Gisela was the Labour MP for Birmingham Edgbaston from 1997 to 2017. She was a Health Minister in the first Tony Blair government. In parliament she served on the Foreign Affairs as well as the Defence Committee. In 2015 she was appointed by the Prime Minister to join the Intelligence and Security Committee and was made a Privy Councillor.
In the 2016 referendum, Gisela chaired the official ‘Vote Leave’ campaign. For more than 10 years she was Editor of the weekly political magazine The House. She still chairs Change Britain and is a founding director of the Henry Jackson Society. Gisela sits on the advisory board of the Global Strategy Forum, a forum focussing on foreign affairs, defence and international security issues. She is, alongside Sir Simon Fraser, the former Permanent Under Secretary of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, honorary president of the British Foreign Policy Group, which explores the foreign policy challenges and opportunities for the UK.
After graduating with an Honours degree in Business Studies from Edinburgh University, Iain joined the British Railways Board as a Management trainee. He completed his accountancy qualification with British Rail and held various posts in Scotland and the Midlands, ending up as Chief Accountant for a Train Operating Company. After some 25 years, he joined the Civil Service where he spent 13 years with the MoD and FCO. He was Chief Accountant for the 2nd PUS in the MoD and was promoted to the position of Chief Accountant for the FCO in 2003 where he remained for just over 5 years. Returning to the MoD in 2009, he became Financial Controller for the Surgeon General, based in Lichfield. He retired from this position at the end of 2012. During his time with the Surgeon General, he also chaired the Armed Services Consultants Approval Board and was an Office of Government Commerce reviewer.
Iain has been associated with Wilton Park for some years and more recently has been a non-executive Board member, also being a member of the Audit, Risk and Assurance Committee (ARAC). He has recently taken over as chair of the ARAC.
Married to Shiona and with two grown-up sons, Iain spends his time between Solihull and Skelmorlie, on the West coast of Scotland. He is an enthusiastic supporter of the paddle steamer Waverley and in 2016 took on a two year stint as President of the Clyde River Steamer Club. In 2018, he became a Trustee of the Family Care Trust, a Solihull based charity which supports people with mental health conditions, learning difficulties and physical disabilities.
Sharmila has had a varied career spanning medical research, business, technology and the media. A biomedical scientist by background, before joining Wilton Park she was Chair of the Human Tissue Authority, regulating live organ donation and the use of tissue in research, as well as Director of External Affairs for the Medical Research Council, the UK research funder. Sharmila was previously Chief Executive of the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC) a policy think tank that represents the interests of most of the UK’s best known medical research charities.
Before that she spent 14 years at the BBC, latterly as Chief Operating Officer of BBC Future Media and Technology, managing the business functions of bbc.co.uk including the launch of the iPlayer. She was also for ten years Board member and Deputy Chair of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, the organisation that regulates assisted reproductive medicine in the UK and advises on embryo research and related bio-ethics issues. She holds a broad range of non-executive roles including Board member for National Savings and Investment, the Health Foundation and the British Medical Journal.
In addition to her non-executive work, in 2007-2008 Sharmila was a World Fellow at Yale University with a specialism in innovation and practical cases in bio-ethics.
Sharmila read Physiological Sciences (Medicine) at the University of Oxford and was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s 2014 Birthday Honours List for services to medical research.
Victoria Rae has an extensive track record of not-for-profit strategic leadership in a range of organisations in the UK and US. She has a particular specialism in international development including over five years with the UK Committee for UNICEF as Director of Communications, a role in which she built relationships across global networks. In her career she has travelled widely including making an awareness campaign film in Rwanda on HIV prevention and supporting a women’s cooperative in Kenya in their move to establish a fish farming small business starting with physically digging the fish pond. For two years she chaired the UNICEF international communications forum, with global conferences in Panama City, Geneva and Madrid. She has worked with multinational companies on corporate social responsibility partnerships and with major foundations.
Victoria has MSc in Voluntary Sector Leadership from CASS Business School, London and has held Board trustee positions in the UK and US. She is a qualified career coach focusing on developing voluntary sector leaders and, on a pro-bono basis, has trained disadvantaged women through a workplace preparation programme.
Andy Townend joined consultants Marquis Media Partners LLP as a Partner in September 2015. He is a senior board-level executive. He delivers complex national transformational programmes and extensive international experience in the public and commercial broadcasting sectors, government and major consultancies including EY and KPMG.
Andy is an internationally recognised expert in orchestrating every aspect of the transition from analogue to digital television. During his time at the BBC, he led the multi-disciplinary team that established Digital UK in 2005 and was recruited by the Australian Government in 2007 to establish Digital Australia, secured funding of AUD$1 billion, pan industry support, and laid the foundations for the successful completion of switchover across Australia, on time and within budget, by the end of 2013. Andy has advised several other countries on the digital transition including President Obama’s Federal Communications Commission transition team, the government of New Zealand and led an international consultancy project, funded by the European Union, to advise the Serbian government and other stakeholders on digital transition between 2011 and 2013.
Prior to joining Marquis, Andy was leading a €500 million transformational programme at Telenet NV, a member of the Liberty Global group and the largest provider of quadruple play cable broadband services in Belgium, to invest in a next generation gigabit broadband network with a particular focus on managing the impact on the company’s two million plus subscribers.
Andy has a passionate interest in the confluence of digital technology, media and national policy. He is an accomplished public speaker, is media trained with extensive experience giving interviews to TV, radio and press media and has flair for communicating complex issues in simple terms.