Ian Hislop ‘occasionally worries’ about sack from Have I Got News For You

Have I Got News For You star Ian Hislop has said he occasionally worries about being sacked from the hit BBC comedy programme.

Hislop, the editor of satirical magazine Private Eye, has been a captain on the panel show with comedian Paul Merton for nearly 30 years.

The programme has over the years courted controversy and the BBC is currently facing scrutiny over equal pay, diversity, free TV licences for the over-75s and competition from streaming services.

Media reports have recently linked former Daily Telegraph editor Lord Moore with the job of BBC chairman. He has since ruled himself out.

Private Eye book launch
Private Eye book launch

The Government is also reported to be supporting ex-Daily Mail editor and vocal BBC critic Paul Dacre to become chairman of broadcast regulator Ofcom.

“I occasionally worry about being sacked,” Hislop said.

“There was a previous director-general John Birt and there was a point where Peter Mandelson was involved in both a sort of mortgage scandal and he was outed by Matthew Paris as gay.

“The director-general, who was a friend of Mandelson, sent round a memo to all BBC programmes saying there will be no mention of Peter Mandelson on this programme at all and nothing that happened in Peter Mandelson’s life will be mentioned.

“I was asked a question and I said, ‘Interestingly it turned out this week that Peter Mandelson turns out to be a home… owner’ at which point Paul Merton said, ‘Yeah, but why shouldn’t gay people have mortgages’.

“Again, I think we’ve got form on this front.”

Hislop, who was speaking at the Cheltenham Literature Festival to mark his 60th birthday, said critics of the show believed they were “Momentum-inspired, lefty lunatics”.

“I feel there was a moment where again in this sort of polarised world, somehow the director- general, or someone who was briefing others, got it into their heads that any criticism of the Government on a panel show suggests this is a bunch of sort of Momentum-inspired, lefty lunatics,” he said.

Have I Got News For You
Have I Got News For You

“I just now quote from the Daily Telegraph, who have really got it in for Boris, and ask just how right-wing you would like us to be.

“We’re sort of around the Spectator and the Telegraph editorial at the moment. There is quite a lot of that sort of nonsense about.

“We could be fired. That would be good.”

Hislop said the weekly satirical show had recently returned to the TV studio after all panel members appearing via videolink from home during the lockdown.

He said his most recent favourite episode was when, during a monologue, he heavily criticised Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s adviser, Dominic Cummings, for a quarantine trip to Durham.

“The entire mission of the Government had been to tell the country to move on. We had this story he didn’t break the regulations so can everybody move on,” Hislop said.

“I just feel the great joy of my job is that I can just not move on and I can stay just where I am and say the same thing again and again and again.

“When he says, ‘I was doing it as an eye test’ and I can say you were just testing your lies and there’s nothing they can do about it.

“A huge number of our audience said what you did was made us feel better.

“I was particularly cross because many of you had obeyed the rules, particularly around care homes and not visiting people and we’ve lost someone and hadn’t had the chance to say goodbye…

“There were loads of people all over the country really trying to do the right thing and the Prime Minister’s special adviser was just taking the piss. They just made you feel stupid.

“They tell people not to go to the beach and the people on the beach say, ‘I’ve only gone out once, why don’t you arrest Dominic Cummings?’.”