Where the hell is the e-commerce minister?

This is getting beyond a joke


Opinion When Labour won its second term in power, the previous e-commerce minister Patricia Hewitt was moved to Trade Secretary, leaving the position open.

This was soon filled by the inexperienced boots of one Douglas Alexander, a young lawyer and a close member of Gordon Brown's election team. We gave Mr Alexander a hard time, pointing out that his complete lack of knowledge about the subject and total inexperience at this level of politics pointed to the fact that he was little more than a political appointee.

We also suggested that Tony Blair may have meant to hire his sister instead, who has exactly the same role in the Scottish Parliament and by all means seems to have done a good job of it.

But, no, with e-commerce such a priority for the government, we were certain that Douglas would find his feet and prove us all wrong. A month into it, we revisited what he had managed to do and it amounted to two rubbish speeches and some handshaking. We were unimpressed.

Now, however, more than two months further on than that, things have become a little more serious. It is becoming plain that the UK is being held back by inadequate Internet access for the majority of UK citizens. BT is slowly cutting its prices but still charges too much, the free ISP model is disappearing, the Internet economy looks to have learnt at least some lessons, and what has the Minister for E-commerce done?

Absolutely bugger all.

He should be rallying the troops, jumping on the back of announcements, hosting seminars, giving speeches, hassling BT, promoting the UK as a centre of excellence for the Internet. And he has done sweet FA.

It simply isn't good enough. He has made one formal speech in all the time since our last story and that was in bloody Scotland - where, no doubt, his sister told him what to say. We are growing seriously annoyed now and unless Mr Alexander pulls out his finger and does the job he's been given rather than treat it as some sort of pressie for loyalty to the Chancellor, we're going to hound him.

We'll tell you what the DTi reckons he has been doing when they call back. ®

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