Vince Cable and Danny Alexander to be confirmed as Election Spokesmen for Cabinet jobs they have been doing for the last five years

 

Exclusive, Vince Cable will lose his economy job with the Lib Dems tomorrow screams the Spectator headline. In fact, this is the second biggest surprise since the sun last rose in the East. The first biggest surprise, by the way, was that Alex Salmond would stand in Gordon where he faces defeat by Lib Dem Christine Jardine in May.

Anyway, back to the story which is about the party announcing its spokespeople for the General Election. It is hardly a surprise that Vince and Danny have been named as covering the roles they have been doing for the last five years. Doesn’t sound quite so scandalous that way, does it? Some might say that’s a sensible choice and would be more of a story if it weren’t that way round.

Others, and if the last LDV survey is anything to go by, that means around 2/3 of people, will be annoyed and concerned by this move. They feel generally that Vince is a better communicator on the economy and has more sway with that pool of voters we really need to vote for us. He certainly wiped the floor with George Osborne in the run-up to the last General Election and there’s no reason to think he wouldn’t do the same this time round.

I wrote last March when this was first talked about, Vince Cable is my Shadow Chancellor in the same way as Tom Baker is my Doctor. He set the standard for anyone to follow and he did it brilliantly. Danny has a tough act to follow, but let’s not underestimate him, either:

Without question, though, Danny has been right up there with Nick doing the troubleshooting across government, backing him up in, for example, stopping the web snooping stuff, stopping the Tories going even further with welfare reform, fighting for the fulfilment of our promise to raise the tax threshold. Whatever you think about that, it’s clearly popular, which is why the Tories are falling over themselves to try to make it their own. When issues become troublesome in the Government, it’s Danny that’s with Nick in there in the Quad trying to sort them out.

Vince is to the Shadow-Chancellorship what, for me, Tom Baker is to the Doctor. That doesn’t mean he can or should go back to that position. What must happen, though, is that he must have a very high presence in the campaign. We need to hear his voice.

What worries me more, if Charlotte Henry’s list is accurate, is that there seems to be so few women and no BAME representation. I’m particularly annoyed that our excellent International Affairs Minister Lindsay Northover appears to have been replaced by a man. I also think there should be a role for Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams. She is one of the best at articulating the passionate liberal thing. Where’s Olly Grender who is also excellent at this kind of stuff?

This team has a huge amount of pressure on its shoulders. They need to deliver a strong, confident, liberal message which will both energise the party and attract voters and they have to do it quickly.

We’ll have the full list when it’s announced.

Update 9:35: And here’s the list:

Election Campaign Team 2015

Local and General Election Coordinator – Paddy Ashdown

Deputy Local and General Election Coordinator – Olly Grender

Deputy Leader of the Parliamentary Party – Malcolm Bruce

Party President – Sal Brinton

Chair of Diversity Engagement Group – Navnit Dholakia

Liberal Democrat General Election Cabinet

Leader of the Liberal Democrats – Nick Clegg

Treasury – Danny Alexander

Home Affairs – Lynne Featherstone

Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – Tim Farron

Business, Innovation and Skills – Vince Cable

Energy and Climate Change – Ed Davey

Defence – Nick Harvey

Transport – Susan Kramer

Women, Equalities & Families – Jo Swinson

Europe – Mike Moore

Education – David Laws

Health – Norman Lamb

Work and Pensions – Steve Webb

Communities and Local Government – Stephen Williams

Older people, Ageing and Care – Paul Burstow

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – Dan Rogerson

International Development – Martin Horwood

Culture, Media and Sport – John Leech

Scotland – Alistair Carmichael

Wales – Jenny Randerson

Northern Ireland – Lorely Burt

Justice and Attorney General – Simon Hughes

Leader of the House of Commons and Minister for London – Tom Brake

Constitutional & Political Reform, Leader of the House of Lords – Jim Wallace

Chief Whip in the House of Commons – Don Foster

Chief Whip in the House of Lords – Dick Newby

Parliamentary Private Secretary to the DPM – Simon Wright

Nick Clegg said:

This is a Liberal Democrat Cabinet that will fight every day for the stronger economy and fairer society this country needs – where everyone has the opportunity to get on in life.

This talented front bench have shown both inside government and beyond that they stand for a liberal Britain – one of openness, tolerance and compassion.

This is a team that will never pander to the politics of grievance, fear and blame but instead work every day to keep Britain anchored in the centre ground.

Over the coming months, they will prove that the Lib Dems are the only party that can balance the budget, cut taxes for 30 million people, invest in health and education and protect our environment.

