Who should be the Lib Dem shadow chancellor in 2015 – Vince or Danny? Here’s what Lib Dem members think…

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum  to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Over 830 party members responded – thank you – and we’re publishing the full results.

vince or danny

Currently the Lib Dems do not have a shadow chancellor. Vince Cable held the role in 2010. Danny Alexander has been chief secretary to the treasury for the past four years. Who do you think should represent the Lib Dems in the ‘Ask the Chancellors’ televised debate during the 2015 general election campaign?

    28% – Danny Alexander

    63% – Vince Cable

    3% – Someone else

    6% – Don’t know

By an overwhelming 63% to 28% Lib Dem members want Vince Cable rather than Danny Alexander to represent the party on the economy at the next general election. Among the small number of those who opted for someone else, David Laws was the single most popular choice.

I’m not going to feign neutrality on this one: I think my fellow party members have called this exactly right. As I wrote of Vince a month ago:

He is, by a long, long way, the best-qualified candidate. I say that for two reasons.

First, his understanding of the British economy far exceeds that of either Danny (or Steve [Webb]). It is impossible to imagine anyone other than Vince writing as good and nuanced an account of the Coalition’s economic policies as he did last year in the New Statesman: When the facts change, should I change my mind?

Secondly, his understanding of the politics far exceeds that of Danny (though not necessarily Steve). Vince has walked the tightrope of respecting collective cabinet responsibility while signalling quite clearly when and why he disagrees with the Conservatives, most notably on immigration.

That’s what I think. Here’s a sample of your comments…

• Danny can’t represent Lib Dems – he is too close to Osborne and too far from party policy
• A former press officer for the Cairngorms or a former Chief Economist for Shell? If you don’t pick
• There are many ways in which Vince would be better, more trusted and untainted by working with Gideon. But Danny can and must take ownership of the personal allowance/tax cut and would be person most likely to be in the treasury in a future coalition so ought to be our point man on this.
• Vince would do a much better job of it than Danny. He is a skilled media performer – we should use our strongest asset
• Danny has done well but Vince has more authority
• Danny is the man at the Treasury
• Both are capable and intelligent, but Vince edges it out as the most recognisable one of the two and having been in the role before.
• Danny is too closely associated with the Coalition. We need someone who can set out the Lib Dems’ distinctive pitch.
• Choosing anyone but Danny sends a very poor message about how we see our role in the treasury
• I should like it to be Vince – but realistically of course it will be Danny.
• Even as a sceptic of many of Vince’s positions, he is quite clearly the strongest candiate
• I like Danny and am closer to him politically, but in terms of gravitas, message and public appeal it simply has to be Vince.
• Danny has a grasp of all the detail and comes across as a truthful competent man who can be trusted.
• Danny because he’s the senior Lib Dem economic minister and would be our Chancellor in a Lib Dem govt
• Danny Alexander should be able to put the case forward for what he has done in government and what Lib Dems would do if given a coalition opportunity again. Vince Cable would only be there to appeal to those who already like him, not to set out our case.
• I can’t think of anyone apart from these two, so Vince. I don’t think Danny would do a good job setting us apart – my only reservation about Vince is that he might overshadow Nick (or at least the media buzz would be unhelpful).
• Very torn here – Danny Alexander is sound but unexciting. Vince Cable has always had a good grip on things but gets penalised for governing well.
• It would be downright bizarre to put forwards someone who hasn’t been at the Treasury. Besides, Danny Alexander is better equipped to challenge George Osborne, since he knows what’s been going on at the Treasury. Vince Cable has been in a completely different department.
• It is pretty remarkable it hasn’t occurred to anyone this person should be elected. We ought really to have MPs elect a shadow cabinet- including both current ministers and backbenchers.

  • 1,500 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with LibDemVoice.org. 745 responded in full – and a further 87 in part – to the latest survey, which was conducted between 16th and 22nd April.
  • Please note: we make no claims that the survey is fully representative of the Lib Dem membership as a whole. However, LibDemVoice.org’s surveys are the largest independent samples of the views of Lib Dem members across the country, and have in the past offered accurate guides to what party members think.
  • For further information on the reliability/credibility of our surveys, please refer to FAQs: Are the Liberal Democrat Voice surveys of party members accurate? and polling expert Anthony Wells’ verdict, On that poll of Lib Dem members.
  • The full archive of our members’ surveys can be viewed at www.libdemvoice.org/category/ldv-members-poll
  • * Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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    29 Comments

    • Eddie Sammon 27th Apr '14 - 8:54am

      A casual voter on not a high income said to me recently: “The problem with Nick Clegg is if he has £1 he will spend £2”. Vince needs to tackle the impression that he has Labour tendencies to spend money we don’t have. Of course, he has been good at tackling Help to Buy, but on other areas such as wanting to turn the Keynesian tap on he hasn’t been so good.

