EXCL Jeremy Paxman show faced most bias allegations during general election - but none upheld

Posted On: 
26th July 2017

Jeremy Paxman's election grilling of Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn received almost 100 complaints about political bias, PoliticsHome can reveal.

Theresa May and Jeremy Paxman at the Sky and Channel 4 election special
Credit: 
PA Images

‘May v Corbyn Live: the Battle for Number 10’ faced the most allegations of bias of any news show broadcast during the election campaign - but none were upheld.

Regulator Ofcom fielded 99 complaints about the show overall - with 91 alleging bias against the Labour boss and eight alleging bias against the Tory leader.

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A former spokesman for Mr Corbyn said Mr Paxman’s line of questioning during the show “looked like it had come straight from a Conservative HQ briefing”.

The 90 minute live show featured separate audience Q&A sessions for each leader followed by separate interviews with broadcasting veteran Mr Paxman.

But the political interrogator faced criticism for what was widely seen as an aggressive performance - with commentators accusing him of “throwing poo” and delivering a “verbal flame-throwing”.

He told Mrs May the Brexit negotiators in Brussels would think her “a blowhard who collapses at the first sound of gunfire" after her series of U-turns.

And he needled Mr Corbyn on differences between the Labour's manifesto and his personal views until the leader insisted: “I am not a dictator.”

Matt Zarb-Cousin, who previously worked as a spokesperson for Mr Corbyn, told PoliticsHome he felt "sympathy" for those who complained about the show.

“Paxman was a poor choice as we know for a fact that he is a Conservative, and his line of questioning looked like it had come straight from a Conservative HQ briefing,” he added.

Ofcom told PoliticsHome: “After carefully assessing the complaints and the broadcast material, Ofcom did not identify any issues which warranted further investigation under its rules.”

A spokesperson for Channel 4 said: “Great care was taken to ensure the programme complied with Ofcom’s rules on due impartiality and we welcome its decision not to entertain any of the complaints.”

The 'Battle for Number 10' show was broadcast simultaneously on Sky News and Channel 4 and attracted 3.3 million viewers - 415,000 on Sky and 2.9 million on Channel 4.

A spokesperson for Jeremy Corbyn said: "In the general election, broadcasting regulations kicked in, resulting in significantly more balanced coverage.

“As a result, Labour and Jeremy were more able to speak in our own voice, in a less filtered way, bypassing the heavily biased print media and political commentators. Millions like what they've heard."

Sky News failed to respond to PoliticsHome by the time of publication.