Paddy Ashdown said:

In government we’ve proved our commitment to a stronger economy by halving the budget deficit, helping business create 1.8 million jobs and creating two million apprenticeships.

We’ve also shown we care about a fairer society by cutting income tax for the lowest paid, helping struggling school kids and capping the cost of social care.

If in Government after the General Election this team will finish the job and make sure Britain doesn’t lurch to the Right or Left.

We all know Labour are a risk to the economy and the Tories will cut too much, threatening the NHS and sacrificing the least well off.

This Liberal Democrat Cabinet would balance the budget by 2018, cut taxes for low and middle earners and ensure decent public services, creating opportunity for everyone.

 Great to see Olly in there but 7/32 women is shockingly poor. 3 former  ministers return – Mike Moore, Paul Burstow and Nick Harvey.

Tim Farron’s role as foreign affairs spokesman is interesting and runs the risk of him having to defend a policy that may be unpopular within the party should an international situation develop where, for example, military action is mooted.

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

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42 Comments

  • “Danny has a tough act to follow, but let’s not underestimate him, either”

    Danny Alexander has no charm, gravitas or appeal whatsoever, in televisual terms at least. This decision is akin to Clegg’s “EU will remain the same” moment. Clegg has let his awkward relationship with Cable get in the way of the interests of the party, and this will have disastrous consequences, since the economy will be the key battleground in the next four months.

    Dreadful. Simply dreadful. We, the members must force a reversal of this decision.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 7th Jan '15 - 9:06am

    How do you suggest we do that?

  • matt (Bristol) 7th Jan '15 - 9:08am

    (Sigh). When the Conservatives see the sense in pretending the coalition they are themselves leading and invited us into is an embarassing blip and campaigning as if it didn’t exist, why are we tying ourselves ever tighter to the legacy of the past 5 years as if we had no identity before it and no policy without or against it?

  • Simon McGrath 7th Jan '15 - 9:27am

    I particularly enjoyed this line from the Spectator article : “The Business Secretary will speak for the party on business.”.
    Shocking.

  • Total agreement with RC

    RC 7th Jan ’15 – 8:59am
    “……..this will have disastrous consequences, since the economy will be the key battleground in the next four months.

    Dreadful. Simply dreadful. We, the members must force a reversal of this decision.”

    As for the comment —
    “Danny has a tough act to follow, but let’s not underestimate him, either”

    It would be impossible to under-estimate Danny Alexander.

    Anyone who saw that TV moment in May will know that simple fact.
    A rabbit in the headlights would have been a better spokesperson for the party .
    It fact if that same a rabbit had been run over and was squashed flat on the road it would still have more charisma than Danny Alexander in a TV studio.

  • David Blake 7th Jan '15 - 9:41am

    I agree with RC and John Tilley. Danny Alexander has virtually zero TV skills. Caron, the simple answer is not to appoint him in the first place but the leader won’t listen.

  • Full list published at: http://www.libdems.org.uk/general-election-cabinet
    Leader of the Liberal Democrats – Nick Clegg
    Treasury – Danny Alexander
    Home Affairs – Lynne Featherstone
    Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – Tim Farron
    Business, Innovation and Skills – Vince Cable
    Energy and Climate Change – Ed Davey
    Defence – Nick Harvey
    Transport – Susan Kramer
    Women, Equalities & Families – Jo Swinson
    Europe – Mike Moore
    Education – David Laws
    Health – Norman Lamb
    Work and Pensions – Steve Webb
    Communities and Local Government – Stephen Williams
    Older people, Ageing and Care – Paul Burstow
    Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – Dan Rogerson
    International Development – Martin Horwood
    Culture, Media and Sport – John Leech
    Scotland – Alistair Carmichael
    Wales – Jenny Randerson
    Northern Ireland – Lorely Burt
    Justice and Attorney General – Simon Hughes
    Leader of the House of Commons and Minister for London – Tom Brake
    Constitutional & Political Reform, Leader of the House of Lords – Jim Wallace
    Chief Whip in the House of Commons – Don Foster
    Chief Whip in the House of Lords – Dick Newby
    Parliamentary Private Secretary to the DPM – Simon Wright

    Unlike others, it’s Tim Farron’s role that catches my eye. Does he have any experience of foreign affairs? He’s not known for speaking out here and I thought he’d have been better used on Home / Housing / Political reform. Can’t help wonder if he’s being tested in a role that isn’t his natural strength.

