THIS WEEK'S PANEL
RUTH LEA is one of the country’s best-known economists. She is currently Economics Adviser to the Arbuthnot Banking Group and said recently of monetary union: “The whole ghastly euro experiment is out of control. Greece, Portugal and Ireland are all likely to be driven out, and even Spain could be a casualty.” In 2007, she became a Director of Global Vision, which campaigns for a “middle way” in Britain’s relationship with Europe as an alternative to what it describes as the existing “polarised choices.” She was Director of the rightwing think tank, Centre for Policy Studies from 2004 to 2007. For eight years she was Head of Policy at the Institute of Directors where she was often a critical voice of the Government. Before that she was the Economics Editor at ITN, Chief Economist at Mitsubishi Bank and Chief UK Economist at Lehman Brothers. She also spent 16 years in the Civil Service in the Treasury, the Department of Trade and Industry and the Central Statistical Office. She has served on, amongst other bodies, the Council of the Royal Economic Society, the National Consumer Council, the Nurses' Pay Review Body and the Retail Prices Advisory Committee.
ANDY BURNHAM is Shadow Secretary of State for Education and the Labour Party’s election co-ordinator. He stood for leadership of the party this year but was eliminated in the second round of voting. During the campaign he had described his Party as, “at its worst...self indulgent, arrogant, elitist, London-centric...It looked hollow and rootless at times." Since he took his seat at Westminster as MP for Leigh in 2001, he has made swift progress to the top table. In 2007 he was promoted to Chief Secretary to the Treasury, and eight months later took his second Cabinet seat as Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport before he was moved to be Secretary of State for Health last year. In 2006 he was tipped as ‘Minister to Watch’ by The Spectator magazine. Born in Liverpool, he studied English at Cambridge and went straight to parliament as researcher to Tessa Jowell on the opposition health team.
RORY STEWART became the Conservative MP for Penrith and the Border in the last general election. Born in Hong Kong, he grew up in Malaysia and served briefly as an officer in the British Army, before going to Oxford and then joining the British Diplomatic Service. He worked in the British Embassy in Indonesia and then, in the wake of the Kosovo campaign, as the British Representative in Montenegro. In 2000 he took two years off and began walking from Turkey to Bangladesh. He covered 6,000 miles on foot alone across Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Nepal - a journey described in his book The Places in Between. In 2003, he became the coalition Deputy Governor of Maysan and Dhi Qar, two provinces in the Marsh Arab region of Southern Iraq, and later wrote a book about the experience called The Prince of the Marshes and Other Occupational Hazards of a Year in Iraq. He lived in Kabul from 2006-2008 and founded the Turquoise Mountain Foundation, which invests in the regeneration of the historic commercial centre of Kabul. He was appointed to a professorial chair at Harvard University as the Ryan Family Professor of Human Rights at the beginning of 2009 and became Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School.
TIM FARRON is President Elect of the Liberal Democrats, having won a contest against Susan Kramer last month. He explained his vote against a rise in tuition fees (which he has called “the poll tax of our generation”) this week: “The sticking point for me is that I made a promise to my electorate". A former member of the NUS executive, he also supported the student’s protest: “I don't want to be flippant about it, but it's part of being a student really that you should get out on the streets and make your voice heard.” Having already described the coalition as a poor ideological fit, in July he told the BBC what he thought the Conservatives’ motivation was: "Why would David Cameron have given us such a good deal? The answer is, first of all, we are providing some cover for them. The reality is that David Cameron has a toxic brand....His brand, including most of his MPs, are toxic.” After university Farron worked as a senior manager at St Martin's College at Ambleside, Lancaster and Carlisle and he became MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale in 2005. He has the second highest Lib Dem vote share in the UK. Following the election of Nick Clegg as Party Leader in December 2007, he served as the Party’s spokesman on Environment and Rural Affairs. In the summer he stood against Simon Hughes to be the party’s deputy leader and received support from a third of the Parliamentary party.
Any Questions is the topical discussion programme chaired by Jonathan Dimbleby in which a panel of…