Dissenting voice: George the Poet on Question Time

Dissenting voice: George the Poet on Question Time

Old Elizabethan George ‘The Poet’ Mpanga brought his trademark eloquence and sharp insights to BBC TV’s flagship political discussion programme, Question Time.

George (OE 2002–2009) repeatedly challenged the stance of the Conservative Government on topics including housing, positive discrimination and the Russian government’s suspected involvement in the attempted murder of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter.

The Government was represented on the panel by International Trade Secretary Liam Fox. Other guests on the programme were: the Shadow Minister for Labour, Laura Pidcock; chef, restaurateur and Great British Bake Off judge Prue Leith, and Roma Agrawal, a chartered structural engineer who has worked on major projects including the Shard. Hosted by David Dimbleby, the programme was filmed at a venue close to the Houses of Parliament in Westminster.

George, who mostly received enthusiastic applause from the audience, told Dr Fox that the Government’s “measured tone” over the nerve gas poisoning was “actually quite damaging” and that President Putin “does not seem to bat an eyelid”.

On the prospect of a global trade war initiated by US President Donald Trump, George called for Britain to have “an honest conversation with itself about who our friends are”.  He added that “free trade goes both ways”, charging that rich nations too often “siphon off the best of [poorer nations’] resources and talents”.

Responding to a question referring to the Prime Minister’s recent announcement of planning reforms and her comment that young people were “right to be angry about housing”, George was scathing: “It’s another one of her beautiful truisms. Of course, young people are right to be angry about it, but the question is, what is actually going to be done? And promising planning permissions is not tantamount to actually taking control of the situation.”

As the programme came to a close, George spoke in favour of positive discrimination schemes being used in recruitment, stating that they tackled a “deficit or inherent bias in society” by compelling “employers or people in positions of leadership to reassess what their bias is and what they are thinking when making these decisions”.

George read Politics, Psychology and Sociology at King’s College, Cambridge, graduating in 2013. Since then, he has earned growing fame for his spoken-word work: last year, he performed in front of the Queen at the Commonwealth Day Service in Westminster Abbey and released a two-minute video on hate crime in collaboration with the Equality and Human Rights Commission to coincide with the anniversary of the murder of MP Jo Cox.