  • Surprised not to see Jenny Willott not taking the Welsh brief – Not a criticism of Jenny Randerson, but wouldn’t an increased profile and opportunity to speak about Welsh matters help the Cardiff Central campaign?

  • matt (Bristol) 7th Jan '15 - 10:09am

    tpfkar – the logic of TIm Farron’s appointment flows from the heavily-trailed and pre-announced Vince Cable decision. Once Clegg had decided that his frontbench team would essentially be people doing what they did in government, the only obvious ‘gaps’ are International Development, Foreign Affairs and Constitutional Reform; TIm F is arguably deserving as outgoing President of a ‘high profile’ post, so here comes foreign affairs.

    Yes, it would be nice to have Tim F speaking on reform – but we can all tell that it has been decided that this election will not be fought on political reform and change to the system, but on ‘our record in government’.

  • I’ve heard quite a bit of criticism of Farron’s role but it makes sense to me. He’s probably our best communicator, he needs a big role. But we’re fighting this election based on the last 5 years which means any domestic brief would be hard for him. At least the Foreign brief positions him to speak up on the EU, an area of agreement across the whole party.

  • Richard Marbrow 7th Jan '15 - 11:00am

    Given how skewed our parliamentary party is towards privately educated Oxbridge graduates it is amazing that Nick can make the shadow cabinet skew even more heavily that way but he managed it.

    Every London MP except Sarah Teather seems to have a job too while the northerners are conspicuous by their absence. I’m not sure if that is a further symptom of the problem the party as a whole has or a continuing incapacity in Nick but it is yet another way that the front bench team does not look like Britain.

    If Tim Farron does well at Foreign (as I am sure he will) that should quiet some of the off the record briefings against him by some MPs. He is good on the media and this gives him the opportunity to add heft. Good choice.

  • matt(Bristol)
    “…..this election will not be fought on political reform and change to the system, but on ‘our record in government’..”

    Yes — our record in government on ‘political reform and change to the system’ does not exactly engender a glow of pride in a job well done,

    Whatever happened to that bloke who took personal charge for reform in 2010 ?
    He was going to give us the greatest reform since 1832, voting reform for the House of Commons, an elected House of Lords, the right of recall of MPs, etc. etc – so that we would all be ‘doing politics’ in a new way?
    His trump card at the last election was all about honesty and being different from the old parties.

    Did he just disappear in a puff of collective responsibility ?

  • matt (Bristol) 7th Jan '15 - 11:22am

    Louis, I see what you say, but Michael Moore (for very similar reasons) is speaking for us on Europe.

    Well anyway, I look forward to seeing what Tim has to say about US-UK relations, Iran, North Korea, etc, etc; (and even to Tim and Michael Moore giving a joint press conference with Danny and Vince on a Greek default on their debts). It’ll probably be good.

  • Jim Forrest 7th Jan '15 - 11:22am

    I wasn’t a fan of Danny till I heard him at the 2013 Glasgow conference, as No 4 in a British government, putting a cogent case for what Lib Dems have always wanted – a sensible way to reduce our commitment to nuclear weapons by stepping away from like for like replacement of the Trident fleet. Why have we made so little of that? It’s not a bad spending cut for a shadow chancellor to have up his sleeve, and might play better in Scotland than Salmond’s infantile “NATO, Yes please, but put the weapons where we can pretend we’ve nothing to do with them.”

  • I expect we will never be given the reasoning (if such there was) behind this list. I am surprised that Lorely Burt has been given the Northern Ireland role in preference to the Convenor of the Liberal Democrat peers and former speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, Lord Alderdice, whose knowledge of Northern Ireland is, I suspect, greater than Lorely’s. How many times has Lorely visited Northern Ireland in the last twelve months? It is also interesting that in a federal party the leaders of the party in Wales and Scotland are not given a recognised role in the general election campaign.

  • David Evershed 7th Jan '15 - 12:09pm

    Danny Alexander has more liberal inclinations than Vince Cable on economic issues. He expresses the free market principles which are a foundation of Liberal policy. Plus Danny has all the know-how from working the the Treasury for five years and can use it to effect.

    Vince is a good speaker when it is prepared speeches but his socialist thinking come to the fore with his off the cuff remarks. Vince is better placed as Business spokesperson where some intervention is needed to pump prime newer industries and Vince can argue why intervention is sometimes necessary in markets.

  • stuart moran 7th Jan '15 - 12:15pm

    David Eveshed

    You repeat this claim that free market principles are the foundation of Liberal policy

    Can I ask you which of the three main parties is not espousing free market policies that would have been considered extreme pre-1979? Can you also point me to the Liberal policy document which sets out this in black and white so I can read it an find another reason not to vote for you?

