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Jeremy Paxman 'regrets' not voting
Jeremy Paxman has admitted that he did not vote at a recent election because the Newsnight host found the choice of political parties too "unappetising" - despite berating Russell Brand on-air over the issue.
Comedian Brand, 38, told Paxman, 63, that he had never voted because of the "absolute indifference and weariness and exhaustion from the lies, treachery and deceit of the political class" in a Newsnight interview which became a YouTube sensation after it was broadcast last month.
Paxman responded: "If you can't be a**ed to vote, why should we be a**ed to listen to your political point of view?"
But the presenter of the BBC Two show has now told the Radio Times that he did not vote at a recent election, a decision which he regretted, and that people "are sick of the tawdry pretences" in politics.
"I think part of Russell Brand's diagnosis is right. There is a huge sense of disillusion out there," he told the magazine.
"At the next election we shall have a choice between the people who've given us five years of austerity, the people who left us this mess, and the people who signed public pledges that they wouldn't raise student fees, and then did so - the most blatant lie in recent political history.
"It won't be a bombshell if very large numbers of the electorate simply don't bother to vote. People are sick of the tawdry pretences.
"Russell Brand has never voted, because he finds the process irrelevant. I can understand that: the whole green-bench pantomime in Westminster looks a remote and self-important echo-chamber. But it is all we have."
Paxman added: "In one recent election, I decided not to vote, because I thought the choice so unappetising. By the time the polls had closed and it was too late to take part, I was feeling really uncomfortable: the person who chooses not to vote - cannot even be bothered to write 'none of the above' on a ballot paper - disqualifies himself from passing any comment at all."
Brand, who predicted a revolution, was interviewed because he was editing the New Statesman, a magazine that Paxman himself once applied to edit.
Paxman, who has presented Newsnight since 1989, said: "We ignore the democratic process at our peril. If we live together, we need rules, so there will always be a government, or what Russell calls the 'admin bods'.
"The big question is how they get the job. People died for the right to choose their government, because otherwise, power is wielded by the rich and strong for the benefit of the rich and strong.
"Whether you bother to vote or not, someone is going to sit on those benches and tell you what to do."
Paxman admitted that he had low expectations of the Brand interview, "a multimillionaire with a house in California talking about the need to take from the rich and give to the poor" on the show, which recently raised eyebrows with presenter Kirsty Wark dancing to Thriller on Hallowe'en and an appearance from Sesame Street's Cookie Monster.
But he added: "There is something irresistible about him... He stands squarely in the British tradition of cheekie chappies."
He added: "He (Brand) thinks the wrong people are in charge. Well, perhaps they are. But the people in charge are always people who want to be in charge... I have no burning desire to order people about. Politicians do; that is one of the many reasons they are so odd."