Born apparatchik is the biggest loser

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Spiky-haired and self-assured, Douglas Alexander was seen as the loser of the reshuffle. Tony Blair stripped him of his title of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and his role at Gordon Brown's side in charge of the next general election, handing both to Alan Milburn.

Mr Alexander, regarded as one of the brightest intellects in the Government's junior ministerial ranks, may have suffered by being too closely associated with Mr Brown. He resisted being moved on Wednesday night, holding out for a job more in line with his high-profile campaigning role.

Mr Blair appointed him Trade minister at the Foreign Office and the Department of Trade, which has a lower profile but carries the compensation of global travel, and is regarded as a big job.

Mr Alexander, who was born in Glasgow, joined the Labour Party at the age of 14, and at 18 won a Scottish scholarship to attend an international college in Vancouver for two years. After gaining the international baccalaureate, he returned to Scotland to study politics and modern history at Edinburgh University.

In 1988, he won a further scholarship to study for a year at the University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League university in Philadelphia. He worked as Mr Brown's researcher and speechwriter, before winning a seat in the Paisley South by-election in November 1997.

Mr Alexander is regarded by colleagues as a born apparatchik, formidably articulate in the jargon of New Labour, and keen on quoting focus group findings to make a point. He played a key role on the night that John Prescott punched a protester during the 2001 general election campaign. Mr Alexander was at Labour's headquarters as campaign co-ordinator and, with Lord Falconer of Thoroton - who is now Lord Chancellor - quickly came to the conclusion that Mr Prescott should not apologise, arguing that he acted in self-defence.

He likes to specialise in backroom politics, but the Prime Minister may be preparing him for promotion after the election, if Labour wins a third term.