One of the great taboos on Have I Got News For You is audience interaction. It just doesn't happen - the audience are there to be heard (laughing and applauding) and not seen. So for this decades-long convention to be abruptly broken last night, there must have been some very special comic imperative at play, right? Well, yes. It was apparently utterly essential to conduct a straw poll to determine whether the London audience thought that the Scots (who everyone knew were watching, naturally, this being a 'national British programme' and everything) should "bugger off" or not. In case you're wondering, the overwhelming verdict was that we should, indeed, "bugger off".
Curiously, guest host Ray Winstone later made a joke about an anti-Pakistani comment by a politician, who he described as a "prat". The audience roared with laughter, congratulating themselves with no apparent trace of irony on their politically correct, tolerant sense of humour. This of course comes hot on the heels of the notorious recent Question Time incident, when an audience member suggested that "we should dump our nuclear waste in Scotland and then give them independence", prompting hysterical giggles from the programme's English host, English panel and the rest of the English audience. Clearly this sparkling (and immaculately non-racist) Jock-bashing wit is not restricted to actual comedy programmes on our "national British" television networks.
So what actually lies behind all this thinly-disguised loathing and rage? It seems to be a confusing mixture of a belief in the London media's fantasy that Scotland is "subsidised by hard-working English taxpayers", and anger at the fact that Scotland is inexplicably considering walking away from all those (ahem) "subsidies". You'd think the latter point would provoke delight and relief, but no, instead the message is something along the lines of "yeah, bugger off back to us with your tail between your legs, so we can subsidise you some more and hate you for it". Alternatively, the muddled thinking may possibly indicate that on some unconscious level they do in fact suspect that the Scots probably aren't getting the better end of the deal.
And before we hear the predictable squeals of "don't these bleedin' Jocks have a sense of humour", let me make a constructive suggestion. How about a comedy programme shown throughout the UK, with an all-Scottish panel, in which the Scottish host asks the all-Scottish audience - "If the English ask for the nukes after independence, who thinks we should just tell them to bugger off? Who thinks we should do the world a favour by holding onto Trident, disarming unilaterally and not offering a penny in compensation to the London Treasury? Sounds fair to me, yeah guys?"
Let's see if all that can happen without acres of column-inches being devoted by the London media to a solemn discussion of the dark tide of anti-Englishness in Scotland - and, naturally, its all-important relationship to Braveheart.