Danny Alexander earns a reprieve after strong performance on Andrew Marr

Danny Alexander went on the Andrew Marr Show this morning to talk about the Autumn Statement and the Liberal Democrats’ contribution to the economic recovery.  If I had to pull him up on anything, it’s not getting in any mention of shared parental leave. No Liberal Democrat interview should be complete without it. It ticks all the stronger economy, fairer society, enabling people to get on in life boxes and is one of the best practical demonstrations of  Liberal Democrat values in action that we’ve delivered in government.

He said that the proposed MPs’ pay rise would be wholly inappropriate when there’s pay restraint in other areas of the public sector.

In terms of differentiation from the Tories, he said that Liberal Democrats wanted more taxes on the wealthy, opposed what he called the tax penalty for unmarried people and opposed the removal of housing benefit from young people, which we had stopped in this Parliament.

He also confirmed that free school meals for younger children was a permanent commitment and reports that it was unfunded after 2015 were not true. He said the money was there but the work had not yet been done to allocate them to individual departments.

I’ve done a quick Storify which covers the main points of the interview.

You may well be asking what reprieve I think he’s earned.

Well, I am aware that this is entirely gratuitous use of this video, but it is very funny. Danny himself has been seen chortling over it.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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26 Comments

  • “He also confirmed that free school meals for younger children was a permanent commitment and reports that it was unfunded after 2015 were not true. He said the money was there but the work had not yet been done to allocate them to individual departments.”

    That sounds remarkably like “We’ll find the money somewhere but we don’t know where.”

  • “In terms of differentiation from the Tories, he said that Liberal Democrats wanted more taxes on the wealthy, opposed what he called the tax penalty for unmarried people and opposed the removal of housing benefit from young people, which we had stopped in this Parliament.”

    Interesting. Obviously there are two approaches to this (neither of them easy):
    (1) Lib Dems could say that a lot of what the coalition had done was forced on them by circumstances and produce a list of coalition measures that are not Lib Dem policy and which they would like reversed. The biggest problem there is that in coalition the Lib Dem ministers have pretty well adhered to traditional single-party-style collective responsibility, and have been publicly arguing in favour of the government’s actions as a whole.
    (2) Lib Dems could say they agree with everything the coalition has done (except for policies such as the tax break for married couples, on which they were allowed to abstain), but could point to disagreements with the Tories on future policy. The problem there is that Lib Dem party policy would be instantly ‘rebooted’ into alignment with coalition policy, when by common consent the centre of gravity of the coalition has been much more Tory than Lib Dem.

    From Danny Alexander’s comments, he seems to be adopting option (2).

  • Richard Dean 8th Dec '13 - 2:17pm

    Is the video a new low in trivializing politics, or does it indicate the average mental age of the population now? I’d say five. It’s also an incitement to violence that shames LDV. I’d say the title of this piece is also contrary to the LibDem values, since the writer is granting a “reprieve” without consulting the membership. I guess I’m just too old, disgusted, leaving soon.

  • Richard Dean 8th Dec '13 - 2:30pm

    I really think the editors should pull this piece. Anyone who has lived on a rough estate knows that the video is the kind of things 11-year old bullies do in gangs. They surround you in the street, chant insults, chant what they’re gong to do to you, then do it. It’s the prelude to many rapes in poorer places, including townships in South Africa and suburbs in India. It’s an utter disgrace that LDV and this writer apparently support that kind of behaviour.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 8th Dec '13 - 2:52pm

    Richard, are you actually serious?

    It’s a bit of fun, made as a Christmas joke a couple of years ago. Danny himself was laughing his head of about it. Nobody is suggesting that he should literally be fed to the pandas, not that they would eat him anyway.

  • Richard Dean 8th Dec '13 - 2:56pm

    I am serious.

  • Richard Dean 8th Dec '13 - 3:12pm

    Hey, it was just a bit of fun, girl! Well, ok, we raped you, but it was just a bit of fun. No need to get all stroppy about it.

    Hey, you gay boy there, we’re gonna feed you to the pigs, just as soon as you step out of this school yard!

  • That was a strong performance? Vaguely committed to the collective cabinet position but plucking out a couple of tiny things that we can disagree on. As Marr said, the as-yet-unspecified cuts would be enormous, and as Will Hutton says, Lib Dems should be wary of writing “1948” spending levels into law.

    This week, with Nick Clegg’s Cameron impression at PMQs and Danny Alexander yet again playing the Tory stooge, my support for the Lib Dem presence in coalition is close to disappearing.

