LibLink: Danny Alexander – The Highlander

house danny alexanderThe House magazine features a smiling Danny Alexander on the cover, and a lengthy interview inside.

On the Comprehensive Spending Review:

Now that the dust has settled on the Spending Round, he has a rare moment to catch his breath and reflect on how it went. He says things went “more smoothly than many people outside this room thought when we started out on it”, but admits it was at times not easy.

“You are dealing with finding £11.5bn of savings. Of course those discussions are going to be difficult, they are robust exchanges. Sometimes they are me saying to the Secretary of State ‘I don’t think you should go that far in that particular area’. But often as you would expect it’s me pushing them further saying ‘Well you can do more, do you really do this in this way? Can you reform this public service in that way?’

“All of the discussions I had – almost all – were civilised, sensible, straightforward and with a collective understanding amongst ministers that we are trying to find the savings.”

On Trident:

Alexander has been busy working on the Coalition package on the future of Trident (the report was delivered to the PM and DPM last week). He rejects Hammond’s claim that Lib Dem policy on a replacement for Trident is not just naïve but also ‘reckless’ with the nation’s security.

“I don’t accept that. I’m not going to say too much about this now because we will be bringing forward the results of the review that I’ve been overseeing shortly. What I hope that will do is open up a debate about the fact that there are different ways of approaching nuclear deterrents that are responsible with our nation’s security whilst recognising that just like other aspects of our defence we don’t have to be stuck in the same Cold War postures of the past forever.

On his relationship with George Osbourne:

Some Lib Dems were slightly perturbed in 2010 to hear Alexander declare that no one could get a “cigarette paper” between his and George Osborne’s views on the economy. Was that just the heady days of the Rose Garden era, or is he still the most Coalicious of Cabinet ministers?

“George and I both work hard to make sure that the Treasury is the department where the Coalition works best, because it is the department that is responsible for the policy area that brought the two parties together in the first place.

“George and I have robust exchanges of views on a whole lot of subjects, but in the end sorting out the country’s economic problems, dealing with the deficit, getting our economy growing again – I think we are making progress. I think there are positive signs of momentum in our economy now. Of course people shouldn’t get carried away, it’s still early days and we’ve still got a long hard road ahead of us. I wouldn’t go back on anything I’d said about that before.”

Yet he stresses that the Lib Dems have managed to stamp their identity on the Coalition. “It’s about proving to people that you are as a party and as a politician able to do the right things for the country, day in day out – even if you are criticised for it, you are able to stick to a course and to do so in a way that delivers the values you went into politics to deliver. I think people who look at the Liberal Democrats in 2015 will see a party that has been battle-hardened, that has proved its ability to govern and that will be a powerful and compelling reason to vote Liberal Democrat.”

You can read the full article here.


* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames, where she is still very active with the local party, and is the Hon President of Kingston Lib Dems.

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  • David Wilkinson 16th Jul '13 - 9:08am

    With the brutal slashing he has been doing for the past 3 years he could change his name to MacLeod

  • jenny barnes 16th Jul '13 - 10:42am

    I understand he thinks that Trident is necessary, but can work with only 2 submarines. And it will deter who, exactly?

  • It sees to me that our continued possession of nuclear weapons is an ideal issue on which to hold a referendum.

    Clearly we are not under threat from any other nuclear power – and if this should develop we have the technology to build these weapons – if we did become threatened.

    In truth these are wanted mostly by our political leaders – with heavy financial cost to the people – so they can stride the world stage as the leaders of a ‘world power’! Those days are past.

  • From ‘’:

    But what is the price of Trident?

    According to a series of statements made in Parliament by ministers of the MoD in 2008 and 2012 the annual operating costs of the Trident programme amount to around 5 to 6 per cent of the defence budget. That’s the equivalent of between £2 to £2.4 billion.

    What about Trident replacement?

