Cristina Odone

Journalist, novelist and broadcaster

Question Time: as it happened 11th October

October 12, 2012 @ 1:42 pm

Quote
Perhaps, in exchange for cutting housing benefit for under twenty fives we
could have some controls on rents...as there used to be...until the last of
them were removed jeeeeeust before the beginning of the biggest house price
bubble in history...I mean, isnt that at the root of the problem? Wouldn't
that lower housing benefit costs? Whats that? Sssh!"

23.40 This from Christopher Heneghan on housing benefit:

Quote
It is obvious that so many need housing benefits because of huge rents, mostly
in the private sector with speculators hiking up rents. I was able to rent
in London and raise three children after my husband died, on my own, with a
controlled rent for this private property. Bring a form of controlled rent
back, and stop private landlords making huge profits. These are the people
that are costing us so much in housing benefits"

23.39 That's it! It's over! Another blistering show. How was it for
you? Get your comments in for a last quick round...

23.38 Just time for one more despatch from those tracking Simon
Hughes's body movements...

23.36 Simon Hughes: "For me, the one test is viability. I agree
with Caroline. The medical evidence I have seen [...] is it's either 24
weeks or very near it." That's two against one

23.34 Cristina Odone: "There are plenty of scientific
breakthroughs that show us that a foetus is viable at 20-25 weeks."
Well, I'm stumped on this one.

23.32 Caroline Flint: "There is no scientific evidence to suggest
that the viability of a foetus at the 20-25 week limit has changed."

23.31 Here's
our report about the 12-week limit

23.30 Dimbleby has saved Shapps, for now. Q: Shouldn’t the abortion
limit be a matter for the morality of individual women and not Jeremy Hunt?

23.29 Ah ha. FINALLY Grant Shapps is getting a grillling on his alter
ego. About time. "Are you really rich?" asks Zephaniah. "No,
no..." squirms Shapps.

23.27 Simon Hughes made a joke! It didn't go well.

23.24 Zephaniah: "I can't understand why a group of people at Tory
conference found that mop, brush thing funny," saying what the rest of
us (well, those of us covering Conservative Party Conference) have been
thinking all week.

23.23 When it comes to the crunch, nobody around the table seems to be
much of a fan of endorsing Boris for Prime Minister. Shapps is evasive.
Cristina damns him with faint praise. Flint is scathing. One of the more
moderate responses from Twitter:

23.20 Cristina Odone praises Bojo's off-the-wall charm: "He's
witty and funny. Would I trust him to be on time? He is a force of nature. I
think we would never be bored. I think we would always be on the edge of our
seats. We'd be laughing a lot."

23.18 Zephaniah: "Boris Johnson said the Chinese have no culture.
He calls the black people piccaninnies. He says the problem with Africa is
the British aren't there. He may seem like a buffoon, but he's a very
dangerous person." Half the audience applaud.

23.16 NEW TOPIC: Should Boris Johnson challenge Cameron for the
leadership of the Conservatives?

23.15 "I believe totally in young people." says Cristina
Odone, "But why do we think they should have their own flat?"

Meanwhile, Simon Hughes's body language is attracting attention:

23.13 A man in a Rolling Stones t-shirt is saying we should crack down
on cash-in-hand work. Meanwhile, a young man with very impressive cheekbones
asks: "Why are young people who are just starting out in life being
made the biggest victims of the financial crisis?". The young people
applaud vigorously with their young, nimble limbs.

23.11 Caroline Flint courting a lot of audience approval this evening: "What
I've got a problem with is coming up with a policy that various conservative
ministers see as some sort of answer to the issues of welfare reform. It's
trying to find an answer to plug a gap in their economic plan which isn't
working."

23.08 Quite a fragmented debate, this one, flitting between tax
avoidance, mansion tax, greedy bankers and lazy benefit scroungers. Also a
lot of talk of graduates:

23.06 Sports writer Jonathan Liew is here offering valuable insight:

I've been watching this on mute while I was on the phone to my girlfriend.
Based on visuals alone, Zephaniah is winning this by a mile.

23.04 Caroline Flint: "Give them the training, the access to jobs
and childcare to not rely on benefits. That is the answer." A ripple of
applause.

23.03 Cristina Odone: "I've got friends who are between 16 and 24
and they're saying this is not fair. They're saying I don't think I'm
entitled to have a home. Lots of kids are prepared to go back and live with
mum and dad."

23.00 "It's not a done deal across the coalition," says Simon
Hughes. OOH. "If we wanted a society where we pay off our debts let's
collect money from people who can afford to pay." Twitter is sceptical.

22.58 "Somebody's gotta pick up the tab for this, and it's the
taxpayer." says Shapps. "This is about fairness as a whole to the
taxpayer."

22.55 Zephaniah: "You can't keep putting pressure on them to get
jobs when there are no jobs. you can't push people into the swimming pool
when you have taken the water out of the swimming pool." The audience
applauds, sagely.

22.54 NEW TOPIC: Is George Osborne discriminating against the under-25s
by taking away their housing benefit?

22.54 Knighthoods expire when people die, notes Shapps. Good point.
Simon Hughes states the obvious. Audience remains unimpressed.

