Sean Anstee

Sean is the Leader of Trafford Council and a Vice Chair of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority with portfolio responsibility for Skills, Employment & Worklessness. Sean serves as a Non-Executive Director of Trafford Housing Trust and sits on the North West Regional Leaders Board.


Tristram Hunt MP

When he was merely the biographer and a lowly Labour member of parliament for Stoke-on-Trent, Tristram Hunt spoke for Manchester’s traditions of Marx and Engels. Since then he has once again proved the maxim that speaking at Discuss is good for your career since his promotion to the position of Shadow Education Secretary.


Hardeep Singh Kohli

Hardeep is a broadcaster and writer who appears regularly on both radio and television, as well as comedian and speaker. As a committed supporter of independence for Scotland he played a prominent role in the ‘YES’ campaign during the Scottish referendum on devolution.


Rob Ford

Dr Rob Ford is a politics lecturer at the University of Manchester and the author, with Matthew Goodwin of Revolt on the Right, a book on UKIP and the BNP


Loz Kaye

Loz Kaye is leader of Pirate Party UK. The Pirate Party is part of a worldwide movement standing for freedom of the Internet, civil liberties and a politics fit for the 21st century. He has spoken widely on Wikileaks, digital rights and intellectual property, with appearances on the BBC, CNN and Russia Today amongst others. He tweets @LozKaye


David Fernandez-Arias

David Fernandez-Arias is a supporter of the referendum campaign for more democracy in Manchester’s devolution settlement and has been involved in recent campaigns against changes to the NHS in Trafford.


Dr. Kailash Chand

Dr. Kailash Chand is deputy chair of the British Medical Association (BMA) and has worked as a GP since 1983. He is ex-chair of Tameside and Glossop NHS.


Steve Connor

Steve Connor is CEO of communications agency Creative Concern and is the co-author of Tackling Health Inequalities in Greater Manchester, a report by the Oglesby Charitable Foundation and is speaking on behalf of Michael Oglesby.


Claire Reynolds

Claire Reynolds is a Labour councillor for Tameside MBC and a member of the Greater Manchester Joint Health Scrutiny Board. She previously worked as a Political Officer in 10 Downing Street under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. She has experience in the private sector as Head of Communications and Policy for CareandHealth Ltd, and in the third sector as a Policy Advisor for Business in the Community.


Juergen Maier

Continuing the tradition of securing promotion after speaking at Discuss, Juergen was confirmed as Siemens UK CEO in July 2014 and in September was appointed by Vince Cable as Non-Executive Board member at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).

Juergen Maier has been a member of the Siemens UK Executive Management Board since October 2008, and has held a number of senior roles within Siemens in the UK and Germany.


Steven Woolfe

Born and raised in Moss Side Steven Woolfe is a UKIP MEP for North West England as well as the party’s Spokesman for Migration. He was the UKIP candidate for Stockport at the General Election. Steven qualified initially as a barrister but moved into financial services and is presently legal adviser to a company whose clients include hedge funds, banks, property developers and oil companies.


Graeme Hawley

Graeme graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University in 1996 with a degree in Drama before beginning his acting career. He is best known for his role as killer John Stape in the British soap Coronation Street, and also for being a lifelong Coventry City FC supporter!

Lydia Ebdon

Lydia is a Chartered Accountant and Chartered Tax Adviser. She founded the business after a successful career which included working for three of the “Big Four” accountancy firms, in regulation and in industry. Lydia lives in North Yorkshire with her partner Richard. Outside of work she enjoys horse riding and writing. She volunteers for Speakers For Schools and The Prince’s Trust.


Stephen Herring

Stephen Herring graduated from Manchester University with an honours degree in Economics & Politics. He is a member of both the Institute of Chartered Accountants and the Chartered Institute of Taxation. Stephen has specialised in taxation for over thirty years and, before joining the IoD in September 2013, was a partner in three global accounting firms (Grant Thornton, Ernst & Young and BDO) for a total of twenty eight years. He was appointed by the Exchequer Secretary as one of the eight independent members of HM Treasury’s Tax Professionals Forum. He often speaks on taxation and related matters at conferences and he regularly appears in both the national and tax technical press and on the broadcast media. He is a strong supporter of tax simplification and reduced tax rates for both businesses and individuals and believes that it is imperative that the misconceptions about tax planning which are regularly asserted by anti-business lobbyists are aggressively refuted.


