Page last updated at 16:06 GMT, Wednesday, 3 February 2010

The Coventry panel

Question Time, the BBC's premier political debate programme comes from Coventry on Thursday 4 February.

The panel are the former Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer, the shadow secretary of state for work and pensions Theresa May MP, the former Labour and now Independent MP Clare Short, the Respect MP George Galloway and the Daily Mail columnist Melanie Phillips.


Lord Falconer

Charles Falconer was the first Secretary of State for Justice, having previously served as Lord Chancellor from June 2003 to May 2007 in Tony Blair's cabinet.

A close friend and ally of Tony Blair and his flatmate in the early days of their legal careers, he was made a life peer in the House of Lords when Tony Blair became prime minister in 1997.

Last year, he wrote that the current crisis facing the country demanded "highly developed leadership skills. Gordon Brown has not displayed those skills."

He wrote: "It is hard to unify under the current leader... because it is so difficult for Gordon Brown, after 12 years as Prime Minister or Chancellor, to be a convincing agent of change."

This week he defended the decision by the Blair government, in which he served, to invade Iraq in 2003.

He said: "I don't believe that we were misled, but there are so many questions and it's a defining issue in British politics. In my mind there's no doubt, that at all stages, the government acted in good faith. Most people believed there were weapons of mass destruction."


Theresa May MP

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.

Commenting on the rise in unemployment figures in September, she wrote: "Labour have hidden the real story of unemployment for the past 10 years. They have slowly built a wall between the working and the workless, hoping to keep their failures out of sight."


Clare Short MP

Clare Short is the independent MP for Birmingham Ladywood, having been elected as a Labour MP in 1983. She was the secretary of state for international development from 1997 to 2003.

Touted as one of "Blair's babes", she was one of the key members of Labour's cabinet in 1997.

Having threatened to resign in March 2003 over the government's decision to go to war in Iraq, she remained in the government for a further two months, before accusing Tony Blair of being "obsessed with his place in history" in a resignation statement read in parliament.

In October 2006, Short announced she would give up the Labour whip in Parliament in protest at what she claimed had become an "arrogant, error-prone government". In an article at the time she wrote "in addition to the arrogance and lack of principle of New Labour, there is an incredible incompetence".

Clare appeared at the Iraq inquiry this week, claiming that Lord Goldsmith misled the cabinet regarding the legality of the War.


George Galloway MP

George Galloway is the Respect MP for Bethnal Green and Bow.

Having joined the Labour Party as a young activist, he was elected to Parliament as the Labour MP for Glasgow Hillhead in 1987.

His increasingly outspoken criticism of the party's leadership, which he dismissed as "Tony Blair's lie machine", led to his expulsion from the party in October 2003.

In January 2004, he co-founded Respect, a coalition of left-wing organisations opposed to the Iraq war. At the 2005 general election he defeated Labour's Oona King to become MP for Bethnal Green and Bow .

In May 2005, he appeared before a US senate hearing into the Oil For Food programme, saying: "I have no expectation of justice from a group of Christian fundamentalist and Zionist activists under the chairmanship of a neo-con George Bush".

He also made headlines with a controversial appearance on Celebrity Big Brother in January 2006.


Melanie Phillips

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

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

Of Tony Blair's evidence to the Chilcot Inquiry she wrote: "Hour by hour, Blair has calmly and reasonably swatted... these accusations aside.

"He has done it not by spin or evasion but by setting out what I at any rate remember very clearly were the arguments that were made at the time but which have been all but obscured in public debate by the rewriting of the history of the conflict that has occurred, along with conclusions at which any reasonable person would have arrived at the time from the available information."

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