Election 2001: Looking after the nation’s finances

The Labour Party

Gordon Brown, chancellor of the exchequer, 1997-

Biography: First elected in 1983 to House of Commons, aged 33. Established a golden reputation by destroying then-chancellor Nigel Lawson in a financial debate in 1988. Seen as a future leader of the Labour Party – could have already made a pact with Blair if the papers are to be believed. Already lives at Number Ten Downing Street. The Blairs moved to Number 11 to accommodate their larger family.

How safe is his seat? (Dunfermline East) Impregnable. If he loses, Britain has a new government. Majority, 18,751.

Position on euro: Cautiously Pro-euro. Although his cultural outlook is more American than European, Brown is considered to be an enthusiast for the single currency with a small ‘e’. Despite an ideological empathy with the idea, his pragmatic approach will always mean that the economic imperative will prevail over the political one on this issue. Is responsible for the government’s current wait-and-see policy. It was his interview with The Times in October 1997 that ruled out moving into the euro for the life of this parliament.

Most significant moments: A rugby injury as a schoolboy left him blind in his left eye. Canvassing in the 1963 General Election, aged 12. Losing the 1994 Labour leadership race to Tony Blair; Bringing the phrase neo-classical endogenous growth theory into the public domain.

Andrew Smith, chief secretary to the Treasury, 1999-

Biography: First elected to parliament in 1987. Lost the 1983 election to Steve Norris. As a councillor in Oxford he organised an anti-Falklands War committee.

How safe is his seat? (Oxford East) Very safe. Majority of 16,665.

Position on euro: Thought to be the same as Gordon Brown.

Most significant moments: Seen as a very able member, lately responsible for trying to undermine Tory spending proposals. Unfortunately happens to sound like John Major’s younger brother.

Dawn Primarolo, paymaster general, 1999-

Biography: A former secretary with Avon County Council. First elected to parliament in 1987.

How safe is her seat? (Bristol South) Rock solid, 19,328.

Position on euro: Thought to be pro.

Most significant moment: Dropping her old-style ‘Red Dawn’ image to becomeNew Labour. IR35 anyone?

Ed Balls, special adviser to Gordon Brown

Biography: Norwich City fan who forms an essential part of Gordon Brown’s Praetorian Guard within the Labour Party’s higher guard. A degree at Oxford University was followed by a spell as a leader writer at the Financial Times. Being young and successful has its disadvantages though. Considerable resentment within Whitehall for being the ‘real chancellor’.

Position on euro: Exactly the same as Gordon Brown, of course.

Most significant moment: Marrying Pontefract MP Yvette Cooper.

The Conservative Party

Michael Portillo, shadow chancellor

Biography: Born in 1953, he went to school with Labour MP Dianne Abbott and admired Harold Wilson as a schoolchild. Studied at Cambridge. Took his first seat at Westminster after the incumbent Sir Anthony Berry was killed by the IRA bomb at the Grand Hotel, Brighton. Consistently strong crusader against high taxation.

How safe is his seat? Very, though expect him to be especially nervous on electionnight given the events of 1997. MP for the Tory stronghold of Kensington and Chelsea, majority of 9,519.

Position on euro: Ambivalent, though thought to be against. It might becomeclearer if and when he becomes leader. Has moved from hard right to centre-right in recent years.

Most significant moments: Famously losing his Enfield Southgate seat at the 1997 election. ‘Who Dares Wins speech’ at 1995 Tory Party Conference. Architect behind the £8bn Tory tax cut programme.

David Heathcoat-Amory, shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, 1997-

Biography: A chartered accountant and MP since 1983. Fondly mentioned in Alan Clark’s diaries as an up-and-coming right-winger. Educated at Eton and Oxford.

How safe is his seat? (Wells) Extremely vulnerable. A majority of just 528. Wells is the Liberal Democrats’ second most winnable seat from the Tories, requiring just a 0.5% swing.

Position on euro: Against.

Most significant moments: PPS to Douglas Hurd in the late 1980s.

Oliver Letwin

Biography: Until this campaign few had heard of Letwin. But, now he has been accused of leaking the Tories’ £20bn Tory tax cuts, that has all changed. A former merchant banker, he has spoken on deregulation issues since 1998.

How safe is his seat?(West Dorset). Very unsafe. A majority of just 1,840. Targeted by the Lib Dems as their eight most winnable seat from the Tories. A swing of 1.7% needed.

Position on euro: Against.

Most significant moments: Alleged to have leaked Tory tax plans. Subsequently ridiculed on a ‘Wanted’ poster by Gordon Brown.

The Liberal Democrats

Matthew Taylor, Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman

Biography: Grew up in the public spotlight becoming an MP aged just 24 after the death of David Penhaligon. Adoptive parents were Labour supporters who supported the SDP-split of the early 1980s. His script-writing father adapted Jewel in the Crown and The Camomile Lawn for television.

How safe is his seat? (Truro and St Austell) Very. A majority of 12,501.

Position on euro: Pro.

Most significant moments: The man responsible for the Lib Dems most significant policy, the extra penny on income tax. Some bitterness at not having enough support to succeed Paddy Ashdown as leader.

Ed Davey

Biography:MP for Kingston and Surbiton since 1997.

How safe is his seat? The most vulnerable in Westminster. A majority of just 56 means he will have to rely on tactical voting to survive the Tory challenge.

Position on euro: Pro.

Most significant moments: Helped package current Liberal Democrat finance policy. Another architect is party insider Rob Blackie described as ‘too young’ to have a past. Probable future MP.

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