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Thursday, 15 March 2012

Being on Question Time

Last week I had the pleasure of appearing on Question Time and of having what one Twitter friend called 'a disagreement with Sir David of Dimbleby'.

I'm a big fan of Question Time, bio-Dimbleby and his online counterpart, @Dimblebot and I love watching what people talk about on Twitter with the hashtag #BBCQT. According to Sabotage Times, Question Time is impossible to enjoy without Twitter. Big shout out to the Hackney lot who watch along in a pub & debate after the programme. I hope to join you one day!

Here's what happens if you're invited on.

Two weeks ago, at the end of QT, I noticed that Dimblers was promoting the fact that the QT panel would be in Guildford the following week. As I was chatting online with a friend at the time, I made my excuses and quickly flicked to the Question Time website to find out how to apply. I really never considered I might make it on.

Last Wednesday, whilst I was recovering from tonsillitis I received word that I'd been invited on and racked my brains for suitable questions. I thought it best to consult with @DIMBLEBOT before proceeding.

My current bug bears are the NHS reforms and gay marriage. I was asked to email one question to the BBC ahead of time and to monitor the news on Thursday & come along with my question ready to submit it on the day.

Dimbledancing with excitement, with my Dimblemug in my bag, I arrived at the Guildford GLive venue and queued with everyone else, thinking of different questions to ask. I'd already submitted my question about gay marriage to the editor before time, so I stuck with my original question on the NHS reforms, hoping they'd choose me.

I sat, patiently eating crisps, on my own, having not even considered to ask for more than one ticket. I seemed to be the only one who hadn't brought a friend or partner. However, my loneliness was short-lived as hushed word went around that Dimbleby himself would appear to us. He duly did so, stumbling up on a chair to talk to us. He reminded us that our questions were what made the programme possible and told us how things would go ahead. 5 questions would be chosen from those who'd submitted them and those questions would set the agenda. However, once each question was asked, there was the opportunity to raise your hand and get your question or comment in. David (we're on first-name terms now) told us that if we kept our hands up, he'd come to us.

Bio-Dimbleby then answered our questions - some were about controversial guests like Nick Griffin and David Starkey (had he recovered? - he didn't think he ever would) and his tie choices ("I choose my own", he assured us). He was also asked about why there weren't more Liberal Democrats on panels as guests. "In case you hadn't noticed," he replied, "they are a smaller party".

All suitably star-struck, we hung off his every word before watching him go off to go and do whatever Dimbleby does when he's backstage.

Once inside (I chose a position, sadly, right in front of Eric Pickles, in the second row from the front) we were invited to ask questions directed to a panel made up of five volunteers from the audience. I was tempted to volunteer for this, but I thought I'd hold my horses for the real thing.

The 5 questions were chosen and the positions of the named audience members who were asking them noted. The first question was a practice question, to warm up the audience, we learned.

L-R Will Self, Janice Atkinson-Small, Eric Pickles, David Dimbleby, Caroline Flint & Will Young

Before I knew it, we were being filmed. The atmosphere was very odd - I think because it was such a weird panel. We had erudite, sneering Will Self on the left, closely followed by the horrid Janice Atkinson-Small, dressed as Austin Powers, Eric Pickles (who actually, to me - a bleeding-heart lefty liberal, actually came over quite well), the Shadow Minister Caroline Flint (who I thought made some excellent points) and Will Young, who didn't know about train fare rises, but did later refer to me as "what that lady said", making my entire year.

The first question was about the tragic deaths of soldiers in Afghanistan and I didn't have much to say on the subject - I'm not sure what my feelings are about pulling out of Afghanistan early, or sticking to what sometimes feels like an arbitrary date. I kept my hand down, but the boy in front of me had other ideas & asked a question. At 15:36 you can see my beautiful owl necklace.

Mansion Tax was the second question and, this being Surrey, there seemed to be more than one person who had a Mansion they didn't want taxed. This chap was the funniest guy I'd heard in a debate - his first (unrecorded) question went on forever and ever and by the time he'd finished talking we'd forgotten our subject. What a character. He also clearly didn't listen when Will Young was introduced.

"I think the Mansion Tax is about as silly as the Window Tax"

When the subject of gay marriage came up ("Does gay marriage undermine the institution of marriage?"), I knew I'd have my chance. I just knew I had to say something. I'd had my hand up for ages and finally Dimblers chose me. My question followed the exchange between Janice Atkinson-Small and Will Young:

Janice: What worries me here is that in this country we also have something called a hate crime. If this goes through [...] what happens to those Imams, the priests and the vicars, who have their views, (points to Will Young) and I agree, some of those views *are* abhorrent, but I'm no torch-holder for faith, if they turn around and say, well no, this is wrong, this is abhorrent, they use some of that language, and I don't agree with that language, then they can be called into account, they can be called into the police station and I think [...]
 Will Young: "Yes! Rightfully so!" (Round of applause from audience)
 Janice: "All my gay friends say 'we've got Civil Partnerships, we don't need a marriage. Marriage is a union between a man and a woman (less applause, from different area of the audience)

This was in response to comments from Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland who said equal marriage was a “gross subversion of a universally accepted human right”

Once I'd argued with Sir David of Dimbleby, I spent the rest of the show coming down from a bit of an adrenaline rush, until Will Young pointed in my general direction & Will Self said "heterosexuals do a good job of undermining the institution of marriage". Dimbleby himself asked why gay marriages shouldn't happen in churches.

Will Young gestures in my direction
I absolutely recommend jumping at the change to go on Question Time. It's fun, interesting and you might even get your face on telly, with your badly worded question.

Apply to be on the telly here!


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