Any Questions?

I’ve just returned from attending the live broadcast of Any Questions? from the Birmingham Conservatoire, as part of Birmingham Book Festival. Politics can be so much fun! The panellists were Liam Byrne (newly promoted Minister for the Cabinet Office), Alan Duncan (Shadow secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, David Edgar (playwright and President of the Writers’ Guild) and Julia Goldsworthy (Lib Dem speaker on Communities and local government). The opening questions were, unsurprisingly, about banking reforms and regulations, in which as might be expected Liam Byrne supported the Labour line (“we will do whatever it takes to ensure people don’t lose out”, to which Dimbleby replied, “What does that mean?” Byrne: “Well, we will do whatever it takes”. Dimbleby: “What is it likely to take?” And so on. Amusing.) A nicely phrased question asked if the Prince of Darkness is the light at the end of the tunnel for the Labour party, referring to the apophrades (sorry, too much lit crit – return from the dead) of Mandelson – the audience was asked to vote on this, and it doesn’t seem a popular move! David Edgar had some excellent answers, and also provided a nice literary touch, referencing Milton and Shakespeare among others – appropriate for the book festival. And the final question of the evening asked the panellists if a book has ever changed their lives. Alan Duncan suggested his own book changed his life by nearly getting him the sack, but went on to say that writers who concentrate on freedoms, moral liberty etc, such as John Stuart Mill, have greatly influenced his thinking. David Edgar went for Shakespeare’s history plays, Liam Byrne for Graham Greene’s Travels with my Aunt, and Julia Goldsworthy – rather worthily – went for the biography of Penhaligon, a Truro MP, which persuaded her to begin her own political career.
You can listen to Any Questions? online here. Everyone should listen to it – it’s not just informative, it’s also hilarious!

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