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Last Updated: Friday, 25 May 2007, 07:06 GMT 08:06 UK
This week's panel
Question Time, the BBC's premier political debate programme chaired by David Dimbleby, was in Basingstoke on 24 May.

David Dimbleby was joined by Secretary of State for Education Alan Johnson, senior Conservative politician Lord Heseltine, General Secretary of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers Bob Crow, businesswoman and campaigner Martha Lane Fox, and novelist and columnist Allison Pearson.


Alan Johnson

Career: Alan Johnson has been the secretary of state for education since May 2006.

Having left school with no qualifications, he worked as a postman before entering union politics, becoming General Secretary of the Communication Workers Union in 1993.

During this time he served on the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party and was the only major union leader to support the controversial abolition of Clause IV of the party's constitution, as advocated by Tony Blair.

After becoming an MP in 1997, he served in the department of trade and industry and the department for education, before entering cabinet as the work and pensions secretary in 2004.

Despite reports last year that he might challenge Gordon Brown as a Blairite alternative for the Labour party leadership, in May 2006 he announced his desire to succeed John Prescott as deputy leader and last week was successfully entered onto the ballot with the highest number of nominations of any of the candidates.


Lord Heseltine

Career: Michael Heseltine is one of the most senior Conservative politicians, whose political career has spanned four decades.

He became the Conservative MP for Tavistock in 1966 and served as a junior minister in Edward Heath's government, before being promoted to secretary of state for the environment, and later defence secretary, by Margaret Thatcher.

His challenge for the leadership of the party in 1990 triggered the resignation of Lady Thatcher, but he was beaten by John Major, who made him deputy prime minister in 1995.

Upon retiring from the Commons in 2001, he was made a life peer in the House of Lords.

After backing David Cameron's election for party leader, he has led the Conservatives' cities task force, aimed at increasing Tory support in urban areas.


Bob Crow

Career: Bob Crow is the general secretary of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT), which has more than 75,000 members.

In 2003, a decision by some Scottish branches of the RMT to donate funds to the Scottish Socialist Party led the Labour Party to disaffiliate the union, under Crow's leadership, after more than a century of close relations.

The son of a docker, he became involved in union politics while working as an underground track-repairer for London Transport.

He has previously been an active member of the Communist Party of Great Britain, and Arthur Scargill's Socialist Alliance, though he currently has no party affiliation.

He has been a vocal opponent of the war in Iraq, saying in 2005: "Our view is that this is a trade union issue. Money is being spent on the war that could be spent on public services. We have a right to say where our money is being spent."


Martha Lane Fox

Career: Martha Lane Fox is a businesswoman and campaigner.

She co-founded in 1998 and its overnight success made her an icon of the "dotcom bubble" of the late 1990s.

Although the industry subsequently crashed, she was able to keep the company afloat, stepping down as managing director in November 2003 to "explore other challenges".

In December 2003, she went to work with the owner of Selfridges, and took over the day-to-day running of the business. However, in May 2004 she was involved in a near-fatal car crash, which led to her spending a year in hospital recovering.

She is a non-executive member of the Channel 4 board, and a trustee of the charity Reprieve, founded in 1999 by the human rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith to campaign internationally against the death penalty.

This week it has been announced that she is joining Marks and Spencer as a non-executive director.


Allison Pearson

Career: Allison Pearson is a novelist and columnist for the Daily Mail, having previously worked at the Daily Telegraph and the Evening Standard.

Her first novel, I Don't Know How She Does It, was released in 2002.

She is also a regular contributor to television programmes such as The Late Review on BBC Two.

She recently wrote of the Iraq war: "As the prime minister perfects his own exit strategy from Downing Street, let's hope he's finding time to work on an exit strategy for the best of British. Blair's war isn't worth the loss of even one more life."

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