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Who is on the BBC Question Time panel tonight?

Fiona Bruce, presenter of the BBC's Question Time - Credit: BBC

Who is on Question Time tonight and where do they stand on Brexit? Here’s your guide…

It’s all change for the BBC’s flagship current affairs programme tonight following last season’s much-hyped, budget-blowing CGI ending in which David Dimbleby regenerated as Fiona Bruce. But will a new presenter at the helm herald a calmer, less abrasive approach? Will Bruce refer to glasses as spectacles? And most importantly, who’s on the panel – and where do they stand on Brexit? Here’s your guide to the line-up in London…

James Cleverly

Who? Deputy chair of the Conservative Party

Where is he on Brexit? A backer of the hardline Leave Means Leave group, he is an enthusiastic backer of ‘reconnecting with the Commonwealth’ with its ‘shared language, common law tradition, diaspora networks and historic cultural links’

A former soldier, Cleverly was handed the role of Tory deputy chairman a year ago on the basis they were hopeless on social media and he appeared to know how to work Tweetdeck. A partisan bruiser, he has publicly questioned whether a no-deal Brexit would really harm the economy, although his position in the party means he has urged wavering Brexiteers to stand by Theresa May’s deal. Warned his colleagues yesterday that ‘some colleagues, perhaps out of frustration, are saying foolish things about other Conservatives. Now would be a good time to stop’. Not short of self-confidence, asked in 2015 who should succeed David Cameron as Tory party leader when he stood down, he responded: ‘Me.’ Has admitted smoking exotic herbal cigarettes and watching special adult time online.

Emily Thornberry

Who? Shadow foreign secretary

Where is she on Brexit? An ardent Remain campaigner during the referendum, Thornberry has increasingly given the impression Brexit is somewhere below what she’s having for lunch in her list of priorities

Thornberry won few plaudits last year for saying that Labour would ‘probably’ back Theresa May’s agreement, saying: ‘What’s the nature of the divorce? And I think if past evidence of the last few months is anything to go on, it’s going to be a ‘blah, blah, blah’ divorce.’ Has since been one of the first frontbenchers to say that Labour should seek to delay Brexit by extending the Article 50 period if it won power in this snap general election it is still touchingly convinced is about to happen. Previously seen as being on Labour’s soft left, Thornberry’s Islington South and Finsbury constituency neighbours Jeremy Corbyn’s and she has signed up to his project unconditionally, saying at the weekend that the People’s Vote movement saw the campaign as more of an ‘opportunity to attack’ the Absolute Boy rather than making the case to stay in the bloc. Probably Parliament’s most accomplished performer of the theatrical eye-roll.

Jo Swinson

Who? Deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats

Where is she on Brexit? Passionate Remainer who has warned that her side needed to change the language in which they talked about the benefits of the EU if they were going to win over previous Leave voters to their cause

Deputy leader of the only UK-wide party committed wholesale to an ‘exit for Brexit’ since June 2017 and a favourite for the top job once Vince Cable tires of doing whatever it is he does these days. Swinson told a conference of people largely wrapped up in the European Union flag last year that ‘in reality wrapping ourselves up in the European Union flag, while it might make ourselves feel better, is not going to change people’s minds – the people whose minds in particular we need to change’. Main contribution to Brexit headlines last year was when, weeks after giving birth, she was ‘paired’ with Tory chairman Brandon Lewis so she could be at home with her baby son during the Trade Bill vote. Lewis duly went on to vote anyway. Was a business minister in the coalition, which Thornberry will remind her of regardless of the question at hand.

Nish Kumar

Who? Comedian, actor and radio presenter

Where he is on Brexit? A ‘whingeing, unfunny, remoaning, anti-Brexit BBC ethnic poster boy’. His words

A rising star of stand-up, Kumar has written of being told to ‘go home’ while on stage at London’s Comedy Store the night after the Brexit vote, saying ‘no one has told me to go home for 16 years, and I assumed the idea had been forgotten’. The presenter of the BBC’s Mash Report, often described as a British Last Week Tonight in the way that 1990s Denise van Outen sitcom Babes in the Wood was a British Seinfeld, some of his down-the-camera monologues have gone viral. In particular, he has urged people to stop using Brexiteer as an insult as ‘it sounds like Musketeer and makes them sound too cool’ and described headbanger MEP Daniel Hannan as ‘the inspiration for the film Boss Baby’. As a ‘representative of the younger generation’ asked older Leave voters: ‘Why do you hate us? Was it fidget spinners? Was it the Kaiser Chiefs, was it the Star Wars prequels? We hate them too.’

Melanie Phillips

Who? Journalist, author and commentator

Where is she on Brexit? Hardline Brexiteer who has said that ‘since the EU is a protectionist cartel designed to stifle competition and freedom from its diktats, no-deal Brexit was always the only show in town’

Journalist universally nicknamed Mad Mel by her colleagues following her very public journey from Guardian left-winger to social conservative (she describes herself as a liberal ‘mugged by reality’). Fervently opposed to a second referendum on the grounds it would unleash ‘hatred, bitterness and recriminations’, she has dismissed difficulties being sparked by a no-deal Brexit, writing that ‘the former Brexit secretary David Davis has said these claims are ‘proven nonsense’ and ‘scare stories”. Yes – she takes David Davis at his word. A defender of Donald Trump, she has described modern Britain as ‘a debauched and disorderly culture of instant gratification’, is opposed to gay rights and has insisted there is ‘no evidence’ for global warming. On the other hand her Wikipedia picture, a side-on view of her apparently walking down a housing block balcony, is quite funny.

Question Time is on BBC One at 10.45pm tonight (11.20pm in Northern Ireland)

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