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18/12/2009

Duration:
50 minutes
First broadcast:
Friday 18 December 2009

Martha Kearney chairs the topical debate from Masham, North Yorkshire. The panellists are Labour peer Roy Hattersley, science writer and broadcaster Dr Gabrielle Walker, Conservative prospective parliamentary candidate and former diplomat Rory Stewart, and Nick Clegg's chief of staff, Danny Alexander.

  • THIS WEEK'S PANEL

    LORD HATTERSLEY was Deputy Leader of the Labour Party for nine years until 1992. Writing about the expenses scandal earlier this year he said the “crisis of confidence in politics and politicians” is not the result of politicians claiming parliamentary expenses for cleaning out a moat. “It is the product of politicians failing to debate the merits of a society in which one family lives in a moated grange while another survives in a bed and breakfast hostel.” A critic of Tony Blair’s New Labour, he has since declared himself a supporter of Gordon Brown. His own political career in the House of Commons spanned thirty three years before he stood down as MP for Birmingham Sparkbrook in 1997. The same year he was created a life peer. He served in the governments of two Labour Prime Ministers: as a minister under Harold Wilson and in the Cabinet of James Callaghan. After the party’s defeat in 1979, he became its chief opposition spokesman. In 1983 he became deputy to party leader Neil Kinnock. His prolific writing includes newspaper columns, novels, political memoirs and biography.

    RORY STEWART is the prospective Conservative parliamentary candidate for Penrith and the Border in Cumbria. Born in Hong Kong, he grew up in Malaysia and served briefly as an officer in the British Army, studied history and politics at Oxford University and then joined the British Diplomatic Service. He worked in the British Embassy in Indonesia and then, in the wake of the Kosovo campaign, as the British Representative in Montenegro. In 2000 he took two years off and began walking from Turkey to Bangladesh. He covered 6000 miles on foot alone across Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Nepal - a journey described in his book The Places in Between. In 2003, he became the coalition Deputy Governor of Maysan and Dhi Qar, two provinces in the Marsh Arab region of Southern Iraq, and later wrote a book about the experience called The Prince of the Marshes and Other Occupational Hazards of a Year in Iraq. In 2004, he was awarded the Order of the British Empire. He lived in Kabul from 2006-2008 and founded the Turquoise Mountain Foundation, which is investing in the regeneration of the historic commercial centre of Kabul. He was appointed to a professorial chair at Harvard University as the Ryan Family Professor of Human Rights at the beginning of 2009 and became Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. He was elected as the Conservative Parliamentary candidate by an open-primary meeting (open to all registered voters, regardless of party) in October 2009.

    DANNY ALEXANDER MP is chief of staff to Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg. In 2007, he was also appointed as co-ordinator of the party’s election manifesto. Seen as one the Lib Dems' fastest-rising stars, he has made swift progress since his election to the Westminster parliament in 2005 when he won the newly-created seat of Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey. Labour - which had held the old seat of Inverness East – was beaten into second place. In response to the prospect of a minority government after the next election, he has said the Lib Dems were now having to "look very closely and seriously" at what would happen if they became the ‘kingmakers’ in a hung parliament. He is former party spokesman on Work and Pensions. One time press officer with the Scottish Liberal Democrats, he was also PR chief for the Cairngorms National Park. He spent six years as head of communications for the European Movement and the campaigning group, Britain in Europe.

    DR GABRIELLE WALKER is a freelance writer, broadcaster and speaker specialising in energy and climate change. She has a PhD in Chemistry from Cambridge University and has been Climate Change editor at Nature and Features Editor of New Scientist, for whom she now acts as consultant. She is a consultant to the UK Government's Chief Scientific Adviser and to the Government Office of Science, as well as being a visiting Professor at Princeton University. She presented the BBC Radio 4 series on climate change, Planet Earth Under Threat, another series called Oceans: What Lies Beneath and appears regularly on TV and radio. Her books include Snowball Earth (2003); An Ocean of Air (2008); and with Sir David King, The Hot Topic: How to Tackle Global Warming and Still Keep the Lights On (2008), which Al Gore described as “a beacon of clarity in a world of misinformation”.

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