In the past 54 series of ‘Have I Got News For You’, the show has featured a number of prominent politicians serving as guest host for an episode, from Boris Johnson and William Hague to John Prescott and Alastair Campbell.
But of the 11 politicians who have sat in the presenter’s chair, only one of them has been a woman, with former Tory MP Ann Widdecombe having presented the show on two separate occasions.
However, during a fresh interview with Radio Times, Ian and Paul have insisted this lack of female MPs isn’t for lack of trying, claiming that “everyone you think should have been asked has been”.
Paul Merton explained: “The producers always ask more women than men. More women say no.”
Ian Hislop also said: “There was a period where people said, ‘Why haven’t you had French and Saunders on? Why haven’t you had the following people?’ And you say, ‘Well, it’s not compulsory.’
“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.’”
Paul then went on to point out that a number of prolific women have guest hosted the show since Angus Deayton stepped down as regular host in 2002, adding: “Kirsty Young has done it a few times. Jane Leeves from ‘Frasier’ has done it, Liza Tarbuck a long time ago, Jennifer Saunders has done it a couple of times, Jo Brand has done it maybe half a dozen times… So unless Ann Widdecombe has put off an entire gender, it must be because they’ve been asked and they’ve said no.”
Comedian Jo Brand is currently the ‘Have I Got News For You’ guest host with the second-highest number of appearances under her belt, behind ‘Pointless’ host Alexander Armstrong.
Back in November, Jo won widespread praise when she took the all-male panellists to task during a discussion about sexual harassment in Parliament.
Read Ian and Paul’s full interview in the latest issue of Radio Times.