THIS WEEK'S PANEL
BEN BRADSHAW MP is Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, a post he had held in Government since June last year. Late last year he accused Conservative culture policy of being totally aligned with the commercial interests of Rupert Murdoch's News International, adding "We need a few more luvvies to be jumping up and down about” what he called the Tories’ “brazen threats to the BBC’s independence”. However, an ex-BBC employee himself, he’s also not shy at criticising the corporation: he called a Today programme interview with shadow chancellor George Obsorne in October “feeble and biased” and has suggested the BBC Trust, which scrutinises BBC strategy, is "unsustainable" in the long run. A former reporter and presenter for BBC Radio 4, he was also the BBC’s Berlin correspondent during the fall of the Berlin Wall. Such experience was put to good use in his first ministerial appointment in 2001 at the Foreign Office. He won his parliamentary seat in Exeter in 1997, standing as a pro-European against the Conservative’s Eurosceptic candidate. He is supporting David Miliband in the Labour leadership battle: “David's breadth of leadership skills and experience, combined with his clear vision of where he wants to take the party and Britain also, offers our best chance of winning again in Norwich, Swindon and Milton Keynes, without which there won't be another Labour government.”
RACHEL JOHNSON has been Editor of The Lady since last year. She won the 2008 Bad Sex Award for her novel, Shire Hell. The award is given to the passage considered to be the most redundant in an otherwise excellent novel and Rachel’s winning lines included: "I find myself gripping his ears...and a strange animal noise escapes from me”. The book was a sequel to her debut novel Notting Hell, a witty take on the lives of the inhabitants of the wealthy London neighbourhood Notting Hill, in which she herself lives. Her first book, The Mummy Diaries, was a collection of her columns which ran in The Daily Telegraph under the same title. She started out as a journalist on the Financial Times where she was the paper’s first female graduate trainee. She was, she says, almost its last as she managed to spend ‘a healthy proportion of her five years at the pink either on maternity leave or working on secondment to a Foreign Office think-tank’. Her latest book is published this month and is called A Diary of The Lady: My First year as Editor.
JOHN KAMPFNER is a commentator, author and Chief Executive of Index on Censorship, which probes abuses of freedom of expression. He was editor of the New Statesman from 2005-2008, before which he had been the publication’s political editor. Writing this week about Harriet Harman versus Peter Mandelson in the fight to be the next Labour leader, he condemned Labour's "paucity of political ambition" stating, "None of the protagonists seems to appreciate that political vision goes beyond the act of winning power and keeping it." He is the author of Blair's Wars, which offered a critical analysis of Tony Blair’s foreign policy and his new book Freedom for Sale will be published later this year. He began his career as a foreign correspondent with The Daily Telegraph, first in East Berlin where he reported on the fall of the Wall and the unification of Germany, and then in Moscow at the time of the coup and the collapse of Soviet Communism. On returning to the UK in the mid-1990s, he became Chief Political Correspondent at the Financial Times and then political commentator for the BBC's Today programme. He is also the Chair of the board of Turner Contemporary, a visual arts organisation that is currently building a £17.4m gallery in Margate to mark J.M.W Turner's association with the town.
DAVID LIDDINGTON is Minister for Europe. It is one of the most senior posts outside Cabinet and his appointment in May was seen as a sign of the influence of Nick Clegg. Lidington is regarded as a Euro-realist rather than a sceptic. This week he announced plans for a so-called “referendum lock” on any future surrendering of British powers to the European Union: “This Bill will make sure that never again will powers be transferred in a new treaty from Britain to Brussels without the British people having a say in a referendum.” Critics, however, have said that the government is already handing over powers to Europe, on bank supervision, for instance. He is used to working with the Foreign Secretary William Hague as he was his Parliamentary aide for two years when Hague was Tory leader. He became MP for Aylesbury in 1992 after several years as an adviser to Douglas Hurd. In opposition his jobs included Shadow Secretary of State for Agriculture and Northern Ireland.
Any Questions is the topical discussion programme chaired by Jonathan Dimbleby in which a panel of…