THIS WEEK'S PANEL
DAMIAN GREEN MP is the Minister of State responsible for immigration. Since taking his post in May, he has repeated his pledge to cut immigration to tens of thousands and also to create a separate national police force to tackle international crime syndicates, saying “We need to crack down on international crime to help protect our borders.” In 2008, he was arrested and had his office raided in a police inquiry into Home Office leaks but was cleared of any wrongdoing in April 2010. A member of Michael Howard’s 2004 shadow cabinet, he stepped down following a re-shuffle in protest at what was seen as a lurch to the right. At the time he said being on the backbenches would give him the freedom to argue for a form of “compassionate Conservatism.” Educated at Oxford University where he was President of the Oxford Union in 1977, he worked as a financial journalist before becoming a member of John Major’s Downing Street policy unit in the early nineties. He beat David Cameron to the nomination for the safe seat of Ashford, Kent, where he was elected an MP in 1997. In opposition he spoke for his party on education and transport before becoming Shadow Minister for immigration in 2005.
BILLY BRAGG is a political activist and a musician. In the recent election, he helped campaign against the BNP in Barking & Dagenham, the constituency where he grew up, while also campaigning for political reform of the first-past-the-vote system. In the previous two elections, he ran a tactical vote-swapping campaign to keep out the Conservatives in Dorset where he now lives. “He says that he is “hugely disappointed” the Liberal Democrats have “entered into a coalition with Cameron”, adding that while “Clegg was wrong in accepting a referendum on the alternative vote as the price for coalition, he has done something that New Labour would never contemplate – he has put the issue of a fairer voting system on the agenda.” In January, he said he would withhold his tax until the Chancellor acted to curb the bonus payments to investments bankers at RBS. Prior to his solo musical career, he briefly joined a tank regiment of the British Army before buying himself out. It was, he said later, the most wisely spent £175 of his life. As a musician his songs became overtly political in Margaret Thatcher’s Britain, particularly during the miners’ strike in 1984 when he played regularly to political rallies and benefit concerts. More recently he set up Jail Guitar Doors, an independent initiative to provide musical equipment for prison inmates and the Featured Artists Coalition, which campaigns for the protection of performers' and musicians' rights.
KATE HOEY is Labour MP for Vauxhall. A devoted football fan and former high jump champion, she took on the role of Sports Minister in 1999 only to become a casualty of a cabinet reshuffle after the 2001 election. Now a backbencher, she is sports commissioner charged with delivering London's grass-roots 2012 legacy for Mayor Boris Johnson. She is also chair of the Countryside Alliance, the voice of rural Britain. Last year, she said she believed Labour had “moved its position so much it is now impossible to say what it stands for” and that she wouldn’t be “devastated” if the Conservatives won the election. More recently, she nominated left-winger MP John McDonnell in the Labour leader contest. Born and educated in Northern Ireland, she became MP for Vauxhall in 1989. A Eurosceptic, she has long been unafraid of challenging her party: she voted against government policy on the war in Iraq, university tuition and top-up fees, ID cards and supported a referendum on the EU Lisbon Treaty. In January 2001, she spoke out in a shooting magazine against the post-Dunblane 1997 law banning the use of handguns. She insisted her Labour colleagues had taken a "very unfair attitude" toward legitimate shooting, which she argued young children should learn, as she had on her family's farm in Ulster.
FRASER NELSON is the editor of The Spectator. Writing about the resignation of Chief Secretary to the Treasury David Laws last weekend, he said, “This whole story is a tragedy. No one, in any party, can doubt that an honourable and able man has gone. Those who had wanted fast fiscal consolidation have lost a trusted advocate. The government will be all the weaker for it.” Last year, he wrote that learning to “love the bankers” was likely to be the quickest route to economic recovery. He has been described as the “fastest rising star in rightwing political journalism” and took over from Peter Oborne as the magazine’s political editor in 2006 before becoming editor in August last year. He started out as a business reporter on The Times, later joining The Scotsman as its political editor. As a blogger he contributes to the Spectator’s Coffee House and also writes as a political columnist for the News of the World and is political editor of The Business. He’s described himself as a “numbers geek” to explain the ‘data-based’ approach to his journalism.
Any Questions? with Jonathan Dimbleby is the topical debate programme in which guests from the…