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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 January 2008, 18:01 GMT
This week's panel
Question Time, the BBC's premier political debate programme chaired by David Dimbleby, will be in London on Thursday 31 January.

The panel will include the Northern Ireland Secretary Shaun Woodward, Conservative MP Ken Clarke, Daily Mail columnist Amanda Platell, actor John Sessions, and playwright and critic Bonnie Greer.

SHAUN WOODWARD MP

Shaun Woodward MP

Career: Shaun Woodward is the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

He entered Parliament as the Conservative MP for Witney in 1997 and went on to serve on the front bench under William Hague, before famously defecting to the Labour Party saying "I am not leaving my party, my party has left me."

He has been the Labour MP for St Helens since 2001, and was appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in 2005.

He served as a minister in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport before being promoted to Gordon Brown's first cabinet last year, succeeding Peter Hain as Northern Ireland Secretary.

He also supported Mr Hain in the Labour deputy leadership contest.

He is married to the supermarket heiress Camilla Sainsbury and does not claim his ministerial salary.


KEN CLARKE QC MP

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 made headlines when he urged David Cameron to adopt a more "statesmanlike" approach, saying:

"He has the opportunity to be prime minister and the public are looking to him as a possible prime minister - that's a huge advance - but they're not certain yet and, because he's new, he's inexperienced, they're getting to know him. You need the odd sound bite, but not too many."


AMANDA PLATELL

Amanda Platell

Career: Amanda Platell is a Daily Mail columnist and former press secretary to William Hague.

She was a key figure in the Conservatives' 2001 election campaign and sparked controversy after their defeat, when she released a video diary she had secretly filmed whilst on the campaign trail.

Before working for the Conservative Party, she was a journalist at the Mirror - where she was once Alistair Campbell's boss - and went on to edit the Sunday Express.

Since leaving politics, she has enjoyed a career in television, most famously co-hosting the chat show Morgan And Platell with Piers Morgan.

This week she wrote:

"Curious that everyone is asking how French bank trader Jerome Kerviel was able to make 3.7bn vanish without anyone noticing. Gordon Brown made more than 50bn vanish from our pension funds, and he's ended up in No 10."


JOHN SESSIONS

John Sessions

Career: John Sessions is a Scottish actor, comedian and writer.

He is best known for his appearances on comedy shows such as Whose Line Is It Anyway? and Spitting Image.

He has also appeared in a number of Hollywood films, including The Merchant of Venice and Gangs of New York.


BONNIE GREER

Bonnie Greer

Career: Bonnie Greer is a playwright, critic and cultural commentator.

She was born in Chicago and has lived in the UK for 20 years.

Many of her plays have been dramatised on BBC Radio. She has been an Arts Council-supported playwright-in-residence for Soho Theatre and served on the boards of the Royal Opera House and London Film School. She has also spent time teaching Shakespeare in Lambeth and Brent schools.

She has appeared regularly as a critic on Newsnight Review and writes for a number of newspapers and magazines, including the New Statesman, the Guardian and the Mail on Sunday.

Last week she wrote: "The truth is that I can't warm to Obama. Maybe I'm just too working-class, too old-school, to trust black people who look that slick outside of show business or the church.

"Maybe I distrust someone who allows others to compare him to JFK or even Martin Luther King. I was around when they were alive. He's not them."


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