him as its star columnist.

Does he really think it’s acceptable to make jokes about older people? Not so much acceptable as risk-free. “They are fair game because they do not bite back,” he says. “I know, I have made plenty of jokes about them myself. The jokes have traction because, deep down, oldies feel slightly guilty at their good fortune. The cards fell well for them. But that’s the nature of cards.”

What about the rest of society? “Snowflakes.”

Presumably he is thinking about the millennials on University Challenge? No – everybody. He also namechecks “the cops” and “the legal system”, adding that “snowflakes have taken charge in government departments, in the media, in the universities and anywhere else immune from more pressing anxieties about their existence”.

And the BBC? The biggest snowflakes of all. He mocks the way a video of him and Boris Johnson riding a tandem through the streets of London on Paxman’s valedictory Newsnight is used on a BBC health and safety course “to illustrate the possible dangers of something or other. Putting Boris in charge of anything, probably.”

He’s a fan of Johnson, then? It seems they’re fairly chummy. He calls him Bozza, rather affectionately, in that clip.

And what does Johnson think of Paxman? “The last remaining one-nation Conservative in the BBC.”

Soulmates then? There’s certainly a bit of common ground between these two privately schooled, Oxbridge-educated, libertarian, Eurosceptic, speak-their-minds, despise-weakness, conformist-nonconformists.

What does Paxman do these days? He has seemingly been at a loose end since leaving Newsnight in 2014, after 25 years. He has made some unsuccessful forays back into news TV, writes a few books here and there, and still has the unchallenging job of presenting University Challenge. But, it seems, is essentially unfulfilled – hence the contrarian outbursts.

Not to be confused with: Emily Maitlis.

Most likely to say: “I haven’t a clue what you’re talking about – and I’m not sure you do either!”

Least likely to say: “You don’t think that’s a bit insensitive, do you?”

The GuardianTramp

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