Who is on Question Time tonight? Here’s your guide…
The BBC’s flagship current affairs programme tonight comes from Middlesbrough, hometown of gravel-voiced guitar stalwart Chris Rea. But which of the guests will have nothing to fear – and who’s on the road to Hell? Here’s your complete guide to the panel…
Who? Well, quite. Junior health minister
Barely a household name in his own household, the junior minister is so obscure his Wikipedia entry is, at 751 words, shorter than that of little-remembered 1990s BBC TV comedy The Glam Metal Detectives. As much as he is known for anything at Westminster it is for being an über-loyalist, earning him rapid promotions to, first, a junior justice minister under Theresa May and now at health since first being elected in 2015. Has a backstory unlikely to inspire a rags-to-riches Disney tear-jerker any time soon: grammar school, Oxford, a job in the office of Michael Ancram, management consultancy and Westminster City Council before being parachuted into the constituency of Charnwood, a Leicestershire seat with which he had no links whatsoever. A safe pair of hands for the Tories tonight, Edward Argar is widely believed never to have said or thought anything interesting.
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 subject routinely shown to have the most emotional heft. At least that was the case until December when he said in a leaked recording of a phone call to a Tory friend that Jeremy Corbyn would not win the election. The friend leaked it to the right-wing Guido Fawkes website and Ashworth claimed he was trying to “psyche out” his friend “like football managers do”. Has since conceded that the leaker was “clearly not a friend” and, besides, he was proved right. Said earlier this month that “unless we do something quick this could be the end of the Labour Party in this country”, a warning activists reacted to by organising a boycott of a tea firm and a candidate for the deputy leadership proposing setting up a cinema club to watch I, Daniel Blake.
Who? Social entrepreneur, life peer and (checks) not the one from Rory Bremner
Founder of The Big Issue and crossbench member of the House of Lords, Bird’s rise up the greasy pole is very much like that of Edward Argar, except with bouts of homelessness, petty crime and several spells in prison before building upon his education in the big house and setting up a small-scale printing and publishing business in London. Launched The Big Issue with Gordon Roddick, co-founder of The Body Shop, with The Big Issue Foundation, to further support vendors, following four years later. Created a peer in 2015, used his maiden speech to say: “Someone said to me, ‘How did you get into the House of Lords?’ and I said, ‘By lying, cheating and stealing’.” Confessed in 2010 that “my secret is that I’m really a working-class Tory. I’d love to be a liberal because they’re the nice people, but it’s really hard work. I can’t swallow their gullibility.”
Who? Editor of the Daily Mirror
Editor of the Mirror since 2018 – the paper’s first female editor since its first, Mary Howarth, in 1903 – keeping it Labour’s most reliable cheerleader on Fleet Street after its initially rocky relationship with Team Corbyn. The paper did, however, remain largely mute on a second referendum given a largely northern-based working-class readership who had voted Leave. Columnist of the Year at the National Press Awards in 2018, this week she tackled the big issue of the coronavirus, saying “to be honest, if it takes a global pandemic to make my little boy wash his hands a bit more often, it’s probably a price worth paying”. Launch editor of The New Day, which featured no leading articles, website or columns and lasted two months before being closed down. The Mirror, though, remains the home of Andy Capp – who, awkwardly, almost certainly voted Tory in December.
Who? Divorce lawyer
“Britain’s top divorce lawyer”, according to Ayesha Vardag’s website, the 51-year-old solicitor made her name in the 2010 Radmacher v Granatino Supreme Court case which changed the law to make prenuptial agreements legally enforceable in England and Wales. The Evening Standard called her “one of the star lawyers turning London into the divorce capital of the world”. Apparently styling herself as “the president” at her offices, she has also been involved in the fight for no-fault divorce, campaigning for the law to change at the Conservative party conference. That said, she has advice on staying married: “Spending time together – don’t have that extra meeting with that important client. Go and be at home with your family, put the kids in front of a DVD, and go have sex.” Or, er, watch Question Time. Shoo-in for tonight’s “well, I’m not a politician, but [inset crowd-pleasing piece of bloody common sense]…” panellist.
Question Time is on BBC One at 10.35pm tonight (11.15pm in Northern Ireland)