Always Worth Saying’s Question Time Review

Question Time 25th January 2024

The Panel:

Alex Burghart (Conservative)
Jonathan Ashworth (Labour)
Bronwen Maddox (CEO of Chatham House)
Sonia Sodha (Columnist and Author)
Konstantin Kisin (Satirist and Podcaster)

Venue: Gillingham

Despite, or perhaps because they were state school teachers, Alex Burghart’s parents educated their son privately at £48,000 (£57,600 inc VAT) per annum Millfield School in Somerset. Alex then studied history at Christ Church, Oxford and completed a PhD at King’s College, London. His thesis was titled ‘The Mercian Polity, 716–918’ and is available on Amazon for a whopping £95. As we shall see, a shrewd move. Dr Burghart taught history at £40,000 per annum Warwick School, followed by a position as a history tutor at King’s College, London.

Burghart entered politics in 2008 as a ministerial advisor, rising to become the Director of Policy at the Centre for Social Justice and eventually a special advisor to Prime Minister Theresa May. Following an unsuccessful attempt to wrest Islington North from Jeremy Corbyn in 2015, Mr Burghart was elected as Conservative MP for Brentwood and Ongar in a 2017 by-election.

Within Parliament, the 47-year-old has been an active member of various committees, chaired the APPG on Adverse Childhood Experiences, and served as a PPS to Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

He currently serves as the Parliamentary Secretary for the Cabinet Office.
According to the member’s list of interests, Alex is regularly paid between £160 and £200 by the Times Literary Supplement for reviews. Hmm. Reference to the ‘hours’ entries shows these reviews take six hours to complete. Hmmm. That’s why I’m poor. Eagle-eyed Puffins possibly with mild autism will already have calculated that as soon as this humble reviewer hits 2,000 words he tries to think of a clever end line and then disappears to bed – close or not so close to the end of an hour-long episode of Question Time.

Salford born Jonathan Michael Graham Ashworth, completed his education with a degree in Politics and Philosophy at the University of Durham. After graduating, the 45-year-old took on the role of National Secretary of Labour Students and became a Labour Party Political Research Officer in 2001 where he served until 2004. He then became a Special Adviser, first at the Treasury and later for Prime Minister Gordon Brown from 2004 to 2011. Yes, Jon had never had a job prior to entering parliament in a by-election for the Leicester South constituency in 2011. Presently, he is Sir Keir Starmer’s Shadow Paymaster General.

Jon copes with the cost of the living crisis by accepting free stuff, including £800 worth of tickets to see the Ashes courtesy of SKY, £436 worth of tickets for the BBC Radio 2 Park festival courtesy of the BBC and over £300 worth of free tickets to see various productions at Leicester’s Curve theatre.

Bronwen Maria Maddox was born in New York City to Welsh theoretical chemist, physicist and science writer Sir John Royden Maddox and American journalist, biographer and Harvard graduate Lady Brenda Maddox FRSL (Nee Murphy). Lady Brenda is best known to Puffins for her biography of Nora Barnacle. Bronwen was educated at St Paul’s Girls’ School (£33,000 PA ex-VAT) and Westminster School (£50,000 PA ex-VAT).

After school, she attended St John’s College, Oxford, where she studied Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE). Following the completion of her degree, Maddox, who usually presents as if a 60-year-old Ann Widdicome dressed as a gipsy girl, moved into finance as an investment analyst, first for a private equity firm and then as a director at investment bank Kleinwort Benson.

From there, Maddox joined the Financial Times as an investigative reporter. Her journalism continued at The Times and Prospect magazine during which time she authored an Iraq War commentary entitled “In Defence of America”. As we shall see in the best sellers list, not a convincing defence.

Appointments followed in the ‘non-profit’ sector at the Institute for Government and her current senior position at the internationalist and globalist think tank Chatham House. Bronwen has also served as a Trustee of the Imperial War Museum and the Ditchley Foundation.

