Women too modest to host ‘Have I Got News For You’ – Ian Hislop

BBC panel show captain says lack of female MPs on programme down to lack of interest in job

 Ian Hislop (L) and Paul Merton (R) are captains on the BBC panel show. File photograph: Ian West/PA Wire

Ian Hislop (L) and Paul Merton (R) are captains on the BBC panel show. File photograph: Ian West/PA Wire


British comedian Paul Merton has said the lack of female MPs acting as guest presenters on Have I Got News For You is because they do not want the job.

The satirical television programme has been presented by 11 politicians over the years, only one of whom was a woman.

Merton, who has appeared as a captain on the BBC panel show since its inception in 1990 alongside Ian Hislop, said the low number is not the fault of the programme.

He told Radio Times magazine: “The producers always ask more women than men. More women say no.”

He added that “right from the early days, that’s been the case.”

Hislop said: “And everyone you think should have been asked has been. Really, they really have.”

Ann Widdecombe is the only female politician to have hosted the programme, although there have been many other women taking on the role of guest presenter, including Kirsty Young, Victoria Coren Mitchell, Jennifer Saunders, Jane Leeves, Jo Brand, Katherine Ryan and Anne Robinson.

“There was a period when people said, ‘Why haven’t you had French and Saunders on? Why haven’t you had the following people?’” Hislop said.

“And you say, ‘Well, it’s not compulsory.’ And on the whole, women are slightly more reticent and think, maybe modestly, ‘I can’t do that.’ Maybe more men in public life say, ‘Yes, I can do that.”’

Merton said his “worst experience” on the comedy show, which returns on Friday for its 55th series, was when Widdecombe returned to host for a second time.

He said the former Conservative politician was “telling the producer what jokes will and won’t work” after seemingly gaining confidence following her first presenting stint.

He added: “She turned to me at one point and said, ‘Come on, be amusing; that’s what you’re being paid for.’ Even as I say it, it sends a shiver through my heart!

“It’s like, the arrogance of the woman, you know? Suddenly she thought she was Victoria Wood! ”–AP