John Ashcroft

John Ashcroft is an economist and author of The Saturday Economist. John is Chief Executive of pro.manchester, a Director of Marketing Manchester, a member of the GM Chamber of Commerce Council and the AGMA Business Leadership Council. He is economics adviser to Duff & Phelps , the international and investment banking services specialist and authors the Duff & Phelps monthly financial updates. John is a visiting professor at MMU Business School, specializing in Economics, Corporate Strategy, Business and Financial Modelling and an occasional lecturer at Manchester and Salford Business Schools. 


Alan Dyson

The Professor of Education in the University of Manchester Alan co-directs the Centre for Equity in Education (with Mel Ainscow) and leads work on education in urban contexts. He was formerly Professor of Special Needs Education and Director of the Special Needs Research Centre at the University of Newcastle. He has worked in universities since 1988. Prior to that, Alan spent 13 years as a teacher, mainly in urban comprehensive schools.


Brendan Murden

Brendan set-up CEL Leadership and Change Ltd in January 2013. He was previously the Director of the Centre for Educational Leadership, which he established in The University of Manchester, in 1996. Brendan was instrumental in setting up long term relationships with key agencies in the education field and the public sector and continues this role in the new business. 

Andy Bennett

The youngest debater in our series to date, Andy is a student at Bristol University and a former head boy at the Grange School. He spoke in the private education debate.


Alex Connock

Alex originally joined Shine Group in April 2012 in the broader role of Director of New Business, Shine UK before becoming Managing Director of Shine North, having driven a number of commissions within the Manchester-based production company.

Originally established in 2006, and to date responsible for 14 series from the region, Shine North moved into MediaCityUK, Salford in 2012 with an enhanced production team.

Alex is currently Chairman of RTS, North West, serves as a visiting fellow at Oxford University Reuters Institute and Manchester Business School, and as a director of the Digital Innovation project at Manchester Metropolitan University. He previously was a co-founder and CEO of Ten Alps.


Penny Haslam

Penny Haslam is the founder of PHEW – Penny Haslam’s Expert Women. It helps women take advantage of TV and radio opportunities to appear as experts, at a time when broadcasters are crying out for female contributors.

She was a regular presenter on live TV, bringing the business news to the nation on BBC Breakfast and the News Channel and has fronted two Panorama investigations, as well as reporting and producing for BBC Radio 4 and Five Live.

Having worked in broadcast news journalism for nearly 20 years, on business, economics, personal finance and consumer programmes she has interviewed hundreds of experts and asked thousands of questions, so hosting panel discussions is second nature to her.

Penny also helped spearhead a national TV advertising campaign for Weight Watchers as one of its celebrity ambassadors in 2013.


Jim Poyser

The co-founder of Working Men’s Productions with Mike Perls and Justin Moorhouse, Jim read Russian at Oxford and is a writer and producer of award winning television comedies such as Shameless.

He is the co-creator of recent three-part BBC1 drama The Driver starring David Morrissey) and THE ARCHITECTS  (radio 4 comedy series).

Jim worked as a producer for BBC Comedy from 2006-2010.  Amongst other credits, he produced the series MASSIVE with Ralf Little and Johnny Vegas.  After that he worked for Big Talk Productions in development and in 2011 produced two series for Radio 4: LIVING WITH MOTHER starring Timothy Spall and Alison Steadman, and SHEDTOWN starring Johnny Vegas, Suranne Jones, Kevin Eldon and Ronni Ancona.

Jim was script editor on SHAMELESS 3, which was BAFTA nominated.  Prior to that, between 2001-2005, he worked as a Producer/Director for Radio 4 comedy and drama, directing leading acting talent including Griff Rhys-Jones, Andrew Lincoln, Josie Lawrence, Andrew Sachs, Don Warrington, Brigit Forsyth, Ken Campbell, Roy Barraclough, Michael Angelis and June Whitfield.  Jim has produced shows for every drama slot on radio, including several Classic Serials. The most recent of these – an adaptation by award-winning poet and dramatist Sean O’Brien of Yevgeny Zamyatin’s WE – was described by the Financial Times as “a vision vivid in clarity and freshness fielding a cast without a weak link – solid gold stuff.”


Jeremy Nye

Jeremy Nye is a life long TV audience strategist, including stints at MTV, Star TV, the BBC where he was Head of Insight for the Global News Division, Channel 4 and ITV.  He is currently working at the Financial Times.

Even before researching audiences Jeremy spent time selling cable TV door to door in Westminster and helped gather support for televising of Parliament while a researcher in parliament.  He has an MBA from New York University and blogs about television at  He has two children and lives in Hackney.


Dr Martin Boulton

A sixth-form pupil at Manchester Grammar School during the 1980s, Dr. Martin Boulton returned in September 2013 to take on the top role at the school, which celebrates its 500th anniversary in 2015.

