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Hundreds enjoy political debate and banter in Stamford live broadcast of Any Questions?

Rev Andy Fyall (8517992)
Rev Andy Fyall (8517992)

Hundreds packed Stamford Methodist Church tonight (Friday) for enjoyable political debate and a bit of banter.

BBC Radio 4 recorded Any Questions? Which was broadcast live and will be repeated again on Saturday lunchtime.

Charlie Partridge (8518051)
Charlie Partridge (8518051)

Joining presenter Jonathan Dimbleby were UKIP leader Gerard Batten, Conservative MP Nicky Morgan, Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry and president of the Liberal Democrats, Baroness Sal Brinton.

After a welcome from Rev Andy Fyall, Charlie Partridge, editor for BBC Radio Lincolnshire, warmed up the crowd by answering questions about the operations of the BBC and its programmes.

Quizzed about Brexit coverage, a topic which raised the greatest passion, he found a split between around half wanting more Brexit coverage and half wanting less.

He responded: “It’s the biggest story since the end of the Second World War.”

He also told the crowd that before the programme, the panelists went for a meal at The Crown Hotel.

Producer Lisa Jenkinson then introduced herself and revealed whose questions would be asked. The panel then arrived on stage.

Lisa Jenkinson (8518115)
Lisa Jenkinson (8518115)

The warm up question, before the show was broadcast, was from Deepings Independent councillor Ashley Baxter. He asked who or what would you like to throw into a black hole 15 billion light years away?

Sal Brinton said she wanted to throw away the current polarised debate and for people to listen to each other.

Emily Thornberry wanted to throw away the problem of homelessness, which blights so many lives.

Nicky Morgan said she would throw rude people into a black hole.

Gerard Batten would throw away the European Union, its filing cabinets, files and directives but not its people.

When asked by Mr Dimbleby the same question, Coun Baxter replied the first-past-the-post voting system.

Ready for the debate (8518157)
Ready for the debate (8518157)

There followed a break for the 8pm news and then a question about the arrest of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

Barbara Spiller then raised the Brexit issue, asking if the latest government extension was a lifeline or a noose.

Sal Brinton said the country needed a ‘brief pause’ before moving further.

To claps and cheers, she said the Lib-Dem position is clear, that “the UK’s place is better in the EU.”

Gerard Batten responded the latest extension was a noose, a “mechanism for the political establishment to delay and impede the process.”

He said the upcoming European Union Elections would be between the ‘unequivocal’ remainers, the Lib-Dems, and the ‘unequivocal’ Leavers, UKIP.

Jonathan Dimbleby raised Mr Batten’s criticism of Islam, to which Mr Batten said a lot of people agree with him, but there was disagreement with him from the audience.

Mr Batten said Labour and the Tories ‘don’t know’ where they stand on Brexit and Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party was a ‘one man band’, whereas UKIP was a proper party with a constitution.

Turning to Nicky Morgan, Mr Dimbleby referred to battles within the Conservative Party over Brexit.

Nicky Morgan received applause for attacking the ‘Far Right’ over ‘Islamophobia.’

Gerard Batten and Marietta King (8518280)
Gerard Batten and Marietta King (8518280)

Mr Dimbleby said many people can’t support Theresa May and many may go to UKIP or the Brexit Party.

Ms Morgan replied she hoped an agreement could be found with the EU, so the European Elections don’t have to be fought..

She then said she and other MPs had received abuse, including emails of nooses, for their stances over Brexit.

Earning a laugh for calling Mr Batten ‘Gerald’ instead of Gerard, she said: “We need to get the resolution, heal the divisions and move on as a country.”

Emily Thornberry said ‘real leadership’ was needed over Brexit, and the "PM needed to start listening and compromise."

Interrupted by Jonathan Dimbleby as she continued, the Labour politician responded: “Everything I said is significant. I’m just not answering the question the way you want me to.”

Sal Brinton said she welcomed Stamford MP Nick Boles and others working together to “take things forward.”

Gerard Batten added the government was meant to call the European Union Elections today (Friday), but it was in such a chaotic position.

“It’s underway, I have committed £500,000 to print 27 million leaflets.”

There then followed a question on no-fault divorces, which were supported by all as a way to reduce the conflict within the divorce process.

Emily Thornberry said "if a marriage has died you need to be able to walk away". She said it was painful her parents split up when she was seven and people should not go into having children lightly.

Gerard Batten agreed divorce should not be made hard but maybe rules should be tougher where dependent children are involved.

Nicky Morgan said making division as painless as possible was “the mark of a civilised society.”

Sal Brinton said as a child of divorced parents, she was personally delighted “they are taking the blame away from divorces.”

A show of hands of the audience showed all bar a very few favouring no fault divorce.

Finally, Fiona Cumberbatch gave the last question, noting Stamford being listed for its quality of life. She asked the panel what were the essential elements of a good place to live.

Nicky Morgan said a sense of belonging, a feeling of community, where people can flourish and where there are great services.

Gerard Batten noted when he walked from the railway station, Stamford had new buildings that blended with the old, and good pubs and restaurants.

He lived in London and liked good surroundings, good neighbours and a decent pub close by.

Jonathan Dimbleby then interrupted “and harmony between races?”

Gerard Batten responded: “I’m in Newham. I’m in an ethnic minority. I get along with everybody and they get along with me.”

Sal Brinton said she was from Watford and praised a diverse community where everybody pulls together, good facilities and shops.

Fiona Cumberbatch said she liked Stamford for its “good sense of community, independent businesses, good state schools and an excellent hospital.”

The show then ended to cheers, whistles, claps and hollering.

And after announcing next week’s show will be in London, Jonathan Dimbleby said he noted house prices in Stamford were half that of the capitol.

The show ended and there then followed a group photo and some of the politicians appearing in selfies and talking with their supporters.

Ashley Baxter and Steve Carroll (8517950)
Ashley Baxter and Steve Carroll (8517950)

As people were leaving, Ashley Baxter told the Mercury that appearing in the audience was “a great evening’s entertainment.”

Rev Fyall said: “It was great, marvellous. I’m up for doing it again.”


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