Coffee House

Danny Alexander’s real enemy

11 August 2012

5:22 PM

11 August 2012

5:22 PM

Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, is to drop his normally conciliatory voice to attack the Tories at the Lib Dem party conference in Brighton. So what? you may well ask. The mild-mannered Alexander is unlikely to strike the fear of God into his listeners, assuming that anyone beyond the conference hall will be listening, or indeed that the conference hall is full: Brighton being lovely at that time of year.

Besides, bursts of splenetic outrage at one’s coalition partners have become a feature of conferences, particularly since last year’s unhappy AV referendum. There is, dare I say it, a suggestion that they are choreographed for the TV cameras – conferences being the sole occasion when party politics, especially the yellow variety, has a chance of dominating news bulletins.


This prompts the question, should anyone bother listening to Alexander? The Financial Times is taking him seriously. Apparently he plans to attack the Tories’ position on relaxing employment law, arguing that making employees easier to sack represents an ‘irresponsible call for policies with no clear evidence of effectiveness.’

We’ve heard this sort of talk before, at the time of the Beecroft row. The difference is that there is more bad blood between the coalition partners now, and both have marked out their territory for the future. If one takes Alexander at his word, which seems reasonable given that his objections to employment law reform is long-standing, it would suggest that the Conservatives will have a difficult time convincing the Lib Dems to go further on the economy, which, as James reports in his politics column this week, seems to be the plan, in the shape of a new Jobs Bill.

Alexander has his own worries about the economy (as well he might). His conference speech will apparently condemn ‘the refusal of the Conservatives to acknowledge that investing in carbon-reducing technologies has the potential to make an important contribution to long-term growth.’ This is a dig at George Osborne’s recent retreats over green policy, but the ‘greenest government ever’ first had doubts about its mission when Vince Cable’s business department fought Chris Huhne’s DECC and George Osborne’s Treasury over the fourth carbon budget – a battle that raged throughout 2011. Limited concessions were agreed when the Treasury adopted elements of the business Department’s view that the proposed imperilled growth.

Government is not as simple as Danny Alexander would have you believe; certainly, it is not as simple as party politics. This is not to denigrate the Lib Dems’ principles, nor to deny their occasional contradictions. The apparent decline of coalition green policy reinforces the view that ministers can end up fighting their department’s corner first, and that great political battles are often determined by Whitehall departments changing sides. My question to Danny Alexander, assuming that he’s listening, is: who is the real enemy?

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Show comments
  • Justathought

    Let’s hope he does preach about libdem ambitions of “investing” in green technology with his personal guarantee of future growth. This is the lie that Labour peddled for a generation while the taxpayer paid £100 billion to subsidise our competitors. In the process Labour was duped as the high skilled, high paid jobs went to Germany and beyond while we ended up with the low paid flat pack jobs. The only lasting legacy was the vandalisation of our countryside and increased household energy bills. (I didn’t notice any wind turbines in Olympic landscapes of the opening ceremony).

  • 2trueblue

    The Lib Dums again, and the colour of the paper….. pink. Cameron must really stamp on them. The road we have ahead is not going to be easy and there is so much squabbling. The Lib Dems clearly care not a jot about the country and this is now so clear. Principles are very expensive and have to be backed up. It is so frustrating watching the further decline of the UK which is accentuated by the government being bullied by those who are supposed to be helping our recovery. Wind is not the way forward and the carbon issue needs looking at again. The lights are going to go out and we are not keeping our eye on the ball and concentrating on what we actually can use to prevent us from being totally dependent on some one else to go forward. Soed any one have an idea how we are going to do this and get into real recovery?

    Cameron really needs to fire most of the cabinet, and certainly all of the Lib Dems.

  • Rhoda Klapp

    There is certainly one set of persons who ought to be easier to sack. It is LD cabinet ministers. Of course I have no proof but I am keen to give it a try.

  • Faceless Bureaucrat

    ‘Beaker’ has always been no more than a fig-leaf for Cameron to try to show that the Lib Dems are really in Government.
    Watching any Lib Dem spouting faux ‘outrage’ about anything is little more than political cabaret – i.e. ‘good for a laugh’.
    Nobody cares what he thinks – he and the other Lib Dem hangers-on will do as they are told because being in a Government they are uncomfortable with is far more appealing than another 100 years of their Party squeaking from the sidelines and being ignored…

  • oldtimer

    IIRC it was Mr Alexander who insisted on the extra tax on oil and gas exploration – so effective that it stopped it in its tracks and had to be reversed. Not, it seems a man of sound judgment or experience.