Prior to a career in academia he worked in the mining industry for South African diamond firm DeBeers, before switching to corporate finance firm Andersen.


Denis Campbell

Denis Campbell is health correspondent with the Guardian and the Observer. Since joining the Observer in 1999 he has covered sports news, social affairs and education. He previously worked for the Herald, Scotland on Sunday, Time Out and the Irish Times.


Mary Harding

A poem about Mary Harding:
She’s a bit posh, or so people say
Mary, or Mazza, brightens our day
Hard core exercise is her favourite feed
She also loves a little bit of tweed
She’s only tiny, but she packs a punch
This rugby fan eats people for lunch


Reverend Peter Horlock

To the best of our knowledge, Pete is the first ever ordained minister dedicated to serving the needs of the Manchester city centre business community. He sees the workplace as a key place where we should expect to experience the love, power and provision of God. And also the Etihad Stadium – Pete is also the Chaplain at Manchester City.


Simon Sinclair

After training as an accountant with debatable success, Simon Sinclair has spent the last 30 years helping to stuff the undiscriminating consumer gizzard from some of the biggest, greediest agencies in the world, including Ogilvy and Mather, Cogent Elliott and McCann Erickson. Having won numerous awards for what most consider to be legalised lying, he now runs an agency in the North West, using his trickery to foist shampoo, double glazing, cosmetics and bread products on an unsuspecting public.


Neil McArthur

Dr Neil McArthur MBE, was founder of national telecommunications operator Opal Telecommunications which was acquired by Carphone Warehouse Group, to establish the fixed line division of TalkTalk. After seven years as Managing Director of TalkTalk Technology, Neil was appointed Head of Group Innovation. In1992 he was awarded an MBE for his services to engineering. Neil is a member of the advisory board of Essex Business School and Chairman and a Trustee of the Hamilton Davies Trust, a north west based charity delivering transformational projects in his home town of Irlam.


Tom Cheesewright

Tom is an applied futurist and one of the co-presenters of the monthly Discuss podcast. He works for clients all over Europe, advising them on how they can understand the future and is frequently sought after as a speaker at conferences and seminars.


Sir Richard Leese

Sir Richard Leese is one of the most influential figures in local Labour politics and has been the leader of Manchester City Council since 1996. He is the chair of the Core Cities Group and of Rail North.


Professor Kevin Anderson

One of the world’s leading authorities on climate change, Kevin is the deputy director of the Tyndall Centre for climate change research at the University of Manchester. His work makes clear that there is now little chance of maintaining the rise in global temperature at below 2C, despite repeated high-level statements to the contrary. Moreover, Kevin’s research demonstrates how avoiding even a 4C rise demands a radical reframing of both the climate change agenda and the economic characterisation of contemporary society. Kevin has a decade of industrial experience, principally in the petrochemical industry.



A member of the iconic Manchester band the Happy Mondays, Bez is now a political campaigner and is running for election in Salford. He is a campaigner against tracking at Barton Moss.


Helen Pidd

Helen is Northern Editor of The Guardian. She was born in Morecambe and read German at Edinburgh University, where she won student journalist of the year in 2002. After being The Guardian’s Berlin correspondent she moved to Manchester in 2013 to become Northern Editor, as a keen cyclist she is also the author of “Bicycle – Love Your Bike. The complete guide to everyday cycling”


Right Reverend David Walker

Bishop David Walker was enthroned as Bishop of Manchester at Manchester Cathedral on St Andrew’s Day, 30 November 2013. Born in 1957, David was educated at Manchester Grammar School and King’s College, Cambridge. After a period of study at Queen’s College, Birmingham he was ordained in 1983. His career began with a curacy at St Mary Handsworth, after which he was Team Vicar at Maltby, then Bramley before becoming Bishop of Dudley in 2000.


Andrew Cawley

Andrew joined KPMG in 1995 and has over 25 years’ experience in pensions consulting. Andrew is Head of KPMG Pensions, advising employers and trustees on all aspects of pensions.

He is regarded as a leading expert  in the pensions market in the North West having advised business sponsors and pension trustees on several large scale pension restructuring projects.


Anna Wilson

As head of digital for Manchester’s biggest PR firm Tangerine, Anna works with clients to develop and manage their reputations, connect with audiences and achieve their goals in the online sphere.A large part of Anna’s role is working with organisations to show the impact of social and digital strategies, packaging statistics and data in a meaningful way to demonstrate business results and return on investment.


