THIS WEEK'S PANEL
AMANDA PLATELL is a broadcaster and columnist for the Daily Mail. She was not a fan of last week’s coverage of the Pope’s visit: “Thanks to the BBC and a noisy cabal of self-important atheists and Catholic-haters, we have been subjected to wall-to-wall attacks on the Pope and his Church”. Neither does she approve of the way the Prime Minister and his deputy are organising their time, writing in June: “trumpeting the decision of Nick - who's also revealed that he insists on going home to put his children to bed - and Dave to work 'flexi-time' is an inept and self-serving piece of spin. Cameron and Clegg need to spend more time worrying about the state of Britain and less time doing the school run”. She was head of media for the Conservative Party under William Hague and his spin doctor during the 2001 general election. After that she worked alongside Piers Morgan as co-presenters of the Morgan and Platell show on Channel 4. Born in Australia, she has been editor of the Sunday Express (1998-99) and acting editor of the Sunday Mirror (1996-97).
CHRIS HUHNE is Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change. At this week’s party conference, he urged members to back the coalition commitment to new nuclear power even though it went against his party's policy, telling them: ''A deal is a deal.'' He also announced that the Government expects the energy efficiency sector to employ 246,000 people by 2030, as part of a “green deal”. Before the election he had spent three years as the Liberal Democrats’ Home Affairs and Justice spokesman. In his Conference speech last year, Nick Clegg asked delegates to imagine a Lib Dem Cabinet: “You know Chris won't be put off by technocrats saying it can't be done. He'll produce volumes of statistics showing he's right and look sternly over his glasses until they cave in.” In 2007, Huhne was narrowly defeated in his party’s last leadership contest by Nick Clegg who won by only 511 votes. It was his second attempt at the top job. He was elected MP for Eastleigh in 2005, having spent six years in the European Parliament as MEP for the South East Region. Before going into politics, he was a city economist and an award-winning financial journalist. He has seven houses.
DOUGLAS ALEXANDER has been co-chairing David Miliband’s campaign for the Labour leadership. His choice of brother was a surprise as he was thought to be closer to Ed, having holidayed with him several times and worked with him in the run up to the election: Douglas as Chief election co-ordinator and Ed as author of the Labour manifesto. Explaining his choice, Douglas said, “It is time not to ditch the approach which brought us three election victories and set the agenda for our opponents, but to develop it and adapt it for the age we are now in.” He is also Shadow Secretary of State for International Development, a post he held in Government: he was one of Gordon Brown’s first cabinet appointments. He had served under Tony Blair in a dual role as Secretary of State for Transport and Secretary of State for Scotland. He was the youngest minister when he joined the government in 2001 at the age of 33 and was seen as one of Gordon Brown’s protégés, having worked as his researcher from 1990-91. He played a key role as campaign co-ordinator in the 2001 general election and before moving to the Department for Transport, he had been Europe Minister. He is MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South.
WILL STRAW is editor of leftfootforward.org, which describes itself as “a political blog for progressives. We provide evidence-based analysis on British politics, policy, and current affairs”. It is one of Wikio’s Top Five most influential political blogs in the UK and Will Straw was named one of the “best political pundits on the web” by The Observer this year. At this year’s party conferences, leftfootforward has been working together with Conservative Home and Lib Dem Voice to produce and distribute a conference newspaper, Litmus: “a limited edition newspaper in which leading thinkers from across the political spectrum address six key questions facing Britain today”. One of the contributors is Chris Huhne. Will is a visiting fellow at the Center for American Progres and was a 2007-08 Fulbright Scholar, gaining a master of public administration at Columbia University. He worked at the UK Treasury from 2003-07 and is suspicious of Nick Clegg’s explanations for his change of heart on cutting the deficit: “His justification for switching from being a Keynesian to a deficit hawk does not stack up.”
Any Questions is the topical discussion programme chaired by Jonathan Dimbleby in which a panel of…