Belfast Telegraph

Rab's Week: Evan help us now Jeremy Paxman's gone

Welcome to the sideways world of our star columnist

By Robert McNeil

Like most people, I don't watch the BBC current affairs programme Newsnight on account of it being vacuous, shallow and overly metropolitan. However, a dramatic development has occurred on the controversial comedy show, and it speaks volumes for the changes that have taken place in our society, particularly as regards underpants and trousers.

To wit, horse-faced presenter Jeremy Paxman, famous for his personal attacks on the people's tribunes, has been replaced by a man who has his jeans waistband positioned somewhere near his knees, with the result that a substantial amount of his lingerie may be seen by the lieges.

Evan Davis is the gentleman under advisement. He is 52 years old. He was photographed in London – where else? – walking a whippet called Mr Whippy. I need to take a break here to catch my breath.

But there is more. Mr Davis has a tattoo. The aforementioned leisure trousers ('jeans') were torn and, according to seasoned political observers, it is not unusual for Davis to have chains hanging from them, as if he were a punk, rapper or other form of thug.

Whatever Paxman's faults – and it would take a special supplement to list them – he was always immaculately turned out in an impressively boring suit and a tie that would not disgrace Prince Philip or any other role model for young people.

But this is the new society in which we live. One in which trousers are more down than up. A world in which 52-year-old men brazenly walk whippets and have man-bags strapped across their torsos, presumably to carry their contraceptives, hair gel and perhaps a poncho should the weather turn inclement.

No one is saying that Davis will appear thus when he comes to present the show and has to ask complicated questions about the underlying rate of inflation and other poltroonery.

By all accounts, he's bright and even enthusiastic, at least compared to the somnolent Paxman, who required a special assistant just off-camera to poke him awake with a stick during interviews with the Prime Minister and other duds (or 'dudes', as Evan might say).

Paxman (64), nicknamed Davis 'Tigger' on account of his bouncy style. Just think how far the BBC has come from the sedate days of dinner jackets and dickie-bows.

Mr Davis brings disgrace to Newsnight. So much so that I might actually start watching it now.

Friday: Questions over this bonkers box-ticking at the Beeb

More BBC news, and the controversial organisation is under fire on account of having gone nuts.

It's not just the hundreds of people they send to pop festivals, or political bias, or presenting the news as dramatic 'infotainment'.

It's the fact that it's a huge organisation. All big organisations are nuts. No one can control them, and weird, groupthink sub-cultures develop.

Apparently, applicants seeking freelance assignments at the Beeb are being asked bizarre questions.

These include: What's your sexual orientation? Have you ever received free school meals? What religion are you? Did your parents go to university? Do you have a disability? Would you like one?

Only the last is made up. The bonkers box-ticking exercise is about filling "diversity" quotas. They need to employ a certain amount of Taoists.

Fortunately, the questionnaire is voluntary. But whether telling the Beeb to bog off helps applicants find work remains unclear.

Saturday: Social media makes us anti-social

Facebook is making the lieges miserable. Research by the University of Innsbruck, somewhere in Europe, reveals that the longer you spend on the lonely social networking site the more miserable you become.

It's not because everyone else seems to having fun.

It's because you realise you're wasting your time on the site, which makes you feel a bozo. We've all experienced this on the internut generally.

It has replaced bookshops and libraries as the place where we hope to find answers.

But we never do.

We learn only that someone is having a coffee and someone else is just back from Torremolinos.

Sunday: Plane stupid to have a go at Nick

It's summer, so it's open season on politicians. I can't be doing with this po-faced poltroonery. Politicians may be evil and corrupt, but that doesn't mean they don't deserve a holiday.

Latest to feel the heat is Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister of Britainshire. He didn't even go on holiday. He just went on daytime television to bake cakes and drink tequila.

All this when there has been a big, suspicious plane crash. What Nick is supposed to contribute to proceedings isn't specified.

He's surely as much use getting squiffy on tequila as he would be poking around plane wreckage in Ukraine.

Monday: Use your brain... All of it!

Now they're saying it's a myth that we use just 10% of our brains.

Cambridge University boffins say the nonsense started in Dale Carnegie's famous book, How To Win Friends And Influence People. The fact that we were dumb enough to believe it suggests that we use less than 10%.

Tuesday: Cause of big hole in road unknown, but we're looking into it

We can probably rule out a pingo as the cause of Belfast's big holes.

A pingo, not to be confused with Pingu, an anthropomorphic penguin off the telly, is a mound forced up through the earth by groundwater. It's a phenomenon associated with areas affected by permafrost which, however inclement the weather otherwise, doesn't include Belfast.

A collapsing pingo is being blamed for a mysterious crater that appeared in an area of Siberia called 'the End of the World' (restricted bus service).

The second most plausible explanation for Siberia's big hole is that it was caused by a UFO.

Might that also explain the mysterious pits, one described in chilling sci-fi terms as a "significant void", that appeared on the Ravenhill Road?

Officials say these were caused by an old Victorian sewer under the road.

But who's to say aliens aren't invading via the sewer and that their tentacles dislodged the soil?

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