As this blog observed on Twitter earlier, Danny Alexander has left it rather late to start rowing back against claims that he has “gone native” in the Tory-run Treasury — telling the Mirror that cuts to the top rate of tax will be brought in “over his dead body”:
It’s worth reflecting on the techniques used by Tory rodent charmers to pacify the Liberal Democrat chief secretary to the Treasury for this period. Scrapbook’s favourite wheeze has to be the budget bribe (FULL DETAILS) offered to Alexander as the cuts began to bite in 2011.
Danny is the former spinner for the Cairngorms National Park, which covers a large chunk of his constituency. In the run up to that year’s Finance Bill, an ‘unaffordable state subsidy’ (in the form of green tax exemptions) for a monorail track running up the side of a mountain suddenly wassuddenly deemed vital.
The thinking behind the edict given to civil servants in 1 Horse Guards Road? As we reported at the time:
Coalition dynamics dictated the Tory overlords should “give Alexander something” for his slavish loyalty.
The Liberal Democrats have backed the so-called ‘crack cocaine’ of high street gambling, fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) which allow players to bet £100 per spin every 20 seconds — that’s £18,000 per hour. The vote on the obscure secondary legislation took place quietly in Committee Room 9 earlier today — despite promises from senior Lib Dems to crack down on the machines.
Calling for betting to be capped at £2 per spin — in line with bingo halls and casinos — the Lib Dem’s deputy chief whip Don Foster hailed a “real victory” when the government agreed to a review of the maximum stakes and spin rates on machines he described as “an aberration”:
“There’s no doubt this is ruining people’s lives. Fixed odds betting terminals have incredibly high stakes and prizes. People chase their losses. These machines are getting more and more sophisticated.”
Senior Lib Dems, including Nick Clegg, David Laws and Danny Alexander, were aldo photographed alongside materials campaigning against fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs). But this morning they caved into the gambling industry.
How do you know when a Lib Dem minister is lying? Their lips are moving (boom boom)!
Just when you thought the Lib Dem’s priorities couldn’t get any more skewed, Danny Alexander has told his constituents he backs naming and shaming of supermarkets who give dairy farmers a bad deal — whilst telling the country he won’t do the same for companies who avoid millions in tax.
In a local press release, Beaker backed the introduction of a watchdog with the power to name and shame supermarkets who pass on unexpected risk and costs to dairy farmers. Unveiling the plans, Alexander boasted:
“Farmers, in the Highlands and across the country, will now be able to enter into contracts with confidence, knowing they will get a fair deal from retailers. I am extremely proud that we are delivering on this in Government.”
But faced with seething public outrage that companies such as Starbucks and Google have paid less than 3.2% tax, he told this morning’s Today programme there would be no naming and shaming of the corporate giants:
“Those same Tories, who once gossiped about a 2019 battle between George Osborne and Boris Johnson to be the next PM, now talk of a 2015 race to be leader of the opposition.”
Some — including at cabinet level — are already making plans to flee the sinking ship:
“I know of one Cabinet member who is already moving his family to London, after concluding that it doesn’t matter what his constituents think because they’ll boot him out at the next election anyway.”
So who could this mystery (male) cabinet member be? With nearly all Tories in possession of handsome majorities, the nomadic member of the executive can likely be narrowed to one Conservative and two Liberal Democrats:
Secretary of state for Wales David Jones secured a majority of 6,419 in Clwyd West. But his Welsh Assembly colleague Darren Millar saw support for the Tories fall to 4,248 for the same area just one year into coalition — and before the cuts started to bite. This seat looks a dead cert to return to Labour for the first time since 2005.
Secretary of state for Scotland Michael Moore is defending a majority of 5,675 in Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk. The fact that the Tories are in second place and SNP nowhere is likely to save his bacon, however.
Perhaps the most delicious scalp could be that of chief Osborne collaborator Danny Alexander. With a lead of 8,765 over competitors in his Highlands seat, Beaker will be hoping that the opposition will be split between Labour and SNP in what has been considered a three-way marginal.
Can our Westminster and Whitehall readers shed any light on the matter?
Bad news for Danny Alexander over at the Lib Dems’ leading grassroots website today, where a survey of members reveals more of them want David Cameron, Iain Duncan Smith and William Hague in the cabinet than Beaker.
With a September reshuffle looming, it looks like beleaguered party supporters don’t fancy another 18 months of Alexander spinning their austerity policies (badly). His poor performances see him as the 14th most popular member of the cabinet, with a significant minority demanding his removal.
“I think it’s crucial we retain a foot-hold in the Treasury with the post of chief secretary. Whether Danny Alexander is the right person for the job is another matter … I just don’t think he’s the person you want fronting for the party on Newsnight.”
Scrapbook has to agree he has a point. Here’s some vintage Beaker from Question Time, in which the former Cairngorms National Park press officer shows his mettle:
Nearly half of Tory activists think the Prime Minister is costing the party votes, according to ConservativeHome – but the leading grassroots website still won’t reveal his standing in the cabinet league table.
Yesterday, Scrapbookrevealed Cameron’s had been quietly airbrushed out after previous poll results showed his popularity plummeting. The site has now released some damning numbers this morning, revealing 43% of members don’t think Cameron is a vote winner, as opposed to a miserable 36% who do.
But the outcome of the poll’s key question, which asked if members were satisfied with each individual cabinet member, remains absent for the PM — prompting speculation over where his low watermark will lie.
Imagine the embarrassment if he polled lower than Beaker.
Rather than work on contingencies in the event that Greek voters rejected the country’s EU-IMF bailout deal last Saturday, chief secretary to the treasury Danny Alexander insteadopted to party with his former colleagues – from a campaign for Britain to enter the single European currency.
With Greeks poised to go to the polls in an election which could have determined the fate of Europe’s economy, revellers quaffed champagne at the reunion party for the now defunct Britain in Europe campaign, where Alexander was director of communications.
Beaker is pictured above enjoying himself the Belgravia pub near Sloane Square — some one and a half miles away from his office in the Treasury.