A live audience made up of St Andrews residents, business owners, and students at the University met with a panel on 20 January for Question Time at the Byre Theatre. The BBC1 show – hosted by Fiona Bruce – involves an hour of topical debate in which members of the public are invited to ask questions to a panel of guests from politics and media. Each week, episodes are broadcast from different locations around the country with a new audience and panel. St Andrews was the latest host as the show traveled to Scotland. The panel included Stephen Kerr MSP, Chief Whip for the Scottish Conservative Party at Holyrood, Conservative; Emily Thornberry MP, Shadow Attorney General for England and Wales, Labour; Mairi McAllan MSP, Scottish Government Minister for Environment and Land Reform, SNP; Iain Anderson, Chief Executive of the PR company Cicero Group, and the UK government's first LGBT Business Champion, and Christopher Brookmyre, prize-winning crime novelist. Debate centred around Partygate, the rising cost of living, and the housing shortage occurring in St Andrews. A rare moment of agreement across the conservative, labour, and SNP members of the panel was the result of one of the questions raised by an audience member on whether the Prime Minister Boris Johnson, should resign. Stephen Kerr MSP for the Scottish Conservative Party at Holyrood responded, “It is a difficult thing for me as a lifelong conservative to say that the leader of my party should resign, but that’s what I’m saying tonight.” He added, “In due course the prime minister will be confronted with a vote of confidence, and I think from then on there’s an inevitability to the fact that he’ll leave office.” Kerr reiterated the view of his Scottish leader Douglas Ross MSP, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, that Boris Johnson must resign. Kerr added, “There needs to be standards in public life. Those who are elected in public office have a responsibility to lead by example. Rather tragically, that has not been the case. Sajid Javid has said that these parties in Downing Street have damaged our democracy.” The consensus within members of the panel and audience – of widespread frustration at the events in Westminster – was palpable when Fiona Bruce asked the socially distanced audience members, "Is there anyone here who wants to speak up for Boris Johnson?" The silence in itself was an answer to her question. Audience members of the show were selected based on age, gender, voting intention, disability status and occupation from a pool of 500 applicants. Selected audience members are asked to come up with two questions before the show to be considered for the programme. According to the show, the panel hears the questions for the first time when the question is asked to them.
Another topic of discussion in the episode included whether the number of holiday homes and student flats in areas such as St Andrews should be capped to preserve local communities.
Emily Thornberry, MP and shadow attorney general for England andWales, responded that “We don’t have enough homes in Britain. It cannot be solved quickly. you need to have a vision that is longer than three to four years, and we have to start making decisions.
“We need to build more houses, and we need to build more flats.”
Other topics brought forward by the audience on the cost of living included the rising cost of rail travel putting people off sustainable choices and how we calculate inflation – through the basket of goods method – under represents the actual impact on the most vulnerable in society. At the end of the show Fiona Bruce called for more anti-vaccinated members to join the audience and participate in the follow- ing shows at Morecambe and London.
Question Time airs at 10:35pm on Thursdays on BBC1 and previous episodes can be streamed from BBC iPlayer.
Image: Foreign and Commonwealth Office