Question Time


Page last updated at 14:31 GMT, Wednesday, 14 May 2008 15:31 UK

This week's panel

Question Time, the BBC's premier political debate programme chaired by David Dimbleby, will be in Cardiff on Thursday 15 May.

The panel includes Health Secretary Alan Johnson, shadow business, enterprise and regulatory reform secretary Alan Duncan, Plaid Cymru's spokesperson for health and social services in the Welsh Assembly Helen Mary Jones, broadcaster and journalist Lauren Booth and businessman Simon Woodroffe.


Alan Johnson MP (Photo: Fiona Hanson/PA Wire)

Career: Alan Johnson is the Secretary of State for Health. He was previously the secretary of state for education, and was reshuffled as part of Gordon Brown's first cabinet in June 2007.

Having left school with no qualifications, he worked as a postman before entering union politics, becoming general secretary of the Communication Workers Union in 1993. After becoming an MP in 1997, he served in the department of trade and industry and the department for education, before entering cabinet as the work and pensions secretary in 2004. He came a close second in last year's Labour deputy leadership elections, narrowly losing out to Harriet Harman.

Previously regarded as a staunch Blairite, he has been one of the prime minister's most vocal supporters over the past week, responding to a suggestion from former welfare minister Frank Field that he would be "very surprised if [Gordon Brown] is still leader of the Labour Party...leading us into the election campaign."

Alan Johnson replied: "I'm not a great Brown fan club leader, but I respect him as a really, really good, decent, able politician. Is he perfect? No he's not, nor is anyone else in the world. Can't we just set all this true confessions stuff to one side and talk about things that are really important to people?...Some people just see an opportunity to put the knife into somebody they dislike."


Alan Duncan MP

Career: Alan Duncan is Conservative shadow secretary of state for business, enterprise and regulatory reform.

He has been an MP since 1992, and has held a number of positions in government and opposition, including shadow health secretary and vice chairman of the party.

He has been an outspoken critic of the government's handling of the economy, accusing Gordon Brown of "wasting one of the most prosperous decades we've ever had. Everything has been spent; nothing has been saved; and we are ill-equipped to cope with the pressures of global competition and the difficulties of an economic downturn."

Following the prime minister's promise to reunite his party after Labour's poor performance in the local elections this month, he said: "if that was a fight-back, Gordon Brown is now in deeper water."


Helen Mary Jones AM

Career: Helen Mary Jones is Plaid Cymru's spokesperson for health and social services in the Welsh Assembly and the Assembly Member for Llanelli.

Before entering politics, she worked as a special needs teacher and a youth and community worker. She contested the 1992 general election in Islwyn against the then leader of the Labour party, Neil Kinnock, and the 1997 general election in Montgomeryshire, before being elected to the newly formed Welsh Assembly in 1999.

Her party aims to "promote the constitutional advancement of Wales with a view to attaining Full National Status for Wales within the European Union". Although born in England, she says she joined Plaid Cymru because she "believes in Wales", saying: "We are a small nation but I believe a very special one. When I came to live here as a teenager from south east England I knew I had come home."


Lauren Booth

Career: Lauren Booth is a broadcaster and journalist. She is the half-sister of Cherie Blair, whose memoirs were published this week.

She has written for a wide range of newspapers and magazines, including the New Statesman, the Mail on Sunday, and the Sunday Times. She is also a well-known television personality, appearing as a commentator on current affairs for Sky One and BBC News Channel, as well as on entertainment programmes such as Have I Got News For You. In 2006, she appeared as a contestant on the reality TV show, I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here.

Having been a campaigner for Labour in the lead-up to their 1997 election victory, she became an ardent critic of the Iraq war. In May 2007, as Tony Blair was leaving office, she wrote about her disillusionment with the Labour government, saying: "Today, the Blairs are vastly different people from the amazed young couple who crossed the No 10 threshold. Over the years I have watched them change and harden - and something of the idealist in me has fractured in the process."


Simon Woodroffe

Career: Simon Woodroffe is one of the UK's best-known businessmen. He founded YO! Sushi, and was a panellist on the first series of BBC Two's Dragon's Den.

After leaving school at 16, he spent 30 years in the entertainment business, heading companies that designed and staged rock and pop concerts.

In 1997, he founded his most famous company, the conveyor-belt sushi bar, YO! Sushi. He has since expanded the YO! brand to include Japanese-style low cost hotel accommodation, known as a YOTEL.

In 1999 he won the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award and he was awarded an OBE in 2006.

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