James Forsyth

Danny Alexander was already doing a job crucial to the Coalition’s success

Danny Alexander was already doing a job crucial to the Coalition's success
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Apart from Nick Clegg, David Laws and Danny Alexander were the two most important Lib Dems in the first iteration of the Coalition. Laws as Chief Secretary to the Treasury ensured that the two sides were equally committed to deficit reduction, the main task for this government. While Alexander was responsible alongside Oliver Letwin for making sure that the Coalition agreed on its approach to every issue that came up. Their job was to preempt any dispute between the two parties. A look at the Cabinet Committee structure shows how crucial a figure Alexander was in his role as the minister providing ministerial support to the deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg. (His work as Scottish Secretary was far less relevant to the success of the Coalition).

It is hard to imagine that Alexander, who has no proper grounding in finance or economics, will be as competent a chief secretary as Laws was shaping up to be. But his new role will also mean that he won’t have sufficient time to devote t his crucial role as the Lib Dem charged with dealing with policy differences before they arise.

There’s also a question of trust. In every conversation I have had with senior Tories since the Coalition negotiations started, Laws and Alexander have popped up as the Lib Dems--apart from Clegg—who have most impressed them and who they trust most. There is still suspicion of Cable because of ideological differences and Huhne because of the perception that he is a politician with too much of any eye for the main chance. 

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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