Nick McAleenan

Nick McAleenan is a media lawyer at JMW Solicitors LLP. He helps clients to protect their reputation, privacy, and confidential information. Nick has represented many high profile clients including well-known personalities and companies from the worlds of sport, entertainment and business.  Nick’s cases often involve national newspapers, TV and radio broadcasters, and well known websites.
Nick has substantial experience of acting in high profile cases, including “phone-hacking” and “super injunction” cases.


Tom Rowland

Tom Rowland established the Daily Telegraph’s property desk in the late 80s, a section he edited until 1997, and wrote for newspapers such as The Times. He is involved in Hacked Off as he found out from Operation Weeting officers that his details were kept in private investigator Glenn Mulcaire’s notes. Rowland was told by Weeting officers in August 2013 that Mulcaire kept a notebook with information about him.


Jim Hancock

The political editor of Downtown in Business, Jim is a well known political broadcaster. First arriving in Manchester as a student in the 60’s, Jim Hancock has held various political broadcasting posts working in both radio and television. Perhaps best known for his time as political editor for BBC North West Tonight, Jim has been broadcasting on the political scene for over thirty years.


Mike Bowman

Mike Bowman retired from BP in March 2011 and has since take up a part-time Chair in Development & Production Geology at the University of Manchester.  He is also currently the President of the Petroleum Exploration Society of Great Britain, an eminent group with a membership of over 1500.  Mike is a geologist by training. In addition to his role at Manchester, Mike advises and consults for a number of independent oil companies, teaching groups and investors as well as teaching external courses and giving lectures on Geology and the Oil Industry.


Kevin Ward

Kevin is professor of Human Geography and is the School of Environment’s Director of External
Communications and the Faculty Director of cities@manchester at the University of Manchester. He is a geographical political economist with interests in urban politics. His co-edited book (with Eugene McCann) Mobile Urbanism : Cities and Policy Making in the Global Age was published in 2011.


Eddie Bone

As Chairman for the Campaign for an English Parliament,  Eddie Bone has written for both the New Statesman and The Spectator with his views on why there needs to be devolution for England.


Neil McInroy

The Chief Executive, Centre for Local Economic Strategies, Neil is a place specialist. He has an academic background in economic geography. However, over the last 20 years has gained multi-disciplinary knowledge, skills and experience having worked extensively in the UK and more occasionally in Europe, Asia, US and Australasia.


David McKeith

David McKeith has been Chairman of the Hallé Concerts Society Board since September 2008, and prior to this appointment was a member of the Royal Exchange Theatre board for 6 years. David’s Chairmanship has seen the Halle benefitting greatly from his tireless efforts to engage new supporters from the Greater Manchester business community in particular.


Steven Lindsay

Steven joined CLB Coopers’ Manchester office as Corporate Finance Partner in 2000 and leads the firm’s Corporate Finance services. His role includes advising on management buy-outs/buy-ins, acquisitions, disposals and fund-raisings across all sectors. He is also trustee of both The People’s History Museum and Contact Theatre.


Cllr Angeliki Stogia

Angeliki Stogia has ten years experience of delivering European funding for communities across the North West helping voluntary and community sector organisations benefit from vital EU investment. Born in Greece, Angeliki moved to Manchester in 1995 where she also represents Whalley Range ward in Manchester City Council.


Jonathan Schofield

Jonathan is a qualified blue badge guide for the North West. His other work includes being editor in chief of Manchester Confidential and the other Confidential sites – which have more than 300,000 readers per month. He is a well known public speaker and broadcaster, a town and city identity consultant and a freelance writer on tourism, architecture, public art, history and food and drink.


Derek Hatton

The former deputy leader of Liverpool City Council spoke at our very first debate on Margaret Thatcher’s legacy. Now an entrepreneur and fitness fanatic, he has lost none of his fire and remains fiercely proud of his achievements of the Militant era in his home city.


Claire Smith

Claire is a Blackpool businesswoman who runs her own boutique hotel, but has become a staunch campaigner in favour of shale gas exploration around the Fylde coast.


Phil Orford

Phil Orford MBE is the Chief Executive, Forum of Private Business. The Forum was established by small business owners in 1977 as a lobbying group to campaign for the fair treatment of small firms. Phil Orford has been Chief Executive since 2008 and has enhanced the organisation’s status as one of the UK’s foremost small business groups. In 2013, Phil was awarded an MBE for his services to small businesses.


Paul Monaghan

Paul Monaghan was architect of much of the UK co-operative movement’s ethical and environmental excellence for nearly two decades. Now, as founder of consultancy Up the Ethics, Paul and his team wants to help business pioneers become a vocal force for good.


