Last week, MP Choe Smith went on Newsnight to explain George Osborne’s decision to defer a 3p rise in fuel duty until January. What followed was a ‘savaging’ from Jeremy Paxman. Here, Grazia’s new political columnist Gaby Hinsliff asks, are people more interested in her humiliation because she’s a woman?
It was the political equivalent of wriggling out of a bikini under a towel, only for a gust of wind to expose you to the whole beach.
The Treasury minister Chloe Smith’s excruciating interview with Newsnight’s Jeremy Paxman over petrol taxes has gone viral mainly because it’s rare, in an age of spin, to see an argument stripped so mercilessly bare. By the final question - ‘Ever think you’re incompetent?’ – poor Chloe is left scrabbling to cover her dignity.
But since she’s hardly the first politician Paxman has steamrollered, could the extraordinary interest in her humiliation have anything to do with her being female?
It’s unlikely Paxman would have given any man an easier ride, since he’s famously rude to everyone. But Smith isn’t just any old minister.
She’s the new MP who bagged a plum job aged just 29, leaving several of the men she leapfrogged complaining that she only got it because she’s female. Like many young women in senior roles, she faces a pressure to prove herself that male colleagues (some of whom would have handled Paxman no better) don’t.
Could there be a sneaky satisfaction, for the disappointed and disgruntled everywhere, in seeing her get her comeuppance?