    • Can’t wait for Vince to go up against Ed Balls and explain why he sold the Royal Mail for far less than it’s worth and why he created an unsustainable tuition fees system that the next government will have to dismantle.

      I am inclined towards Labour in 2015 though.

    • Eddie, on the other hand Danny is seen as being much too close to the Tories. He’s improved his TV skills, which were initially absolutely dire, but Vince still comes over better. Mind you, Vince has to convince many people on student fees and the Royal Mail.

    • I am astonished that 28% of the self-selecting group of 750 people who responded to this survey thought that Danny Alexander would win votes for the party as “shadow chancellor in 2015”.

      What shocks me is the deferential attitude informing many of the comments. People who say it has to be “x” because they have been a minister in this or that department seem to have forgotten what General Elections are about. They are about ploitics and ideas and putting across your best messages and your best people to inspire and encourage your activists and your voters. it is not about rewarding people for muddling through. Danny Alexander is probably a very nice bloke, his heart seems to e in the right place, but he has had four years to practice at being a convincing politician in the media. I am sure he has tried his hardest, and he cannot help the fact that because of the job he has done he will be associated with Clegg and failures, as well as being associated with Tory economic policies.

      But let us be real. We will not be reaping the joyous thanks of a nation of voters at the general election. We will be fighting for survival as a party the House of Commons. In such a fight for survival I am sure Danny Alexander would do his best. But would his best bring in a single percentage point increase in the support for Liberal Democrats?

      What will matter at the General Election is who will be the leader of the party. If it is Clegg we will get more of the same, single figure support in the polls, dramatic reduction in number of MPs. Good decent MPs with an admirable record will be sacrificed unnecessarily if we do not get rid of Clegg before the general election.

    • John Tilley “What shocks me is the deferential attitude informing many of the comment”

      Yes the Lib Dems are shockingly deferential to those in power/authority! For instance many on here insist on calling someone “LORD so-and-so” (I won’t name The Lord in question ) even when that person has brought the Party into disrepute. I expect such things from the Establishment but I honestly thought LDs were instinctively against all that forelock-tugging nonesense.

    • John Tilley “he cannot help the fact that because of the job he has done he will be associated with Clegg and failures, as well as being associated with Tory economic policies.”

      Whenever we see him on TV or hear him on radio, all we think is’ here is a bloke who claims to be a Liberal Democrat robustly defending Osborne’s policies’.

    • Exactly Phyllis.

    • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 27th Apr '14 - 12:12pm

      Ah, so raising the tax threshold is one of Osborne’s policies, is it? I don’t think it was on the front of the Tory manifesto..

      And what about putting serious resources into tax evasion and ensuring that the wealthy pay more taxes. Have we forgotten about the 10% rise in Capital Gains tax?

      We forget that the coalition has cut round about the same as Labour were planning to and much, much less than the Tories had in mind.

      Ok, so some of us think that it could have been done differently, but we shouldn’t be swallowing the line that we’ve been implementing Tory policies. On the contrary – it’s the Tories that have been implementing many of ours.

    • @g

      “Can’t wait for Vince to go up against Ed Balls and explain why he sold the Royal Mail for far less than it’s worth and why he created an unsustainable tuition fees system that the next government will have to dismantle.”

      I can’t wait for Ed Balls to go up against Vince Cable and explain why:
      1) He left office with the largest deficit since the second world war;
      2) As City minister he boasted about how little the government was regulating the City;
      3) How a graduate tax will actually work and why graduates should be forced to make an open ended commitment to unlimited lifetime extra tax payments and also how he will fill the immediate funding gap of £3bn a year it would create;
      4) Why he’s opposed any spending cuts whatsoever and yet says the government is borrowing too much.

      I really *do* look forward to that.

      I definitely agree with this poll. Vince is far, far better than Danny at representing the Lib Dems and what they stand for.

