Politics: Invisible man hoping for by-election win

Labour's candidate in tomorrow's Paisley South by-election has been dubbed the "invisible man". Stephen Goodwin finds that the low-key campaign appears to be working.

"Where is Blair?" demanded a flyer put out by the Conservatives yesterday. And where too was Douglas Alexander, the squeaky clean candidate chosen by Labour to defend the seat in sleaze-dogged Paisley?

To the frustration of his political opponents, particular the Scottish National Party as the main challenger, Labour strategists have kept Mr Alexander well out of the limelight. The customary practice of daily press conferences was dropped, sparing him embarrassing questions about Labour's dirty political record in Renfrewshire, and contact on the streets or in community halls has been carefully controlled.

"Labour's campaign has been so low key as to be just not there," said Sheila Laidlaw, the Tory candidate, as opposition parties spent yesterday railing the tactics. "Douglas Alexander told us from the outset that he intended fighting this by-election on Labour's record over their first six months in government. Instead he has been conspicuous by his silence.

"He may well be about to pay dearly for this carefully calculated ploy, for the message we are getting on the doorsteps is that the voters are sick and tired of the contempt they are being shown by Mr Alexander and his political masters," Mrs Laidlaw said.

The SNP's Ian Blackford accused Mr Alexander of being "frightened" of meeting voters while Eileen McCartin, the Liberal Democrat candidate, said Labour was "hiding behind the Representation of the People Act". If broadcasters had no film of Mr Alexander they could not show other candidates who had faced the cameras, she said.

However, the indications are Mr Alexander will hold the seat, albeit by a much smaller margin than the 12,000-vote majority enjoyed by Gordon McMaster, whose suicide caused the by-election. A low turnout is likely.

Tony Blair had been expected to lend his weight to the campaign in the final days but party managers consider it no longer necessary. William Hague, Paddy Ashdown and Alex Salmond have all visited Paisley. The Tories tried to exploit the Prime Minister's absence, saying he had promised to visit every by-election but was "too embarrassed by Labour's sleaze".

A further step was taken yesterday to neutralise the sleaze factor when the Labour group on Renfrewshire Council moved to strip suspended party member Harry Revie of committee posts worth pounds 18,000 a year in allowances.

Mr Alexander, in reply to one of four questions allowed the press when he met pensioners in a village hall, said it showed Labour taking firm action when serious allegations were made.

Following the script, he said Labour was winning the by-election on a positive agenda about health, education and jobs. As for the claims of his opponents that he was a "party lackey" and showing contempt for the voters, there were "desperate words from desperate s."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
The two faces revealed by the ultraviolet light
newsScholars left shaken after shining ultraviolet light on 500-year-old Welsh manuscript
News
Rosamund Pike played Bond girld Miranda Frost, who died in Die Another Day (PA)
news
Arts and Entertainment
books
News
newsHow do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? With people like this
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: In House Counsel - Contracts

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading supplier of compliance software a...

Recruitment Genius: Associate System Engineer

£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Associate System Engineer r...

Recruitment Genius: Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Executive Assistant is required to join a l...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat