Anti-government feeling at Freshwater’s Any Questions

By IW Jun 10, 2022

The Isle of Wight proved that it certainly had some questions for the government when BBC Radio 4’s long-running current affairs programme, Any Questions?, came to Freshwater on Friday.

Broadcast live from the Memorial Hall, and repeated on Saturday lunchtime, the programme proved to be one of the liveliest for some time.

Hosted by newly-promoted political editor, Chris Mason, the panel was made up of Conservative MP, Andrew Griffiths, Minister for Policy, Labour MP, Anneliese Dodds, shadow secretary of state for women and equalities and chairwoman of the Labour Party, political journalist, Isabel Oakshott (who has a second home on the Island), and Colin Boswell, owner of the Garlic Farm.

An enthusiastic audience was told by the producer that they had been overwhelmed by the number of questions submitted, and it had taken some time to sift through them.

The panel was introduced and Chris Mason relaxed the panellists before going live with a gentle subject – what was the first car they had owned and how much did it cost? Isabel Oakeshott had a Ford Fiesta, Ms Dodds ‘something similar’ and Andrew Griffiths a brown Mini Clubman, all paid around £500 for their first cars. Colin Boswell had a Sunbeam Rapier that cost him £75 – and which caught fire when his mother drove it.

Silence ensued during the 8pm news, and suddenly Freshwater was live on air.

The audience’s boos when right-leaning Isabel Oakshott appeared to condemn Covid policy turned to cheers when she concluded that the Prime Minister should resign. Colin Boswell was equally lauded when he wondered how on earth Boris Johnson had become Prime Minister. When Mr Griffiths answered, the audience found it hard to take explanations and apologies. One called out “What about integrity?”

The cost of ferry travel, linked with ‘levelling up’, was a subject close to the audience’s hearts. The final question asked about labour shortages as a result of Brexit. Mr Boswell explained that his whole family would be working out in the fields for the garlic harvest. Not all of the chosen questioners got to put their question, and some audience members were inevitably disappointed.

Afterwards Chris Mason confided that this had been one of the liveliest audiences he had come across, and he had been surprised, given the strong Conservative majority, how anti-government it had been.

When congratulated on his new job – replacing the redoubtable Laura Kuenssberg as the BBC’s political editor – he said he would miss hosting Any Questions?. “As a journalist you get to ask the questions, but it’s much harder for the panel, who have to answer them.” He added: “And an evening like it was tonight is pure theatre.”

Speaking after the show, Mr Boswell said: “I found it quite inspiring because I felt it was democracy in action.

Everybody was free to express themselves. It was punchy and it was fun.”