THIS WEEK'S PANEL
NIGEL FARAGE has been MEP for South-East England since 1999 and was leader of the UK Independence Party for three years until September last year, when he stood down in order to fight a Westminster seat. He is standing against the Speaker and Conservative MP, John Bercow, in Buckingham but faces a daunting prospect in trying to win the seat: it is one of the safest Conservatives seats in the country with a majority at the last election of 18,129. Earlier this year, he was fined by the European Parliament after refusing to apologise for describing the new President of the European Council, Herman von Rompuy, as having “the charisma of a damp rag and the appearance of a low grade bank clerk". UKIP pledges that under its policy, Britain would leave the political EU and embark on free trade globally. Nigel Farage has been described as a ‘militant smoker’; he was in the vanguard of the opposition to the Government’s ban on smoking in public places. He is a former member of the Conservative Party, but left and helped found UKIP in 1993 over the issue of the Maastricht Treaty and closer ties with Europe. A father of 4, he was described in one profile as bearing an uncanny likeness to Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian President. His autobiography, Fighting Bull, was published last week.
SUSAN KRAMER is the Liberal Democrat MP for Richmond Park. Last year she chose to leave the front bench to take up a new role leading her party’s campaign against the expansion of Heathrow Airport.. She joined the Liberal Democrats more than ten years ago and in 2000, stood as the party’s candidate for Mayor of London which she later described as a “sink or swim” experience. . She finished fourth with 11.9% of the vote. In March 2003, she again sought the party's nomination for Major of London, but was beaten in a three-way race for the candidacy by Simon Hughes, and given the option to stand for Richmond in 2005, as a consolation by the party. She studied at Oxford, becoming only the second woman to hold the title President of the Union. She also studied in the United States before moving into banking, where she became a vice-president of International Citibank. At the next election, she is facing a challenge from the environmentalist and Conservative prospective parliamentary candidate Zac Goldsmith; with a notional majority of 3,649, her seat is one of the most marginal seats in London.
NICK HERBERT MP has been Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs since last year. Seen as one of the party’s fastest rising stars, he became MP for Arundel and South Downs in 2005, following the sacking of sitting MP Howard Flight by the then leader Michael Howard. He was a longstanding supporter of the former shadow home secretary David Davis, having backed his leadership bids in 2001 and 2005 but was made Shadow Secretary of State for Justice by David Cameron in 2007. In February this year, he gave a speech in the States, in which he said there had been a "self-evident" change in his party's attitude to gay people and promised action on homophobic bullying and hate crimes, with new laws if necessary. He is a former head and co-founder of the right leaning think tank, Reform, which advocated radical policies on schools and hospitals. He was previously Chief Executive of Business for Sterling, where he launched the ‘No’ campaign against the Euro. Before that he was Director of Political Affairs for the British Field Sports Society, and went on to help launch the Countryside Movement, now known as the Countryside Alliance.
PETER HAIN MP is Secretary for State for Wales. In 2007 he resigned from the cabinet after irregularities were found in the recording of donations to his campaign to become Labour’s deputy leader but was exonerated and returned to his post in June last year. This month he told Tribune magazine that “This election is a moment of truth for everybody on the progressive side of British politics” and in an article for The Guardian he hailed the “emerging common ground between Labour and the Liberal Democrats”, urging voters to use tactical voting to thwart the Conservatives. He has said Gordon Brown is prepared to consider agreeing to fixed term 4 year Parliaments, in a deal with the Lib Dems: "Labour being prepared to deliver fixed-term parliaments as part of a negotiation to sustain a government in power is attractive, whether we have a majority or are just short of a majority." Born in Kenya, he grew up in South Africa until his family was forced to leave as a result of anti-apartheid activity. He became a high profile protester against the regime and at the age of 19, chaired the 1969 campaign to stop the South Africa cricket tour. MP for Neath since 1991, he has been a member of the government since 1997. He served as a minister in the Welsh Office and the Foreign Office, then in 2002 joined the cabinet as Secretary of State for Wales, becoming Leader of the House from 2003-2005.
Any Questions is the topical discussion programme chaired by Jonathan Dimbleby in which a panel of…