How Sheila Hancock hit back at Jeremy Paxman’s jibe

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Former Portsmouth University chancellor Sheila Hancock showed some fighting Pompey spirit after EU debate host Jeremy Paxman told her: ‘You’re getting on a bit.’

The 83-year-old acrtess stole the Channel 4 referendum special with an instant comeback to the sneer.

Referring to how today’s vote will affect our individual futures, Paxman had told the Remain campaigner: ‘I don’t want to be rude but you’re getting on a bit.’

But Ms Hancock, who is a patron of the New Theatre Royal in Portsmouth, drew applause as she replied graciously about what being in the EU meant to her.

She said: ‘Being 83, what it means is that I was a child in the war. And when we were told, when my generation were told, that we were going to unite with our enemies and try and build a better future, I rejoiced.

‘Now obviously a vision like that was going to have to be worked at very hard. Look at the problems now, it’s not just migration it’s a shift of population, as we had at the end of the war, there were displaced people all over the world whose homelands had been bombed to hell, people were coming out of camps and looking for somewhere to live, and we solved it.’

Ms Hancock, who was born on the Isle of Wight and trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art before starting her career in repertory theatre, added that there were not just migration issues but also ‘ecological problems, environmental problems, huge discrepancies between the rich and the poor worldwide’ and that these issues should worry us because they lead to extremity.

The actress, who was chancellor of Portsmouth University between 2007 and 2012, said: ‘Surely we can solve those problems better if we are united rather than if we shut ourselves down.’

She finished by saying: ‘I am so proud to be Brtisih, really I am, but I am also proud to be European and if I wake up at the weekend and discover I am no longer European I will be heartbroken.’