Joe Lycett, Liz Truss and a ‘tabloid furore’

Viewers divided over comedian’s antics on Laura Kuenssberg’s new politics show

Stand-up Joe Lycett outside BBC studios in London on Sunday
Stand-up Joe Lycett outside the BBC studios in London on Sunday
(Image credit: Tayfun Salci/ZUMA Press Wire)

The BBC has been accused of “anti-Tory bias” after comedian Joe Lycett mocked Liz Truss on the broadcaster’s new flagship politics show yesterday.

An interview with Truss “on the eve of her expected election” as Conservative Party leader was “meant to be the highlight” of the debut episode of Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg, said the Daily Mail. But the interview was “overshadowed” by fellow guest Lycett, “who sarcastically applauded and cheered” Truss.

The stand-up star’s antics have fuelled fresh bias allegations against the BBC, after Truss and Boris Johnson were also “subjected to a series of crass insults” on the broadcaster’s satirical show Have I Got News for You on Friday, the paper reported.

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What happened?

Appearing on Kuenssberg’s new programme alongside former No. 10 staffer Cleo Watson and Labour’s Emily Thornberry, Lycett watched as the prime minister-in-waiting was interviewed live in the London studio.

Despite a grilling by Kuenssberg, Truss refused to be drawn on which support measures she would introduce to address the cost-of-living crisis. As the interview came to an end, Lycett could be heard off-screen cheering, clapping and shouting: “You smashed it, Liz!”

And he laid in once again in a subsequent panel discussion, joking that despite criticism in The Mail on Sunday about “leftie liberal wokie comedians” on the BBC, “I’m actually very right-wing”.

When Kuenssberg pointed out that Truss had promised a “big package of help coming this week for people to help pay their bills”, a sarcastic Lycett responded: “Yeah, she was very clear what she said. I think you know exactly what’s going to happen.”

He added: “I think the haters will say we’ve had 12 years of the Tories, and that we’re sort of at the dregs of what they’re got available, and that Liz Truss is sort of like the backwash of the available MPs.”

What was the response?

Lycett “sucked up all the attention” by “generally lowering the tone to the kind of sarcastic wise-guy jabber that is popular with blowhards on Twitter”, said the Daily Mail’s Jan Moir, who also criticised “whoever thought it was a good idea to hire the leftie comedian” to be a guest.

The New Statesman’s deputy political editor Rachel Wearmouth also questioned the wisdom of the decision. “Not sure inviting comedian Joe Lycett on to a serious politics show was the best idea,” she tweeted. That verdict was echoed by Rob Burley, the former head of the BBC’s political programming, who tweeted that “it’s not the time for that nonsense anymore”.

The Daily Express’s political editor Sam Lister wrote that “at a time when the country is facing a national crisis, many will question why the BBC turned to a left-wing comic for analysis”.

But Harriet Williamson of The Independent praised Lycett as “the star of the final Tory leadership interviews”. Williamson argued that “when politics descends into farce, challenging it with humour is not only appropriate, but necessary”.

Financial expert Martin Lewis also defended Lycett’s performance. Appearing on ITV’s Good Morning Britain today, Lewis said: “You invite a comedian on a programme, expect them to do comedy.”

As the debate rumbles on, the Daily Mail reported that a “senior Tory source” had called for the BBC to apologise for the “absurd” episode.

Tory backbencher Lee Anderson joined the chorus of criticism, claiming that “now the BBC can no longer use public money to attack Boris, they have now turned their sights on to” his successor in No. 10.

Lycett appeared unfazed by what The Independent described as the “tabloid furore” about his role in the row. In a tweet late last night showing an image of today’s Daily Mail front page criticising him, Lycett wrote: “I’ll be off to the framers in the morning.”

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