    The Government is in the process of deciding whether to replace the four submarines which carry nuclear warheads mounted on Trident missiles with a like-for-like replacement. The Trident successor programme will be funded from the Ministry of Defence’s core equipment budget. (Source: House of Commons Library, Update on Trident Successor Programme)

    In 2006 the Labour Government estimated that the procurement costs of the replacement of the Trident system would be in the region of £15-20 billion at 2006/07 prices.

    The “Initial Gate” – the first stage of investment – for the Trident programme was announced at the House of Commons in May 2011 by the then Defence Secretary Liam Fox. The estimated costs confirmed the Labour government’s estimates though at current prices including inflation that is now “£20 billion to £25 billion at out-turn.”

    Liam Fox also added:

    “Between now and main gate [in 2016] we expect to spend about 15% of the total value of the programme. That is entirely consistent with defence procurement guidance. The cost of long lead items is expected to amount to about £500 million.”

    In November 2012 the Ministry of Defence (MoD) outlined its projections for year-on-year spending up to 2016/17. Between now and 2016/17 this totals £2.8 billion.

    Also from the Guardian:

    New Trident fleet cost will top £25bn
    Defence secretary Liam Fox announces new funding but says Lib Dems will oversee review into ‘alternatives’

  • Of course things went smoothly. Unconditional surrenders usually do.

  • David Wilkinson 16th Jul '13 - 12:49pm

    Who are we going blow up with our nuclear weapons?
    They did not frighten the Argentinian in 1983, the IRA or Islamic terroists who where mainly from the UK.
    The Russians, they would have no one to sell gas to
    The Chinese as the workshop of the world they would have no one to sell everything to.
    So its either North Korea or Iran, do we really need 4 subs to blow them up?

  • @ David Wilkinson

    Considering the Taliban defeated the Russians and then the combined US & UK forces – perhaps we should model our Ministry of Defence [which is really a Ministry of Attack] on the Taliban. Bi££ions would be saved each year.

  • “As with many things in politics Yes Minister/Yes Prime Minister gets it right”

    Perhaps in the 1980s. But the situation has changed somewhat in the last 25 years.

  • Chris – then maybe in any conference motion people who think we should have a nuclear deterrent can set out clearly the circumstances in which they would authorise its use, whether they would authorise its use as a first strike weapon and in what circumstances, what level of destruction it is necessary to rain down on an opponent in order to provide a significant deterrent and what level of warheads that translates to.

    Because those questions went completely unanswered in the party’s last debate on nuclear weapons when they was a similar “lets have something smaller” move within the party.

    A submarine based deterrent which is not based on CASD is like having a nuclear detterent which is only switched on on weekdays.

  • “A submarine based deterrent which is not based on CASD is like having a nuclear detterent which is only switched on on weekdays.”

    It strikes me as a half-baked fudge that will satisfy no one.

    I think you could make a strong case against Britain continuing to have an independent nuclear deterrent. Or you could make a case that we should continue to have one. But to suggest we should have one that doesn’t work properly, at 75-80% of the cost of the genuine article, seems crazy.

  • nvelope2003 17th Jul '13 - 3:34pm

    Most big wars would not have started if the aggressor had believed that their intended victim would retaliate forcefully and with the intention of winning whatever the cost. No one knows what will happen in the future. Maybe some Liberal Democrats believe that other nations are really good at heart but history shows that to be utterly wrong. We cannot predict the future or who will be the rulers of other nations tomorrow let alone in the next few years. I wonder what the few Liberals left who fought in the last world war would think of all this ? Hitler was not seen as a threat by many people until it was too late and the nation was not prepared for the ensuing Second World War. The post above make me think of the man who asked what harm North Korea had ever done to anyone because he was so ill informed that he did not know that in 1951 the North Korean army invaded the South and almost overran it because the West led by the US did not make it clear what they would do. Just imagine the whole of Korea subject to the Kim dynasty without any hope of relief. Would you want the South Koreans to suffer that ? The same with the Iraqi attack on Kuwait in the 1990s when Saddam tried to steal their oil as though he did not have enough already.

