Bill Bailey on Labour's ‘depressing’ politics and why he became ‘obsessed’ with Brexit

The 57-year-old is back on screens this morning as he appears on BBC One’s Saturday Kitchen Live, alongside its host Matt Tebbutt. They will be joined by chefs Anna Haugh and Paul A Young, as well as Paralympian treasure Ellie Simmonds, who will help Bailey in enjoying the treats rustled up by the cooks. Bailey is one of the country’s most loved comics, and stunned viewers in 2020 when he, alongside dance partner Oti Mabuse, won the Strictly Come Dancing crown.

His victory saw him become the oldest winner of the BBC One flagship programme.

And while his charming routines and affable personality helped win over viewers, the former Never Mind the Buzzcocks panellist delivered a blunt assessment of the UK’s decision to quit the EU.

After Brexit was voted for in 2016, Bailey, himself an outspoken supporter of the Labour Party, said the divisions within the party were “very depressing”.

He described feeling that Labour, then under Jeremy Corbyn, had actually split the public over their decision to not fully endorse either Leave or Remain in the Brexit debate.

While acknowledging he wanted to Remain, the comic did note that he didn’t feel the UK’s break up with the bloc would be as bad as some pundits claimed it could be.

In 2016, he told the i newspaper: “Comedy thrives on friction and conflict.”

He explained there was “an edge” to mentioning Brexit in stand-up comedy routines and he became “slightly obsessed” with polling data.

Bath-born Bailey was then asked whether Brexit came at a “good time for comedy”.

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He noted how the UK was “an island race”, and claimed this was perhaps why the nation had “antipathy towards Europe”.

Bailey continued: “It’s innate, part of our national psyche.

“You can’t satirise something where you have two candidates who are both the unity candidates.

“‘I’m going to unify!’ ‘No, I’m going to unify!’ Politically, we’re in a state of freefall.”

The comedian believed it was “not surprising” that Brexit happened but called for unity among the public.

He added: “We might not accept it, but we have to understand it and move on.”

The TV star’s remarks about Brexit came under fire again a year later, when he was called out by Conservative Party councillor John Cotton on Twitter.

The Tory representative for South Oxfordshire blasted Bailey in a post, where he branded him “left, liberal [and] metropolitan”.

Mr Cotton wrote: “Plenty of good jokes tonight, though clearly hasn’t understood #Brexit. Happily, the #Oxford crowd were too polite to correct him.”

Bailey replied: “No you’re right Councillor I’m just a comic how could I possibly understand Brexit – looking to the Government for excellent clarity on this thorny issue.”

Saturday Kitchen Live airs on BBC One from 9am.

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