Jeremy Paxman’s defensive behaviour in response to Mayor of London Boris Johnson’s persistent questioning about his reputed £1 million salary suggests he won’t be the first employee to whole-heartedly embrace the ethos of the forthcoming Equality Bill, which will make it easier for workers to discuss what they earn with colleagues.
During an interview recorded for Newsnight, Paxman found himself in the position of being grilled about his earnings and the integrity of his job by Johnson. This followed Paxman’s questioning about what David Cameron was like a Oxford University, where he was a member of the notorious Bullingdon club, and his apparent scoff at the Conservative leader’s early job as a PR man.
In a colourful retaliation, Johnson said: “You chose to be a journalist. Why don’t you get yourself a proper job? Instead of sitting around telling politicians what to do the whole time.
“It’s outrageous, you’re paid staggering sums by the taxpayer. You are paid this elephantine sum by the taxpayer.”
Paxman replied: “If only that were true. You don’t know [what I earn]. I should stop making assertions.”
“Sorry we didn’t get an answer for that by the way – about your earnings,” quipped Johnson.
Perhaps this was a bit rich coming from Johnson, who recently dismissed the £250,000 he earns a year on top of his £140,000 salary for writing a column in a national newspaper as ‘chicken feed’.
A statement from the BBC in response to speculation that a significant section of the discussion over Paxman’s pay had been edited out of the final interview said: “Anyone watching the programme, rather than simply a report about it, will have seen a robust and lengthy interview that featured a light-hearted exchange where Jeremy was questioned about his salary. It was a pre-recorded interview that was edited to fit the programme and fairly reflected all the issues covered.”