#BBCqt for International Women’s Day

For International Women’s Day the BBC have decided to have an all-women panel for BBC Question Time.

(Just kidding. The real panel is the usual Bullingdon Boy plus an Eric, two Wills, with Caroline Flint and Janice Atkinson-Small. But let’s pretend we live in a world where the BBC wants to act like it cares.)

So in that alternate universe, David Dimbleby stepped down for International Women’s Day and was replaced by Christine Burns.

On the panel tonight is Theresa May, Conservative MP for Maidenhead and Home Secretary and Minister for Women & Equality; Caroline Flint, Labour MP for Don Valley and Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change; Jo Brand, comedian, national treasure and cake fan; Janice Atkinson-Small, UKIP communications director of Women On and contributor to the Daily Mail; and Frances O’Grady, the TUC Deputy General Secretary.

Live-blogging this special International Women’s Day panel for BBC Question Time begins at 10:35.

To follow livetweets search on #IWD #BBCqt.

10:35: Question on the six soldiers killed in Afghanistan – should this lead to an end in hostilities sooner than 2014?

(I was surprised; Eric Pickles mouths the Tory line, but Will Self and Will Young sounded quite sensible. I don’t know what Frances O’Grady would say.)

Theresa May: Blah blah Al-Qaeda off our streets, Taliban broken, Afghanistan more stable, soldiers died to make us safer.

Woman asks about the women in Afghanistan.

Janice Atkinson: My heart goes out to the families of five soldiers. Women will go back to the Dark Ages when we leave. How sad. But we’ve cut the military back till we couldn’t fight even a tiny war, so we have to get out of Afghanistan now.

Jo Brand: Bollocks.

Woman in audience: Isn’t Afghanistan going to be another Vietnam?

Caroline Flint: The military from this country are doing a fantastic job in the interests of our national security. Meeting of NATO. There should be a clear understanding of the political strategy. *Theresa May nods approvingly*

Theresa May: Also unhappy about the women in Afghanistan. Also in Saudi Arabia.

Woman asks about stopping Afghanistan about incubator terrorism. So do we go on and invade Pakistan?

Caroline Flint: Blah blah blah regional issues. Bitterly disappointed in Karzai. Incredibly proud of the women who are politicians in Afghanistan now.

Man asks about deporting Abu Qatada. Christine Burns dismisses the question. Theresa May looks incredibly relieved.

10:55 50% tax band or mansion tax?

Jo Brand: Both.

Frances O’Grady: Yes. Both.

(Both MPs have a look of someone worrying about their expenses. Then Theresa May talks about how expensive a mansion tax would be and Caroline Flint talks at length about people in lower tax brackets paying more.)

Christine Burns tries to interrupt Caroline Flint to clarify about what the Shadow Chancellor says about the mansion tax. Flint dodges.

Older man complains that he has a very expensive house and he’s retired and he shouldn’t have to pay tax on his house just because it’s worth a couple of million.

Jo Brand points out he’s already paying a weighted local property tax, it’s not some weird imposition.

Man in red tie says it would be terribly complicated.

Woman in purple dress says there wouldn’t be that many mansions so why bother?

Jo Brand says the coalition don’t come to her for advice.

The same woman in the purple dress asks 23:07 if gay marriage will undermine Christianity.

(As far as I know everyone on my IWD BBCqt panel is straight! Dammit. Also, I missed a trick – I could have had Sinead O’Connor and she could have pointed out why it’s particularly grotesque for a Catholic Cardinal to be taking the moral high ground about anything. Will Young was actually pretty great.)

Jo Brand: Bollocks. Really. Cardinal O’Brien was talking absolute fucking rubbish.

Janice Atkinson: Talks a lot of rubbish about separation of church and state, marriage shouldn’t be the concern of the state, but of course I had two civil marriages so obviously I think marriage IS the concern of the state. And I’m really very worried about what will happen to priests and bishops if they continue to spout hate against gay people, will they be arrested. All my gay friends say we don’t need marriage, marriage is between a man and a woman.

Theresa May: I’ve rather changed my mind. I’m now in favour of gay marriage.

(Eric Pickles was also rather sweet actually. And I never thought I’d type that.)

Christine Burns: Looks like she would like to deliver a lecture on how equal marriage will benefit trans people but can’t because she’s the chair.

Woman in audience asks panel what they think of all the Catholic priests in the UK being told to preach against gay marriage – is this a hate crime?

Caroline Flint: This is giving people a chance to say they have marriage. A bit ludicrous that we have registry-office marriages and civil partnerships. Why should we make a distinction?

Gent in specs: Surely it’s a matter of semantics. Wouldn’t bother me if same-sex couples married in church.

Man in striped shirt: Surely it’s ridiculous to call it dangerous.

Janice Atkinson: Talks rubbish about same-sex couples demanding the right to be married by homophobic clergy.

23:22 How can the fare increases be justified when we’re already the most expensive in Europe?

Caroline Flint: About £4M public money goes to the railways! And they nearly awarded themselves bonuses. People have to commute by rail to get to work. They’ll be pushing up the fares to get people who have to travel in peak times.

Theresa May: Waffles about how the subsidies are coming to an end. We must embrace the 21st century. We need an oyster card to pay for the railways. It’s been a success. More people travel by train.

Christine Burns: That’s because the roads are a shambles.

Theresa May: The railways are expensive because taxpayers subsidise them.

Jo Brand: Bollocks.

Janice Atkinson: Comes out with a lot of figures about how expensive train travel is for Guildford-London commuters, and how this will drive the economy to a grinding halt.

Theresa May: Claims that the train fares will fall under new Tory plans.

Frances O’Grady: Points out that fares have been rising so that it costs less to drive for long distances than to take the train. Solution; Re-nationalise the railways.

Commuter: We’re suffering from high prices and costs keep rising. Your idea of reducing costs is to cut down guards and staff on the trains, and this is going to be less safe, especially if you’re travelling late at night.

Man in audience demands an approach with GUTS. He sounds a bit like a wannabe Brian Blessed. It would be funny if he WAS Brian Blessed. “SOMEONE WITH GUUUUTS!”

23:34 Gender equality is constantly on the agenda, so why are women so constantly under-represented?

Janice Atkinson: Claims women don’t want to be MPs because the pay isn’t high enough, you can’t afford childcare.

Theresa May: Acknowledges that the selection committee in the Tory party, rather than the members, is the problem.

(Eric Pickles was still rather sweet. Odd.)

Caroline Flint: Points out that it’s the favoured son who is supported through politics: points out the need for women-only short-lists. Perhaps, in this alt-universe BBCqt, points out that this is the only BBC Question Time ever with an all-women panel.

Frances O’Grady: Notes that she’s the first Deputy General Secretary of the TUC who’s a woman.

Jo Brand: Men are sexist bastards. Why doesn’t the House of Commons have a creche?

Christine Burns: Ending the programme now. Next time BBC Question Time will be in St Andrews, and David Dimbleby will be back in charge.

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