Always Worth Saying’s Question Time Review

Question Time December 7th 2023

The Panel:

Steve Brine (Conservative)
Johnny Mercer (Conservative)
Anneliese Dodds (Labour)
Peter Hitchens (Journalist and Author)
George Monbiot (Writer and Environmental Activist)

Venue: Petersfield

George Monbiot (not his full name, George Joshua Richard Monbiot) is well known for his work as an environmental and political activist. The sixty-year-old specialises in climate change, biodiversity, corporate power, and social justice through contributions to The Guardian newspaper and by authoring books such as “Feral: Rewilding the Land, Sea, and Human Life”, and “Heat: How to Stop the Planet Burning”.

George was privately educated at Stowe School (£43,000 per annum), and Brasenose College, Oxford, where he studied Zoology. It was during this time that his interest in environmental issues developed through fieldwork that included studying the impact of pollution in the mangrove swamps of Brazil and Indonesia.

Despite or because of this, from his mansion in the Home Counties, George hates the Lake District, describing the beautiful landscape as stark, tree-less and overgrazed. Referring to sheep as ‘woolly maggots’, Mr Monbiot would prefer the livestock removed and the National Park allowed to become a ‘biodiverse’ monoculture of nettles or thistles.

It is not hereditary. George’s father was food industry supremo Raymond Monbiot CBE, one-time chairman of Campbell’s Soup. A regular contributor to Meat and Poultry News, a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Butchers and a keen Conservative, the Westminster school old boy and London Business School graduate served on the Conservative Party’s board and chaired the Conservative Party Conference in the year 2000.

As for his wayward progeny, George troubled the hot metal early in life. An October 1965 Reading Evening Post classified begged; ‘Mothers help urgently required to look after George 24 months and Catherine 6 months. Moving shortly to a lovely house near Reading. One and a half days free per week. One weekend free per month. Own room. TV. Excellent daily help employed. All automatic machines – Monbiot, Sandy Lodge Lane, Middlesex.’

That lovely house was Peppard House where George spent his childhood and early adulthood. The 1836 Georgian mansion – set in 1.7 acres complete with orchard, paddock, small field and shelter for a pony – is valued nowadays at £3.5 million.

Remember, this is the man who has made your life a misery with unaffordable energy bills, wants to ban your central heating and car, and bankrupt your family hill farm.

George’s busy mother was Rosalie Monbiot, an author, Chairwoman of the Royal Berkshire Ambulance Trust and one-time leader of South Oxfordshire District Council. The daughter of Conservative MP Gresham Cooke CBE (of Ranelagh Grove SW1 and Hidden Cottage, Hungerford, Berks) her February 1962 marriage to Raymond featured in the wedding pages of The Tatter.

They say you should never meet your heroes, likewise don’t bother writing to them. After an interesting post on X regarding Peter Hitchens’ experience of the railways of North America, I felt obliged to reply. Not knowing how X works I responded with pen and paper via his proprietor. I have no doubt Viscount Rothermere’s valet charged with unsolicited mail is a thoroughly professional gentleman’s gentleman and will have personally handed my humble missive to Mr Hitchens.

However, of a reply there is no sign. Keep an eye on Peter’s weekly Mail On Sunday column, Puffins. If his never-ending stout defence of suspected child molester Bishop Bell, and over-blown accounts of a (brief) posting to Moscow at the end of the Cold War, are enlivened by the kind of table talk one may experience in a South West Chief dining car while departing Alburquere, then he is pinching my story.

Born in Malta, Peter’s father was a naval officer. The 72-year-old journalist was educated at Mount House School, Tavistock (£20,130 per annum), the Leys School (£41,880 pa) and the Oxford College of Further Education. A graduate in PPE from the University of York, after completing his education Mr Hitchens worked for several newspapers, including The Daily Express and The Daily Mail.

Steve Brine is the Conservative MP for Winchester and has been since 2010. He is currently chairman of the Health and Social Care Select Committee. The 49-year-old is a graduate in History from Liverpool Hope University. Prior to his political career, he worked as a radio journalist for the BBC

Political lowlights include resigning from this position in 2019 to vote against the government’s Brexit policy and supporting the Benn Act, a failed attempt to prevent the voters’ decision to leave the European Union. In June 2023, the 49-year-old married father of two announced his decision not to run for re-election at the next general election.

Wife Susie is the daughter of the late Lord Toulson, a former senior judge.

Whilst an MP, as well as working full time for the good people of Winchester, Mr Brine has been a ‘strategic advisor’ to companies such as Sigma, Remedium and Microlink PC.

Anneliese Dodds is Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities and the Labour MP for Oxford East. Comrade Dodds, an accountant’s daughter, was privately educated at the £13,995 a year Robert Gordons College in Aberdeen. Public schoolgirl Anneliese has never had a proper job. After gaining a First in PPE at St Hilda’s College, Oxford, proletarian Anneliese was awarded an MA in Social Policy from Edinburgh University and a PhD in Government at the London School of Economics.

After that, she remained in academia as a lecturer in Public Policy at Kings College, London, also holding an Economic and Social Council Postdoctoral Fellowship at the LSE.

Ms Dodds also troubled the printed page at an early age. As a nine-year-old, she won a £10 book token for having a letter published in the Aberdeen Evening Express. On a grim 1987 late-October day in the extreme far ultra North East of Scotland, Anneliese attempted to reach peek morose Aberdonian by writing of all the things she disliked about Stonehaven. ‘I don’t like the harbour because it is dirty’. ‘I don’t like the tourists’. ’I don’t like Fine Fare or ASDA’.

