THIS WEEK'S PANEL
POLLY TOYNBEE is a writer and columnist for The Guardian. This was her responding to this week’s announcements of spending cuts: “The myth that the frontline could be protected was exposed at the first slice of the knife yesterday. This is no time to be a child, especially a poor child, and this is no time to be young”. In a wide-ranging career in journalism, she began as a reporter at The Observer before moving to the United States where she edited a magazine in Washington. She returned to The Observer and began her first stint at The Guardian. In 1988 she joined the BBC as its Social Affairs Editor before becoming associate editor and columnist for The Independent, rejoining The Guardian as a columnist in 1998. Among her accolades, she has won the British Press Awards four times, the Catherine Pakenham Award for Journalism and the George Orwell Prize. She once stood as a parliamentary candidate for the SDP. She is a former governor of the LSE. She has written a number of books including Did Things Get Better? (2001, co-authored) and Hard Work: Life in Low Pay Britain (2003) where she struggled to live and work on the minimum wage.
LORD ADONIS was Secretary of State for Transport in the last Government. He was part of the Labour team which tried to negotiate a deal with the Liberal Democrats after the election and wrote the following for The Guardian just after the Conservative-Lib Dem deal was announced: “Unprincipled governments are inevitably unstable, unsuccessful and short-lived. This will doubtless be true of the Cameron-Clegg coalition, the most unprincipled governing combination in Britain since the Fox-North coalition of 1783”. He is often described as the architect of Labour’s Academies programme and has described himself as a “radical social democrat … I am not a Conservative. I do not believe slashing public spending… is how we get a more equitable society”. Andrew Adonis was created a life peer in 2005, and immediately appointed as a government minister. He was previously an adviser to Tony Blair and head of the Downing Street policy unit. A former Nuffield Fellow, he worked as a journalist on the Financial Times and the Observer, where he frequently wrote about the class system and the need for better public services. He cut his political teeth with the SDP, joining the Labour party in 1995. He is the editor of Roy Jenkins: A Retrospective.
VINCE CABLE is Business Secretary and Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats. When David Cameron visited Cable’s department of Business, Innovation and Skills, he described him as “an absolute star”. The department, however, is having to make bigger cuts than most other government departments: £836m over the next nine months. There was also what Cable called “a misunderstanding of the machinery of government” just after his appointment, when it was discovered that he was not, as had been thought, to co-chair a Cabinet committee on banking regulation with George Osborne: the Chancellor is doing that job on his own. A former lecturer in economics at Glasgow University, Cable worked as an economist with oil giant Shell International, rising to become the firm’s Chief Economist in 1995. Once a Labour councillor in Glasgow, he was elected as MP for Twickenham in 1997. Last year he published a book on the credit crunch, The Storm: the World Economic Crisis and What It Means, as well as his memoir, Free Radical. He is a keen ballroom dancer.
TOBY YOUNG is a journalist and author. The son of a Labour life peer, he was educated at Oxford, Harvard and Cambridge Universities. In 1991, he founded and edited The Modern Review with Julie Burchill and her then-husband Cosmo Landesman. Young then moved to New York in 1995 to work for Vanity Fair, an experience which he described in his first book How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, a feature film version of which he co-produced last year. His second book The Sound of No Hands Clapping was published in 2006. Now back in London, he is an associate editor of The Spectator and a special correspondent for GQ. Last August, he announced he was trying to set up a parent-promoted school in Acton, West London. With a fan of ‘free schools’, the Tories' Michael Gove, now in post as Education Secretary, he is "much more optimistic" about opening a school that's "not only meant to be for the children of pushy parents like us, but for kids who don't have pushy parents but would benefit from a pushy school." When it was suggested during the expenses scandal last year that he could run as an independent MP, he quickly realised he’s not a convincing anti-sleaze candidate. “There are enough skeletons in my cupboard to fill a graveyard,” he wrote. “I might as well ask Peter Stringfellow to be my campaign manager.”
Any Questions is the topical discussion programme chaired by Jonathan Dimbleby in which a panel of…