  • paul barker 8th Dec '13 - 5:22pm

    My problem with the “Repeive” part of the headline is that it suggests that someone has been spinning against Alexander, I thought we had decided to stop attacking each other & leave that to our opponents.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 8th Dec '13 - 7:59pm

    Richard, it might not be to your taste but I think you are really going a bit over the top here. This is not the first time we have featured what essentially a bit of comedy on LDV and it’s appeared on other blogs.

    I find it extraordinary that you can equate a bit of fun with hideous assault. I feel much more comfortable about that than about the Danny Boy song sung at the Glee Club this year which was a bit personal and cutting. Maybe if you’d seen the object of it genuinely and relaxedly laughing his head off, you wouldn’t be quite so vexed.

  • Eddie Sammon 8th Dec '13 - 9:43pm

    Richard, try to relax a bit, we need people like you in the Lib Dems. I can understand someone being annoyed, but this isn’t that bad.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 8th Dec '13 - 10:11pm

    Thanks, Eddie.

  • Richard Dean 8th Dec '13 - 10:33pm

    Goodbye.

  • David Allen 8th Dec '13 - 10:57pm

    “Richard, it might not be to your taste but I think you are really going a bit over the top here. ”

    Oh, arguably there are a million and one better reasons to say goodbye than this one. But then again, we’ve just had the news item about the Mafia boss who got fed to the pigs, haven’t we? So, bit of a miscued joke, surely? Possibly an opportunity for Lib Dems to say a genuine sorry, we could have done better here? Or do Lib Dems just never do that, these days?

  • David Allen 8th Dec '13 - 11:07pm

    Now if we’re going to talk seriously about the Autumn Statement, here is what Will Hutton says.

    “The autumn statement is a seminal event.”

    “By 2018, general government consumption will be proportionally no larger than it was in 1948. … The work of three generations in building the sinews of a state that support systems of health, transport, education, environment, policing, science and the rest is to be summarily withdrawn over the next five years. It is a landmark moment in our national life.”

    “It is a deliberate challenge to the Labour party, but importantly also to the Liberal Democrats. I am not sure that, once the enormity of what is proposed is grasped by his party, Clegg will be able to persuade it to sign up to such a dark vision.”

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/dec/08/george-osborne-spending-cuts

    Might LDV care to debate these points, or is it more important to run dubious jokes about pandas?

  • jonathan Hunt 8th Dec '13 - 11:22pm

    Chris: In coalition the Lib Dem ministers have pretty well adhered to traditional single-party-style collective responsibility, and have been publicly arguing in favour of the government’s actions as a whole.

    Have been saying this for a couple of years, and well done for thinking the same.

    You can always rely on Danny for being consistently bang on message. My wife says he’s a Tory, but the answer probably lies in the above-mentioned belief that the old-fashioned idea of collective responsibility extends to coalitions. How unlike the many coalitions that run most European governments.

    What is important is what Danny never says: He joined the Lib Dems because he supported traditional policies, like Keynsian economics; a belief in the welfare state and actually helping the poor and needy; and always thought austerity as being regressive measures intended to hit the poorest hardest.

    But he still benefits from propaganda like this on Lib Dem Voice.

  • Richard Dean 9th Dec '13 - 6:43am

    Well, the long night shift is over. I still think this article and particularly the video is crass. I have no problem with free thinking but I prefer grown up discussions. Danny Alexander is not a fool. Pandas in zoos are prisoners. Their visitors are taught not to see. Bullying is a problem, not a joke. Nasty things can start with nasty chanting.

  • At first I thought Richard Dean was overreacting – I still do, but I am also not comfortable with it. I’m not sure I know how properly to express what I really want to say about this, but it seems to be connected to the idea that the most important thing is to be able to take a joke, but laughing along with it seems to licence this type of bullying up to and including the level of the video (“Yes of course minister X is annoyed about the video they made, but she can’t take a joke – Danny Alexander laughed off worse” – and it has an effect in the world outside politics). Of course Danny Alexander is also in the position that he has no real choice about how to react anyway. Sorry if that is a bit incoherent.

  • jedibeeftrix 9th Dec '13 - 8:46am

    @ DA – I know, and I am delighted:

    ““By 2018, general government consumption will be proportionally no larger than it was in 1948. … It is a deliberate challenge to the Labour party, but importantly also to the Liberal Democrats. I am not sure that, once the enormity of what is proposed is grasped by his party, Clegg will be able to persuade it to sign up to such a dark vision.”

