Thursday, 18 October 2007

Douglas Alexander-a profile

Over the weekend, Ladbrokes were offering short odds on Douglas Alexander being the first cabinet minister to be sacked under Gordon Brown’s premiership.

The fall out from the debacle of the “autumn election” may be according to Jonathon Freedland”the clearout of Brown’s young advisors punishing those who have led him in the election “

The blame for Brown’s troubles is being pointed at the young buccaneers in the cabinet. Ed Ball’s the schools secretary and Douglas Alexander, the general election coordinator and International development secretary.

One senior minister was quoted as saying “The Youth team has just fought its first general election and lost.”

It will be a dramatic fall from grace for Gordon Brown’s former speechwriter, who joined the cabinet in 2001 as minister for E commerce at the department of trade and industry. He was then the youngest member of Tony Blair’s cabinet.

Since then he has held a number of cabinet posts, and following Gordon Brown’s becoming Prime Minister; he replaced Hillary Benn as International Development secretary.

Alexander was born in Glasgow in 1967. Growing up in Bishopston, where his father was a local minister, he attended Bishopston Primary School and Park Main’s High in Erskine. In a recent interview he said that he owed his parents a lot for a happy and secure upbringing.

At the age of 17, he won a scholarship to attend an international college in Vancouver. After gaining the International Baccalaureate, he returned to his native Scotland to study politics and modern history at Edinburgh University gaining a 1st class honours degree.

Whilst at Edinburgh, he first became involved in politics chairing the university Labour club and getting taking on local constituency work. In 1988, he gained another scholarship, to the Ivy League University of Pennsylvania. Whilst there, he worked on the failed Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis’s presidential campaign.

Returning to the UK he worked as a Parliamentary researcher for the Labour party, then in the wilderness years of opposition and wrote speeches for Gordon Brown.

Brown was to return the favour earlier this year when he launched his strength of the Union campaign along Douglas Alexander in Edinburgh at a speech to the Fabians’ society. Together they argued for the state of the union, saying that "it is not a historical curiosity, but a blueprint for international co-operation in the 21st century.”

Alexander trained as a lawyer before attempting to enter Parliament in 1995. He fought the by-election in the Tory seat of Perth and Kinross, overturning a large Tory majority in a campaign which broke several post war election records and put the Labour party into second place.

In the General election of 1997 he further eroded the SNP majority. However his opportunity to enter Parliament came three months later, following the death of the Paisley South MP Gordon McMaster Alexander fought and won the resultant by-election, despite some internal Labour problems at the time.
He made his maiden speech in the Commons on one of the parties most significant reforms of the first term the minimum wage, arguing that “For my constituents, it is a matter not of wanting a national minimum wage but of needing one. For 18 years, we had a Government who advanced the idea that the price of greater prosperity was greater inequality and who tried to frighten people out of their commitment to fairness”

He has been a good servant to his local constituents, including campaigns to get greater support for the pensioners of Renfrewshire.

His record in Parliament has shown him up to be a strong supporter of New Labour. He was in favour of the Iraq invasion and anti terrorism laws, voted in favour of student top up fees, the hunting ban and the replacement of Trident.

The importance of his role in Brown’s cabinet was reaffirmed in the speech he made in Washington, days after Brown became M.E. spoke about Britain needing new alliances based on common values. The speech was widely interpreted as a message to the Bush administration about a future direct for foreign policy.

Alexander though rebutted those suggestions. “The speech made clear challenges like climate change and tackling global poverty require the whole global community to work together. Our relationship with America has always been based on not just shared interests but shared values like liberty and democracy.”

If Alexander is replaced in Brown’s team of close advisors, it will be a sad day indeed for one of the young Turks of New Labour.

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