Paxman turns air blue with 'off-air' jibe at Cameron
IT was the interview David Cameron had apparently done everything to avoid. He had even gone so far as to brand the BBC's rottweiler-in-chief Jeremy Paxman as an "overpaid prima donna" in explaining why he didn't want to be "shouted at" by him.
But having finally secured his interview with the leader of the Conservative Party, it was Paxman who enjoyed the last barbed insult. For, according to insiders, Paxman described Mr Cameron as a "bit of a smooth b******" in a post-interview aside picked up by BBC microphones.
Corporation journalists are able to tune in to programmes as they are being recorded, which meant a large number of staff were still listening after Mr Cameron had left the studio following Friday's head-to-head.
With the microphones still on and Mr Cameron out of earshot, Paxman could be heard uttering the expletive, according to a source.
The interview had finished amiably enough with Paxman asking Mr Cameron about his plans for the weekend. Mr Cameron told the broadcaster he was going to his sister's wedding, which took place yesterday afternoon.
The BBC source said: "Cameron was heard to say that he needed to get going because it was his sister's wedding and he had hardly set foot in his own constituency all week.
"Once Cameron had left the studio, Paxman was clearly heard saying, 'He's a bit of a smooth b******, isn't he?'
"This was greeted with some hilarity and various references to pots and kettles by those who heard it."
Contacted at his home yesterday, Paxman said: "It is more likely to have been a reference to the floor manager. It rings no bells ... I have no recollection of it at all.
"I do recall the conversation about the wedding. So I said: 'You are not campaigning [tomorrow]?', and he said he was going to Newbury [for his sister's wedding]."
Off-camera asides can be a hazard for politicians and interviewers alike.
In one of the most damaging episodes of the John Major era, the former British prime minister famously referred to three eurosceptic cabinet colleagues as 'b******s' in comments accidentally recorded after an interview with ITN.
The latest opinion poll puts Labour at 26, the Lib Dems at 31 and the Tories at 35 per cent, still leaving them 42 seats short of a Commons majority.