James Forsyth

Alexander’s arguments

Alexander's arguments
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Danny Alexander’s announcement of a £900 million clampdown on tax avoidance, evasion and fraud is designed to reassure Lib Dems that the coalition’s policies are fair, that it isn’t balancing the budget on the backs of the poor. In a deliberate echo of George Osborne’s comments about welfare, Alexander said that the years when people could treat tax avoidance and evasion as a "lifestyle choice" were over.

This Alexander announcement is a preview of what we’re going to see at this conference, a series of sweetners to show the party that the Liberal Democrats are influencing government policy. But Alexander also tried to gird the party for the challenges ahead, stressing that while dealing the deficit would not be easy it was the right thing to do.

There was an attempt to reassure the party that the Lib Dems are not shrinking violets in government; Alexander said "we give as good as we get" in internal arguments. But this was combined with a willingness to take ownership of what the government is doing. He even declared that the cuts are "our cuts", a line that I suspect will be appearing on a lot of Labour leaflets in the next five years.