How Portsmouth became a part of BBC Question Time history

Question Time host David Dimbleby
Question Time host David Dimbleby

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Later this month Portsmouth will host the BBC political debate show Question Time for the fifth time in the last 15 years.

As the country’s home of the Royal Navy, and one of the UK’s major ports, the city has often been a topic of discussion on the show.

The city first hosted the programme in February 2004, when guests included former Labour deputy leader Lord Hattersley, journalist Toby Young and former Liberal Democrat Lembit Opik.

Away from politics, Opik was perhaps best known for his appearance on reality show I’m a Celebrity - as well as a relationship with Gabriela Irimia of pop double-act The Cheeky Girls.

Question Time next returned to Portsmouth in 2008.

This time it was former Ukip leader Nigel Farage who took centre stage on the panel, and he was joined by Conservative politician (and current Brexit secretary) David Davis - who had resigned as an MP the previous week in protest over the government’s efforts to increase the detention of terror suspects without charge to 42 days.

The last Question Time panel in Portsmouth in 2013

The last Question Time panel in Portsmouth in 2013

Also on the panel were Hilary Benn, former secretary of state for environment, food and rura affairs, US television personality Jerry Springer and the Liberal Democrats’ Jo Swinson.

In March 2012 Labour politician Douglas Alexander and comedian Alexei Sayle were on the panel in Portsmouth, before the show returned to the city a year later.

A week before the episode, the panel in Boston were asked about shipbuilding being stopped in Portsmouth and whether it was in an effort to keep Scotland ‘onside’ with the independence referendum coming up.

Nigel Farage said it was a ‘massive strategic mistake’ to take hundreds of jobs away from ‘the UK’s premier naval city.’

Former Ukip leader Nigel Farage has previously appeared in a Question Time programme in Portsmouth

Former Ukip leader Nigel Farage has previously appeared in a Question Time programme in Portsmouth

Defence minister Anna Soubry MP said the announcement of job losses was ‘unfortunately a day that was always going to come’ because of a shortfall in the amount of work available.

A week later the show came to Portsmouth, with energy secretary Ed Davey among the panellists.

Similar to seven days earlier, the first question asked was ‘Was Portsmouth dockyard sacrificed to keep Scotland in the UK?’

One audience member said he feared Britain would have to buy ships from abroad if Scotland voted to leave the UK, while another admitted dockyard workers did not ‘have a job for life’ while the government was ‘decimating the size of the Royal Navy.’

Question Time will be held at Portsmouth High School on October 26.