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My view on Question Time in Penzance
The BBC’s Question Time programme – in which politicians and other public figures are quizzed on topical issues – was in Cornwall. The programme was broadcast from Mount’s Bay School in Penzance but, disrespectfully, not one of the five panellists came from Cornwall or even had a Cornish connection.
There were three Westminster MPs involved in this most recent episode. Representing the Conservatives was Nadhim Zahawi MP (Stratford-upon-Avon) and Labour’s choice was Rebecca Long-Bailey (Salford and Eccles), while Layla Moran (Oxford West and Abingdon) was there for the Liberal Democrats.

The two other panellists were Tim Martin from the Wetherspoon chain of public houses, who I understand lives in Exeter, and the writer Benjamin Zephaniah who presently resides in Lincolnshire.

I don’t think that it would have been too difficult to have some Cornish voices on the programme. Surely, one of Cornwall’s six MPs could have represented the Conservatives and Adam Paynter, the leader of Cornwall Council, could have been the Liberal Democrat’s nominee. I can also think of a number of business people from Cornwall who would have had plenty to say.

The BBC website has a “frequently asked questions” section about Question Time. This includes: “Why doesn’t the panel reflect the region they are in by having local politicians on the panel?” It blandly answers its own question by stating it “is a national programme which must be relevant to audiences across the UK” though it is “broadcast from all round the country to make sure that a broad cross-section of audiences have the chance to take part.”

That claim is crass nonsense. Could you image an episode from Scotland or Wales, without a single representative from those countries? Of course not!

Eight weeks ago, the programme was in Edinburgh and all the panellists had meaningful Scottish connections: Ross Thomson (Conservative MP for Aberdeen South), two members of the Scottish Parliament Kezia Dugdale (Labour) and Mike Russell (Scottish National Party), crime writer Val McDermid from Kirkcaldy and the editor of the Spectator magazine Fraser Nelson, who was actually born in Truro but raised in Nairn.

Likewise, when Question Time was last in Wales, only three weeks ago, the guests included Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader Liz Saville Roberts and the general secretary of the Public and Commercial Service Union, Mark Serwotka, who is from Cardiff.

It is my view that the BBC should apologise for the total exclusion of local political voices from the recent Penzance show and give guarantees that, in the future, it will treat Cornwall with the same respect as the other Celtic parts of the United Kingdom.
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By Dick Cole. Published on 15th December 2018.

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