I’m glad someone else got the Newsnight job, says Eddie Mair

Broadcaster Eddie Mair has spoken of his relief after Evan Davis was announced as the new host of Newsnight - because it puts an end to the “tedious speculation” linking him to the job.

Eddie Mair
Eddie Mair

Radio 4’s Today programme presenter Davis was unveiled as Jeremy Paxman’s replacement on the BBC2 programme earlier this month.

Female Newsnight presenters Laura Kuenssberg, Kirsty Wark and Emily Maitlis, as well as Channel 4’s Krishnan Guru-Murthy and PM presenter Mair had been tipped for the position.

Mr Mair wrote in Radio Times magazine: “It’s a great appointment by Newsnight, and even greater that it brings to an end the months of tedious speculation - and betting - about who could replace Mr Paxman. Speculation in which my name kept coming up.”

He joked: “I realised how absurd it had all become when I was standing in the queue at William Hill’s and the guy in front, Krishnan Guru-Murthy, turned around and asked whether I too was putting money on Andrew Neil.”

Mair said that it was “flattering” to be linked to the post but joked that BBC bosses had written to him to tell him that he would not replace Paxman because he has a face and body for radio and a terrible “screen manner”.

Paxman, famous for his abrasive style, bowed out of the news programme after 25 years in June.

Davis, who will be leaving Today, will be anchoring the programme three nights a week from the autumn.

Lord Hall, Director General of the BBC, described Davis as an “outstanding journalist” as he announced the change at the launch of the BBC’s annual report earlier this month.

Praising him as “an extraordinary intelligent and clever interviewer”, he said “I think he has a wonderful presence on TV and I have no doubt he will be an extraordinary success on Newsnight”.

Asked why the BBC had not appointed a woman to the role, Lord Hall predicted that Newsnight editor Ian Katz “will be looking at the others who will come around Evan”.

A trio of women – Laura Kuenssberg, Emily Maitlis and Kirsty Wark will present for two nights a week with Davis taking three slots as the lead anchor.