What? Who was Nora Barnacle? James Joyce’s wife. Philistines.

Half-Hindu, half-Sikh-Indian Sonia Shoda attended private school before moving on to St Hilda’s College at the University of Oxford, where she completed her BA (Hons) in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics and furthered her studies with an MPhil in Politics.

The 43-year-old hasn’t had a job beyond policy and journalism. The former took half-Hindu, half-Sikh-Indian Sonia to, amongst many other places, the Race Equality Unit, Which?, the Dartington Social Research Unit, the Institute for Public Policy Research and the office of Ed Miliband.

A full QT Review biography of Konstantin Vadimovich Kisin is available here. The takeaway being that there are contradictions between his biography and other published sources which suggest his claim of a miserable Russian childhood is untrue and his expressed political views are far from sincere. The suspicion arises that the 42-year-old’s social and mainstream media content is carefully contrived to attract a following that can be monetised. That doesn’t mean that what he says is wrong, but rather that his motives for saying it are compromised.

Born on a Moscow Christmas Day in 1982, Konstantin came to England as a child and was educated privately at Clifton College, an independent boarding school. He continued his education at Edinburgh University but left before graduating. Putting his language skills to use, he worked as a legal, finance and business translator for Russian oligarchs and bankers.

Producing a series of online training sessions dovetailed into media work with the publicity surrounding his refusal to sign a ‘behavioural agreement’, before appearing at a School of Oriental and African Studies gig, adding rocket fuel to his career as a political commentator and satirist.

Since then Kisin has further expanded his reach by co-founding the Triggernometry podcast and YouTube channel with fellow comedian Francis Foster and writing for various publications such as Quillette, The Spectator, The Daily Telegraph and Standpoint. He also contributes to news and current affairs TV media such as the BBC, Sky News, and GB News.

In the interests of equality of representation, therefore, four of tonight’s panellists were privately educated (as was Fiona Bruce), three went to Oxford (as did Fiona Bruce), two graduated in Politics, Philosophy and Economics and one of the others in Politics and Philosophy. One presumes they all live in London.

Spoilt for choice and with a crowded field, this week we must present our ever-popular best sellers feature as a league table. In reverse order:

  • Unplaced and without even stars or reviews, Sonia Sodha’s Institute for Public Policy Research trilogy; ’Thursday’s Child’, ‘The Saving Gateway: From Principles to Practice’ and ‘Service Nation’.
  • In 4,236,337th place (ie 2nd last), Lady Brenda Maddox, ‘The Pope and Birth Control’
  • 2,488,797th (ie 3rd last) Bronwen Maddox, ‘In Defence of America’
  • 1,178,662nd (astonishingly neither last, 2nd or 3rd last) Alex Burghart, ‘The Mercian Polity, 716–918’
  • 654,326th, Lady Brenda Maddox, ‘Nora: A Biography of Nora Joyce (nee Barnacle)’
  • 52,876th (a painful second) The Marquis de Sade’s ‘120 Days of Sodom’
  • And first at 1,921st on the Amazon best sellers list, Konstantin Kisin, ‘An Immigrants Love Letter to the West’


Question one, the Chief of the General Staff has suggested we raise a citizen’s army. Are we gearing up for World War Three?

La Bruce, dressed in Air Force blue, declared that we’ve moved from a post-war world to a pre-war world. Bronwen preferred the phrase a ‘more dangerous world’. We need a bigger army and navy but she was sceptical of a citizen army beyond, in her view, it creating a sense of national unity. Professional soldiers these days need to know an awful lot of stuff and you can’t do that through anything other than a fully professional army.

Alex ‘sat up and took notice’ of the Chief of General Staff. He announced we have the most professional army in the world. We don’t need more soldiers because of the new technology. The government is committed to spending 2% of GDP on defence and the real battle is to ensure our NATO allies spend the same. Alex claimed that because of (despite of?) him being a history teacher, he could see the parallels between the modern day and the 1930s. He thought our nuclear deterrent would deter Putin.

