He is one of the most powerful people in Westminster: shadow foreign secretary and chair of Labour’s entire election campaign.
Yet Douglas Alexander is under pressure on multiple fronts: determined to prove that he has the right election strategy while holding off the SNP in Scotland – with his own constituency under threat from the nationalists.
Tonight we’re running a detailed profile in the FT.
Meanwhile here are some observations from some of those who know him well.
Labour MP: Douglas lost the David campaign and the 2010 election: “Why did Ed risk giving him so much power again?”
Ally: “There has to be someone making unpopular decisions. He has been there for a long time and he has always had the political jobs, where you aren’t the one handing out the Read more
Mark Garnier is a brave breed of Tory MP. The former fund manager and member of the Treasury select committee has spoken out in the past in defence of banks being able to set their own bonuses. And now he is making a rare warning from within the Tory party about the destabilising effect of an EU referendum.
Garnier’s background in the City means he is closer than most to mainstream opinion among financial services businesses in the UK. And he thinks investors are already moving money elsewhere:
If [investors] have to make an investment decision, then that is reliant on getting access to [the] single market — that money is being spent in Frankfurt, Madrid or Paris right now, not London.
Labour’s most senior women are to tour 70 marginal constituencies in a hot pink “woman to woman” campaign bus as the opposition party seeks to harness its lead among female voters.
Lucy Powell, vice-chair of the party’s general election campaign, said targeting women was central to Labour’s election efforts as the party launched its first “proper” women’s election campaign, complete with a 16-seater campaign minibus to tour the country. Read more
For the last 10 years, Hope Not Hate has been one of the more effective anti-racism campaign groups around, achieving particular success in helping defeat the BNP in Barking at the last election.
But for the next few months at least, the group has a different, more mainstream enemy in its sights: Ukip. It is a significant shift of strategy for the group, and one which some from both inside and outside the organisation are unhappy about.
Nick Lowles, HNH’s founder, has told us his activists are planning to an extensive – and expensive – campaign in over 300 constituencies in the run up to May, focusing mainly in places where Ukip hopes to win seats.
He told the FT: Read more
The insurance tycoon bank-rolling the Ukip election campaign has called for the state to be slashed and for a major overhaul of the “Luddite” NHS to increase the involvement of the private sector in health provision.
The comments from Arron Banks, founder of Go Skippy and Southern Rock – who has pledged £1m to Ukip – come at a sensitive time for the party over its health policy. Read more
Tony Blair used to say that his mission would be complete when the Labour party “learned to love” Peter Mandelson.
That mission suffered something of a setback on Tuesday after Lord Mandelson appeared on Newsnight criticising one of his own party’s setpiece policies: the mansion tax.
The co-architect of New Labour suggested that his party ought to ditch its proposal and – instead – adopt the Lib Dems’ rival policy.
With only a few months to go before polling day, the comments were not received universally well: “What prompts old Blairite warriors into repetitive poisonous treachery?” asked Paul Flynn, a left-wing Labour MP. Another MP suggested that the former minister was merely seeking the limelight: “Perhaps he has attention deficit disorder,” he asked.
There are clear issues surrounding a mansion tax per se: it could be seen as anti-aspirational; it could distort the market; it could lead to thousands of legal challenges; people could find ways to avoid it.
But do those problems apply any less to the Lib Dem version than the Labour one, as Mandelson seemed to suggest?
Perhaps the most useful by-product of his intervention (his precise words are down below*) is that it raised the question: what are the differences between the two mansion taxes? I’ve asked both parties and the answer seems to be: Not a lot.
1] Labour wants to raise £1.2bn. The Lib Dems used to say they’d raise £1.7bn but are now more vague on this point.
There was a touch of swagger about George Osborne on Wednesday as he told the country he had created a “strong” economy and could afford to divert billions of pounds of extra cash towards the NHS and a new road-building programme.
The public finances were in a “stronger” state than expected with a surplus expected by the end of the decade, he promised: “Out of the red and into the black for the first time in a generation.” Read more
On Wednesday, December 3, the chancellor will deliver the final Autumn Statement before the 2015 general election.
