John McTernan tipped for Alistair Darling seat bid

John McTernan has been tipped to contest Alistair Darling's vacated seat next year. Picture: Sandy Young

John McTernan has been tipped to contest Alistair Darling's vacated seat next year. Picture: Sandy Young

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A CONTROVERSIAL former adviser to Tony Blair is being tipped as the latest would-be MP to join the race to succeed Alistair Darling in Edinburgh South West.

John McTernan, who was a special adviser and then director of political operations in Downing Street, is said to be interested in standing as Labour’s candidate in the seat at next year’s general election.

Mr Darling announced last month that he was stepping down after 27 years as an MP.

And a timetable has now been set to choose a candidate to take over from the former Chancellor.

The deadline for applications is December 18, with a shortlist due to be produced by January 17 and the selection meeting scheduled for two weeks later

Labour councillors Ricky Henderson and Norma Austin Hart and Foysol Choudhury, chair of Edinburgh and Lothian Regional Equality Council, have already signalled their interest.

But because it is seen as a relatively safe seat – Mr Darling had a majority of 8447 over the Tories at the last election – it is certain to attract interest from further afield.

Mr McTernan is the first high-profile figure from ­outside Edinburgh politics whose name has been linked to the seat. Several sources said they understood he was considering putting his name forward, but Mr McTernan has not commented himself.

His status as a “big hitter” could prove attractive to activists choosing a successor to Mr Darling. But others will be put off by his links to Mr Blair.

Mr McTernan, 55, was born in London, but grew up in the Capital and was educated at Firrhill High School, and Edinburgh University.

He was a Labour councillor in the London borough of Southwark and served as a Labour Party official and ­special adviser to Harriet Harman.

He then worked under David Cameron as director of operations at Carlton Television before being appointed head of policy to First Minister Henry McLeish. He was in Downing Street from 2004, first as special adviser in the No 10 policy unit responsible for housing and regeneration policy and then as political secretary and director of political operations.

He was interviewed under caution by police in the “cash for honours” investigation – allegations that peerages were traded for large financial loans to the Labour party – but no one was charged with any offence.

In 2007 he was seconded to the Scottish Labour Party to run its campaign for the Holyrood elections, which saw the SNP come to power as a minority government.

He then became special adviser at the Scottish Office, working first for Des Browne and then Jim Murphy.

And in 2011, Mr McTernan was appointed as communications director to Australian Labour Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, who was forced out of office two years later.

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com