    What will never manages to articulate is that his party, the labour party no less, failed to make the public case to raise taxes sufficiently to pay for this grand expansion of the state.

    Public taxation has never consistently exceeded ~38% for the public would not tolerate it for any sustained political horizin, so it should be seen as a good thing that public spending will shrink back to the limit.

  • Senior politicians are always trying to convince the public that they’re the ones that can be trusted to take the difficult decisions. Well here’s one they’ve just flunked including our own Nick Clegg – IPSA’s recommendations on MPs’ salaries.

    By trying to encourage IPSA to make a political rather than a financial decision on MPs’ salaries, which is what got them in a mess in the first place, they have ably demonstrated why politicians should have nothing to do with setting their own pay and conditions.

    I am one taxpayer who is quite happy with IPSA sorting this out once and for all even if it does mean MPs getting a significant pay rise to get them where they should be. Given what’s gone on before party leaders should be welcoming this and be brave enough to say so!

  • “You can always rely on Danny for being consistently bang on message. My wife says he’s a Tory, but the answer probably lies in the above-mentioned belief that the old-fashioned idea of collective responsibility extends to coalitions. How unlike the many coalitions that run most European governments.”

    Well, I think if the party adopts this approach before the next election it will be suicidal.

    Obviously it will alienate the left-leaning voters the party has lost (and some of the ones it still has). And I very much doubt it will attract many Tory supporters – why vote for an imitation when you can have the real thing?

    The other thing the Tories are guaranteed to do, if the election looks like being at all close, will be to scare people in Tory/LD seats with the prospect that the Lib Dems will go into coalition with Labour. The more the party has been willing to ditch its principles in this parliament, the more plausible this will sound, whatever the manifesto says. People shouldn’t imagine the Tories aren’t ruthless enough to do that.

  • Michael Parsons 9th Dec '13 - 10:51am

    Collective Cabinet responsibility? OK if they were elected as Independents, but they weren’t. The LD’s have followed Clegg’s treacherous False Flag politics, and lost the opportunity for becoming the true party of social economics and popular radical reform in the space vacated by the centrist decline of Labour.

  • Caron, please sing after me: ‘Oh my, what a rotten song, what a rotten song, what a rotten song. Oh my, what a rotten song; what a rotten singer too-oo-oo’! Well, it wasn’t brilliant, was it? I don’t think Willie Nelson will record it.

    To be more serious, where is this much-vaunted economic recovery happening? Certainly not here, in City of Culture’, Kingston-upon-Hull. Osborne and his pals are spouting utter drivel!

  • Frankly this thread is not worthy of Lib Dem Voice. I don’t come here to read silly jokes and I agree totally with those who oppose the waste of our time and intelligence. I usually see much good sense coming from Caron but think she went too far here. Some people don’t seem to realize that we can lose even more votes by making stupid comments and threads.

  • William Nigel Jones 9th Dec '13 - 4:30pm

    Chris has said what many of us have been saying for the last couple of years. Nick Clegg and Danny have been playing the usual game of collective responsibility instead of making it clear where we Lib-Dems really come from and hence where Coalition decisions depart from Lib-Dem policies.
    There are a number of areas where we should have been showing we fundamentally differ from the Tories; some noises on green issues are beginning to be heard from Nick, but what about inequality and proper devolution of governance from the centre to local areas ? Not only is Osborne intent on reducing central government, he is also going back to Maggie Thatcher’s onslaught on local authorities. Gove is supporting this also in the field of education. Local authorities are looking at such a reduced future, their very nature is going to be changed. The so-called localism agenda is a fake; with reduced resources, instead of being able to run things according to local people’s wishes, local authorities will become facilitators for services run by private or thirdparty agencies according to central government rules. As to the poorest people, they will probably at best be given central government money to give out like a charitable cause that is unable to deal with the long-term issues facing those at the lower end of society.
    Danny can say good things about taxing the wealthy, but without a proper strategy delivered (as it ought to be) at local level this will not help the less well-off.

  • Richard Dean 9th Dec '13 - 4:41pm

    I’m sure that if I wrote for LDV, every piece would be a disaster. I find that Caron does very well most of the time, though I often don’t agree with her opinions. But even professional writers will have disasters every now and again if they write a lot, or/and under too much pressure. I think this was one, but it doesn’t mean that every one will be.

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