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Last Updated: Friday, 13 May, 2005, 16:10 GMT 17:10 UK
Galloway grilling defended
Paxman and Galloway
Jeremy Paxman interviewed George Galloway on election night.
More than a hundred complaints have been received about Jeremy Paxman's election night interview with George Galloway after he defeated Labour's Oona King in the Bethnal Green and Bow constituency.

Mr Galloway objected on air to the fact that the interview began with this question: "Mr Galloway, are you proud of having got rid of one of the very few black women in Parliament?"

Complainants felt that the interview was too aggressive and didn't focus sufficiently on the Iraq war issue on which Mr Galloway campaigned.

The BBC's Head of Political Programmes, Sue Inglish, responds:

"Some people found Jeremy Paxman's line of questioning insensitive but, having reviewed the interview in the cold light of day, I do not agree.

"It may be helpful to set the interview in context. After the declaration of the result for Bethnal Green and Bow, and speeches by George Galloway and Oona King, Jeremy Paxman asked one of his studio guests, the former Labour MP Tony Banks, for his reaction.


"It was Mr Banks who brought up questions of ethnicity and gender. He said: 'Here's a white man coming into the East End which he doesn't know and unseating an ethnic minority woman - pity he didn't come and try in East Ham or West Ham rather than try in Tower Hamlets.'

"When Jeremy Paxman very shortly afterwards had a chance to interview George Galloway, the question he asked was one that many in the audience must at that point have had at the front of their minds; did Mr Galloway feel uncomfortable about unseating one of the few black women MPs?

"Jeremy Paxman is renowned for his vigorous questioning and so the directness of the question can hardly have come as a surprise to Mr Galloway. That Mr Galloway chose not to take the opportunity he was being offered to say that neither race nor religion nor sex was the issue is a matter for him, but it was a pertinent question to ask.

Bogged down

"The interview only became bogged down on this issue because George Galloway preferred not to answer the question and move on to other matters.

"However, Jeremy Paxman did explore the issue of Labour unpopularity as a result of the Iraq war in comparative depth in his interview with Labour's David Lammy, immediately after the abortive exchange with George Galloway. Indeed, when Mr Lammy wanted to focus on racial tensions in Tower Hamlet, Jeremy persisted in his line of questioning on Iraq.

"It is also worth pointing out that the key issue on which Respect was campaigning in Bethnal Green and Bow - the war in Iraq - was covered substantially by BBC News in the course of the campaign, including a full constituency report on the Ten O'Clock News on BBC One."


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