THIS WEEK'S PANEL
MICHAEL PORTILLO is a broadcaster and former Defence Secretary. His career at Westminster was abruptly, though temporarily, ended in 1997 when he lost his Enfield Southgate seat to Labour’s Stephen Twigg in what became for many a defining moment of the election. It was a seat he had held for thirteen years, during which time he had risen swiftly as a minister, firstly in Margaret Thatcher’s government and then as a member of John Major’s shadow cabinet, where one of his roles was as Secretary of State for Defence. He returned to the House of Commons in 1999 as MP for Kensington and Chelsea after a by-election. Under William Hague’s leadership he became Shadow Chancellor, and after the party’s defeat in 2001, he launched his own bid for the leadership. It was lost by a single vote and he returned to the backbenches. He stood down as an MP at the last election. His parliamentary defeat in 1997 led to a media career which has flourished, from the documentaries such as Portillo’s Progress and last year’s Great British Railway Journeys, to a regular slot on the sofa in BBC One’s This Week. Last year he presented a Radio 4 series about the development of democracy, Democracy on Trial.
KEN LIVINGSTONE is Labour’s candidate in May’s election for Mayor of London. He defeated the former MP Oona King in a primary last year. This year’s election will be a re-run of the 2008 election which he lost to Boris Johnson. Ken had served two terms and eight years as Mayor, starting out as an independent after being expelled from the Labour Party for standing against the party candidate in 2000. He had repeatedly promised not to stand against his party if he lost the battle for his party's nomination. Tony Blair, who had warned he would be a "disaster", said at the time: "I think I should be big enough to say the prediction I made has not turned out right." Ken came to prominence in 1981 as leader of the Greater London Council for five years until its abolition in 1986, and went on to serve as Labour MP for Brent East from 1987 until 2001. As Mayor, he introduced the congestion charge and the bendy bus. His love of newts is well known. He worked for eight years as a cancer research technician and also qualified as a teacher in 1973, but never went into the profession.
MATTHEW PARRIS is a columnist for The Times and a prolific writer and broadcaster. He joined the paper as a parliamentary sketch writer in 1998, a role he held until 2001. He has first-hand experience of Westminster having been a Conservative MP in Derbyshire for seven years until 1986. He described himself this week as, “a rock-solid supporter of what this Government is trying to do” but said he had, “felt unsettled by the fairytale story of people and politicians joining hands to end handouts and usher in a new age of fiscal realism... It is important to learn to be hated, and to be comfortable being hated; and to attract dislike on purpose, not by mistake.” Last summer he admitted that he got into trouble during a swim across the Thames in London: he had planned to swim across the river at high tide to reduce the risk of being swept upstream. However, he had not realised that navigational tables were in Greenwich Mean Time. As it was British Summer Time when he made the attempt, high tide was an hour later than he had expected. Consequently he was swept three-quarters of a mile upriver from Limehouse. He began his career at the Foreign Office, moved to the Conservative Research Department, and later worked in Margaret Thatcher’s private office when leader of the Opposition. He has published many books on travel and politics, with an autobiography Chance Witness for which he won the Orwell Prize in 2004. He presents Great Lives for BBC Radio 4.
DAME VIVIENNE WESTWOOD is one of the country’s best-known fashion designers. She sometimes listens to Any Questions but was not very complimentary when quoted last year: "The dumbos who are on that panel; they are so boring, you could write their script. The questions are better than the answers." She has won British Fashion Designer of the Year twice and in 2007 was given the British Fashion Council’s award for Outstanding Achievement in Fashion. She began designing in 1971 along with her partner Malcolm McLaren and the showcase for their ideas and designs was their shop in Kings Road, London. Initially called Let It Rock, in 1972 the shop was renamed Too Fast To Live, Too Young To Die and sold Zoot suits, clothing with zips and chains as well as T-shirts with slogans. In 1974 it was renamed Sex and sold provocative clothing, including rubberwear for the office, leather bondage and pornographic images, including a T-shirt with the photographic print of a woman’s naked breasts. With 1976 came punk and a name change to Seditionaries and this was followed in 1981 by World’s End. In the late ‘80s her focus changed, with traditional Savile Row tailoring techniques, British fabrics and 17th and 18th century art providing inspiration. In 2004 the V&A put on a retrospective of her work to celebrate her 34 years in fashion – the largest exhibition ever devoted to a living British fashion designer. Nowadays she has been heard to say “don’t buy clothes” and has described herself as “traumatised” by the prospect of climate change. In 2005 she set up Active Resistance, a project to encourage engagement with humanitarian and environmental issues. She was at the 2008 G20 protests in London, dressed in a bandana that read "Chaos".
Any Questions? with Jonathan Dimbleby is the topical debate programme in which guests from the…