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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 October, 2004, 11:03 GMT 12:03 UK
This week's panel
Question Time, the BBC's premier political programme chaired by David Dimbleby, was in Gateshead on 14 October. He was joined for the interactive debate by Harriet Harman MP, Conservative candidate Michael Gove, Lembit Opik MP, former British ambassador to Washington Sir Christopher Meyer and director of Liberty Shami Chakrabarti.

Harriet Harman MP

HARRIET HARMAN MP

Title: Solicitor General

Career: Harriet Harman was brought back into government after the last election and is the first female solicitor general.

An MP since 1982, she has held several Labour front bench posts and joined Tony Blair's first cabinet in 1997 as social security secretary.

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But she was sacked a year later after controversy over cuts to benefits for lone parents and disabled people.

She prompted widespread laughter on her last appearance on Question Time when she mistakenly referred to Gordon Brown as the prime minister.


Michael Gove

MICHAEL GOVE

Title: Conservative candidate for Surrey Heath

Career: Michael Gove was chosen as candidate for the safe Conservative seat after the deselection of Nick Hawkins MP in April.

He is currently Saturday editor of the Times and chairman of Policy Exchange, a centre-right think tank whose publications include a defence of regime change in rogue nations and proposals for devolving police priorities to local communities.

His publications include the 1995 book, Michael Portillo: The Future of the Right and an award-winning criticism of the Northern Ireland peace process which he described as a "capitulation to violence".


Lembit Opik MP

LEMBIT OPIK MP

Title: Liberal Democrat spokesman on Wales and N Ireland

Career: First elected to the Commons in 1997, Lembit Opik represents the rural Welsh seat of Montgomeryshire.

He has campaigned against a complete ban on hunting with dogs, warning that people would risk imprisonment or heavy fines to defy the ban. He favours a statutory hunting authority to balance animal welfare issues and the importance of individual freedoms.

Lembit Opik has inherited Charles Kennedy's discarded mantle as Liberal Democrat most likely to appear on chat and comedy shows, where he talks about his interests, such as the risk of asteroid strikes on Earth. In 1998 he was seriously injured in a paragliding accident and spent several months in a full body cast.


Sir Christopher Meyer

SIR CHRISTOPHER MEYER

Title: Chairman, Press Complaints Commission

Career: In 18 months at the PCC, Sir Christopher has updated its code of practice and tightened rules on newspaper payments to criminals.

A career diplomat, he served as British ambassador in Washington from 1997 to early 2003, a period which included the Monica Lewinsky scandal and the lead up to the war in Iraq.

Sir Christopher spent more than 30 years with the Foreign Office, holding postings in Moscow and Brussels as well as Washington. He worked as Foreign Office spokesman for Geoffrey Howe in the 1980s and as press secretary to the former prime minister, John Major in the mid 1990s.


Shami Chakrabarti

SHAMI CHAKRABARTI

Title: Director of Liberty

Career: Shami Chakrabarti became director of Liberty in September 2003.

She is a recognised expert on the UK's anti-terrorism laws and has joined human rights protests against the long-term detention of terrorist suspects without trial.

Shami Chakrabarti joined the civil rights organisation in 2001 as an in-house lawyer and has worked on a number of Liberty's high profile cases. She previously worked for the Home Office.


BBC One's Question Time is broadcast on Thursdays at 2235 GMT.

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