Joëlle Warren

In addition to her role as executive Chair of search consultancy Warren and Partners, Joelle serves as Her Majesty’s Vice Lord-Lieutenant for Cheshire, Chair of a UK Community Foundation, sits on the nominations and governance committee for Manchester Metropolitan University, after completing her term as Vice Chair of their Board; is a Member of CBI Enterprise Forum and acts as a Bishops Selection Adviser for the Church of England.


Guy Otten

Guy Otten is chair of Greater Manchester Humanists and a trustee of the British Humanist Association. A retired tribunal judge, Guy now works as a humanist celebrant.


Phillip Blond

Phillip is an internationally recognised political thinker and social and economic, he founded  ResPublica in 2009 and is an academic, journalist and author. Prior to entering politics and public policy he was a senior lecturer in theology and philosophy – teaching at the Universities of Exeter and Cumbria. He is the author of Red Tory (Faber and Faber 2010) .


Chris Phillipson

A professor of Sociology at the University of Manchester since November 2012 he has served as member of the Advisory Committee of the New Dynamics of Ageing Programme and was a member of the Advisory Board of the Norwegian Lifecourse, Ageing and Generations Panel Study.


Grace Skelton

Grace Skelton graduated from the University of Manchester in July 2013 with a 2:1 in Politics and Modern History. On July 1st 2013 Grace took up post as General Secretary of the University of Manchester Students’ Union, having been elected by an all-student vote in March.


Colin Bridgford

Colin was a pension finance manager and investment accountant in a previous life. Chief Executive of Manchester FA since 2009, he is also Chair of Oldham Athletic Community Trust, strategic lead for the British University College Sport Football Development Committee and a member of the North West Football awards judging panel.

Annabel Kiernan

Director of the Centre for the Study of Football & Principal Lecturer, Faculty Learning & Teaching
Fellow. Dr Kiernan’s research interests cover public sector reform and the role of football in local
service delivery and community identity. Recent projects have included social evaluation projects for third sector organizations, the Supporters Direct response to the Localism legislation and a
community consultation for the move of FC United of Manchester from Gigg Lane to Moston.

Matthew Elliott

Matthew Elliott is one of the foremost political campaigners working in Westminster, having led the hugely successful ‘No’ campaign against the Alternative Vote in the 2011 referendum, and founded groups as diverse as the TaxPayers’ Alliance, civil liberties campaign Big Brother Watch and, most recently, Business for Britain – the leading business group in the UK campaigning for a better deal from the European Union.


Debbie Manley

Debbie is a former journalist with the Sunday People and is director of the Greater Manchester Fringe Festival. Her English, media and journalism teaching has included roles at Salford University, Cheadle and Marple Sixth Form College, Hyde Clarendon Sixth Form College and Salford City College.


Dave Edmundson-Bird

An academic at Manchester Metrpolitan University Business School Dave was an early adopter of social media where his prolific twitter activity (@groovegenerator) has helped is growing reputation: Principal Lecturer in Digital & Social Media Comms, Associate Director for Digital Innovation at MMU.

Chris Elliott

Chris Elliott is readers’ editor at The Guardian. Starting his journalistic career in local newspapers, Chris has worked as home affairs correspondent for the Sunday Telegraph, as chief reporter for the Sunday Correspondent and as assistant news editor for The Times.

Joe Rukin

Joe Rukin is one of the founders of Stop HS2 the national grassroots campaign against HS2, the proposed new High Speed Two railway. Stop HS2 supporters work with a variety of international, national and local groups and individuals, with the intention of getting HS2 cancelled. He’s recently come out against HS3 as well.


Mary Robinson

Mary Robinson has been selected as the Conservative Party’s Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Cheadle ahead of the 2015 General Election. Cheadle is among the forty key marginal constituencies identified by CCHQ as a part of its strategy aimed at winning the next election. Mary’s past political roles include Chairman of the South Ribble Association and she was a Borough Councillor for South Ribble.

Amanda Coleman

Amanda is responsible for corporate communications at Greater Manchester Police.

Since 2010, Greater Manchester Police has pioneered the use of social media channels to communicate with citizens. Initially a way for the police force to improve engagement, reduce costs, and make communications more interactive, 2011’s civil recent disorder led to social media being integrated into GMP’s emergency planning.

Amy Binns

Amy originally trained as a photographer before spending 10 years working as a journalist on local newspapers including the Lancashire Evening Telegraph and Yorkshire Post before becoming a lecturer in 2005.

Bob Satchwell

Bob Satchwell has been director of the Society of Editors since its foundation in 1999. A former Journalist of the Year, he was associate editor of the Lancashire Evening Post, assistant editor of the News of the World and an award-winning editor of the Cambridge Evening News.