Page last updated at 12:25 GMT, Wednesday, 15 July 2009 13:25 UK

This week's panel

Question Time, the BBC's premier political debate programme chaired by David Dimbleby, was in Colchester on Thursday 16 July.

The panel included Foreign Office minister Chris Bryant, Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party Margot James, the Liberal Democrat MP Lembit Opik, the talk show host and campaigner Trisha Goddard and the editor of the Financial Times Lionel Barber.

CHRIS BRYANT MP

Chris Bryant MP

Career: Chris Bryant is Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. He was previously deputy leader of the House of Commons, and joined the Foreign Office in Gordon Brown's recent reshuffle.

A former chair of the Christian Socialist Movement, after university he was ordained into the Church of England and worked as a curate and youth chaplain before entering politics as an election agent for Labour MP Frank Dobson. He spent two years as head of European affairs at the BBC before he was elected as MP for Rhondda in June 2001.

He has served as the Parliamentary private secretary to the Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, and also for Harriet Harman, and was promoted to the government as deputy leader of the House of Commons in October 2008.

This week he admitted that the results last month's European elections, which saw Labour come third behind the Conservatives and the UK Independence Party were "painful".

He went on: "I think the one thing that's absolutely clear is that Labour cannot desert places like the Rhondda, where it's a white working-class population, many of whom have not had much opportunity in life but want the chance to get on. And some of them clearly felt that we had."


MARGOT JAMES

Margot James

Career: Margot James is Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party with responsibility for Women and the Conservative prospective parliamentary candidate for Stourbridge at the next general election.

She began her involvement in Conservative politics as a student, and went on to set up her own PR and medical education business, Shire Health, in 1986.

After twelve years she became Head of European Healthcare for advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather. As well as her career in PR, she served on the board of Parkside NHS Trust for four years and she has worked as a mental health manager.

In May 2006 she was elected as a local councillor for the Brompton ward of Kensington & Chelsea. She was placed on the 'A-List' of Conservative Party parliamentary candidates ahead of the next general election and was selected as the candidate for the Labour held constituency of Stourbridge, a key marginal seat, in December 2006.

Earlier this month she was named on The Independent's Pink List of the 101 most influential gay men and women, and made headlines last September when she said: "Gay people should not just vote Conservative, they have a duty to vote Conservative."


LEMBIT OPIK MP

Lembit Opik MP

Career: Lembit Opik is the Liberal Democrat MP for Montgomeryshire. He has been the leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats and the party's spokesman on housing.

Born in Northern Ireland to Estonian parents, he entered parliament in 1997, immediately becoming the party's spokesman on Northern Ireland and young people.

Once described in the Guardian as "an exotic, soft-spoken, political gypsy", his private life has been the subject of much press coverage.

He has twice stood unsuccessfully for the presidency of the Liberal Democrats, most recently losing out to Baroness Scott last year.

He acknowledged that his public profile may have contributed to his defeat, saying: "I personally felt it would be valuable for the party to have someone whose image stretches beyond politics, obviously the party does not think so… I am dead serious about my politics but I do it with a smile. Sadly some people have mixed up my political narrative with my high national profile."


TRISHA GODDARD

Trisha Goddard

Career: Trisha Goddard is a talkshow host and campaigner, most famous for her long running daytime show, Trisha.

She was born in London, and grew up in the UK and Tanzania, before emigrating to Australia in the 1980s. There she began her career as a television presenter, fronting shows as diverse as the children's programme Play School and ABC's 7:30 Report, on which she was the first black anchorwoman on Australian TV.

After a family tragedy, she became an outspoken campaigner on mental health issues, and was invited to chair the Australian government's National Community Advisory Group on Mental Health.

In 1998 after returning to the UK she became the host of the ITV flagship daytime chat show, Trisha.

She left ITV to join Five in September 2004. She runs her own independent television production company, Town House TV.


LIONEL BARBER

Lionel Barber

Career: Lionel Barber is the editor of the Financial Times. He was previously the managing editor of the paper's US edition, and the editor of the FT's European edition, a role in which he briefed US President George W. Bush prior to his first official European trip. He also secured Barack Obama's first global interview as president for the paper in March.

His journalistic career began at The Scotsman in 1978. In 1981, after being named Young Journalist of the Year in the British press awards, he moved to The Sunday Times, where he was a business correspondent.

He has written several books, including The Price of Truth, a history of the Reuters news agency, and has also lectured widely on US foreign policy, transatlantic relations, European security and monetary union at universities including Harvard, Georgetown and Stanford.

Earlier this month, the Financial Times joined a number of leading companies, including British Airways and BT, in asking employees to help out during straitened economic times, offering extra holiday at 30 percent of their normal pay. The measures, which are reported to have been taken up by Lionel Barber himself, are said to be in response to "short-term and uncertain market trends".



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