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Question Time in Whitby

Len Tingle | 10:36 UK time, Friday, 19 March 2010

BBC Question Time debate logo c/o BBC Question Time
A familiar theme tune, six chairs on a podium, a packed audience clutching carefully prepared questions and the camera team checking microphones and checking final angles.

It could only be Question Time couldn't it?

Well, a rather different version of the programme was about to begin last night in Whitby.

For a start veteran Chairman David Dimbleby had been replaced by a somewhat younger female presenter plucked from CBBC's Newsround.

The entire production had been put together by a team of 14 to 16-year-olds and the "camera team" was just me filming the event for a report in a future edition of the Politics Show.

But the tension was as great as any edition of the real Question Time.

This was the final round of the BBC's annual "Schools Question Time" competition.

Whitby Community College has now reached this stage of the event four times over the past few years.

Fifteen schools are at this stage and events like the one being put on last night are taking place all over the country until the end of March.

Judges will then chose four schools to take part in producing a real edition of the BBC's longest running political discussion programme which will be broadcast on BBC One later this year.

Sonali Shah

The idea is to try and get younger people involved in politics. At the 2005 election just one in five of the under-24's bothered to vote.

The Institute for Citizenship, which promotes participation in schools, jointly runs the competition with the BBC.

The Whitby youngsters aimed high.

They added a bit of youth credibility by persuading Newsround's Sonali Shah to come up from London chair the event.

Sonali didn't just pop in for a couple of hours. She spent the entire day with the 20-strong teenaged production team in exactly the same way David Dimbleby does for a real edition of the programme.

They then convinced the local Conservative MP and the Labour, LibDem and Green party parliamentary candidates that this was the ideal opportunity to hold the general election's first local hustings.

And the added spice to the panellists? Step forward UKIP MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber Godfrey Bloom.

He didn't disappoint.

His views on how 10-year-olds committing murder should be locked up and the key thrown away was one of the many lively discussions of the night.

The finale was a discussion on why teenagers find politics so boring.

Robert Goodwill, the Conservative who holds on to the Whitby and Scarborough seat with a slim margin of just 1,200, came up with the only credible answer: "As my wife will tell you," he told an expectant audience.

"I am the most boring man on the planet."

Incidentally, the Whitby College team did very well. They and last night's audience and the panellists thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

But I can't say too much about that because apart from being the cameraman on the night I also happen to be one of the judges.


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