Question Time


Page last updated at 12:55 GMT, Tuesday, 24 March 2009

This week's panel

Charles Clarke MPEric Pickles MPEdward Davey MPCaroline Lucas MEPMichael Winner

Question Time, the BBC's premier political debate programme chaired by David Dimbleby, was in Newcastle on Thursday 26 March.

The panel included senior Labour politician Charles Clarke, Conservative Party chairman Eric Pickles, Liberal Democrat spokesman on foreign affairs Edward Davey, Green Party MEP Caroline Lucas and Michael Winner.


Charles Clarke MP

Career: Charles Clarke is a senior Labour politician who was home secretary from 2004 to 2006. He has been the MP for Norwich South since 1997.

His political career began at university, and he was president of the National Union of Students from 1975 to 1977. He was elected as a local councillor in Hackney, London, before entering Westminster politics as a researcher, and later chief of staff, to former Labour Party leader, Neil Kinnock.

He left the cabinet in 2006 and has been a vocal, and at times critical, backbench MP. Regarded as a key Blairite, he made headlines in September 2008 when he told the BBC: "I think there are many, many, many people now who are very concerned about out direction and about our capacity to win the next election… I think the best for the country and the party would be if Gordon made his own mind up. That is what a whole string of national and party leaders have done in past decades, decided that there came a point where it was better for them to go with honour. If that didn't happen, then I think it would be down principally to the cabinet to decide what to do and to do that in an expeditious way."

However, last month he pledged his support for Brown's leadership, saying: "You won't have from me, or other people, leadership issues being raised; that is where we are."


Eric Pickles MP

Career : Eric Pickles is the chairman of the Conservative Party.

He was previously shadow secretary of state for communities and local government from 2007 to 2009, and managed last year's successful Conservative campaign for the Crewe and Nantwich by-election, which was triggered by the death of long-standing Labour MP Gwyneth Dunwoody.

A close supporter of David Cameron, the Daily Mail has written of him: "If you ever start to worry that Dave's Conservatives are all soft-cheeked, trendy toffs, take a moment to admire the girth, the stout cloth, dammit, even the tie-clip of this briny, plain-speaking, subtle, human politician."

He is running the Conservative campaign for this year's European election, which his party are said to be regarding as a trial run for the next general election. He says of the campaign: "I think it would be silly for it to be about some obscure European directive: it's about the kinds of change that we want to bring and we will be looking at particular aspects where we want to make a difference."'


Edward Davey MP

Career : Edward Davey is Liberal Democrat spokesman on foreign and Commonwealth affairs and chair of campaigns and communications.

After university, he worked as an economics researcher to the Liberal Democrats in Parliament, going on to become the party's senior economics adviser. He left in 1993 to work for a management consultancy firm.

In 1997, he became the Liberal Democrat MP for Kingston and Surbiton, in an election that saw the first ever defeat for the Conservative candidate in that area.

At the start of the 2001 Parliament, he was promoted to the shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, and in 2005 he became the party's spokesman on education and skills. He was made chief of staff when Sir Menzies Campbell took over the party leadership.

Reacting to this week's news that an enquiry is to be launched into MPs second home allowances, he said: "I don't claim because I don't think it is ethical to have a flat at the taxpayers' expense when I can get home in under an hour using public transport. It was okay to claim in the old days when the Commons often sat until 2.30am. But those days are gone. The rules are wrong and they should be changed."


Caroline Lucas MEP

Career : Dr Caroline Lucas has been the Green Party Member of the European Parliament for the South East of England region since 1999, and is also leader of the Green Party in England and Wales.

She began her career in the anti-nuclear movement, and joined the Green Party in 1986, going on to win the party's second UK county council seat in Oxfordshire in 1993.

Outside of Parliament, she holds a number of posts, including vice president of the RSPCA and Stop the War Coalition. She was named in the Top 10 of the New Statesman Magazine Person of the Year Award 2006, and was voted Politician of the Year in the Observer Ethical Awards 2007. Earlier this year, she was named as one of the Guardian's "Top 50 eco heroes".

Last week she wrote in the Independent: "There are people who peddle the line that, during a recession, green issues must take second place. As if caring about whether the clothes we wear are produced by child labour is just another fashion, in this week and out the next… [Climate change] is the greatest threat this country faces. Up there with international terrorism. The rise of fascism in the 1930s."


Michael Winner

Career : Michael Winner is a film director, writer and critic. He has made more than 30 films in his cinematic career, and is also well known as an outspoken food critic for the Sunday Times.

He began his career in entertainment as an assistant director on television series and short films, before going on to make his own films in the UK, and later in Hollywood. His most famous film was Death Wish, one of several he made starring the actor Charles Bronson.

As a writer, he is a regular contributor to newspapers, including The Times and The Daily Mail, and has appeared on Have I Got News for You as a guest presenter.

Commenting last year on the onset of the credit crunch, he wrote: "late in life, as the economic sun sets slowly in the West, I have become the insane borrower, the nutty spender. I'm sure it's not cautious. It may even be vastly unwise. But the key to life is 'Enjoy yourself'...If you have to hock the house or the furniture, or the wife, as long as you enjoy what you buy as a result, you're ahead. What do I care about my debts? I'm enjoying life greatly. So should you."

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