Rumours of a conspiracy are circling Downing St after treasury minister Chloe Smith was hurled into the Paxman-infested waters of Newsnight on Wednesday. Smith, who is secretary to the Exchequer, appeared on the show to defend the government’s deferment of a 3p rise in fuel duty, but froze in the face of the BBC’s foremost political predator and ended up on the receiving end of a severe mauling.
What surprises me is that these are only rumours of a conspiracy. Quite clearly, anyone with even a passing acquaintance with the political system in this country understands that Jeremy Paxman is capable of reducing the most experienced ministers to a gibbering mess of contradiction and spittle, so sending a junior minister who was, according to the Guardian, only appointed to her role last year because “David Cameron thought she was a trained accountant“, implies some degree of planning.
Surely Cameron & Chancellor George Osborne (who was entertaining other, more fortunate MP’s at No.11 that night) weren’t banking on Paxman’s mauling of Smith to take the headlines, thus diverting attention away from the issue of how the government were going to make up the funds they would lose from the deferment?
Or perhaps Cam & Oz wanted to demonstrate to the public exactly what happens if you don’t apply generous handfuls of spin and manipulation when answering questions on government policy?
Nah. There’s only one guy brainy enough to come up with either of those ideas. And Rupert ain’t playin’ with us anymore.