There will be extensive coverage of the chancellor’s speech live on ft.com. And from 3pm on December 3, a panel of personal finance experts will be on hand to answer your questions about its contents. Submit your questions in the live reader comments field or email the Money team at firstname.lastname@example.org at any time up to and during the live Q&A. We will choose a selection for our panel to answer.
On the panel are:
The discussion will be moderated by James Pickford, FT Money deputy editor, and Jonathan Eley, FT Money editor
Ed Miliband has fought 20 by-elections as leader of the Labour party: during this time he has gained one seat (Corby) and lost another (Bradford West).
There is a historic parallel for this achievement and it is not one that Mr Miliband will like to be reminded of. Read more
UKIP candidate Douglas Carswell won 21,113 votes, or 59.7% of the total, in Thursday’s by-election. This was 12,404 more than Conservative candidate Giles Watline, who came in second with 8,709 votes, or 24.6%. Read more
1] Dislike of the “Westminster elite”.
The SNP are poles apart from Ukip when it comes to their actual policies: the former is pro-European and broadly left-wing, the latter the opposite.
But there is a palpable read-across from the 45 per cent of Scots who voted “Yes” for independence last month and the huge numbers of English voters who backed Ukip on Thursday.
Both parties are mining the same seam of discontentment about the main three parties in Westminster.
Labour and Tory activists say they are getting the same negative message on the doorsteps, Read more
The dust has settled on the Scottish independence referendum. Where does the 55 per cent No vote leave our panel? Are they still speaking to friends and family?
Jill, a staunch No voter, laments the divisions the referendum have left within families and the overall fabric of Scottish society. She would like to put the whole issue behind her and move on. Read more
1] Don’t put too much faith in a single poll.
It was the Sunday Times YouGov poll – putting Yes at 51 per cent – which threw everyone into a blind panic. In retrospect that was a statistical outlier. The first rule of polls is always to ignore a single poll. That was thrown out of the window as Westminster woke up to the implications of the United Kingdom breaking up. Read more
Boris Johnson has teased Rupert Murdoch for his flirtation with Scottish independence, saying the media baron need look no further than his own business to understand the meaning of “Better Together”.
The London mayor joked that he wanted to see the four parts of the union kept together: The Sun, the Sun on Sunday, the Times and the Sunday Times, referring to Mr Murdoch’s four British newspapers: “It would be insane, to put that history, that union, that great collective endeavour at risk and to break up those titles, as some have from time to time suggested should be done.” Read more
With only days to go until the vote, our panelists have all made up their minds. Of our three undecided voters two have gone over to the Yes camp, and one is planning to vote No, albeit with a heavy heart.
Our panel don’t believe the vote will be as close as polls currently suggest. But if it is, there are some fears about reprisals and the prospect of a ‘neverendum’ with the Yes campaign unwilling to stop pushing for another vote. Read more
The Romans used to predict the future by examining the entrails of dead animals. These days we use opinion polls, often with similarly haphazard results.
Even some of the most robust Westminster commentators are refusing to make firm bets about how the landscape will look after next May’s general election. It will be the closest fought, most unpredictable, most exciting battle for a generation. Read more
Alex Salmond’s impassioned plea for Scottish independence may have won over unsure voters, say our Scottish reader panel. As a snap poll by Guardian/ICM found Mr Salmond to have won Monday night’s television debate by a margin of 71 per cent to 29 per cent, even our panellists in the No camp had to admit that Scotland’s first minister had been the better speaker.
With the No campaign still holding onto a poll lead, talk has turned to ‘devo max’, the devolution of further powers to Scotland and the competing visions from the main UK political parties.
Our panel of Scots is not impressed. In a surprise moment of agreement, both the No and Yes supporters find ‘devo max’ distasteful. The Yes supporters suspect the proposals would give Scotland no benefits, only the potential for budget cuts. The No supporters don’t wish to see more power given to an SNP-dominated Holyrood parliament. Read more
He has been criticised in the past for offending women, gays and the Irish. Now Tony Abbott, Australia’s prime minister, stands accused of insulting the people of Scotland and interfering in the country’s independence referendum on September 18, writes Jamie Smyth. Read more
Mark Simmonds, the Foreign Office minister, is resigning because he says the new Westminster expenses regime precludes him from renting a residence in central London of appropriate quality. He has been excoriated on social media for being out of touch. But he is right, argues Jonathan Eley. Read more