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Question Time



Last Updated: Friday, 25 January 2008, 09:34 GMT
This week's panel
Question Time, the BBC's premier political debate programme chaired by David Dimbleby, was in Salisbury on Thursday 24 January.

The panel included Labour MP Geoffrey Robinson, Chairman of the Conservative Policy Review Oliver Letwin, Liberal Democrat schools and families spokesman David Laws, the bassist for the band Blur Alex James, and consultant editor of the Daily Mail Sarah Sands.


Geoffrey Robinson, Labour MP

Career: Geoffrey Robinson is the former Paymaster General and has been a Labour MP for over 30 years.

His senior position in the Treasury after 1997 made him a close ally of Gordon Brown, and he remains one of the prime minister's most prominent supporters.

He has also had a successful career in business, serving as chief executive of Jaguar cars in the 1970s, and is currently the owner of the New Statesman magazine.

In 1998 it emerged that he had lent Peter Mandelson 373,000 to buy a house. The resulting controversy led to the resignation of both men, the first double ministerial resignation since 1982.

Last November he called for the government to nationalise Northern Rock if a suitable buyer cannot be found, but last week said he felt "a private sector deal would be best."


Oliver Letwin, Conservative MP

Career: Oliver Letwin is the Chairman of the Conservative Policy Review and the Conservative Research Department, and is the MP for West Dorset.

Since his election to parliament in 1997, he has held a number of front bench positions, including shadow home secretary and shadow chancellor.

He was made the chairman of the newly created Policy Review when David Cameron became leader in 2005.

Last year, he made a speech defining "Cameron Conservatism" as "radically pragmatic rather than radically dogmatic. It is a practical response to felt need - a balanced answer to what are understood to be real and present challenges."


David Laws, Liberal Democrat MP

Career: David Laws is the Liberal Democrats' schools and families spokesman and MP for Yeovil.

After a successful career in investment banking, during which he was a vice president of JP Morgan, he entered politics in 1994, working first as an economic adviser to the Lib Dems and later as their director of policy and research.

Following his election to Parliament in 2001 as the MP for Yeovil, Laws became the party's work and pensions spokesman in 2005.

Regarded as being on the right-wing of the Liberal Democrats, last year it was reported that he had been offered a chance to defect to the Conservative shadow cabinet by Tory shadow chancellor George Osborne.


Alex James, bassist of band Blur

Career: Alex James was the bassist for the band Blur, with whom he achieved worldwide fame in the 1990s.

He is now a writer and broadcaster, and a columnist for the Independent, the Observer and the Spectator, as well as appearing on numerous television programmes, including The Daily Politics and Have I Got News For You.

He now lives in the Cotswolds, where he owns a farm and produces his own cheese. He has also added his voice to political campaigns such as the Darfur awareness campaign.

Last year he published his autobiography, Bit of a Blur, in which he confessed to spending "a million pounds on champagne and cocaine" at the height of Blur's fame.

He has recently filmed a Panorama programme about the Colombian cocaine trade which is broadcast next Monday. Commenting on the bleak picture he finds in the country, Alex says: "This is terrifying ... it's a long, long, long way from a cheeky line at a dinner party in Notting Hill."


Sarah Sands, consultant editor of the Daily Mail

Career: Sarah Sands is consultant editor of the Daily Mail and a columnist for the Independent on Sunday. She was the first female editor of the Sunday Telegraph.

She joined the Daily Telegraph in 1996 as deputy editor, going on to assume responsibility for the Saturday edition. Her editorship of the Sunday Telegraph, during which she relaunched the paper as "like your iPod - containing all your favourite things", ended in 2006. She joined the Daily Mail as consultant editor a month later.

She has written several novels including Playing the Game and Hothouse.

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