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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 October 2005, 13:19 GMT 14:19 UK
Rude voters 'are copying Paxman'
Caroline Spelman
Ms Spelman encountered hostility from voters
Voters are becoming more rude to politicians - and the BBC's Jeremy Paxman is to blame, a senior Tory says.

Caroline Spelman said she was "shocked" by the hostility she encountered from the public during the general election.

"The practice of not allowing people to finish their sentences has really caught on," she told a fringe meeting at the Tory conference in Blackpool.

"I think the public feel it is perfectly OK to be just as rude as Jeremy Paxman," she said.

Unfriendly

Newsnight presenter Mr Paxman is renowned for his abrasive interviewing style, on one occasion asking Conservative leader Michael Howard the same question 14 times.

Earlier this year, his election night clash with George Galloway - during which the Respect MP threatened to walk out - grabbed headlines.

Ms Spelman, who is shadow local government minister, said the public were increasingly taking their cue from Mr Paxman when dealing with politicians.

She said the reception she received from the public while out canvassing in her West Midlands constituency was the most unfriendly she had ever experienced.

'Rude'

The public had clearly lost trust in politicians and thought they were only "in it for themselves", she added.

"They have really caught on to this Paxman style of interviewing. When you knock on doors, I think the public feel it is perfectly okay to be just as rude as Jeremy Paxman is during his interviews.

"The practice of not allowing people to finish their sentences has really caught on.

"And what do they say to us? They say deeply cynical things like 'you are all in it for yourselves', or 'none of you are any good'," Ms Spelman told a Local Government Association fringe meeting.

She added: "You try to tell people what their MPs and councillors actually do, which is a lot of hard work, but not only do they have no idea what politicians do, they seem not to care."

Mrs Spelman said the Iraq war and the failure to find weapons of mass destruction despite the government's earlier claims had also contributed to public distrust of politicians.


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