    The IRA were British citizens and represented no threat to our way of life. They merely wanted the same for their people as was given to other British citizens in the North of Ireland. The Argentinians did not threaten the United Kingdom and we had not made it clear what we would do if they attacked the falkland Islands – if only we had done so the terrible loss of life might have been avoided.

    Islamists are another matter and we might very well need the threat of nuclear annihilation to prevent the West from domination by extremists who seem every bit as nasty as the Nazis and the Stalinists. When they start to run out of oil or the West no longer needs their oil they might very well attack if they have nuclear weapons in order to take the wealth of the West as Hitler wanted to take the wealth of Russia and vice versa after 1945. At leat in 1990 Germany was prepared to pay Russia to get East Germany back because they knew only too well what would happen if they tried to steal it as they had tried to steal the Ukraine etc.

  • “Islamists are another matter and we might very well need the threat of nuclear annihilation to prevent the West from domination by extremists who seem every bit as nasty as the Nazis and the Stalinists.”

    You need to explain how you can annihilate a terrorist group using nuclear weapons.

  • nvelope2003 18th Jul '13 - 4:37pm

    Chris – they live in countries not in outer space. Those countries which are financing them as well as those they seek to undermine. I was not referring to small isolated groups but countries which are or will be claiming to promote the Islamist agenda and devote their resources to attacking and undermining western culture and values instead of helping their people to become prosperous and happy. Because they wish to destroy the West they might very well try to do it. They might get another Saladin or Hitler type figure – nobody knows but they have had such figures in the past hence the expansion of Islam into North Africa and Spain, formerly Chistian countries.

  • nvelope2003

    I see. Could I ask which countries you have it in mind to nuke in retaliation for acts of Islamic terrorism? (After all, they won’t be deterred unless you tell them what they’re in for.)

  • nvelope2003 20th Jul '13 - 4:09pm

    I do not want to drop nuclear bombs on anyone. There are certain countries which have that capability and would not hesitate to use it if they thought they could get away with it. I am sure that you know who they are and if you do not then you should not be posting.

    I hate the whole idea of war, especially nuclear war, but that does not seem to be the view of the Commonwealth’s only specifically Islamic member which is busy selling nuclear capability to anyone willing to pay for it, especially if they are known to hate the West and its culture.

    I would not have wanted nuclear bombs dropped on Japan but after what was done in that terrible war it is hard to blame those who took that decision and maybe the truly appalling effects were not fully understood at the time.

    Had the West taken a firm line from the start the Japanese might not have behaved the way they did – maybe we will never know but it is a possibility. Certainly Hitler would not have acted in the same way if Britain and France had stopped his militarisation of the Rhineland contrary to the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles, itself a rather heavy handed treaty which did not help to heal the wounds of the First World War.

  • “I am sure that you know who they are and if you do not then you should not be posting.”

    I’m afraid there’s so much I don’t know. For example, I was astonished to learn that there was only one Islamic Commonwealth country. One can only sit here and wonder at the information which is posted.

  • There are many Islamic countries in the Commonwealth but in so far as I am aware, and of course I may be wrong, only one of them was specifically created, in 1947, so that it would be an Islamic state separate from the predominantly Hindu country of which it had previously formed a part and of which King George VI was Emperor.

    At the time of its foundation its leader, Jinnah, who was allegedly an alcoholic, stated that there would be freedom for all religions but I am not sure the minority of Christians and others who live there would entirely agree that that is so, paricularly those whose lives, land and property have been destroyed or stolen because they were alleged to have made blasphemous statements about the Prophet which could not be verified by any independent source and whose judiciary and police are either unwilling or too frightened to enforce the law. No wondere so many of its inhabitants seek to leave their country of birth.

    I must say your picture of Tony Hancock is very apt.

  • “of course I may be wrong, only one of them was specifically created, in 1947, so that it would be an Islamic state separate from the predominantly Hindu country of which it had previously formed a part”

    You mean the country which subsequently split into two countries – Pakistan and Bangladesh.

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