The Minister: Blairite who became Prescott's minder

Click to follow

He may own a clapped-out Mazda rather than two Jags, but Gus Macdonald has emerged as the key player in the Government's attempts to portray itself as the motorist's friend.

He may own a clapped-out Mazda rather than two Jags, but Gus Macdonald has emerged as the key player in the Government's attempts to portray itself as the motorist's friend.

Ever since he was parachuted in as Transport minister last year, the former left-wing shipyard welder-turned millionaire businessman has certainly proved one of Tony Blair's most canny and skilful allies. Drafted in at a time when the Government's whole transport strategy seemed to have gone badly astray, he has proved the classic safe pair of hands as John Prescott's loyal lieutenant.

The job of transport minister has proved particularly difficult for Labour since the general election, with first Gavin Strang, then John Reid and Helen Liddell, all lacking either the time in the post or the high-level backing to effect change.

Although he denies he was Mr Blair's mole sent to undermine Mr Prescott, there is no question that Lord Macdonald of Tradeston's links to Downing Street have been invaluable. Unlike his predecessors, he has been allowed to attend Cabinet meetings and has used his close relationship with Alastair Campbell to ensure the PM's message gets across.

Yet his impeccable Blairite image belies an equally impressive left-wing pedigree that saw him leave school at 15 to join the shipyard and become a "rabble-rousing" trade unionist.

His key achievement has been to persuade the public that Labour is not anti-car. To prove his friendliness to the motorist, Lord Macdonald's first act was to approve 18 new road building schemes.

Media savvy and measured, the peer has effectively become Mr Prescott's "minder", gently re-directing him at times of crisis. Yet both men get on famously, with the junior minister never forgetting to give his boss the credit for any announcement.

Comments