Pavilion plays host to lively political debate

FOR an hour last week, Bexhill found itself at the centre of the country's political cut and thrust.

Question Time returned to the De La Warr Pavilion after a two-year break last Thursday.

Venerable presenter David Dimbley sat alongside Labour leadership contendor Andy Burnham, Cabinet Minister Francis Maude, former Respect MP George Galloway, Labour activist Sally Bercow, and the broadcaster Nick Ferrari.

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And Bexhill quizzed the panel over Peter Mandelson's recently-published memoirs, Raoul Moat, the NHS shake-up and private sector pay.

The audience, chosen by the BBC after a tough selection process carried out online and over the telephone, proved a lively crowd leading Mr Dimbleby, himself a Sussex man, to tut at the front row at one stage.

Bexhill's MP, Greg Barker, gave his verdict on the show, which aired on Thursday evening.

"I was delighted to welcome Question Time to Bexhill, but sorry that the rules of the programme mean they never invite the local MP to participate.

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"But I hope that the wider audience will remain engaged in the big national debate because we are facing some huge challenges that we all need to tackle together."

Sally Ann Lycett, head of communications at the Pavilion, said: "It was good to welcome back Question Time to the Pavilion and to see some notable local and young people in the audience. A lively debate which put Bexhill on the map once again."

You can catch-up with the show at until 11.30pm tonight (Friday).

The view from the audience

Buzz Bournazian, 29, of Hastings Road: "It was a most enjoyable evening and the whole thing was very well organised. The distribution of questions and the responses was very fair. "I am always impressed by Nick Ferrari and George Galloway does speak a lot of sense at times."

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Angela Farley, 58, of Middlesex Road: "I enjoyed the experience and it was very interesting but I was a little bit upset I didn't get to ask my question.

"I would have rather have had a question about public service cuts answered as I am a civil servant and I am very much at risk.

"I thought Nick Ferrari was very straight forward although Sally Bercow didn't come across as I expected."

Observer Reporter Rob Alderson watched from the wings

alongside Pavilion staff:

"Television presenters often appear different in real life - but David Dimbleby is exactly what you'd expect, affable and avuncular with a sharp sense of humour and a playful twinkle in his eye.

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"We were ordered to assemble at 6pm at the De La Warr, and after photographic IDs were checked and question cards given out, Dimbleby gave us a pep talk, part democratic call to arms, part wedding reception speech.

"It may be the same talk he gives every week, from Exeter to Edinburgh, but we didn't mind and he left us charmed but ready to do our duty.

"Before the recording, five audience members are invited to take the famous chairs for a run-through and Bexhill threw up five typically quirky characters.

"That done it was on to the main action, and as each panellist was introduced we were encouraged to cheer, boo and hiss in proper panto fashion.

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"The recording itself flew by, Nick Ferrari clearly striking a chord while rival MPs Andy Burnham and Francis Maude talked over each other.

"It was an intense hour of debate, but I suspect like me, many of the audience members rushed home to relive it all over again on BBC1."

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