Historian Mary Beard defends Question Time comments on Boston

Mary Beard on Question Time
Mary Beard on Question Time

The Cambridge professor who came under fire for sharing her views on Boston on a BBC programme has defended her comments on the show.

Professor Mary Beard talked about Boston Borough Council’s report into the impact of population change during a discussion on immigration on a recent Question Time, saying she thought it showed that public services could be capable of dealing with the extra people coming from the EU.

Since then, she has been bombarded with online abuse, with people not only criticising what she said, but also levelling obscene personal insults at the Classics professor.

Speaking to The Standard, Dr Beard said: “This is a subject on which we really need to have a debate. Lots of people will disagree, but that ‘s how we are going to get this debate moving on.

“I am not saying I know better about living in Boston. If I gave that impression, it was not intended. But people on the outside can sometimes see things differently.

“Nobody is saying there are not big issues here. It’s an issue on which people have a lot of strong views and we have got to learn to listen to each other rather than abusing each other.”

On the show, she said she was impressed with the council’s report, referring to it as an excellent attempt to focus on local issues which have national implications.

The Question Time panel were not aware of the questions before the show took place, but Dr Beard said she researched immigration in the area as she thought it was likely to come up.

She discovered the report and learned about the immigration debate in Boston through reading The Standard.