New Times,
New Thinking.

  1. Election 2024
12 December 2011

Danny Alexander struggles to repair Clegg’s damage

His defence of the Lib Dems sounded less convincing than ever.

By George Eaton

After Nick Clegg’s europhile outburst yesterday, it was left to Danny Alexander to repair the damage this morning. Appearing on the Today programme, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury dodged the question of what the Lib Dems would have done differently by simply insisting that the “circumstances would be different”. Sounding a conciliatory note, he acknowledged that David Cameron had a “very difficult hand to play” faced with “real intransigence” from France and Germany and a clear need to bring “something back” for the House of Commons.

Confronted by the greatest threat to the government’s unity since the AV referendum, Alexander attempted to restate the initial rationale for the coalition : to clean up “the mess” left by Labour and secure economic stability. But the failure of Osborne’s plan means that he sounded less convincing than ever. The deficit will still be £79bn (4.5 per cent of GDP) in 2014-15.

The Lib Dems’ record in government is not a happy one. Tuition fees have been tripled, electoral reform has been banished for a generation and Britain has been marginalised in Europe. The question John Humphrys put to Alexander is the one many voters will be asking: what is the point of the Lib Dems “apart from keeping the Conservatives in power?” Alexander insisted that there were an “enormous amount of Lib Dem policies and ideas being delivered” but he could point only to the pupil premium (a policy also favoured by the Conservatives) and the increase in the personal allowance. But following the events of last week, these gains look more meagre than ever. As things stand, talk of the coalition breaking up is confined to mavericks such as Jenny Tonge but others may yet join her.

Clegg’s long-term strategy remains clear: to present the Lib Dems as more socially progressive than the Tories but more fiscally responsible than Labour. But increasingly few voters are attracted by this pitch. For now, the slow march to electoral oblivion continues.

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU

Content from our partners
"Heat or eat": how to help millions in fuel poverty
We need an urgent review of UK pensions
The future of private credit