  • UlyssesReturns

    Don’t ask the lightweight Danny Alexander who is the real enemy, Mr Blackburn, you should instead ask David Cameron. The real enemy of the country, the Government and the Conservatives, is the Liberal Democrats, the enemy within if you like. Unless the country immediately pursues a conservative agenda: fewer rules and regulations for employers, lower taxes, drastic real spending cuts including an all-out assault on the welfare state and culling of Quangos and union pilgrims, the Conservatives can kiss future majority government goodbye, possibly for ever. Wake up you dozy bastards and act like Thatcher would have done.

    • tele_machus

      Who actually needs to wake up is you.
      The Tories are finished.
      They could give every voter zero tax for a year and they still would be finished
      They promised on the economy and a few reasonable people too many voted for them
      They have not delivered and will not be forgiven.
      The few misdemeanors of Brown are forgotten.
      The alternative government is looking good with a strong team, a charismatic chancellor and a vision for growth that will benefit us all.
      We are all wishing Danny well in Brighton-may hasten Coalition break up

      • Nicholas

        Sing a different song you muppet.

        • tele_machus

          A new tune appropriate when yall have learned the last

          • Fergus Pickering

            You must be the fat guy. He’s not been around ever since… well, you really.

            As for the Tories being finished, they will never be finished. Toryism is in the human DNA. There are those who think a new thing is always good, like you, dear Telemachus. They are radical. And there are those who think what you have already got will do very well. They are conservative.

            When times are bad the electorate, who want them to be better, will always incline to a new nostrum. The trouble with Balls & co is all they have on offer is old stuff. It didn’t work last time so why should it work now?

            • telemachus

              Pray how can you think that what is going on now is working?
              When the euphoria of Mo Farrah & Jess Ennis is over, what have you left.
              You know the answer.
              An ever contracting economy, Kings predictions of ongoing flatlining which experience dictates are an over-estimate and a top team who we have begun to revile.
              The future starts on November 15. You saw the newscasts of the bright future walking round Corby in shirtsleeves.
              You saw the hope in hitherto forlorn faces.
              Cameron will see played over and over “You were the future once”

          • Span Ows

            telemachus says, “They promised on the economy…They have not delivered and will not be forgiven”
            Eh? Who said it would be cured in 2 years? It will take AT LEAST two parliaments before it is even close.

      • Ron Todd

        Brown will not be forgotten or forgiven, to for a long time. Just spending more money and making the state bigger is not a vision for growth. ‘Charismatic’ seriously?

        Cameron and his pseudo Tories might be finished but the belief in the right of the individual has been with us since the reformation and is not going away. There will always be those that believe that giving them more cetralised power is the only way to control the ordinary people there will also always be many who oppose them.

  • Alexsandr

    I thought ministers attacking government policy was a sacking matter. Hans’t Beaker heard of collective responsibility?
    If he does make this speech he should end up at Jobcentre Plus!

  • Nicholas

    And this little piggy went squealing wee, wee, wee!

    Lib Dems whingeing again – yawn. Wish they spent as much time sorting out the mess the country is in as they do briefing the press about their attacks against the government they are supposed to be part of.

    • Austin Barry

      The Lib Dems are the military wing of the Guardian, but a military wing characterised by infantile whinging, pouting, lower-lip quivering and probably furtive masturbation at the excitement of power and its perks.

      • Frank P

        Alexander has very strange dead eyes. He reminds me a flasher I once nicked in the bushes at Notting Hill by the nurses home at St Charley’s Hospital. A real ‘heavy-breather’. He had on the regulation gear of those days: a fawn mackintosh and just the bottoms of his kecks on string from his shoulders, to facilitate his trade. “It’s amazing just how many aren’t offended and join me in the bushes” he boasted. “Whoops missus – whaddaya think of this?” was his ploy. Didn’t believe him – a ‘J Arthur’ if ever I saw one. So maybe you have something, Austin.

        Nevertheless – and I refer to the doppelganger, of course – his ride in the van to the nick was somewhat less comfortable than for the common or garden bookie’s runner operating in that vicinity in those days. My future missus was living in the Nurses Home.

        I understand the Prime Minister has a gaff just around the corner, now.
        O tempora O mores.


        • Frank P

          Sorry, perhaps this was meant to be a serious post? Nah .. not a chance!

          • Austin Barry

            Er, no…

  • Nick Reid

    The Lib Dems (well, the sensible Yellow Bookers) have problems with some of the Tories job deregulation plans because there is no evidence that they will do any good.

    As it is the LDs have signed up for (I think) 17 out of 21 policies suggested in the Beecroft Report. They object to the changes to some aspects of employment legislation because Beecroft provided zero evidence that they would have any effect.

    Talk to any small business person and it is planning regulations they want reduced (time consuming and hugely costly) and more generous banks. Changing employment legislation is way down their list, if on their list at all.

    Plus they also all want lower VAT. But then who doesn’t want lower taxes (as long as it doesn’t involve cuts in things they do want government to provide).