Jon Ashworth reminded us he had never worn a uniform but respected the forces. He promised a review under Labour rather than extra spending and highlighted MoD waste.

Putting it to the audience, only one man raised his hand to volunteer. The volunteer saw Nazism in Vladimir Putin, as he fights against the Nazis in Ukraine.

Why are we in a dangerous world wondered Konstantin Kisin? Why do the Russians and Iranians feel confident? If you want peace prepare for war. He kept on saying ‘we’ even though he’s a Russian Ukrainian. He preferred the professional military to be strong and worried about the politicisation of the military by including stupid ideas about diversity.

A covered woman disagreed and said the USA and NATO are causing war in the Middle East and China.

Sonia, trying to out gipsy Bronwen Maddox, especially in the cleavage dripping in jewellery department, didn’t blame NATO and the USA but blamed us for the situation in the Middle East. One assumes because we free freed Palestine from the Ottoman Empire at the end of the First World War.

The final word went to Bronwen who wanted a bigger better-paid army. She disputed that the army was the best and most professional in the world. She reminded us of the bravery in Afghanistan and Iraq but that our numbers had been too small and we had been presented with challenges beyond Britain’s strength.

Question two wondered if there were reason Mr Sunack might be replaced as leader of the Tory Party.

Alex had been dreading the question. To laughter, he said Mr Sunak had been doing a good job during a difficult parliament. He blamed the pandemic and the war in Ukraine.

He was bullish about Mr Sunak, a bit too bullish as if advertising himself obliquely to the next Tory leader as a loyal lieutenant in any circumstances.

Jon gloated that he didn’t want to gloat. He mentioned the ‘wrecked economy’ and a ‘£1,200 increase’ in taxes. It was time for change and we need a general election. The audience clapped, but Jon didn’t actually say what a Labour government was going to do.

Konstantin thought the Tories were beyond saving and will be drubbed whenever the next election is. He reminded us of broken promises on both legal and illegal immigration. They have let down their voters both in the South and the Red Wall. Nobody can save them now which isn’t to say that Labour will be any better.

It’s bonkers, it’s a Conservative party problem not a Sunak one, began Sondha. Mrs Truss had triggered a massive economic crisis – apparently. Yes, a difficult political environment but mistakes have been made with ‘cuts’ and ‘austerity’.

A plague on both their houses suggested an audience member.

Absolutely none, said Bronwen. The country doesn’t have enough money for all it wants but Tory choices have made many people’s lives more difficult. She mentioned ‘hope’ or rather the lack of it from the political parties.

Jon jumped in with an un-funded plan for hope. Money would appear from nowhere to transform the health and education system and build one and a half million houses.

Alex blamed Gordon Brown’s credit crunch.

Question three, should there be a standard prison sentence for carrying a knife in public? Bruce connected this to the Calocane murders in Nottingham. Jon Ashcroft wanted machetes banned. Konstantin blamed family breakdown, a lack of male role models and foreign criminals not being deported.

An audience member blamed Sadiq Khan in London. References to Calocane were hidden behind ‘mental health’.

The final question was what can we do to bring hope to young people? Sonia suggested solving the housing crisis with council houses. Affordable, quality housing – from thin air. Konstantin wanted us to stop talking down this country. He was heckled. They were shouting ‘shame’. Bronwen wanted something done about housing and climate change.

Alex found his inner Harold Wilson, ‘the white heat of technology.’ The heckling resumed and was accompanied by a slow hand clap. Alex mentioned cheap energy. Rendered impossible by his party’s obsession with Net Zero, he forgot to add.

Jon Ashworth was heckled too. We need a truce and a sustainable ceasefire he told the rabble. Presumably, the hecklers were pro-Palestinians. As with all his other intentions when faced with a hopeless Tory Party, Jon saw no need to give a reason as to why a truce and sustainable ceasefire should happen.

© Always Worth Saying 2024

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