Have I Got News For You, ‘Have I Got News For You’


The good news is I was not alone in detesting last night’s HIGNFY; the bad news is how HIGNFY is becoming as pointless and pathetic as the politics/politicians it used to be so much sharper and accurate in exposing.

Twitter postings are rightly voicing and therefore reflecting widespread disdain about this Friday’s episode of Have I Got News for You and the programme’s early attacks on Jeremy Corbyn.

The very first programme of HIGNFY – itself an acronym artefact – was aired in 1990 and it must be the longest surviving comedy panel show and now institutionalised cultural artefact. Over the years it has delighted with incisive satire and straight comedy gags, the team captains of Ian Hislop and Paul Merton sustaining this firstly with host Angus Dayton and subsequently with guest hosts of varying quality and impact [I was, for example, disappointed with the great Patrick Stewart’s chairing last week when he performed like a parody of Brian Blessed, unwittingly yet still sadly doing so].

Obviously over time even the best of such television will get tired on top of making the occasional, or even regular, mistakes. Ian Hislop has always been but is increasingly just smug; Paul Merton’s signature comic incredulous face can only rarely work. To be fair – begrudgingly – it was Merton who did in this Friday’s programme make a critical observation about the singular negative portrayal of Labour as a Party in its sustained attacks on Corbyn.

If this matters at all and you are therefore reading I would suspect you saw the episode, so I won’t outline the three specific moments of ridicule and just piss-taking. The one I found poignantly ironic – and so I definitely do not mean comically so – is the clip of Jeremy facing a small crowd of sign-carrying supporters, and as he is about to address them, an aid rushes into the shot to turn Jeremy around to face the cameras filming this: the ‘classic’ electioneering framing where the candidate is backed by the supporting political people and their signage.

The implication of Corbyn ‘needing’ to be turned is that he is a buffoon, not knowing how to perform. And yet, without question, isn’t it rather the case that Corbyn was instinctively doing what he always does: addressing his audience, no matter how big or small, as people, rather than instinctively as the entirely sham performance set-piece it is for others, especially Theresa May who has recently – apparently – banned workers from attending their own workplace venue for such an orchestrated presentation, or more tellingly when she recently spoke to camera about encouraging people to ‘come to this town’, obviously not knowing where she was, this more arrogant buffoonery? A long question, but rhetorical.

And speaking of buffoons. Whilst the panel did discuss Boris Johnson’s recent mugwump comments about Corbyn, this didn’t, in fact, get the acerbic ridicule it deserved, Hislop and Merton probably the most aware of Boris’ scattergun ineptitude from his historically shambolic hostings of previous editions of HIGNFY.

I have never been an apologist for Corbyn’s problematic leadership of Labour, and projecting of himself as a Leader of the country, often precisely because he does not play the performance game that is probably, even if cynically, an inherent part of being elected by a large body of people these days. However, I have always and will continue to champion his principles and integrity, and the genuine, humane and personable qualities so clearly demonstrated in his sweet and warm and honest turn to that crowd of sign-carrying people – yes, people, not planted human and sign placards, even if in essence this was the understandable ruse of the event.

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