TV presenter Fiona Bruce took her place as the chairwoman of Question 
Time for the first time last night after taking over from long-term host David Dimbleby. 

Her first job was to field a question on Brexit as she hosted this year’s first edition of the programme from Islington, London.

And it was an inquiry on a very hot topic indeed, with a member of the audience asking: “Has the Government lost control of the Brexit process?”

The panel saw deputy chairman of the Conservative Party and ardent Brexiter James Cleverly join Remain-supporters Emily Thornberry, the shadow foreign secretary, and LibDem deputy leader and East Dunbartonshire MP Jo Swinson in answering questions from the audience.

Non-party political voices were provided by the comedian Nish Kumar and the columnist Melanie Phillips.   

All eyes were on the BBC News At Six and News At Ten presenter as she hosted her inaugural programme, following Dimbleby’s 25 years at the helm.

Earlier, Ms Bruce said she was expecting viewers to wonder “who the hell” she was when she took her place in the hot seat.

The news broadcaster and Antiques Roadshow presenter was announced as David Dimbleby’s replacement on the political programme in December when he stepped down.

She said that it felt “massively exposing” as a job, but would try not to let her nerves show.

Bruce told the Daily Telegraph: “I am expecting people to say ‘Who the hell is that?’ ‘Why have they got her?’ I’ve got a slight feeling of tin hats at the ready.”

She added that, regarding Question Time, she has “not felt this nervous in a long time, but I know that if I am nervous that isn’t helpful”.

“If people think you are nervous then that isn’t a comfortable watch,” she said.

Ms Bruce, 54, is the first woman to be installed as the permanent host of the political programme, which is returning after a short Christmas break, as the journalist Sue Lawley has previously been a guest presenter.

Ms Bruce won the coveted role after candidates hosted a pilot episode of the current affairs debate show with panellists and a live audience.

It has been reported that she fended off competition from the likes of Kirsty Wark, Emily Maitlis, Nick Robinson and Victoria Derbyshire.

The presenter said she thought the BBC was “as surprised as everybody else” when Dimbleby stepped down, because she did not expect to be approached for the role.

“It’s very unusual for the BBC not to have all their ducks in a row for a programme like this,” she said.

The broadcaster, who has hosted programmes including Fake or Fortune? and Crimewatch, has also said that to be given the challenge of Question Time at the age of 54 “is a thrill”, but that she did not know why she succeeded in winning the role.

Last month, Bruce said she was looking forward to chairing the programme, “particularly at a time of such historic change for the UK and tumult at Westminster”.

Question Time was launched in 1979 on the BBC in England, expanding to Scotland in 1980. Its first presenter was the veteran newsman Robin Day, who filled the chairman role for a decade.

Bruce would probably have been cheered to hear that the first question he faced on the very first edition of the programme was bungled by the member of the audience picked to deliver it. 

Losing the thread, the woman asked if it was the one about “beer”, before rooting in her handbag for guidance. 

Sir Robin filled in for her, explaining she should have asked the panel what they would like to do on a night out. 

Next up to fill the presenter role was Peter Sissons, who was replaced in 1994 by David Dimbleby. 

His time as chairman saw the rise of social media, and the programme embraced the new digital age with both a Facebook platform and a Twitter page.

Viewers have been encouraged to engage online during the live debates, and the Twitter feed has become the most popular in the UK during the hours Question Time is running. 

Meanwhile a spoof Twitter account @Dimblebot, that re-imagines the host as a ruthless, mechanised debate enforcer and tweets all caps commentary on the debates became an internet sensation.

The show also thrived in the online landscape as the rise of memes offered fruitful commentary on the debates.

The term “gammon” is believed to have first been used as an insult by viewers during Question Time in 2016.

Speaking about his time at the helm of Question Time, he said it had been “exhilarating following the twists and turns of British politics”, adding: “It has been a privilege to work for a programme that brings voters face to face with those in power.”