22.51 Parliamentary Sketchwriter Michael Deacon is glued to the social
networks:

Magnificent. Mere minutes in, "Michael Green" is already trending
on Twitter

22.49 Caroline Flint: "Wider than the BBC it's recognising that we
put people on a pedestal."

"we don't allow the powerful to take complete liberties with the power
they've got"

22.47 Seems to be a tacit agreement that Savile's no longer fit for his
title. One audience member makes a good point about posthumous allegations
that's also been picked up on twitter...

22.46 Next question: Should Jimmy Savile lose his title? Meanwhile, the
Shapps jokes keep coming...

22.44 Cristina Odone now: "There were two levels of trust that
were betrayed. One his victims, but also the licence payers - we feel that
we've been taken for a ride." She's calling for a very prompt and very
independent investigation, a very public apology, compensation for the
victims and "a thorough clean up of what looks like very filthy
practices".

22.41 Grant Shapps first up: "It day by day seems unimaginable
that people didn't know," he says, doing an admirable job of looking
credible.

22.40 First question: Is the BBC's reputation about to be blown away by
the Jimmy Savile debacle?

22.39 Right, we're away!

22.35 On a more serious note, Alan Robertson has this to say:

Quote
Joking aside regarding Grant Shapps, are ordinary grass roots Conservative
members not thoroughly embarrassed to have someone as (Co-) Chairman who
went around under a false identity? Genuinely interested to know, maybe you
could post it up and see what responses you get. Hardly seems like the sort
of arrangement which inspires confidence.

So what do we think about Grant Shapps's dual identity? Embarrassing, amusing
or both? Get in touch.

22.33 I mean, I have no idea if this tweet is true or not, but I'll do
whatever I can to help burnish the mystique of Shapps/Green:

22.28 The Michael Green anticipation is reaching fever pitch. A reader
writes...

Quote
Since Grant Shapps is going to be on Question Time shortly, and while we wait,
please can you link to Elvis Costello's wonderful song, Accidents Will
Happen ? Please ? Only a matter of time !!

Sadly I can't embed it, but I can
link to it
.

22.27 So tonight marks the first time the BBC will be introducing a
Twitter guest into the mix. How do we feel about this? Toby Young will be
tweeting from a privileged position on the @BBCExtraGuest account, and
although it's not quite clear how that's going to segue into the debate this
evening, it should make for an entertaining diversion. Not everyone's happy
about it, naturally:

22.23 *EXTRA TWITTER GUEST* - Toby Young - The self-styled underdog has
enjoyed a lively career that’s included numerous sackings and wince-inducing
moments, including getting thrown
off the set of a film about his own memoirs
. Today he’s better known
for his West London Free School, which offers children a classical liberal
education in keeping with Young’s own beliefs. This week Young will be the
first Twitter guest on the show, and will be tweeting from the @BBCExtraGuest
account. He’s expecting “unbelievable levels of abuse”.

22.20 Grant Shapps - The man, the myth, the legend. So much has already
been written about international man of mystery Grant Shapps, and yet so
many loose ends remain. The moon-faced Conservative Party Chairman lives a
double life as ‘multi-millionaire’ web guru Michael Green, whose corporate
self-help guides and software packages have helped net him a fortune of
£17m. He reckons he knows what it takes to build a business up from scratch,
but is he thick-skinned enough to absorb the barbs of tonight’s audience?

22.17 Caroline Flint is perhaps most memorable for her resignation
after the 2009 Cabinet reshuffle, when she claimed Gordon Brown was running
a "two-tier government", and that she’d been treated as "female
window dressing". She's been Shadow Climate Secretary since 2011 and an
MP since 1997. Weirdly, there was also once a
bed
that bore her name.

22.12 Deputy leader of the Lib Dems, Simon Hughes has twice run
unsuccessfully for leadership of the party and also for Mayor of London in
2004. Somewhat optimistically, he told
the Telegraph
last week that despite single-digit polling figures
the party “is in a much happier position now than when we left for the
summer holidays.” He also revealed recently he's been swapping
texts with Ed Miliband
on how to give the economy a boost.

22.08 The Telegraph’s own columnist Cristina Odone joins
the panel tonight to inject a little of her erudite criticism into
proceedings. She has enjoyed an illustrious career as a journalist, editing
The Catholic Herald straight after leaving university, and going on to
become TV critic for the Daily Telegraph, deputy editor of the New
Statesman, and a columnist for The Observer. Sharp, forthright and always
opinionated, her presence is likely to ruffle a few feathers.

22.05 So on to tonight's panel. First up we have Benjamin Zephaniah.
Zephaniah’s always an interesting guest on Question Time, which has few
guests on its roster with a CV to match his. The quick-witted creative has
lived an intriguing life, coming to London at 22 with the intention of
becoming a professional poet and rising through the ranks to become one of
Britain’s most well-known writers. He turned down an OBE in 2003 and now
divides his time between China and a quaint village in Lincolnshire.

21.58 Hello and welcome to our rolling coverage of Question Time. Last
week's show was a pretty pedestrian affair punctuated by barking outbursts
from Willie Walsh and an engaging end segment where a blase Janet
Street-Porter dished the dirt on Jimmy Savile.

However, tonight we have a balanced panel of established politicians,
prestigious pundits, a Telegraph columnist, a man who turned down an OBE and
a Walter Mitty-type who’s curiously desperate to escape his “stinking rich”
alter-ego. Let’s just quickly remind ourselves exactly how Grant Shapps
reacts when you bring up Michael Green:

Send me your tweets, email your thoughts and as I blitz my way through an hour
of furious coverage I’ll do my best to weave them into the mix.

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