The New Statesman and Frontline Club debate

Final panel for the debate announced, plus submit your own questions to Julian Assange and co.

"This house believes whistleblowers make the world a safer place"
Saturday 9 April 2011, 5pm, Kensington Town Hall

Coming to the New Statesman and Frontline Club debate on Saturday? Audience members are being invited to submit their questions to the panel in advance of Saturday's debate. A selection of questions will be chosen by the chair. If you want to put a question to the panel at the debate then submit it here.

We are also delighted to announce that Mehdi Hasan and Clayton Swisher will speak alongside Julian Assange for the proposition, while Sir David Richmond, Bob Ayers and Douglas Murray will oppose the motion. For full bios see below:

Proposition:

Julian Assange, editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks

Julian Assange is the 39-year-old editor in chief of WikiLeaks. Queensland-born Assange has been the subject of public calls for his assassination by leading US politicians and faces an ongoing espionage investigation. In 2010 he overwhelmingly won Time magazine's Readers' Choice Person of the Year poll and was named Le Monde's Man of the Year. He has also been awarded the Amnesty International UK Media Award and the Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence. In February 2011 his organisation, WikiLeaks, was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize after publishing three of the biggest leaks of classified information in history, the Afghan War Diaries, the Iraq War Logs and Cablegate.

Clayton Swisher, head of al-Jazeera's Transparency Unit

Clayton Swisher is the head of al-Jazeera's Transparency Unit (the team that produced the Palestine Papers in January 2011). An ex-federal investigator-turned-investigative journalist, he is a former director of programmes at the Middle East Institute and a current term member of the Council on Foreign Relations. As a journalist, he has covered the 2008 US presidential elections, the Arab-Israeli conflict and the ongoing war in Afghanistan. He has also authored two books: The Truth About Camp David (New York: Nation Books, 2004) and The Palestine Papers: the End of the Road? (London: Hesperus, 31 March 2011).

Mehdi Hasan, senior political editor, New Statesman

Mehdi Hasan is the senior political editor of New Statesman. He was a former editor in the news and current affairs department at Channel 4, where he worked on the award-winning Dispatches documentary strand. He is a regular guest on Sky News and the BBC, appearing regularly on Question Time and The Daily Politics. He is an occasional presenter on LBC radio and the co-author of a forthcoming biography of Ed Miliband – Ed Miliband and the Remaking of the Labour Party (London: Biteback, summer 2011).

Opposition:

Sir David Richmond, former director, defence and intelligence, British Foreign and Commonwealth Office

David Richmond was a British diplomat for more than 30 years. His career included postings to Baghdad, Brussels and New York, where he worked on the UN Security Council. In 2000 he became the first UK representative to the EU's political and security committee in Brussels and was closely involved in the creation of European security and defence policy. In 2003 he returned to Baghdad (where he had first been posted 20 years earlier) and was later appointed UK special representative for Iraq. In his last posting, he was director general for general defence and intelligence and a member of the Foreign Office Board.

Bob Ayers, former director of the US Department of Defence Information Systems Security Programme

Bob Ayers had a distinguished career in the US government. In 1992, he was appointed director of the defence department's Information Systems Security Programme. He next assumed the post of director, defensive information warfare, leading the programme designed to protect DoD systems from systematic cyber attacks. From 1990-92, he was responsible for the security of more than 40,000 classified intelligence-processing systems at 55 locations across the world. Bob is a noted public figure, appearing on television and radio in the US, in the UK and worldwide, and publishing many articles.

Douglas Murray, author and political commentator

Douglas Murray is a bestselling writer and award-winning political commentator. Since 2007 he has been director of the Centre for Social Cohesion. From April 2011 he will be associate director of the Henry Jackson Society. Murray appears regularly in the British and foreign media. A frequent guest on Question Time and Newsnight, he is also a columnist for Standpoint magazine and writes for many other publications, including the Spectator and Wall Street Journal. In 2008 he co-authored Victims of Intimidation: Freedom of Speech Within Europe's Muslim Communities. His latest book, on the Saville inquiry into Bloody Sunday, will be published later this year.

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I believe only Yvette Cooper has the breadth of support to beat Jeremy Corbyn

All the recent polling suggests Andy Burnham is losing more votes than anyone else to Jeremy Corbyn, says Diana Johnson MP.

Tom Blenkinsop MP on the New Statesman website today says he is giving his second preference to Andy Burnham as he thinks that Andy has the best chance of beating Jeremy.

This is on the basis that if Yvette goes out first all her second preferences will swing behind Andy, whereas if Andy goes out first then his second preferences, due to the broad alliance he has created behind his campaign, will all or largely switch to the other male candidate, Jeremy.

Let's take a deep breath and try and think through what will be the effect of preferential voting in the Labour leadership.

First of all, it is very difficult to know how second preferences will switch. From my telephone canvassing there is some rather interesting voting going on, but I don't accept that Tom’s analysis is correct. I have certainly picked up growing support for Yvette in recent weeks.

In fact you can argue the reverse of Tom’s analysis is true – Andy has moved further away from the centre and, as a result, his pitch to those like Tom who are supporting Liz first is now narrower. As a result, Yvette is more likely to pick up those second preferences.

Stats from the Yvette For Labour team show Yvette picking up the majority of second preferences from all candidates – from the Progress wing supporting Liz to the softer left fans of Jeremy – and Andy's supporters too. Their figures show many undecideds opting for Yvette as their first preference, as well as others choosing to switch their first preference to Yvette from one of the other candidates. It's for this reason I still believe only Yvette has the breadth of support to beat Jeremy and then to go on to win in 2020.

It's interesting that Andy has not been willing to make it clear that second preferences should go to Yvette or Liz. Yvette has been very clear that she would encourage second preferences to be for Andy or Liz.

Having watched Andy on Sky's Murnaghan show this morning, he categorically states that Labour will not get beyond first base with the electorate at a general election if we are not economically credible and that fundamentally Jeremy's economic plans do not add up. So, I am unsure why Andy is so unwilling to be clear on second preferences.

All the recent polling suggests Andy is losing more votes than anyone else to Jeremy. He trails fourth in London – where a huge proportion of our electorate is based.

So I would urge Tom to reflect more widely on who is best placed to provide the strongest opposition to the Tories, appeal to the widest group of voters and reach out to the communities we need to win back. I believe that this has to be Yvette.

The Newsnight focus group a few days ago showed that Yvette is best placed to win back those former Labour voters we will need in 2020.

Labour will pay a massive price if we ignore this.

Diana Johnson is the Labour MP for Hull North.