Ever wondered why long-running topical panel show Have I Got News For You has had many more male guest hosts than female? Well, according to team captains Paul Merton and Ian Hislop and Paul Merton, there’s a very good reason – despite being asked, most women (especially female politicians) turn down the gig.

“The producers always ask more women than men,” Merton reveals in a new interview for the latest issue of Radio Times.

“More women say no[…] and right from the early days, that’s been the case.”

“And everyone you think should have been asked has been,” adds Hislop. “Really, they really have.”

And Hislop has a theory as to why so many high-profile women have decided against appearing, speculating that a sense of modesty might put them off from getting involved.

“There was a period when people said, ‘Why haven’t you had French and Saunders on? Why haven’t you had the following people?’” he recalls in the interview.

“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.’”

“I mean, we have had a lot of women present the show,” concludes Merton.

“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 have been asked and they’ve said no.”

Read the full interview in the latest issue of Radio Times, on sale now


Have I Got News For You airs on BBC1 on Fridays at 9:30pm