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Douglas Alexander is the new e-minister

Who hell he?

The new e-minister has been named and it's the MP for the safe seat of Paisley South, Scotland, Douglas Alexander. Who the hell is he you ask? More importantly, what does he know about the Internet?

Well, he is a very bright 34-year-old ex-lawyer who is New Labour through and through, a protégé of Gordon Brown and the man who more or less filled the post of Millbank political organiser after Peter Mandelson's downfall.

You won't have heard of him though because he only entered the Commons in December 1997 after winning a by-election, brought about by the untimely death of Gordon McMaster. He has been nothing but a local MP (albeit a very good one) and backstage organiser, so his jump into the e-minister post is probably the greatest single leap that has been announced in the post-election government reshuffle.

For those that haven't worked it out yet, this is purely a political move. Gordon Brown is grooming him for high office and the e-minister post is just one step below Secretary of State for Trade and Industry - as was proved by Patricia Hewitt just yesterday.

Douglas, it would appear, is never off message and his weekly column in his local newspaper reads like a press release for Labour HQ. He joined the Labour party aged just 15. That said, he has fought with a fair bit of passion for his constituency, forcing topics important to his area including unemployment and old age pensions.

But enough of this, what does he know about the Internet? It would appear not very much. We've searched the entire House of Commons archives and can only find one reference to the Internet, and that is a throw-away comment about new businesses moving to Paisley.

He hasn't been involved in IT or the Internet in any form, either in his professional life before Parliament or while at Parliament. He does have a Web site, but it says more about his determination than it does his Web knowledge.

Not so, not so, says the DTi, desperately trying to find a way to big-up its new e-minister. When the government announced that a third of all its services were online in August, Mr Alexander warned that there was a lot more to be done. This is bunkem. Apart from the fact that the figures were a complete fudge (see links below), what Mr Alexander actually did was pump out a press release following exactly the official Labour line. It's on his personal Web site here. But then you can't blame the DTi for trying.

So basically, what we have is an excellent career politician. Whether Mr Alexander will see this vast elevation in political status as an opportunity to prove himself and apply his not inconsiderable talents or whether he will view it as simply a stop-off to the Trade Secretary's job is the main question.

Whichever path he chooses will be extremely important in the next few years for the Internet industry in Britain. ®

Related Links

Douglas Alexander's personal Web site (it may not be up yet due to the election rules about MPs not having sites with MP in the title before the election was finished)
The "evidence" that the new e-minister knows something about the Internet

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