Born in Glasgow, the son of a Scottish minister of religion, he was once tipped as the most likely successor to Neil Kinnock.
As a result, he was the victim of considerable backbiting within Labour ranks. More recently, the agenda has been switched, with hard and not so hard left-wingers openly challenging his cautious, Treasuryesque, economic approach. It took its toll at last year's party conference as he dropped from third to seventh in the National Executive Committee constituency section elections.
Brilliant platform performances are his forte, along with indefatigable television and radio performances, the ability to emerge relatively unfazed by criticism despite outward appearances. He has moved from the more traditional left, though still belongs to Tribune, and has played a key role in Labour shedding its old-style public ownership attitudes to industry.
He can be charming with a sense of humour, though this is more a private than public characteristic. He a workaholic, but one who actually thinks about the Labour Party's role in the 1990s and beyond. He is a passionate pro-devolutionist and constitutional reformer who softened his long-held opposition to Commons PR two years ago in a Charter 88 lecture.
He is unmarried, though he reportedly has a long-time girlfriend, a successful lawyer who shuns publicity. Enemies say he is disorganised, spends too much time on his own publicity and is too ambitious. Friends say his is the brightest and most far-reaching mind in the Labour Party.
Once criticised for being too much the master of the television 'soundbite', he has recently begun investing heavily in constituency work, talking socialism at the grass roots.
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