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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 April, 2004, 16:54 GMT 17:54 UK
15 April 2004
Question Time, the BBC's premier political programme chaired by David Dimbleby, was in Leeds on 15 April. He was joined for the interactive debate by Chris Bryant MP, Andrew Lansley MP, Mark Oaten MP, poet Benjamin Zephaniah and journalist Emma Soames.

Chris Bryant MP


Title: Labour MP

Career: As well as being Labour member for Rhondda, Chris Bryant has written biographies of Stafford Cripps and Glenda Jackson, been a BBC executive and an Anglican priest.

He describes himself simply as "a socialist who wants to change the world" and is one of the most enthusiastic backbench champions of an elected House of Lords.

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Although born in Wales, he is an unusual figure to represent a seat in the Labour heartlands, being public-school educated and openly gay. But he is now seen as an ultra-loyal model Blairite, being pro-Europe and in favour of private finance for hospitals.

Andrew Lansley MP

Title: Shadow Health Secretary

Career: MP for South Cambridgeshire since 1997, Andrew Lansley was brought back to the front bench by Michael Howard in November 2003.

He was responsible for planning the Conservative election campaign of 2001. He later supported Ken Clarke's leadership campaign and declared the party was institutionally racist and needed to move back to the centre ground.

A senior civil servant in the 1980s, then private secretary to Norman Tebbit, he became an active Tory and in 1990 was appointed head of the Conservative Research Department.

Mark Oaten MP

Title: Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesman

Career: Mark Oaten won his first parliamentary seat, at Winchester, by just two votes. In a re-run in November 1997, he increased his majority to over 20,000 votes.

Following rapid promotion within the party, in 2001 Mark was elected chairman of the parliamentary party of the Liberal Democrats, a post he held until becoming home affairs spokesman in 2003.

He originally joined the SDP during the early 1980s. On the right wing of the party, he supports the use of private finance in public services. He has campaigned on compensation for former prisoners of war.

Benjamin Zephaniah


Title: Poet

Career: Benjamin Zephaniah turned down an OBE, or Order of the British Empire, saying it stood for colonial brutality and slavery.

Brought up in Birmingham, he left school at 13, drifted into petty crime, and served time for burglary. While in prison, one of his warders encouraged him to perform his poetry in public.

He has since become the voice of the urban disenfranchised, railing at social and political injustice. His poem What Stephen Lawrence has Taught Us crystallised his role as black spokesperson and political poet.

Emma Soames

Title: Editor, Saga magazine

Career: Granddaughter of Sir Winston Churchill, Emma Soames has been editor of Saga magazine since March 2002.

She has argued that the over-50s "represent a massive constituency and one that any political party ignores at its peril".

She was editor of the Telegraph Magazine for seven years and has also edited ES Magazine, Tatler and the Literary Review. Emma Soames is also an occasional columnist for the Daily Telegraph.

BBC One's Question Time is broadcast on Thursdays at 22:35 BST.


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