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Page last updated at 16:22 GMT, Monday, 16 June 2008 17:22 UK

This week's panel

Question Time, the BBC's premier political debate programme chaired by David Dimbleby, will be in Portsmouth on Thursday 19 June.

The panel will include the Secretary of State for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs Hilary Benn, the former Conservative shadow home secretary David Davis, the Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for foreign affairs Jo Swinson, American TV star Jerry Springer and the leader of the UK Independence Party Nigel Farage.


Hilary Benn MP

Career: Hilary Benn is the Secretary of State for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, having previously been International Development Secretary.

The son of veteran Labour politician Tony Benn, he entered politics early with his election to Ealing Borough council in 1979 at the age of 25.

After unsuccessfully standing as a Labour candidate in the elections of 1983 and 1987, he worked as a special advisor to the then Education Secretary David Blunkett from 1997 to 1999, before entering parliament through a by-election for the seat of Leeds Central.

In June 2007, he ran for the deputy leadership of the Labour Party, coming fourth despite being touted as a favourite by bookmakers. He was appointed Environment Secretary when Gordon Brown took over from Tony Blair last year.

Describing himself as "a Benn, but not a Bennite," he said during the deputy leadership contest: "I think we need to be unapologetic about our socialist values... I want a democracy in which people give something back and that redistributes wealth and opportunity."


David Davis

Career: David Davis is the former Conservative shadow home secretary, who resigned as an MP last week in protest over the government's efforts to increase the detention of terror suspects without charge to 42 days.

He will re-contest the parliamentary seat of Haltemprice and Howden in a by-election, in which he says he plans to campaign against the "slow strangulation of fundamental British freedoms by this government".

A member of parliament since 1987, he has run for the Conservative Party leadership on two occasions, losing in 2001 to Iain Duncan Smith.

He was famously beaten by David Cameron in the most recent contest, having entered the race as the frontrunner, but has denied this week that his resignation represents a renewed bid for the party leadership, saying that he would "never run for leader of the Tory party again".

In his resignation speech last week, he said: "In truth perhaps 42 days is the one most salient example of the insidious, surreptitious and relentless erosion of fundamental British freedom.

The ever-intrusive power of the state on our lives, the loss of privacy, the loss of freedom and a steady attrition undermining the rule of law. And if they do send me back here, it will be with a single, simple message - that the monstrosity of a law that we passed yesterday will not stand."


Jo Swinson MP

Career: Jo Swinson is the Liberal Democrat spokesperson for foreign affairs.

She has been the MP for East Dunbartonshire since 2005, and at 28 is the youngest MP in the House of Commons.

After being active in the youth wing of the Liberal Democrats, her first foray into Westminster politics was at the 2001 election when she unsuccessfully stood against Deputy Labour Party leader John Prescott in his Hull constituency.

She went on to win the seat of East Dunbartonshire, where she grew up, four years later.

She has held a number of front bench positions, including spokesperson for Scotland and spokesperson for women and equalities. Nick Clegg appointed her spokesperson for foreign affairs when he became the party leader in January 2008.

She has campaigned to have the voting age lowered to 16, saying, "16 and 17-year olds can pay taxes, join the army and get married, so denying them a vote is simply inconsistent. Lowering the voting age would let young people know that that politics is relevant to them and that politicians care about what they think."


Jerry Springer

Career: Jerry Springer is an American TV star and former politician who was the Democratic mayor of Cincinatti from 1977 to 1978. He is most famous for his talk show, The Jerry Springer show and is the current host of America's Got Talent.

Born in London to Jewish refugee parents, he took an early interest in politics, working as a campaign aid to Robert Kennedy during the 1968 presidential campaign, when Kennedy was assassinated.

He ran unsuccessfully for the US Congress in 1970 and was elected to the city council of Cincinnati a year later, aged 27, going on to become the mayor in 1977.

His career in broadcasting began with a radio show while he was still mayor and he became a political reporter and news anchor after leaving politics.

The Jerry Springer Show was launched in September 1991, initially as a politically orientated talk show with guests such as Jesse Jackson and Oliver North.

It eventually became infamous for its heated onscreen rows and sensationalist stories and went on to become one of America's most popular shows. It was launched in the UK in 1995, and spawned a number of programmes of a similar format and the controversial stageshow, Jerry Springer - The Opera.


Nigel Farage MEP

Career: Nigel Farage is the leader of the UK Independence Party.

Having joined the Conservative Party as a schoolboy, he left in 1992 in protest over John Major's signing of the Maastricht Treaty and went on to found UKIP in 1993.

In 1999 and again in 2004, he was elected to the European Parliament and currently leads UKIP's 9 MEPs, as well as being co-leader of the multi-national eurosceptic group Independence and Democracy.

He has welcomed last week's news that Irish voters have rejected the EU reform treaty, saying the document had now been "kicked it into the long grass".

He reacted angrily to suggestions by EU leaders that discussions on the treaty will go on this week and that the UK will continue the ratification process, saying: "This reaction shows more than even the gaping chasm that exists between the people and the politicians. What part of 'no' don't they understand?"

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