Why the BBC broadcast a gag about bombing Corbyn supporters at Glastonbury that would get you or I banned on Twitter

These jokes are apparently fine when it’s left-wingers in the firing line.

A comedian — who I’d never heard of and who you’ve probably never heard of — had his chance of getting Question Time appearances and Live At The Apollo spots improved this week with a turn on Have I Got News For You. He made a joke about bombing Glastonbury to free the world of Jeremy Corbyn supporters, and his fellow panellists chuckled along. I wasn’t offended. I don’t experience offence much. Instead, my disappointment is a kind of static hiss in the background, as though the radio of public discourse is always slightly out of tune.

Finn Taylor, a man with a face like a Wooly Willy toy, has immediately made a name for himself. It’s just that the name is ‘that controversy-chasing twat from Have I Got News For You’. Still, all publicity is good publicity, right? And Taylor will soon be on talkRadio and the Triggernometry podcast whining about how he was ‘trolled’ on Twitter by hundreds of people who, I don’t know, might just find him suggesting that supporting Jeremy Corbyn makes them beyond the pale somewhat angering.

Here’s what Taylor said, all the while with the kind of proud look on his face you might be familiar with seeing from your dog eating its own sick:

“My relationship with Corbyn is like Bob Dylan, I only hate him so much because of his fans. People think Bob Dylan is the greatest musician who ever lived but you listen to him… and it’s awful, a poet with a sinus infection, but people are so dogmatic and say he’s the greatest musician… he’s terrible.

People who like Corbyn? It’s 200,000 or so people in the Labour Party who are fanatics so all you’ve got to do next year: Bomb Glastonbury, hopefully Dylan is headlining, two birds with one stone… my week on Twitter next week is going to be lovely.”

When Jo Brand made a joke about throwing battery acid at Nigel Farage, it was all over the papers and the subject of thousands of complaints to Ofcom. Taylor’s joke has raised plenty of comment from the left on Twitter but barely a whisper in the papers. That’s because joking about murdering left-wingers is just a jape and totally within the acceptable range of discourse, but tossing milkshakes at Nigel Farage required thousands of column inches debating what kind of protest is acceptable.

Taylor’s joke about bombing music fans was broadcast while the Manchester Arena terror attack inquiry, about the bombing of pop fans, is ongoing. A Neo-Nazi was jailed last year for planning to murder a Labour MP and Corbyn was assaulted during a visit to a mosque, while he was still Labour leader.

Should Taylor be allowed to make the joke? Yes. Was it wise, kind, or necessary for Have I Got News For You to include the gag in the edit? No.

Have I Got News For You is in its 30th year on television. It’s incapable of being anything other than cosily establishment. It’s so toothless, it’s like watching an old mutt gumming at a bone. HIGNFY is a safe way for the BBC to say it broadcasts political satire without the risk of, you know, actually upsetting anyone in power. Continuing to use Corbyn as a piñata is fine because he’s a backbench MP with no control over anything.

Have I Got News For You is also a handy place for political chancers of all stripes to promote themselves. If you’re clever enough you can launder your reputation by being seen to “take a joke” without being under any real scrutiny. You’ll also find that very few journalists criticise Have I Got News For You because they secretly hope they can follow in Helen Lewis’ footsteps and get a slot there, before trading up to the News Quiz on Radio 4.

Taylor has done a number of successful Edinburgh shows and was a semi-finalist in the Chortle Student Comedy Awards back in 2010. But… he’s had virtually no TV exposure and his stuck on just under 7,000 followers on Twitter. So it’s hardly a surprise that he wanted to make a splash on Have I Got News For You. Neither is it that he chose to do so by taking a flying kick at Corbyn. He knew he’d get backlash on social media — he referred to it in his original joke — and will now use that noise to get more bookings. Call it the Darren Grimes strategy.

I’d say, you’ve got to laugh but that’s not going to happen if Finn Taylor is involved.