Question Time


Page last updated at 09:04 GMT, Wednesday, 7 May 2008 10:04 UK

This week's panel

Question Time, the BBC's premier political debate programme chaired by David Dimbleby, was in Dorking on Thursday 8 May.

The panel included the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions James Purnell, senior Conservative politician Lord Heseltine, the former leader of the Liberal Democrats Sir Menzies Campbell, well-known television personality Piers Morgan and novelist and journalist Rachel Johnson.


James Purnell

Career: James Purnell was appointed Secretary of State for Work and Pensions in January following the resignation of Peter Hain.

He was previously the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport in Gordon Brown's first cabinet and had worked as Pensions Minister in the Department for Work and Pensions - which he now heads - working on the development of a national pensions saving scheme.

As Culture Secretary he was heavily critical of the television industry after a string of fakery scandals last year. However he found himself embroiled in a fakery row of his own after it emerged his image had been electronically inserted into a group photograph of dignitaries celebrating a hospital project.

A former Islington councillor, he became one of Labour's youngest MPs at the 2001 general election when, at the age of 31, he became MP for Stalybridge and Hyde.

Seen as one of the fastest rising stars in the Labour firmament, he has been tipped as a future Labour Party leader.


Lord Heseltine

Career: Michael Heseltine is one of the most senior Conservative politicians, whose political career has spanned four decades.

He became the Conservative MP for Tavistock in 1966 and served as a junior minister in Edward Heath's government, before being promoted to Secretary of State for the Environment and later Defence Secretary by Margaret Thatcher.

His challenge for the leadership of the party in 1990 triggered the resignation of Lady Thatcher, but he was beaten by John Major who made him Deputy Prime Minister in 1995.

Upon retiring from the Commons in 2001, he was made a life peer in the House of Lords.

After backing David Cameron's election for party leader, he has led the Conservatives' cities task force aimed at increasing Tory support in urban areas.

Writing at the weekend, Lord Heseltine said that David Cameron should "launch an attack on the manifest failure of Labour local authorities in the sink estates that represent a scandalous neglect by Labour of its heartland."


Menzies Campbell

Career: Ming Campbell is the former leader of the Liberal Democrats. After a career as an Olympic athlete, he entered parliament in 1987.

In March 2006 he became party leader, succeeding Charles Kennedy. He has been an outspoken critic of the war in Iraq and has led calls for an inquiry into the conflict.

After months of speculation and the decision of Gordon Brown to not call a snap general election, he resigned the party leadership last October blaming an age obsessed media and the "cloying blanket of speculation" about his leadership.

He said at the time that he was "irritated and frustrated. Irritated because of the quite extraordinary concentration of trivia which seem to surround leadership."


Piers Morgan

Career: At 29, Piers Morgan was made editor of the News of the World newspaper.

He then embarked on a high-profile editorship of the Mirror during which the paper became a vociferous opponent of the Iraq war.

He was sacked from the job after publishing photos of the abuse of Iraqis by British soldiers which were shown to be fake.

He later said: "I didn't mind losing my job. Maybe Tony Blair or one of the cabinet will have the good grace, after 100,000 Iraqis died, to lose their job."

Since leaving the Mirror he has become a well-known television personality, appearing as a judge on both America's Got Talent and Britain's Got Talent.

It was his interview with Nick Clegg which prompted the Lib Dem leader to reveal that he had slept with "no more than 30" women.


Rachel Johnson

Career: Rachel Johnson is a novelist and journalist and the sister of newly elected Mayor of London Boris Johnson.

She has written for among others, the Daily Telegraph, the Spectator, and the Evening Standard and currently has a column in the Sunday Times.

She is the author of two novels which document the trials of motherhood in London and Exmoor.

Although keen not to be seen as simply Boris' sister, she wrote at the weekend: "I know this sounds awfully Oprah but it really was quite moving at times to campaign for him... and to play my part in Ken's downfall."

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