Question Time


Page last updated at 16:49 GMT, Wednesday, 2 April 2008 17:49 UK

This week's panel

Question Time, the BBC's premier political debate programme chaired by David Dimbleby, will be in Birmingham on Thursday 3 April.

The panel includes the Secretary of State for International Development Douglas Alexander, Conservative shadow leader of the House of Commons Theresa May, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for business, enterprise and regulatory reform Sarah Teather, independent MP for Birmingham Clare Short, and broadcaster and commentator Rod Liddle.


Secretary of state for international development, Douglas Alexander

Career: Douglas Alexander is the Secretary of State for International Development.

After joining the Labour Party as a schoolboy he entered politics in 1990 as a speech writer and parliamentary researcher for Gordon Brown.

Having first stood for parliament while still a student, he was elected as the MP for Paisley South in November 1997.

After holding a number of positions in government, including Minister for E-Commerce, and Minister for Europe, he was promoted to the cabinet last year, simultaneously taking on the posts of Transport Secretary and Secretary of State for Scotland. He has long been regarded as one of Gordon Brown's closest political allies and is the brother of Scottish Labour leader Wendy Alexander.


Conservative shadow leader of the House of Commons, Theresa May

Career: Theresa May has been Conservative shadow leader of the House of Commons since December 2005. In July 2007 she was also made shadow minister for women.

After eight years as a local councillor, she was elected as the MP for Maidenhead in 1997 and was promoted to the shadow cabinet in 1999, when she became shadow education and employment secretary.

In July 2002 she became the first-ever female chairman of the Conservative Party and made headlines when she referred to the Tories as "the nasty party" in her conference speech that year.

She currently sits on the Members Estimates Committee, chaired by Speaker Michael Martin, which is carrying out a review of the MPs' expenses system. Last month she called for "a stricter regime" for governing MPs' spending, but argued that their basic salary should be increased.


Liberal Democrat spokesperson, Sarah Teather

Career: Sarah Teather is the Liberal Democrat spokesperson for business, enterprise and regulatory reform, having previously been their education spokesperson.

She was first elected to parliament at the 2003 Brent East by-election aged 29, becoming the youngest member of the House of Commons.

Before entering politics, she trained as a scientist and worked for Macmillan Cancer Care Relief, where she advised on health and social policy.

She backed eventual leader Nick Clegg in December's Lib Dem leadership battle, having previously been a close supporter of Sir Menzies Campbell in his bid to succeed Charles Kennedy, and was a signatory to the letter urging Kennedy to stand down in January 2006.


Independent MP, Clare Short

Career: Clare Short is the independent MP for Birmingham Ladywood, having been elected as a Labour MP in 1983. She was the secretary of state for international development from 1997 to 2003.

Touted as one of "Blair's babes", she was one of the key members of Labour's cabinet 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". In an article at the time she wrote "in addition to the arrogance and lack of principle of New Labour, there is an incredible incompetence."


Broadcaster and commentator Rod Liddle

Career: Rod Liddle is an outspoken commentator, broadcaster, and columnist for the Sunday Times, as well as regularly contributing to The Spectator and Country Life.

A former speech writer for the Labour Party, he was editor of BBC Radio 4's Today programme from 1998 to 2002, resigning after the BBC suggested that his opinionated weekly column in The Guardian jeopardised its guidelines on impartiality.

Last month, he wrote on immigration: "We ought to close the door to pistol-packin' Libyans, suicidally fundamentalist Algerians, Somalian rapists, assorted paedophiles and weirdos. But we usually let them in because their human rights might be infringed. So ludicrous has this become that one is tempted to join the Gurkhas clinging to the sides of their chilly mountains and wave goodbye to Britain for good."

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