BBC defends comic's 'bomb Glastonbury' joke about Corbyn fans

The BBC has defended a comedian’s comments about Jeremy Corbyn on Have I Got News For You, in the latest instance of the broadcaster having to deal with complaints from the public about jokes mocking politicians.

On last week’s episode of the satirical current affairs programme, Fin Taylor compared the former Labour leader to Bob Dylan, “in that I only hate him so much because of his fans”.

He said: “People think that Bob Dylan’s the greatest musician that ever lived, and you listen to some of it and it’s awful. But then people are so dogmatic and say he’s the greatest musician. People who like Corbyn, it’s what, 200,000 people in the Labour party that are fanatics? So all you’ve got to do next year is bomb Glastonbury. Hopefully Dylan’s headlining: two birds, one stone.”

Fin Taylor
Fin Taylor at the Edinburgh fringe in 2018. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod/The Guardian

The regular panellist Ian Hislop told Taylor on the show: “Well, that’s the end of your career.”

The BBC did not say how many people had complained about Taylor’s comment but said the programme was “intended to be funny and amusing”.

Last year the corporation formally apologised after Jo Brand joked on Radio 4 about politicians such as Nigel Farage and Tommy Robinson being doused in milkshakes by members of the public. Her suggestion that people should instead consider throwing battery acid was briefly investigated by the Metropolitan police.

In both cases the relevant comments spread virally among the social media followings of the respective politicians, which may have contributed to the number of complaints after broadcast.

A spokesperson for the BBC said: “After more than 30 years on air, Have I Got News For You is a well-established comedy series that has built a reputation for irreverent humour and satire. Regular viewers expect the panellists to make jokes and understand that contributions are intended to be funny and amusing, and this edition was no exception.

“It was clear that comedian Fin Taylor was talking about an utterly absurd scenario, in which he compared Jeremy Corbyn to Bob Dylan, and was in no way whatsoever to be taken seriously.”