    • Caron – the coalition has cut far less because it has FAILED. They were told that it would be self-defeating but they didn’t listen. Mervyn King was well aware of the dangers represented by Cameron and Osborne were in 2009, why wasn’t Clegg? Far more people are still claiming benefits than they expected. They’ve belatedly realised what should have been obvious to someone with an Economics GCSE, that fiscal masochism in 2010 was not going to lead to a boom in buisness investment. So they’ve retreated but the bigger issue is why they were trying to jump over the cliff in the first place.

      As for calling people Lords, I’m all in favour of it. I’m afraid it is what they are whether we like it or not. I’m sympathetic to the reformers amongst them who want an elected house or don’t believe they should be entitled to sit there for the rest of their lives. Lord Prescott is a Lord. He has a say on making new laws without fear of what the public think. Same with Lord Rennard and Lord Archer. These are privileged individuals not commoners like the rest of us. Let’s not be in denial about this.

    • Caron Lindsay “Ah, so raising the tax threshold is one of Osborne’s policies, is it? I don’t think it was on the front of the Tory manifesto..”

      It’s smoke and mirrors. Giving with one hand and taking away with the other. The tax threshold raise in no alleviates the assault on the poor and disabled by this administration.

      “we shouldn’t be swallowing the line that we’ve been implementing Tory policies. On the contrary – it’s the Tories that have been implementing many of ours.”

      But Tory policies HAVE been implemented. Lib Dems warned us about “the Tory VAT bombshell” then promptly implemented it. They imposed the bedroom tax retrospectively – so unfair! – forcing people into desperate circumstances. So yes when we see Danny standing in front of the cameras we just see someone who implements Tory policies whilst the Tories throw him some headline ‘crumbs from the table’ and take much mote money away from the very poorest in society in other ways.

      “We forget that the coalition has cut round about the same as Labour were planning to and much, much less than the Tories had in mind”

      So now the Labour plan on the size and scale of cuts was the right one all along? ??

    • RC, a week is a long time in politics, 5 years even longer. Whether or not Balls is responsible for the global financial crash ( of course not), or Labour were in thrall to global finance (they were, few weren’t), or whether their HE policy is fully costed (I suspect it will be, they take this issue seriously) is mostly irrelevant. What matters is what happened between 2010 and now, and then only in terms of what gets headlines, because the debate will be distilled down to soundbites and catchy policy announcements. It is impossible to have a proper, evidence based debate on the minutiae of budgets because it doesn’t work in this format.

    • I agree with the comments that Vince would come over better and Danny is associated with the Tory policies because he keeps defending them on TV.

      @ Helen Tedcastle – “Vince Cable is head and shoulders above Danny Alexander. He is also a vote winner not a vote loser for the party. People trust him.”
      Vince has no convincing answer to why the voters should trust anything he says because he broke his personal pledge on tuition fees and so he can’t be trusted like all of our MPs who voted to increase tuition fees. His argument that the Conservatives would have introduced a worse system really needs taking apart. Therefore if tuition fees came up and George Osborne stated that they would have introduced the recommendations of the Browne Review Vince’s position will be destroyed and he would have been a bad choice.

    • Eddie Sammon 27th Apr '14 - 2:25pm

      Thanks David. I think it is a tough choice, but I slightly favour Danny.

      To be honest, I think the chief economic team has got it wrong – George Osborne, Rupert Harrison and Mark Carney. The solution is a pragmatic one of effectively more taxes and more cuts. If we don’t do this there will be another crash.

      Neither candidate seems to be pointing this out and I don’t see the political dividend in booming and busting the economy like Gordon Brown.

    • Stephen Tall rightly expresses the reasons why Vince Cable should present our position in economic policy:

      “First, his understanding of the British economy far exceeds that of either Danny (or Steve [Webb]). It is impossible to imagine anyone other than Vince writing as good and nuanced an account of the Coalition’s economic policies as he did last year in the New Statesman: When the facts change, should I change my mind?

      Secondly, his understanding of the politics far exceeds that of Danny (though not necessarily Steve). Vince has walked the tightrope of respecting collective cabinet responsibility while signalling quite clearly when and why he disagrees with the Conservatives, most notably on immigration.”

      I think it would be far more difficult for Danny to differentiate our position from that of the Conservatives while at the same time campaigning on our economic record in office.

