Page last updated at 16:31 GMT, Wednesday, 7 October 2009 17:31 UK

This week's panel

Question Time, the BBC's premier political debate programme chaired by David Dimbleby, will be in Manchester on Thursday 8 October.

The panel will include the Work and Pensions Secretary Yvette Cooper MP, the shadow chancellor George Osborne MP, the Liberal Democrat housing spokesperson Sarah Teather, the M&S boss Sir Stuart Rose and the broadcaster and editor of Private Eye Ian Hislop.


Yvette Cooper MP

Yvette Cooper is Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and one of Gordon Brown's closest allies in Cabinet.

After a brief spell as an adviser to the Bill Clinton presidential campaign, she began working with Gordon Brown in 1992, having spent two years as an economics researcher for his predecessor as shadow chancellor, John Smith.

She became an MP in 1997 and joined the government in 1999. She is married to her Cabinet colleague, Schools Secretary, Ed Balls.

In her speech to Labour's party conference last week she said: "Maybe there's a reason why David Cameron doesn't get the importance of training and employment support.

"For his first job he got a royal equerry to ring up on his behalf. For his second job he got his mother-in-law, Lady Astor, to put in a good word.

"Back in the real world, thousands of people rely on the help from training colleges and jobcentres the Tories want to cut."


George Osborne MP

George Osborne is the Conservative shadow chancellor.

He was the youngest Conservative MP in the House of Commons when he was elected in 2001 as the MP for Tatton, having previously worked as a speech-writer and political secretary to former Conservative leader William Hague.

After a brief spell as shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, he was promoted to shadow chancellor in 2005.

Speaking on the Today programme on Wednesday, he said: "If you won an election in the current economic climate on a false prospectus, it would not be worth governing because you would become so distrusted, so unpopular, so quickly, that you would not actually be able to take the country through the economic change that is necessary."

He has outlined cuts at the Tory Party conference this week that he says will save a total of about £23bn over the next five years, reducing public spending by £7bn a year.


Sarah Teather MP

Sarah Teather is the Liberal Democrat spokesperson on housing, having previously represented the party on innovation, universities and skills.

She was first elected to parliament aged 29, at the 2003 Brent East by-election, becoming the youngest member of the House of Commons.

Before entering politics, she trained as a scientist and worked for Macmillan Cancer Care Relief, where she advised on health and social policy.

She backed eventual leader Nick Clegg in December's Lib Dem leadership battle, having previously been a close supporter of Sir Menzies Campbell in his bid to succeed Charles Kennedy, and was a signatory to the letter urging Kennedy to stand down in January 2006.

She has called on Labour to "dissolve parliament and call a general election". She said: "People are struggling and desperately want the government to show leadership.

"Yet for months now the Labour party have been too busy squabbling amongst themselves.

"Trust in politics is at an all time low and people naturally want a chance to have their say on the future."


Sir Stuart Rose

Stuart Rose is one of the most influential and celebrated figures in British business, and was recently named one of the five most powerful businessmen in the country.

He is executive chairman of high street bellwether, Marks and Spencer - one the most famous names in retailing. He is also a member of the prime minister's elite Business Council for Britain and is chairman of the Prince of Wales' charity Business in the Community.

He is widely credited with transforming the fortunes of M&S which currently has over 885 stores in more than 40 countries around the world. M&S is the largest clothing retailer in the United Kingdom, with 21 million customers a week, and became the first British retailer to make a pre-tax profit of more than £1bn. M&S's revenue for 2008/9 was £9.1bn.

Speaking last week, he said: "There is nothing wrong with capitalism. Clearly, there are some things that need adjustment, as we have seen over the past two or three years.

"But if a system has been in place for two or three hundred years, and broadly it works, then before you throw it out the window you have to know what you are replacing it with."


Ian Hislop

Ian Hislop is one of the countries leading satirists and has been the editor of Private Eye magazine for over 20 years.

He is also a team-captain on Have I Got News For You, a role which has made him a household name.

He has courted controversy both on screen and in print, and it has been claimed that he is the most sued man in the history of the British legal system.

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