Who is on Question Time tonight? Here’s your guide
In these dark and frightening times, one tiny piece of good has come out of the coronavirus crisis: Question Time is without a studio audience. But while tonight’s episode – due, at the time of writing, to come from Weston-super-Mare – may lack ruddy-faced gentlemen of a certain age demanding not a penny is diverted from the 2022 Brexit festival, there is a panel. Here’s your complete guide…
Who? Health secretary
A one-time candidate for the Conservative leadership, he dropped out of last year’s race after coming sixth in the first ballot of MPs with 20 votes. Said during the campaign that the idea of suspending parliament ‘goes against everything those men who waded onto those beaches fought and died for – and I will not have it,’ an opposition that he dropped rapidly once appointed to Boris Johnson’s cabinet and the PM did indeed suspend Parliament. Like Groucho Marx, Hancock has principles and, if you don’t like them, he’s got others. Once the proud purveyor of a Matt Hancock app called Matt Hancock, which allowed users to watch live video streams of Matt Hancock and had to change its policies following concerns about its use of data, he also boasted he was prepared for a no-deal Brexit as he was the world’s largest buyer of fridges. Now worryingly in charge of dealing with coronavirus.
Who? Mayor of Greater Manchester
Greater Manchester’s Liverpudlian mayor, Andy Burnham is an Everton-supporting former health secretary, one-time candidate for the Labour leadership and a man who’s such a bloody northerner that, asked Mumsnet’s traditional question of what his favourite biscuit is, replied ‘beer and chips and gravy’. Was health secretary in 2009 during the outbreak of swine flu and used his experience of that at the weekend to call for a daily televised press conference on coronavirus, led by chief medical officer Chris Whitty, to be introduced – an innovation which Boris Johnson’s government has since belatedly gone ahead with. Was favourite to be elected Labour leader in 2010 but ran a campaign so dispiritingly bland it allowed an eccentric backbencher with no experience of anything to win and lead the party to its most crushing election result in 84 years.
Professor of neurology, director of the Institute of Infection and Global Health at the University of Liverpool and director of the National Institute for Health Research, Health Protection Research Unit in Emerging and Zoonotic Infections, Solomon is the beneficiary of Question Time’s occasional policy of booking somebody who might actually know what they’re talking about. Wrote yesterday: ‘The number of UK coronavirus patients will definitely increase. The number is doubling every few days. With fewer than 1,500 patients in the UK, we are not quite at the point of introducing major social distancing. But it will not be long. And remember, although there will be fatalities, more than 99% of people recover completely.’ A big tweeter under the name @RunningMadProf, he also looks like Josh from The West Wing in his pomp, which should endear him to a certain type of politico.
Who? General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC)
While Andy Burnham has been, in his own words ‘broadly supportive of the government’s response up to now’ and that ‘there is no politics here’, life-long trade unionist O’Grady is likely to be much more partisan. Has said that ‘the government’s coronavirus plans will leave millions of workers behind’ and that ‘the priority now must be to repair the damage of 10 years of Tory devastation’. An occasionally lukewarm backer of the Absolute Boy’s leadership of the Labour Party, she said following Labour’s December election defeat that there must be ‘no recriminations’ and dismissed calls for fundamental reform, saying: ‘We will fight to make sure that the UK’s Brexit trade deals protect labour standards and good jobs – and stop Donald Trump getting his hands on our NHS.’
A protégée of Gordon Ramsay, Hartnett is chef patron for Murano restaurant, Cafe Murano in St James’s and Covent Garden, Cucina Angelina in Courchevel, France, and joint owner of Merchant’s Tavern in Shoreditch. On as a representative of the many restaurants and bars which could be crushed as Boris Johnson’s government urges the public to avoid them while not issuing closure orders which would give them rights to insurance. Said this week: ‘My cup is still very much half full – I want to be there for my team, but I have to be very realistic at the same time and prepare to make some tough decisions. This waiting game we’re playing with the government isn’t helping anyone; by asking people to avoid restaurants, bars, pubs and theatres, rather than simply closing us, we’re seriously suffering.’ Wrote that in the Telegraph, Johnson’s most faithful Fleet Street cheerleader.
Question Time is on BBC One at 8pm tonight