THE country’s longest-running radio discussion programme came to West End on Friday last week, with local people among those seeking answers from a panel of prominent people.

Two MPs, a magazine editor and a trade union and political activist faced the audience at Gordon’s School for a recording of Any Questions.

Providing their views on a series of questions posed by selected audience members – in a programme that was first broadcast in 1948 – were: Feltham and Heston Labour MP Seema Malhotra, Transport Minister and Bexhill and Battle MP Huw Merriman, editor and chief of The Economist Zanny Minton Beddoes and Paul Embery, a Fire Brigades Union member who is active in the Blue Labour movement and a writer and political commentator.

The audience members whose questions were chosen included Chobham couple Victoria and David Bygraves, Gordon’s student Nicole Mensah and News & Mail reporter Stuart Flitton.

Victoria asked whether going on strike was the best way to achieve a pay rise. All but Conservative MP Merriman sympathised with the workers from various sectors now striking or planning to strike.

There was an understanding that striking, particularly stressed by Mr Embery, was an last resort by people being squeezed by serious cost of living crisis, especially those in the public sector.

However, Ms Minton Beddoes 
said the right to strike was important but “if everybody got an above-inflation increase we would return to what we had in the 1970s, a wage-price 
spiral which ends up leaving 
everybody worse off”.

David Bygraves asked: “Should foreign students subsidise British students?” Presenter Alex Forsyth pointed out it had been reported that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was considering restricting students from overseas to elite universities or those charging the highest fees.

The panellists generally agreed that foreign students were a huge benefit to Britain, financially and culturally, with Mr Merriman denying the Government had any intention to impose restrictions on them or cut the numbers coming to the UK.

Nicole, aged 17, asked if it was fair for the UK to criticise other countries such as Qatar for their moral values – a topical question while doubts are being raised about the World Cup being staged in Qatar.

The answers centred around the football tournament, with a consensus that holding the competition in Qatar was an opportunity to influence its government to improve humanitarian and workers’ rights.

Nicole, whose parents moved to the UK from Ghana, told the News & Mail that she had recently become interested in political matters and that she believed a good knowledge of economics was essential to understanding politics.

The panel also answered a question on the UK’s future after Brexit, posed by Jan Houlberg from Guildford. Finally, the panellists had 20 seconds each to answer Stuart’s question: “What is your biggest regret?”

Ms Minton Beddoes had many regrets about the “things she didn’t do”, Ms Malhotra wished she had spent more time with her parents while they were alive, Mr Embery should have “tried harder at school” and Mr Merriman regretted watching Wales lose 0-2 to Iran in the World Cup.