      Just as importantly, should we find ourselves in coalition after 2015, then Vince Cable needs to have significant influence in the Treasury – either as Chancellor or Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

    • Tony Dawson 27th Apr '14 - 3:34pm

      @Phyllis:

      “Whenever we see him on TV or hear him on radio, all we think is’ here is a bloke who claims to be a Liberal Democrat robustly defending Osborne’s policies’.”

      You mean the not-as-bad-as-Tony Blair/Gordon Brown’s policies? Remember, 13 years of Labour rule paid the state pensioners a pittance and increased the size of the rich-poor divide even more than Mrs Thatcher did.

    • Phyllis
      I agree and I too thought — “…thought LDs were instinctively against all that forelock-tugging nonesense”
      But as I have got older and people who I knew in the 1970s and 1980s took their seats in the House of Lords I noticed a change.
      Despite their protests that they are keen to abolish the place I notice that many of them have been institutionalised in the place. They follow the rules and codes of behaviour, nod in the right places, bow and scrape if there is a royal about. All rather sad I think. My job used to take me to the Lords occasionally and I was disappointed with how so many of the Lberal Democrats “played the game”.
      Tony Greaves is an exception; one of my favourite memories is of him telling me in no uncertain what a complete mess Clegg was making of the Coalition whilst a Tory Earl quietly waited for him to finish.

    • Paul In Twickenham 27th Apr '14 - 4:28pm

      I would like to see Prof. Webb as Lib Dem speaker at the chancellor’s debate. I would prefer to see Dr. Cable at another debate.

    • Ray Cobbett 27th Apr '14 - 4:59pm

      One poll this morning puts LD’s one point ahead of the Greens and we’re discussing this?

    • jedibeeftrix 27th Apr '14 - 5:08pm

      the HoL is going to be one of the most powerful governmental functions the Lib-Dem’s can lay claim to in short order, it wouldn’t do to sabotage that too! 😀

    • @g
      Easy get out, eh?

      I don’t think people will forget how bad Balls and the rest of Labour were when they were in power when they are faced with the prospect of having him in No. 11 Downing Street in charge of the nation’s finances.

    • Ray Cobbett
      The appalling poll ratings for the party are not new. The reality of having Clegg as leader has resulted in years of the party doing badly, losing MPs at the last GE, losing councillors every year ever since, losing members, losing support in the polls, failing to put up candidates In by-elections, failing to put up a full slate in some London Boroughs and elsewhere in the current elections. Add to that losing 2 debates to a charlatan like Farage, which need not have happened.
      The poor position of the party in the polls is not a result of discussions taking place in LDV.
      What else would you prefer to discuss ?

    • I think your yellow blinkers may be clouding your judgement! Labour were extraordinarily popular up until their final term.

    • Tony Dawson 27th Apr ’14 – 3:34pm
      @Phyllis:

      “Whenever we see him on TV or hear him on radio, all we think is’ here is a bloke who claims to be a Liberal Democrat robustly defending Osborne’s policies’.”

      You mean the not-as-bad-as-Tony Blair/Gordon Brown’s policies? Remember, 13 years of Labour rule paid the state pensioners a pittance and increased the size of the rich-poor divide even more than Mrs Thatcher did.

      We’re asked about Danny or Vince. This thread is not about whether the poor suffered more under Labour or this Coalition. The only thing I would say is that I remember Cardboard City in the 80s and begging on the streets of our major cities. I didn’t see that under Labour in the 90s. I also saw a huge leap in becoming a ‘tolerant ‘ society ‘ for instance toward same-sex relationship in the 90s and a huge growth in women in the Commons.

    • “Have we forgotten about the 10% rise in Capital Gains tax?”

      Have you forgotten that it was meant to be a rise of 22% or thereabouts according to the coalition agreement?

    • @ Peter Chivall – “As for the Tuition Fees issue – Vince was forced to implement the Brown review recommendations by the Coalition Agreement.”

      Please can Peter point out where in the Coalition Agreement it states that the Coalition will implement the Browne Review (and it wasn’t implemented in full). The Special Conference Reps have to take some small responsibility for not rejecting the clause on Tuition fees in the Coalition Agreement so all our MPs could keep their personal pledge. However I think that our MPs should have noticed this and got it changed during the negotiations – it should have been a red line.

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