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Question Time’s memorable moments as political show turns 40

Question Time is celebrating its 40th anniversary on Thursday (Richard Lewisohn/BBC/PA)
Question Time is celebrating its 40th anniversary on Thursday (Richard Lewisohn/BBC/PA)

Question Time is celebrating its 40th anniversary on Thursday after four decades of holding politicians to account.

First broadcast in 1979, the show has seen more than 1,500 different guests on its panel, with veteran Tory MP Ken Clarke holding the record for most appearances, with 59.

In that time, Question Time has had four hosts – Sir Robin Day, Peter Sissons, David Dimbleby and current incumbent Fiona Bruce.

Here are some of the show’s memorable moments.

Bed time for Dimbleby

David Dimbleby
David Dimbleby is one of four hosts in Question Time’s 40-year history (Mark Allan/Hat Trick Productions/PA)

Susie Boniface, a Mirror columnist, was in the middle of a point about Brexit during a July 2017 episode when she was interrupted by a phone ringing.

It turns out it was host Dimbleby’s phone, who admitted: “This is my stopwatch saying it’s bedtime.”

Amid laughter from the audience, he said: “Carry on, Susie.”

A feline intruder steals the show

While Question Time has had its fair share of guests capable of squeezing themselves out of tight situations, perhaps none have been more adept at it than the unexpected panellist during a June 2009 episode.

While Liberal Democrat MP Julia Goldsworthy was making a point about a bank, Tango, a ginger cat, strolled into view during filming of the show in Newquay, Cornwall.

Tango was picked up by a member of the production team and placed back outdoors – but not before his owner had spotted him.

Someone pops the question

In February 2005 came one of the more touching moments in Question Time’s history.

As the show was drawing to a close, there was still time for a question from a nervous-looking Alan Jordan, seated in the front row of the studio audience.

Dimbleby introduced him, but the question was not for any of the panel.

“It’s for the lady on my right,” Mr Jordan said, as he turned to Sonia Temple, his girlfriend of four years.

“Will you marry me?” She said yes, in the show’s first – and so far only – engagement.

MP Eric ends up in a pickle

It took a brave politician to face the Question Time audience in the middle of the MPs expenses scandal, and that brave politician was former Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Sir Eric Pickles.

The furious public was baying for blood – Sir Eric called it “hang an MP week” – and his performance hardly soothed things.

He complained about having to turn up at the House Of Commons on time, drawing a cutting response from Dimbleby who said: “Like a job, in other words.”

After being booed and heckled by the audience, Sir Eric conceded: “I am never going to be able to satisfy you folks.”

Audience member given their marching orders

Question Time
Former Question Time presenter David Dimbleby showed an audience member the door due to persistent heckling (Ian West/PA)

A raucous audience is usually a good thing on Question Time.

However in June 2017 one man was deemed to have gone to far and was told to leave by Dimbleby.

Steve German, a left-wing campaigner, repeatedly heckled the panel, shouting that the Conservatives had lost the recent general election.

About 40 minutes into the programme, filmed in Plymouth, Dimbleby had had enough and told Mr German he had to leave.

It is thought to be only the second instance of a Question Time audience member being ejected from the show.

Dimbleby’s joke backfires

Jacob Rees-Mogg
Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg was responsible for a memorable Question Time moment with his witty response to host David Dimbleby (Jonathan Brady/PA)

A dry debate about the expansion of Heathrow airport would not usually be fertile ground for a memorable one-liner, but Dimbleby was on the receiving end during a December 2015 episode of Question Time.

Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg told the audience in Slough, Berkshire, he could relate to their opposition to the expansion plans, having previously lived nearby.

Dimbleby replied asking if the home he was referring to was the exclusive independent boarding school Eton.

In response, Mogg quipped: “That’s absolutely right. I was at school with your son.”

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