When Douglas Alexander lost his seat in the House of Commons to 20-year-old Mhairi Black in 2015 it was one of the biggest shocks of the night.

The former minister in the Blair and Brown governments had represented Paisley and Renfrewshire South since Labour swept to power in 1997 and was defending a majority of more than 16,000.

Now nearly a decade later the SNP MP is standing down and Mr Alexander is hoping to return to Westminster – this time for East Lothian, a key Labour target in Scotland.

He’ll be fighting the SNP’s Iain Whyte to try to take the seat held by Alba’s Kenny MacAskill, who defected from the SNP in 2021.

With a general election expected later this year – and January 2025 the latest one can legally be held – parties are already selecting their candidates.

Some 100 MPs have confirmed they will stand down at the next election, and new constituencies have also been created by boundary changes, providing opportunities for prospective candidates old and new.

Mr Alexander is one of at least 19 former MPs seeking a comeback.


He says he hadn’t anticipated stepping back into public life, after pursuing a career in academia, but in the autumn of 2022 he was approached by local party members to ask if he would consider standing.

“I don’t miss the game of politics. And I certainly haven’t missed the brutality of social media,” he says.

“But I decided that if I could play a small part in bringing Labour back in Scotland and contributing to Labour returning to government, then that was a worthwhile use of the coming years.”

Only a handful of Labour’s current shadow cabinet have previously served as government ministers so Mr Alexander could provide some valuable experience to Sir Keir Starmer’s top team if Labour win.

However, he insists his “overriding focus” is on getting elected in East Lothian, rather than any ambitions for a government job.

Douglas Alexander served as Scotland and Transport Secretary under Tony Blair

Perhaps unsurprisingly given that Labour are riding high in the polls, fewer former Conservative MPs are standing again at the next election so far.

However, the BBC is aware of two in Scotland, including Luke Graham, who represented Ochil and South Perthshire from 2017 to 2019.

With national polls suggesting the Tories are on course for defeat, more than 60 of the party’s current MPs have already announced they are standing down.

But Mr Graham says in Scotland, where the SNP has been in power for nearly 17 years, it’s a different picture.

He says it was “devastating” to lose his seat to the SNP in 2019, after just two-and-a-half years in the job.

“I’d just figured out how to do it and then they had a snap election,” he says. “So it was very frustrating.”

He’s standing in the new constituency of Perth and Kinross-shire, which replaces his old seat, where he’ll face the SNP’s longest-serving MP, Pete Wishart.

Despite continuing to campaign locally since he was voted out, Mr Graham says the decision to stand again was still a difficult one.

“I’ve turned down two jobs in the last few months because I’m going for this election and I don’t know what’s going to happen,” he says. “So it’s a big risk.”

Tom Arthur
Heidi Alexander was shadow health secretary under Jeremy Corbyn

With Labour riding high in the opinion polls, the bulk of the ex-MPs standing again are from the party.

They include former shadow minister Heidi Alexander (no relation to Douglas Alexander), who quit as the MP for Lewisham East in 2018 to take up a job as deputy mayor of London for transport.

“I did think that I was leaving Westminster politics for good,” she says.

“Having said that, there was this tiny little bit of doubt in the back of my mind about whether there was some unfinished business there.”

Recalling her choice to leave Westminster six years ago, she says she felt the opportunity to work at City Hall was too good to pass up.

But she admits she was also frustrated with the direction of the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn. Ms Alexander was among a wave of resignations from his cabinet in 2016, after the Brexit referendum.

“I didn’t anticipate missing the job as much as I actually did,” she says. “It’s a hugely varied job and done well you can really make a difference for the community that you represent.”

However, it wasn’t until she left her mayoral role in 2022 and the selection process opened for the constituency of South Swindon, where she grew up, that she seriously considered standing again.

“At that point it was decision time for me because there wasn’t really anywhere else where I would have wanted to put my name forward,” she says.

A classic bellwether seat with a Tory majority of 6,600, South Swindon is exactly the kind of place Labour will need to win to form the next government.

Her opponent will be Conservative MP Sir Robert Buckland, a former minister who has represented the area since 2010.

There’s been growing concern about the threats facing MPs following the murders of Jo Cox in 2016 and Sir David Amess in 2021.

Ms Alexander says her family do worry about her safety if she returns as an MP and her mum in particular had concerns about her standing again.

“I thought very long and very hard about it because being an MP isn’t just a job, it does actually become your life,” she says. “And it has a big impact upon your family.”

Matthew Green
Since leaving Parliament Matthew Green has set up an architecture consultancy

When the opportunity rose to stand again for Parliament – nearly two decades after he was last an MP – Matthew Green also had doubts.

“I know the effect on other people around you being an MP,” he says. “It’s not something that people should go into lightly.”

He cites the intensity of the job and always being on duty, especially in a rural constituency where “everyone knows who you are”.

Just a month ago he had no intention of making a political comeback.

But when the previous Liberal Democrat candidate for South Shropshire had to step back for health reasons he thought he was the party’s best shot.

“I’m not somebody driven by an ambition to be an MP,” he says. “I’ve been there, I’ve done that.”

Mr Green represented the constituency of Ludlow – South Shropshire’s predecessor before recent boundary changes – from 2001 to 2005.

“Somebody else coming in wouldn’t have the time to build up their profile. And so I knew that at short notice, the only person in the Lib Dems who could put a real challenge in against the Tories would be me.”

It won’t be an easy task. The seat was won by Conservative Philip Dunne, who is standing down at the next election, with a majority of more than 23,600 in 2019.

The Conservatives have selected Stuart Anderson, who is currently the MP for Wolverhampton South West, as their candidate for the seat.

Despite the challenge, Mr Green thinks he has a chance.

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