Conservative MP Nadine Dorries says Have I Got News For You is “too vicious” for most female contestants and guests and does not “lend itself to women feeling comfortable”.
Dorries appeared on the BBC panel show on Ian Hislop’s team in 2012, but said she has turned down further invitations.
Hislop told the new issue of Radio Times that female politicians are “more reticent” to join the show as guest hosts, despite producers’ best efforts. Team captain Paul Merton explained: “The producers always ask more women than men. More women say no.”
In response, Dorries told BBC News: “I just don’t think Have I Got News For You is a programme which lends itself to women feeling comfortable. I find it too vicious.
“I know people like that. That’s why they love the programme – it’s so successful. I just find it too vicious, too abrasive.
“It’s all about banter – women don’t banter in that way, or very rarely. You might get the odd woman who would, but most women don’t banter in that way, don’t have that degree of aggression.”
The Conservative politician said her agent had said no to all offers from the show ever since her original appearance, and she was unsure whether those invites were as a contestant or as a host.
Only one female politician has ever hosted the show: Ann Widdecombe. By contrast, ten male politicians have sat in the host’s seat, including Boris Johnson, Ed Balls and Nick Clegg.
Dorries added that when it comes to politicians, “the only reason they’re asking you is to shred you – and why would you put yourself up for that? Whereas, men don’t seem to mind being shredded most of the time.”
Popular female hosts have included Kirsty Young, Victoria Coren Mitchell and Jo Brand.
But Hislop told Radio Times: “There was a period when 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.’
“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.”‘