Question Time


Page last updated at 12:30 GMT, Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Last week's panel

Jim Murphy MPNicola Sturgeon MSPTavish Scott MSPPhilip HammondMelanie Phillips

Question Time, the BBC's premier political debate programme chaired by David Dimbleby, was in Glasgow on Thursday 20 November.

The panel included the Secretary of State for Scotland Jim Murphy, deputy first minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats Tavish Scott, shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Philip Hammond and Daily Mail columnist Melanie Phillips.


Jim Murphy MP

Career: Jim Murphy is the Secretary of State for Scotland.

He grew up in Scotland and South Africa, and entered politics as a student, serving as president of the National Union of Students from 1994 to 1996. When he was elected to parliament in 1997, he was Scotland's youngest MP at 29 years old.

After a year, he was promoted to the whips' office, and was promoted in May 2006 to become minister of state for employment and welfare reform, with responsibilities also including child poverty. He was appointed Europe minister by Gordon Brown in June 2007, and was promoted to the cabinet as Scottish Secretary in October.

He has recently been involved in negotiations to secure the takeover of troubled bank HBOS (Halifax Bank of Scotland), which critics say could lead to major job cuts in Scotland. The Scottish financier Jim Spowart last week claimed that Jim Murphy had "actually discouraged" attempts to invite a range of bidders for the bank, an accusation which the Scottish Secretary has strongly denied.


Nicola Sturgeon MSP

Career: Nicola Sturgeon is the deputy first minister of Scotland, the deputy leader of the Scottish National Party and the cabinet secretary for health and wellbeing in the Scottish Executive.

She joined the SNP in 1986 as a youth activist, and stood for election unsuccessfully in 1992 as the youngest parliamentary candidate in Scotland, and again in 1997. She became an MSP in the first Scottish Parliament elections in 1999. When the SNP gained control of the devolved Scottish government in 2007, First Minister Alex Salmond made her his deputy.

Last week she was named Politician of the Year by Scotland's Herald newspaper.

Earlier this month, she joined her party colleagues campaigning for the Glenrothes by-election, which the SNP had hoped to win. She said she was "deeply disappointed" by Labour's victory, but denied it was linked to an upturn in support for Gordon Brown, saying: "It was a campaign fought on very local issues, it was relentlessly negative."


Tavish Scott MSP

Career: Tavish Scott is leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats and MSP for Shetland.

After university he worked as a parliamentary assistant and press officer for the Scottish Lib Dems, before returning to Shetland to become a farmer. He was elected as MSP for Shetland in 1999, and has held a number of positions in the Scottish Executive, including Deputy Minister for Finance and Public Services and Cabinet Minister for Transport.

In August, following the resignation of Scottish Lib Dem leader Nicol Stephen, he was elected leader of the party.

He has called for an inquiry into the proposed takeover of HBOS by Lloyds TSB, accusing the directors of HBOS of failing to explore alternatives. He said: "Shareholders who want to keep HBOS independent should not be intimidated. They are acting for the benefit of the bank's and Scotland's future."


Philip Hammond MP

Career: Philip Hammond is the shadow chief secretary to the Treasury and the Conservative MP for Runnymede and Weybridge.

Before entering politics, he was a business consultant, and has worked with the World Bank and the government of Malawi. He became the chairman of Lewisham East Conservative Association in 1989, and unsuccessfully ran for parliament in 1994, before being elected in 1997.

He joined the shadow cabinet in 2005 as the shadow Chief secretary to the Treasury. Following the election of David Cameron later that year, he became the shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. He was moved back to the role of Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury in the reshuffle that followed Gordon Brown's accession to the premiership in June 2007.

Last week he criticised reports that the government plans to increase public borrowing to tackle an economic downturn, warning of "the risk that more reckless borrowing could cause a collapse in the value of sterling, undermine the scope for interest rate reductions, and do more harm than good to the British economy."


Melanie Phillips

Career: Melanie Phillips is a writer and columnist for the Daily Mail.

She worked at the Guardian for more than a decade, where she became a columnist after a brief period as news editor. After a short time at the Observer, she joined the Daily Mail in 2001, where she now writes a controversial column on moral and social issues.

She is regarded as one of the media's leading right-wing voices and was recently described as the "scourge of the Guardian-reading liberal establishment". She was awarded the Orwell Prize for Journalism in 1996.

This week she wrote: "Of course, the book should be thrown at Haringey Council, Ofsted, the Social Care Inspectorate and the assorted professionals who displayed incompetence and worse that led to the death of Baby P. But the people who really have blood on their hands are the progressive intelligentsia who have simply written orderly, married, normative family life out of the script, enforced the doctrines of multi-culturalism and non-judgmentalism with the zealotry of the fanatic, and caused Britain to descend into an age of barbarism."

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