THIS WEEK'S PANEL
DOMINIC LAWSON is a columnist for the Sunday Times and The Independent. This week, he wrote that it’s a myth that banks are not lending to small businesses, concluding, "British banks are by no means perfect - they will inevitably turn down some proposals which deserve support; but the idea that politicians or newspapers would be better at assessing individual credit risk is the craziest business proposition of all." He was one of Fleet Street’s longest serving editors, spending a decade in the editor’s chair at The Sunday Telegraph from 1995, before he moved on to be the editor of The Spectator magazine from 1990 to 1995. After graduating from Oxford in politics, philosophy and economics he joined the BBC before moving to the Financial Times where he became energy correspondent. He nearly became a chess player and now writes a chess column for Standpoint magazine and has published books on the game. He is the son of the former chancellor Nigel Lawson, now a Conservative peer, and the brother of ‘domestic goddess’ Nigella Lawson.
YASMIN ALIBHAI-BROWN is an award-winning writer whose columns appear in The Independent and the Evening Standard. Unafraid of ruffling feathers, she has recently written about her hatred of both the burka - calling it “a means by which women disengage from society” - and the British monarchy. She wrote that the Royal Family “would not get a job on the buses with their skills and personalities. Their birthright props them up – only that. They exist so that we may cringe and defer, and vicariously delight in their unearned privilege.” Born in Uganda, she came to the UK in 1972 to study at Oxford and has since written widely about Britain’s multiculturalism in books and pamphlets. Her own experience was the basis for her autobiographical book No Place Like Home and her recent volume The Settler’s Cookbook. In 2001 she was appointed an MBE for services to journalism, an honour which she handed back two years later in part as a protest against developments in Iraq. Among her awards have been the George Orwell Prize for political journalism in 2002. On her website she says of herself: “Yasmin Alibhai-Brown can be depended on to be disloyal to blind interest groups and patriotism. Don’t expect her to deliver any given line.”
TOM HOLLAND is an author and historian. His novels, most of which have a strong supernatural element, are set in various periods of history, ranging from ancient Egypt to 1880s London. He is also the author of three highly praised works of history. The first, Rubicon: The Triumph and Tragedy of the Roman Republic (2004), won the Hessell-Tiltman Prize for History and was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize. His book on the Graeco-Persian wars, Persian Fire: The First World Empire and the Battle for the West, won the Anglo-Hellenic League's Runciman Award in 2006. His third work of history, Millennium: The End of the World and the Forging of Christendom, was published in the autumn of 2008, and his fourth, on the origins of Islam, will be published in the autumn of 2011. He has also adapted Homer, Herodotus, Thucydides and Virgil for BBC Radio and his first TV documentary, on Saint Paul, was broadcast by Channel 4 in February this year. He is the Chair of the Society of Authors and on the committee of the Classical Association. Having studied at Cambridge and Oxford universities, he currently lives in London with his wife, two daughters, and cat.
SARAH CHURCHWELL is a writer and academic, lecturing in the School of American Studies at the University of East Anglia since 1999. She recently defended Sarah Palin when the Republican politician compared herself to Shakespeare for inventing a new word, ‘refudiate’. But, Churchwell added, “Sneering at her gives further ammunition to those apologists who accuse her critics of being pedantic and overeducated. Palin's consistent defence of her own ignorance is terrifying, but this is a flimsy example; she has offered many more robust ones.” Churchwell was raised outside of Chicago, before earning her BA with honours in English literature at Vassar College and her MA and PhD in English and American literature from Princeton University. She was one of the judges of the Orange Prize for best novel last year and her own publications include The Many Lives of Marilyn Monroe. In addition to publishing scholarly articles on American literature, film, culture, and short fiction, she also reviews and writes regularly for a number of papers, including the Observer and The Independent while also appearing on Newsnight Review and The Culture Show. She’s also a fan of twitter, calling it a “tremendously creative space” where her tweets have quoted Emily Dickinson and discussed the “laudable spirit of inventiveness” in her students’ approach to grammar.
Any Questions is the topical discussion programme chaired by Jonathan Dimbleby in which a panel of…