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Question Time



Last Updated: Thursday, 6 December 2007, 17:06 GMT
This week's panel
Question Time, the BBC's premier political debate programme chaired by David Dimbleby, was in Cambridge on Thursday 6 December.

On the panel was the Leader of the House of Lords Baroness Ashton, the senior Conservative politician Ken Clarke MP, former US assistant secretary of state James Rubin, the novelist and columnist Allison Pearson and the historian and writer Simon Sebag Montefiore.


Baroness Ashton

Career: Catherine Ashton was appointed Leader of the House of Lords in June 2007, as part of Gordon Brown's first Cabinet.

Previously, she was Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Constitutional Affairs and later at the new Ministry of Justice.

She was made a life peer as Baroness Ashton of Upholland in 1999.

In June 2001 she was made a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Department for Education and Skills and, in 2002 in the same department, she was appointed Minister for Sure Start.

She was recently named as a donor to Harriet Harman's successful campaign for the deputy leadership of the Labour Party.


Kenneth Clarke MP

Career: Ken Clarke was Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1993 to 1997 and was Gordon Brown's immediate predecessor in the role.

He is one of Britain's longest-serving MPs, having been first elected as Conservative MP for Rushcliffe in 1970.

He remains one of the party's most senior figures, despite three unsuccessful attempts at the leadership.

In November, he came third in a poll by YouGov to find the "best Prime Minister we never had".

Early this year he was appointed by David Cameron to head the party's democracy task force, considering ways of improving the workings of government.

Last week he said that the Brown government had become reminiscent of the last years of the John Major administration. He told the BBC: "Every week, we would think: 'We can't have anything go wrong like this next week, we are bound to have an easier time', and then something would go wrong. They are having a series of disasters."


James Rubin

Career: James Rubin is a former US assistant secretary of state, and a broadcaster and commentator on international affairs.

From 1993 to 1996 he was a senior advisor to Madeleine Allbright in her role as US representative to the United Nations, and assisted her in formulating US policy towards the UN.

During the 1996 US presidential election campaign, he was the spokesman for the Clinton/Gore campaign, and went on to serve under President Clinton as assistant secretary of state for public affairs and chief spokesman for the State Department from 1997 to May 2000.

After serving as chief foreign policy spokesman for General Wesley Clark's presidential campaign, Rubin worked for Democratic nominee John Kerry, serving as a senior advisor on national security affairs.

In October 2005, Rubin became lead news anchor on World News Tonight on Sky News.

Since leaving politics he has been a visiting professor of international relations at the London School of Economics.


Allison Pearson

Career: Allison Pearson is a novelist and columnist for the Daily Mail, having previously worked at the Daily Telegraph and the Evening Standard.

Her first novel, I Don't Know How She Does It, was released in 2002.

She is also a regular contributor to television programmes such as The Late Review on BBC Two.

She has described herself as a "Cameron fan and potential Tory convert".


Simon Sebag Montefiore

Career: Simon Sebag Montefiore is an acclaimed historian and writer.

He is the author of a best-selling two volume study of Joseph Stalin.

Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar won the History Book of the Year Prize at the 2004 British Book Awards. Its companion volume, Young Stalin, was published in 2007. His books are world bestsellers, published in 29 languages.

A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, he is now writing Jerusalem: the Biography, a fresh history of the Middle East.

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