Difficult to please little Anneliese (is she an only child?) did not like school sports day either as there were no prizes for second place, which is where she’d finished in her race. Young Anneleise ended her correspondence with ‘I think that the builders shouldn’t build any more houses.’ What she really meant was, ‘We’re doomed, doomed, I tell you, we’re doomed, doomed.’

Progressing from the letters page to published authorhood, Anneliese’s mighty tome ‘Comparative Public Policy’ is available from the bookshops priced at an astonishing £164.32p. Chapter One is entitled ‘Why Compare Public Policies?’ Why indeed. I shall spend my £164.32p on something else.

Perhaps because of the cost of living crisis-busting price tag, a new QT Review record has been set. Ms Dodds’ great work sits a comparatively miserable 5,244,736th place on the Amazon best sellers list, a full 5,204,686 places behind the Marquis de Sade’s perennial Christmas favourite ‘120 Days of Sodom.’


Question one. Will Rwanda cost the Tories the next election?

Johnny Mercer, replacing a Steve Brine perhaps spending even more time with the corporations he advises, wanted to look at such things in the round. Illegal immigration is unfair. Stopping it is not an easy task and being sent to Rwanda is a deterrent. There’s nothing else available, especially from Labour. There is a vacuum of ideas.

Johnny, you haven’t delivered, announced Anneliese Dodds. More Conservative Home Secretaries have travelled to Rwanda than deported immigrants, continued Ms Dodds, delivering a cheesy pre-prepared line.

We need a proper plan, a cross-border force – whatever that’s supposed to be. Labour will hire caseworkers to process people. i.e. get them in, get their relatives in, get them claiming and get them voting Labour.

There were some yokel pictures of Petersfield on the QT panellists’ desk. The uninitiated may have thought one was of the statue of William III in Petersfield’s The Square. It wasn’t. It was this week’s foreign railway station, specifically the ladies’ drinking fountain beside platform two of Kuala Lumpur’s Resident Station.

No, it won’t cost the Tories the next election, because they’ve already lost it, began Peter Hitchens. Anneliese goes on about gimmicks, we’ll find out in about 18 months what her and Kier Starmer’s government’s gimmicks will be regarding this issue. Both parties support very large levels of legal immigration – another problem besides illegal immigration.

In her introduction, La Bruce mentioned Peter has just got out of jail. Ahhh. Albeit for a television reality programme. All the same, that’s why he hasn’t replied to my letter. Like an imprisoned Bunyan with nought but a window to look at, poor Mr Hitchens has had nothing to do on the wrong side of the bars other than read my letter over and over again. Poor soul. There are only so many stories a gentleman can re-call from the chicken special and wrong wine while thundering across the New Mexico desert sat opposite a couple who knew Trueman. Now at liberty, and within reach of pen and paper, I re-await Peter’s reply.

Both parties favour immigration but don’t mention it to their voters. Mad military interventions (yes, you Johnny Mercer, he forgot to add) in places like Iraq and Libya have created this crisis. How to put that back in its box? Peter didn’t know. Perhaps avoid war. Why can’t we train and recruit people to do jobs? Why is our education system so useless? The BBC audience’s response to sensible Peter – silence.

Geroge Monbiot thought this absurd. It’s not about immigration, it’s about beating up some of the most vulnerable people on earth. George ranted. The BBC audience clapped. The illegal immigrants had suffered appalling things. In France? Continuing the French theme, he called the government ‘sadists.’

Nobody pointed out the illegal immigrants, all of them younger men, spend a fortune on people traffickers that could be better spent in their home countries.

How many are we going to let in? Asked an audience member to more silence.

George monologued but was interrupted by Peter. Where are they coming from? Peter persisted until George was forced to whisper ‘France’. They are in no danger in France, once they arrive in France they are safe. They are not refugees.

Question 2. Given his comments on Mrs Thatcher, would Kier Starmer PM be a lightweight Tony Blair?

Annaliese said Kier would be transformative. She rambled and waffled. Where’s the money coming from, wondered La Bruce. Different choices, responded Annaleisse. Taxing non-doms. She chanted ‘different choices’. There would be a ‘bigger pie’ to pay for things. Somehow.

Hitchens got stuck into Blair. Vast constitutional change. Foreign wars. Likewise, Starmer is an extreme radical, a red/green cultural fanatic. A vote for Starmer will not mean a quiet life.

Starmer is not appealing to the voters. He is appealing to Rupert Murdoch, Lord Rothermere (my little errand boy) and the billionaires, began George. These are the real powers in this country. Starmer needs a licence from the offshore billionaires. Starmer could transform but he will flinch before the ‘owners of the billionaire media.’ George was going to vote tactically to get rid of the Tories but if Starmer does gain a political opportunity, he will not take it.

Johnny Mercer thought ‘extreme radical, red/green cultural fanatic’ Keir Starmer wasn’t a bad guy. Hmm. Starmer believes in nothing as long as you vote for him which isn’t leadership.

Anneliese gushed a bit more. Ending sewage into rivers. Modernising the NHS.

The next question asked which single outcome would panellists like from the COP28 conference. Leave fossil fuels in the ground, said George. In her introduction at the top of the programme, La Bruce told the audience Mr Monbiot ‘travelled the world as a journalist and campaigner’. Presume he walks and swims?

The carbon phobia was high. The 0.04% of the earth’s atmosphere that is carbon dioxide is breaking down the climate, cooking the planet and causing ‘earth systems collapse’. At which point, on a cold December night, with a string of recent daytime and nighttime temperatures uncomfortably below the long-term average, your humble reviewer gave up and retired to the warmth of his bed.

© Always Worth Saying 2023

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