Saturday 1 February 2020

BBC Complaints on Nish Kumar's "shovel-ready" 'joke' about Laurence Fox

So Nish Kumar's 'joke' about Laurence Fox's face being "shovel-ready"...

Yes, this is a leaked report which suggests that HS2 could end up costing the government £106 billion. Work on HS2 was initially delayed when construction workers discovered that Yorkshire was actually a load-bearing county. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said that the massive decision on whether to go ahead with HS2 needs to be a fact-based, or at the very least inspired by one of the more recent episodes of Thomas the Tank Engine. Almost £9 billion has been spent on the project so far, and the London to Birmingham phase is said to be "shovel-ready" - a bit like Laurence Fox's face. not only ruled OK by BBC Complaints but was discussed beforehand by The News Quiz team and given the green light, as we learn from a reply from BBC Complaints that has been kindly shared with us on an earlier thread


Incitement to violence regarding Laurence Fox 

Nish Kumar intimated that Laurence Fox's face should be hit with a shovel, by saying (apropos HS2) "... the London to Birmingham phase is said to be shovel-ready, a bit like Laurence Fox's face". This is incitement to violence, on a day-time family radio show. The show in question is Series 101, Episode 3. 


Dear [redacted]

Thank you for contacting us about The News Quiz on January 24.

We raised your concerns regarding the reference to Laurence Fox with the programme team, bearing our editorial guidelines in mind. They respond:

“The News Quiz is one of the most established comedy programmes on Radio 4, offering satirical and other comedic comment based on notable stories in the news. This particular line combined reference to that week’s developments on the future of HS2 with the notable public reaction that was continuing to Laurence Fox’s appearance on Question Time, reflecting the strength of public reaction in some quarters.

We discussed the joke internally prior to broadcast, and felt that it was defendable as a play on HS2 Ltd’s own use of the phrase “shovel ready”. Nish is well-known for a tone that's occasionally confrontational. As a comedian from an ethnic minority, his act often touches on matters of race. Listeners may well expect him to be strongly opposed to Laurence Fox’s denials of racism, which emerged so controversially that week.

It should be noted that News Quiz is broadcast in Radio 4’s most established comedy slot on weekdays at 6:30pm, to an adult audience used to hearing a very broad range of comedy from gentle wit to the most acerbic black humour and satire.

We recognise that violence is a sensitive subject to be treated with care but, when taken in the context of a long-established comedy programme like The News Quiz, we consider that listeners would understand that the line was a dark joke, figurative and not to be taken seriously, and therefore did not condone any violent acts.”

We make listener feedback like yours available to programmes and senior executives on our daily report. This ensures we’re aware of how things come across at home - thanks again for taking the time get in touch.

BBC Complaints Team


  1. Well that's a collector's item for sure!!

    They admit the joke advocates violence, and yet it was approved pre-broadcast!

    The response includes what many would consider racially insensitive references to "black humour" and "a dark joke"! Why not go the whole hog and call it off-colour...

    They refer to "the notable public reaction" to Laurence Fox's comments. As I recall they were notable for being highly supportive, unless that is you read the Guardian and make BBC programmes.

    They seem to imply that Nish Kumar as a comedian from an ethnic minority has access to a licence to perform this sort of joke, which is not available to other, white, comedians. This is a kind of extension of Lord Hall's "Munchetty Doctrine".

    And another absurdity - they seem to think anyone under the age of 18 is tucked up in bed by 6.30pm.

    Goodbye BBC! :)

  2. I dread to think what kind of minority Jo Brand is deemed to hail from. Surely not a gender based one?


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