12/06/2001 With Patricia Hewitt getting the nod as Trade and Industry Secretary, the much-coveted and influential position of minister for e-commerce is up for grabs. And in comes one of Labour's bright young things fra' north o' the Border -- Douglas Alexander. He's got everything the country needs in someone with responsibility for... well, whatever it is a minister for e-commerce is responsible for. He's a solicitor. He's a pal of Gordon's. He is -- unforgivably -- two years younger than I am. He doesn't on the face of it appear to know a hashing algorithm from a DSLAM, but I'm sure he'll soon get up to speed. And this is the sort of thing with which he'll have to deal. The same day as his appointment is announced, Microsoft tells the government that it needs to get its fingers out over broadband provisioning. Microsoft has excellent contacts with the Blairistas -- remember Tony's papal blessing at the XP launch? -- so there's no doubt the same message is already sitting in e-Doug's intray. Of course, the problem with broadband isn't any particular telco, says Microsoft, and that's not because BT is Microsoft's special pal. Exactly how Microsoft proposes e-Doug fix the problem while a particular telco remains responsible for most of the copper in the country isn't clear. At least Gordon's on record as being keen on cutting call charges. There may be hope yet.