Former Labour cabinet minister Douglas Alexander wants to stand in East Lothian at next general election

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East Lothian likely to be target seat for Labour

Former Labour cabinet minister Douglas Alexander is understood to be interested in standing as the party's candidate in East Lothian at the next general election.

The constituency is likely to be one of Labour's top target seats in Scotland and could provide a route back to Westminster for Mr Alexander, who lost his Paisley seat at the 2015 general election when all but one of Labour's MPs were defeated.

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The selection process has not officially started yet, but names are already being discussed and Mr Alexander is one of the ones mentioned most.

Douglas Alexander served as Scottish Secretary under Tony Blair.  Picture: John Devlin.Douglas Alexander served as Scottish Secretary under Tony Blair.  Picture: John Devlin.
Douglas Alexander served as Scottish Secretary under Tony Blair. Picture: John Devlin.

East Lothian was held by Labour until 2015, when it went to the SNP before Labour took it back in 2017. The current MP, former Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, won the seat for the SNP again in 2019, ousting Labour's Martin Whitfield, but Mr MacAskill has since defected to Alba.

With Labour’s improved poll ratings, the seat is seen as a good prospect for the party, but if Mr MacAskill stands again the pro-independence vote could be split between him and the SNP, making it easier for Labour to win.

There are said to be mixed feelings about the prospect of Mr Alexander as Labour's candidate. One Labour source said: "Some folk are saying he's had his turn and it's time for a fresh face. They argue Labour needs a new, younger generation of MPs. And they're wondering why Douglas isn't going after one of the Paisley seats, where he has connections."

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Another was more positive. "He would have to convince people he was keen to represent East Lothian and not just find a winnable seat. He's not local, but he brings a lot of experience and ability to it."

Mr Alexander – brother of former Scottish Labour leader Wendy Alexander – was elected MP for Paisley South in 1997 and served as Labour's campaign co-ordinator at the 2001 general election before getting his first ministerial role in charge of e-commerce. He later served as Transport and Scottish Secretary and then International Development Secretary.

Since losing his seat he has had a number of different roles, from advising U2 singer Bono on tackling global poverty to lecturing at Harvard University in the US and making several radio programmes for the BBC. He was also chair of the board of trustees for UNICEF UK, but stepped down in September 2020 following accusations of bullying. He was later cleared.