Aylesbury Question Time audience divided on Brexit but united on HS2

The BBC's Question Time programme was broadcast from the Waterside Theatre in Aylesbury last night (Thursday).

By Neil Shefferd
Friday, 15th February 2019, 10:52 am
Updated Monday, 18th February 2019, 9:39 am
Fiona Bruce introduces Question Time from the Waterside Theatre in Aylesbury
Fiona Bruce introduces Question Time from the Waterside Theatre in Aylesbury

The panel for last night's show was Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, Labour MP Lisa Nandy, economics commentator Grace Blakeley, Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales and comedian Geoff Norcott.

The first question on the show was about whether Shamima Begum, a schoolgirl from Bethnal Green should be allowed back into the UK after joining ISIS.

Fiona Bruce introduces Question Time from the Waterside Theatre in Aylesbury

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Jacob Rees-Mogg told the audience he believed she should be treated 'compassionately' while Lisa Nandy said she should be entitled to come back but still be subject to UK laws.

Audience members were less sympathetic with one saying that if she wasn't willing to take help offered to her then it was too late and another saying she should not be allowed back because she had shown 'absolutely no remorse.'

The second question was about Brexit and whether politicians had let down British people by pursuing individual agendas.

Jacob Rees-Mogg said he was willing to 'compromise' on Brexit and that there was a disconnect between the majority view of the Parliament (to remain) and the majority view of the public (to leave).

The set of Question Time in Aylesbury

Lisa Nandy argued that the Conservatives were holding Labour 'to ransom' over Brexit and were putting their own interests first and that she felt the UK was heading for an 'unplanned no deal.'

An audience member who runs a chemical company in Aylesbury gave an impassioned speech about how Brexit was affecting her business, and saying that 'any new Brexit deal would be worse than what we currently have.'

The other panellists had mixed views with Jimmy Wales saying the 'whole thing should be scrapped' and that a second referendum should take place, Grace Blakeley saying 'the public had been let down by the Government' and Geoff Norcott saying EU politicians should communicate better with the British people.

The third question was about whether HS2 should be scrapped, an emotive issue in the audience given how close the high-speed rail line will come to Aylesbury when it is built.

When presenter Fiona Bruce asked for a show of hands as to the audience view on HS2, there was an almost unanimous view that it should be scrapped.

Jacob Rees-Mogg described the project as 'a complete waste of money' while Lisa Nandy said it was 'a mess'.

The other panellists thought that there needed to be 'better transport infrastructure and connectivity' but stopped short of supporting the project.

Audience members felt the money could be 'better spent in other areas' although one audience member, who previously lived in Aylesbury but now lives in Milton Keynes, said he felt it was 'a good national project' and that he felt there was a lot of 'nimbyism' in Aylesbury.

The final question was about Winston Churchill and whether he was 'a hero or a villain' - in reference to Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell describing him as 'a villain' because of the way he dealt with striking miners in 1910.

Two of the panellists felt it was 'a stupid question' and that it was too much of a significant issue to be reduced to a short answer although Rees-Mogg was of the view that he was 'a hero.'

Before and after transmission, there were a small number of anti Jacob Rees Mogg protesters outside the venue.

We can also reveal that the warm-up question, which courted controversy a few weeks ago over the alleged treatment of Labour MP Diane Abbott, was about childhood obesity, and involved audience members taking to the panellists chairs to allow the microphones to be tested.

You can watch the programme online via the BBC iPlayer if you missed it last night - it is available for the next 11 months!