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Page last updated at 11:00 GMT, Wednesday, 4 June 2008 12:00 UK

This week's panel

Question Time, the BBC's premier political debate programme chaired by David Dimbleby, will be in Wolverhampton on Thursday 5 June.

The panel will include the Foreign Secretary David Miliband, senior Conservative politician Lord Hurd, the Liberal Democrat chief economic spokesman Vince Cable, the director of Liberty Shami Chakrabarti and the columnist Peter Hitchens.

DAVID MILIBAND MP

David Miliband MP

Career: David Miliband is the Foreign Secretary.

Before his election to parliament in 2001, he was Tony Blair's Head of Policy.

Once described by Blair as the "Wayne Rooney of the cabinet," he was promoted to Schools Minister just over a year after becoming an MP and joined the cabinet in the newly created post of Minister for Communities and Local Government in 2005.

In February 2007, he made headlines during an appearance on Question Time when he said: "I predict that when I come back on this programme in six months or a year's time, people will be saying 'wouldn't it be great to have that Blair back because we can't stand that Gordon Brown'."

He has been touted for some time in the press as a possible Labour leader, and speculation that he will succeed Gordon Brown has heightened in recent weeks with Labour's defeat in the Crewe and Nantwich by-election last month and the possibility of an MPs rebellion over plans to hold terror suspects without trial for 42 days.

This week former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott further stoked the rumours by saying of David Miliband: "He is quite a brilliant man and he will be one of our leaders."


LORD HURD

Lord Hurd

Career: Douglas Hurd is a senior Conservative politician who has held a number of key posts in government, including Foreign Secretary and Home Secretary.

In 1990, after serving in the government of Margaret Thatcher, he ran for the leadership of the party, losing out to John Major.

Hurd's Old Etonian background, as opposed to Major's state school education, was seen by many as key to the outcome of the campaign, forcing him to complain: "I thought I was running for leadership of the Tory party, not some demented Marxist sect".

From 1983 until his retirement in 1997, he was MP for Witney, succeeded by the current Conservative leader David Cameron. On his retirement, he was made a Baron and continues to be active in politics in the House of Lords.

His period as Home Secretary was dominated by the terrorist threat from the IRA and it was his decision in 1988 to ban the words of those associated with terrorism from television and radio in order to "starve them of the oxygen of publicity".


VINCE CABLE MP

Vince Cable MP

Career: Vince Cable has been the Liberal Democrat chief economic spokesman since 2003.

He served as acting leader of the party following the resignation of Sir Menzies Campbell, until the election of Nick Clegg as leader in December 2007.

During this period, he famously accused Gordon Brown during Prime Minister's Questions of a "remarkable transformation in the past few weeks - from Stalin to Mr Bean."

Described in the Telegraph as "the best leader the Liberal Democrats never had," he said the highlight of his brief tenure was ballroom dancing with singer Alesha Dixon on BBC One's This Week programme, after he expressed a wish to go on Strictly Come Dancing.

He has been an outspoken critic of the government's handling of the economy and last November was one of the first politicians to call for the nationalisation of Northern Rock.

Speaking this week about the news that the mortgage lender Bradford and Bingley is experiencing financial difficulties, he said: "We are now seeing a massive hangover from the housing boom that was built on a binge of cheap credit. With house prices falling, food and fuel costs rising and the continuing credit crunch making borrowing less affordable, it is no surprise that the housing market is grinding to a halt."


SHAMI CHAKRABARTI

Shami Chakrabarti

Career: Shami Chakrabarti has been director of the human rights organisation Liberty since 2003.

She is one of the UK's most prominent voices on civil liberties, spearheading campaigns against proposals to extend detention periods and introduce ID cards.

A barrister by background, she was called to the Bar in 1994 and then joined the Home Office as a lawyer.

Since becoming Liberty's director she has written for a number of newspapers, including The Guardian and Telegraph, and appears regularly on television and radio. She was made a CBE in the 2007 Queen's Birthday Honours.

She has been one of the most vocal opponent's of the government's controversial plans to hold terror suspects without charge for up to 42 days, accusing them of trying to "dilute the protections of existing law."

She has dismissed the reported concessions to rebel Labour MPs, saying: "Liberty will not be auctioning off our hard-won rights and freedoms in exchange for the promise of last-minute and meaningless safeguards."


PETER HITCHENS

Peter Hitchens

Career: Peter Hitchens is a controversial columnist for the Mail on Sunday.

He is a former Moscow and Washington correspondent and has reported from many parts of the world.

A Marxist in his student days, he has been a member of both the Labour and Conservative parties and challenged Michael Portillo for the Conservative Party nomination in the Kensington and Chelsea seat in 1999.

He left the Conservative Party in 2003 and has since become a strident critic of David Cameron, presenting a documentary last year about the current party leadership entitled Toff at the Top.

Last week he wrote in his column: "We have a country demoralised in every sense, its people robbed of their own pride, its children deprived of stability and authority, terrifyingly ignorant of their own culture, its tottering economy largely owned from abroad, its armed forces weak, its justice system a sick joke, its masses distracted by pornography, drink and drugs, its constitution menaced, its elite in the grip of a destructive, intolerant atheism."



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