Question Time tonight features a virtual audience drawn from… all over the UK, producers having apparently ditched their virtual tour across the country. But who’s on the panel? Here’s your guide…
Who? Minister for children
BOOM! Heading up the panel for the government as Question Time embarks on its 42nd year is, er, Vicky Ford, junior minister of 11 months’ standing and MP for Chelmsford since 2017. This week penned a no-holds-barred diary of the week of an MP for the Essex Chronicle: “I’ve set up a lot of personal things I need to do, visiting the house I’m buying with a builder and going to the dentist with my student sons before they return to uni. But my phone keeps pinging with messages from MPs who are concerned by the ever-growing Covid cases across the country.” Get out of the way, Sasha Swire!
Who? Shadow health secretary
Jon Ashworth. You know, Jon Ashworth? The shadow health secretary? The Labour frontbencher has remained largely imperceptible to the electorate despite shadowing the health portfolio during AN ACTUAL PANDEMIC (and having a Wikipedia entry with a curiously long section on his views on the NHS). Did, however, push the government to consider the use of 24-hour vaccination sites to facilitate quicker distribution at a time a Tory spokesman was briefing journalists that nobody would want to go out and get a life-saving jab after 8pm because it’s a bit dark and The Repair Shop’s on. The government has since backtracked.
Who? SNP spokeswoman on health at Westminster
Confusingly an SNP spokeswoman at Westminster on a topic entirely devolved to Holyrood, Whitford’s appearance tonight is, if anything, an annoyance to nationalists with their tweets already scheduled about the continued lack of SNP representation on QT. Was the SNP MP who had Covid testing mansplained to her by Matt Hancock in the Commons last month when the English health secretary, who has spent almost his entire career in politics, told Whitford, a doctor of nearly four decades’ standing, she should “go back [and] study the details”. Has said a Scotland remaining in the UK was “stuck in the boot of Boris’ car with duct tape over our mouths”.
Who? Chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing
Leader of the nurses’ union since 2018, Kinnair is this week’s Person Who Might Actually Know What They’re Talking About. Spoke yesterday about how nurses had been left feeling as if they had “no fuel left in the tank” while caring for Covid patients, saying: “Their resilience is being seriously tested. Nursing staff need help now to deal with unimaginable levels of anxiety and stress, but there must also be a long-term plan to tackle problems, like PTSD, which may reoccur over many years.” Conspiracy-seeking Boris-backers on Twitter will probably prefer to note that her surname is a portmanteau of two Labour leaders since 1983.
Who? Former chief constable of Durham Constabulary
Maverick former Durham police chief described as thus in an Economist profile two years ago: “The bulky, bald Lancastrian… rules Durham Constabulary in idiosyncratic style. He burps and swears – a lot – in meetings. Once, he set his annual plan to music.” Well, quite. Retired in 2019 and now a media-friendly ex-cop talking head, saying this week that there was “no wonder” people were confused about the Covid rules after two women in Derbyshire were stopped and fined while going for a walk with hot drinks. Still, if a coffee constitutes a picnic at least we’ve solved whether a Scotch egg is a substantial meal.
Question Time is on BBC One at 10.45pm tonight (11.25pm in Northern Ireland)