  • I think this is fairly good
    While I would have picked Vince over Danny, there is some reasoning in the choice. I think Danny has some good ideas, but is a poor communicator. Hopefully this can b overcome, at least to a degree.
    Slightly disappointed to see Farron get the foreign affairs job over Martin Horwood.
    Lynne Featherstone should be very good as Home Office spokesperson, she is an MP I will be very sorry to see lose in May.

    As for Caron’s grumble about women, who else does she think could be picked? Especially considering that, I would imagine, most of us would far prefer to see MPs as spokespeople than Lords. Olly Grender is not someone I’ve seen a lot of, but when I have she has come across dreadfully, so I am not disappointed to see her failure to get a ‘cabinet’ position.
    Our women:
    Lynne Featherstone – Home Affairs
    Jo Swinson – Women & Equalities
    Lorely Burt – Northern Ireland
    Jenny Willot – I’d imagine she could have got the Wales job, but she wanted to return to the backbenches in order to concentrate on her campaign
    Sarah Teather – I like Sarah, but after her pronouncement upon the party an it’s leadership, it’s hardly surprising she hasn’t been given a position
    Annette Brooke – is retiring
    Tessa Munt – I’d have liked to see her in there, but I’m not sure where she’d go, and he will probably be concentrating on her re-election campaign

  • Pure madness to have Danny as treasury spokesperson. It should be Vince. it’s going to bad news on election night that our number 2 will lose his seat as well and it could hamper us in coalition negotiations.

    Agree with the post above about lack of Northern Voices – why isn’t Mulholland for example speaking on something

  • Oh and in terms of wales couldn’t we just have Kirsty Williams leading on it – She is our elected both by the party and the public.

  • matt (Bristol) 7th Jan '15 - 12:34pm

    David Evershed – “He expresses the free market principles which are a foundation of Liberal policy” – I don’t think any one is talking about a totally restricted capitalism, and no-one is talking about a totally unrestricted caplitalism, so what are the ‘free market principles’ you mention. If you believe that a Liberal (or even a Liberal Democrat) government HAS of its inherent nature to always seek to lighten regulation on economic activity and refrain from scrutiny of business’ impact on social issues, wherever safe and possible, then:
    a) I disagree
    b) I vomit.

  • lloyd harris 7th Jan '15 - 12:36pm

    I see, yet again, the election team is full of current and past candidates but no election agent/organisers.

  • stuart moran 7th Jan '15 - 12:36pm

    Well the LD members on here seem to like Alexander

    It seems though that the voters are of a different mind though

    I f I had said after Cable had demolished Osborne’s plans in the pre-2010 debate that you would go into he 2015 election with Danny Alexander taking the lead on this topic then you would have laughed out loud. I am not laughing though – I find it sad that probably the most capable person in the 3 main parties is not being allowed a voice in the debate

    I can also not see how Alexander is going to build a credible case that will not just lead to Labour accusing him of being a Tory stooge (which to me he is) and the Tories accusing him of having agreed with them in Government (which he has). He is in no way a good enough communicator to avoid these traps

    I assume the reason that Cable is not there is that, as a lot of us believe, Clegg wants to gang up with the Tories on Labour and try to keep a foot in the door with a continued coalition with the Tories. Cable would not help that as I don’t think he buys into this approach

  • Helen Tedcastle 7th Jan '15 - 1:14pm

    That Vince has not been made our spokesperson on Treasury matters for the election is pure madness. Danny Alexander is wholly unconvincing as a media performer and to me appears too comfortable with George Osborne – the press release on Christmas Eve was pure tactics.

    As for Tim Farron at Foreign Affairs… Is this the best use of his talent? I would suggest not. Farron is a plain speaker who can rally the troops, so a domestic role seems more appropriate.

  • David Blake 7th Jan '15 - 1:32pm

    Louis, but the thing is that foreign affairs don’t generally feature much in elections, with the possible exception this time of Europe – which may, or may not, be classed as foreign affairs.

  • Gareth Epps 7th Jan ’15 – 2:10pm
    What a staggeringly stupid and counterproductive decision.

    Gareth, on your excellent Blog you asked the question recently “Can it get worse for the Liberal Democrats?”

    It just did.

  • This is a mistake in roles, they should have swapped Danny and Vince. I think this decision will bite over the compaign.

