Question Time


Page last updated at 14:32 GMT, Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Last week's panel

Geoff Hoon MPTheresa May MPNigel Farage MEPWill YoungShami Chakrabarti

Question Time, the BBC's premier political debate programme chaired by David Dimbleby, was in Dunstable on Thursday 5 February.

The panel included the Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon, conservative shadow work and pensions secretary Theresa May, the leader of the UK Independence Party Nigel Farage, singer and actor Will Young, and director of Liberty Shami Chakrabarti.


Geoff Hoon MP

Career: Geoff Hoon is the Secretary of State for Transport.

He entered politics with his election as the member of the European Parliament for Derbyshire in 1984, before returning to the UK and becoming MP for Ashfield in 1992, joining John Smith's shadow front bench in 1995.

After Labour took power in 1997, he held a number of junior ministerial posts, before being promoted to his most famous role as secretary of state for defence. He held this role from 1999 to 2005, overseeing British military intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq.

He was made Labour's chief whip when Gordon Brown became prime minister in 2007, and moved to transport following the sudden resignation of Ruth Kelly last year.

Last month, he unveiled plans for the third runway to be built at Heathrow, which were narrowly voted through Parliament in the face of opposition from the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and a backbench Labour rebellion. He said: "The beneficiaries of the party opposite's policy would be clear: they would be the Dutch, the French and the Germans by exporting British jobs… The reality is that by encouraging our European competitors to expand at our expense, the Conservative Party's policy would damage this country economically."


Theresa May MP

Career: Theresa May is the shadow secretary of state for work and pensions. She was Conservative shadow leader of the House of Commons from 2005 to 2008.

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.

After taking on the shadow work and pensions brief last month, she reacted to a wave of job losses at British firms, saying: "It's now clear that unemployment is fast becoming our number one political and economic issue and I fear this is yet more evidence that Labour's attempts at tackling the recession aren't working."


Nigel Farage MEP

Career: Nigel Farage is the leader of the UK Independence Party.

Having joined the Conservative Party as a schoolboy, he left in 1992 in protest over John Major's signing of the Maastricht Treaty and went on to found UKIP in 1993.

In 1999, and again in 2004, he was elected to the European Parliament and currently leads UKIP's 10 MEPs, as well as being co-leader of the multi-national Eurosceptic group Independence and Democracy.

Commenting on wildcat strikes this week over the employment of foreign workers, he blamed EU employment law and said it was "misleading" to suggest that negotiations could resolve the issue. He went on, "It doesn't matter how many meetings are held, how much or how loud anyone shouts, there's nothing anyone in this country can do."

Ed Davey, Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs spokesman, will appear on Question Time in March.


Willl Young

Career: Will Young is a singer and actor. After studying politics at university, he became a household name when he won the ITV talent contest, Pop Idol, in 2002. His first single became the fastest-selling debut in UK pop history.

He made his film debut in 2005 with Bob Hoskins and Dame Judi Dench in Mrs Henderson Presents, and in 2007 starred in a critically acclaimed theatrical revival of Noel Coward's The Vortex at the Royal Exchange Theatre.

He is an ambassador for the Prince's Trust, and performed at the Live 8 concerts to raise awareness of the plight of Africa. He has also been involved with Mencap and Children in Need, and made a documentary in 2004 as part of a campaign to highlight the problems facing runaway teenagers.

In October last year, he addressed the Oxford Union, telling the audience: "I said yes because it terrified me, and I'm trying to do things that terrify me at the moment."

He told the Independent in 2002: "Reading Marx pushed me into doing what I wanted to do. It made me want to put a definite personal stamp on the world rather than just being part of the system."


Shami Chakrabarti

Career: Shami Chakrabarti has been director of the human rights organisation Liberty since 2003.

She is one of the UK's most prominent voices on civil liberties, spearheading campaigns against proposals to extend detention periods and introduce ID cards.

A barrister by background, she was called to the Bar in 1994 and then joined the Home Office as a lawyer. Since becoming Liberty's director, she has written for a number of newspapers, including the Guardian and the Telegraph, and appears regularly on television and radio.

She was made a CBE in the 2007 Queen's Birthday Honours. Last year she was given the Campaigning and Public Life Award at the Morgan Stanley Great Britons Award.

Reacting last week to government plans to allow Whitehall departments to share personal data, she said: "This allows serious intrusion to be dealt with by secondary legislation which spews out of this government like confetti. This is no way to rebuild trust in personal privacy in Britain."

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