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A cricket charity lunch descended into acrimony on Monday when the guest speaker was booed off stage for making political jokes.
Nish Kumar, who hosts the BBC’s Mash Report, later said he was amazed how “easily offended” the audience proved to be, after he was roundly heckled for what he described as “extremely mild jokes about Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees Mogg, Theresa May and the Brexit process not going very well”.
Kumar, who was giving his time for free to attend the Lord’s Taverners Christmas Lunch at Grosvenor House in London, added that it was the first time in his 13-year career that he had had something thrown at him during a gig, after a bread roll landed on stage.
He was later persuaded to leave the stage by the Master of Ceremonies, having vowed to “go the full Bercow” on his detractors, a reference to the former speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, who also was present at the event.
I was embarrassed to be there. On an afternoon that was supposed to be about kindness, there was a distinct lack of it in the room.
— Greg James (@gregjames) December 3, 2019
Greg James, the BBC Radio DJ and a fellow Taverners ambassador, later took the stage to condemn the actions of the crowd, telling them that he was “embarrassed” by the reception Kumar had received, and that the audience should be “ashamed”.
The Lord’s Taverners, which supports disadvantaged and disabled children through sport, later distanced itself from the controversy at an event which, it added, had raised £160,000 for the charity.
“We are not, and never will be, a political organisation and we don’t endorse the views of the guest speakers at our events, which are their own,” read the statement.
“However, nor do we endorse the reaction of a minority of audience members at yesterday’s event. Nish Kumar’s attendance was arranged in good faith and he gave his time for free to support the charity and our work. He follows a long tradition of comedic special guests at the event.
“We are extremely proud that in the past year we have raised over £4 million, with nearly 12,000 young people having participated in our cricket programmes all over the UK, and just over 31,000 items of sports kit having been recycled across 20 countries.
“We will continue to focus all our efforts on developing sporting chances for young people in 2020 and in many years to come.”