In a sign of his enhanced status in the party, Danny Alexander has been one of the main attractions on the conference fringe this year. This evening, it was standing room only when he was interviewed by The Independent’s Steve Richards.
Alexander was on feisty form. He declared that ‘both the other parties are pretty useless’ and that the Liberal Democrats had ‘done a bloody good job for this country’. Marking his own homework, he gave the party 10 out of 10 for being credible and effective.
But he said that the Lib Dems had to shout louder to get their share of the credit for the economic recovery. He did, though, acknowledge that ‘In the early days, we did miss some of the opportunities’ to promote Liberal Democrats achievements and distinctiveness.
It was on his future plans for the economy, though, that Alexander made news. He indicated that he would like to continue with the 80 percent spending cuts, 20 percent tax rises approach to deficit reduction that the coalition has taken in this parliament. Given that there’s still £25 billion to go before the deficit is cleared, this means that there’ll have to be around £5 billion of tax rises in the first two years of the next parliament. The Lib Dems have said that they would raise £1.7 billion from extra council tax bands and they have also indicated they are keen on various changes to pensions tax relief, but this still leaves about £3 billion of tax rises to account for.
Alexander was keen to take a pop at the Tories over their plan not to raise taxes. But he was even harsher on Labour. He attacked Miliband’s ‘deficit amnesia’ and warned ‘people think Theresa May is illiberal, but just look at what Yvette Cooper says.’
Tellingly when Alexander was asked about the Quad, he stressed that him, Clegg, Cameron and Osborne ‘work well together’ and that they are ‘very business-like people’. One gets the sense that Alexander would be more than happy for this business-like arrangement to continue after 2015 if the parliamentary arithmetic permits.