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Question Time



Last Updated: Thursday, 15 March 2007, 17:19 GMT
This week's panel
Question Time, the BBC's premier political programme chaired by David Dimbleby, was in Newport on 15 March.

He was joined by Solicitor General for England and Wales Mike O'Brien MP, former press adviser to William Hague and Conservative party candidate Priti Patel, the Liberal Democrat spokesman on Wales and Northern Ireland Lembit Opik MP, independent MP Clare Short and Mail on Sunday columnist Peter Hitchens.


Solicitor General for England and Wales, Mike O'Brien

Career: Mike O'Brien is the Solicitor General for England and Wales, and Labour MP for North Warwickshire. He entered Parliament in 1992, defeating the current Conservative chairman Francis Maude.

He served in the Home Office until 2001, moving to the Foreign Office until 2004, and serving as Minister of State for Energy and E-Commerce before taking over from Harriet Harman as Solicitor General in 2005.

As Solicitor General, he is one of the government's two Law Officers, who advise the Crown and Parliament on law. He works closely with the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, who recently sought a court injunction to block reporting of the "cash for honours" scandal.


Former press adviser to William Hague and Conservative party candidate Priti Patel

Career: Priti Patel is a former press adviser to William Hague, and the Conservative Party candidate for Witham, having been on the party's "A-list" of prospective candidates for the next election.

She entered politics shortly after university with a job at Conservative Central Office, leaving to head up the press office of the Referendum Party, under Sir James Goldsmith, from 1995 to 1997.

She rejoined the Tories with a role in William Hague's press office, going on to unsuccessfully stand for the seat of Nottingham North in the 2005 election.

She made headlines in 2003, when the Financial Times quoted her as saying, "racist attitudes do persist within the party...There's a lot of bigotry around." She later claimed that the article had misinterpreted her comments.


Liberal Democrat spokesman on Wales and Northern Ireland, Lembit Opik MP

Career: Lembit Opik is the Liberal Democrat spokesman on Wales and Northern Ireland.

Born in Northern Ireland to Estonian parents, he entered parliament in 1997, immediately becoming the party's spokesman on Northern Ireland and young people. Shortly after that, he survived a near-fatal para-gliding accident, since when he has been an outspoken supporter of the Spinal Injuries Association.

Once described in the Guardian as "an exotic, soft-spoken, political gypsy", his private life has been the subject of much press coverage. In 2005, he stood as a candidate to become president of the Liberal Democrats but lost out to Simon Hughes.


Independent MP for Birmingham Ladywood, Clare Short

Career: Clare Short is the Independent MP for Birmingham Ladywood, having been elected as a Labour MP in 1983.

Touted as one of "Blair's babes", she became Secretary of State for international development when Labour took power in 1997.

Having threatened to resign in March 2003 over the government's decision to go to war in Iraq, she remained in the government for a further two months, before accusing Tony Blair of being "obsessed with his place in history" in a resignation statement read in parliament.

In October 2006, Short announced she would give up the Labour whip in Parliament in protest at what she claimed had become an "arrogant, error-prone government".


Mail on Sunday columnist, Peter Hitchens

Career: Peter Hitchens is a controversial columnist for the Mail on Sunday, who has reported for over 25 years.

He is a former Moscow and Washington correspondent and has reported from most parts of the world.

He describes political correctness as the "biggest dictatorship of thought since the Reformation". On the environment, he says: "It has yet to be proved that global warming results from human activity. It's still open to debate."

Question Time from Newport

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