    David Evershed

    I’m not going to get in to the rights and wrongs of your comment in terms of views (I have some sympathy). But this is a campaign, Vince’s style mends itself much better to putting the Treasury message (experienced and a bit clunky goes well) and Danny much better to BIS (a bit more geeky).

    There is the added bonus it is a suggestion that a LD government would have looked a little different in terms of approach. As much differentiation as possible (even if only for the tiny minority that notice) would be a good thing.

  • Mike Tuffrey 7th Jan '15 - 4:59pm

    This debate has been caught up in the personalities. It should be about economic policy – on which elections are supposed to be decided (it’s the economy, stupid). That’s about so much more than ‘Treasury’ (where Danny’s role has essentially been about fiscal matters). The failure of LibDems to articulate an alternative approach to both Labour and Conservatives on the economy is the fundamental problem, IMHO, resulting in lack of cut through to the voters and the stagnant poll rating.

    Of course the split-the-difference position on fiscal matters doesn’t help, allowing the BBC’s Peston and Robinson to totally ignore the LibDems in their general election kick-off pieces on Monday, but I don’t see an alternative on that. The answer is to move it from fiscal to economic and allow Cable to articulate the alternative, as he so effectively did in the run up to 2010.

  • What RC said.

  • David Blake 7th Jan '15 - 5:36pm

    Gordon Johnson, perception is the all important thing and the perception of Alexander is of a rabbit caught in the headlights, someone who is not able to think on his feet. The role of party spokesperson on the economy requires a good TV performer. Many Lib Dems are paying the price of past mistakes. We don’t want more.

  • Peter Hayes 7th Jan '15 - 5:59pm

    A lot of people think Danny has been Osborne’s body armour so he is a disaster. Reading the “they work for you” web site I have seen lots of very good questions from Martin Horwood, my MP, but Tim Farron has a higher profile so might be better on foreign if he gets upto speed.

  • Leekliberal 7th Jan '15 - 6:29pm

    Vince has, by a large margin, the most impressive intellect of any economic spokesperson that any party could field at the General election so it’s tragic to see him confined to the business role. Let’s hope he strays somewhat from his furrow!

  • Peter Watson 7th Jan '15 - 7:14pm

    @Gordon Johnson “If he gets it wrong, he pays the penalty. If he gets it right, he gets the plaudits. It is what we have a Leader for.”
    Fewer MPs, fewer councillors, fewer councils, fewer MEPs, worse polling, … same leader. What penalty has Clegg paid?

  • Peter Watson
    Are you suggesting that being waited on by the servants at Chvening having arrived by chauffeur driven limousine is not punishment nough for Clegg?

    Nous sommes tous Charlie

  • paul barker 7th Jan '15 - 7:55pm

    The best thing about the headline in The Spectator is its talk of Cable losing a job which didnt actually exist until today, we dont have spokes people for The General Election until a few months before ….The General Election. Cable has not been sacked from anything, hes been given an extra job in fact, just not the one Stephen Tall wanted him to have.
    On the substance I have to say that I have never been able to see The Cable that others obviously see. I see a fairly normal, mid-ranking career Politician with a penchant for putting his foot in it, The Glory that is Vince in some peoples eyes escapes me.

  • paul barker 7th Jan ’15 – 7:55pm
    “………..I see a fairly normal, mid-ranking career Politician …”

    To describe Vince Cable as a career politician is clearly nonsense. Google him and you will see that he has done a number of proper jobs before becoming an MP.

    Danny Alexander on the other hand has been a press officer for the Cairngorms.

    Which I guess you rate as highly as the media skills he has displayed since becoming a minister.
    But I expect, paulbarker, that you do not see that either.
    I am beginning to think you are the Arsene Wenger of LDV. 🙂

    Nous sommes tous Charlie

  • David Evershed 8th Jan '15 - 6:21pm

    Stuart Moran – Your query about Lib Dems liberal free market policy.

    Read the recent publication ‘Why vote Liberal Democrat’ by Jeremy Browne ‘s published by BiteBack as part of a series on each political party.

  • stuart moran 8th Jan '15 - 6:42pm

    David Evershed

    I was unaware that a soon to be ex-MP wrote your party’s policy document?

    Any other members care to comment on David Evershed saying that this book is a Lib Dem policy document?

  • Stuart Moran. Obviously, you have the interests of the Liberal Democrats at hear. It is really good to see someone so completely objective in his views……………………..

  • Stuart Moran. Obviously, you have the interests of the Liberal Democrats at heart. It is really good to see someone so completely objective in his views……………………..

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