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Last Updated: Friday, 17 October, 2003, 16:19 GMT 17:19 UK
Charles Clarke

Charles Clarke has been a Labour stalwart since the days of Neil Kinnock.

The Secretary of State for Education worked as Neil Kinnock's chief of staff during his years as Labour leader.

He also had a hand in writing the speech in which Kinnock attacked Militant's administration of Liverpool.

Mr Clarke has had a meteoric rise to the top, having only been elected as the MP for Norwich South in 1997.

One year later the MP for Norwich South was handed the job of Schools Minister.

Tuition fees

In 1999 Mr Clarke became minister of state at the Home Office. But he gained real public prominence when he was moved to the newly created post of Labour chairman, with his salary paid from party funds.

This caused great controversy, since constitutionally Labour already had its own elected party chairman.

As Labour chairman, Mr Clarke proved his loyalty to New Labour, and was not afraid to ruffle a few feathers within the party.

He was given the job as education secretary in October 2002, and his tenure in this job has been equally controversial.

Not feasible

Mr Clarke has made a fierce defence of the Government's proposals to allow universities to charge students tuition fees.

He says there is no alternative to the controversial plan, which could see students charged up to 3,000 a year from September 2006.

He added that it was no longer feasible to pay for higher education for everyone.

The minister said his plans were "actually rather conservative" when compared to the level of fees charged by universities in the United States.

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