Article: Riana Thakrar (Yr 10)
BBC Radio 4's Any Questions? was broadcast live from the Performing Arts Centre at North London Collegiate School on February 5th 2010. Having been invited to the school by the pupils of the Senior Debating Society, the BBC assembled inside the PAC which was packed with parents, students, members of staff, ONLs and distingushed guests awaiting an enjoyable evening of topical debate.
The evening's debate was chaired by Jonathan Dimbleby, the renowned political commentator and writer and was produced by Victoria Wakely. The panel consisted of:
ESTHER RANTZEN, (ONL 1958) broadcaster and the Parliamentary Candidate for Luton South
BENEDICT BROGAN, The Daily Telegraph's Chief Political commentator
FRANCES CROOK, the Director of the Howard League for Penal Reform
BRIAN PADDICK, former Metropalitan Police Officer and Liberal Democrat candidate for Mayor of London
Once the ten questions had been selectively chosen from the audience, the show went live on Radio 4.
The show began with the question, "Do you think the prosecution of the four MPs will have any signifcant impact on public trust in politicians?". After Frances Crook stated her concerns about the damage to public trust and the worrying "scar on democracy", Benedict Brogan responded by arguing that the prosecution of these MPs and the general elections give us, as tax payers, the chance to get our own back.
The next question was "Should John Terry have been made to stand down as England captain?" to which there appeared to be a clear consensus in the words of Benedict Brogan, that "John Terry should have stepped down voluntarily." The audience readily applauded at this and nodded in agreement with Brian Paddick's point that if Terry remained as captain it would "affect the dynamic of the England team."
Following this, "Do you agree with Gordon Brown's proposed referendum, following the next general election for an alternative voting system?" was asked. The audience was greatly amused at the difference in opinion between Esther Rantzen, who claimed to like the simplicity of the current system and Frances Crook, who suggested to have a national system. However, it was Benedict Brogan's answer which received a great applause as he boldly stated that he has the right to be suspicious about Gordon Brown's motives.
The next question, "Following Terry Pratchett's plea for assisted suicide tribunals, do you think it should be legalised?", saw the audience's involvement as a majority agreed with Frances Crook and Esther Ranzen's view that, as an individual, one "has the right to end their own life if their lives are intolerable to them." This view was hotly opposed by Brian Paddick and Benedict Brogan who argued that it was a very dangerous path to go down.
The last question certainly brought about laughter: "Do private schools have a place in Modern Britain?". As an ONL, Esther Rantzen believed that "the best education must be accessible for everyone," and argued that there is a place for more direct grant schools. However, the most applause followed Benedict Brogan's answer when he claimed that he believes in choice and as "standards of comprehensive schools are being questioned in Britain in 2010," private schools are " a reminder of what excellence is!"
Many thanks go to both the Senior Debating Society and Mr James-Williams (Head of the English Department) for organising such a successful event.
Photos: RK & Michael Pilkington
Sub-Editor: Gina Sternberg (Yr 10)
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