David Blackburn

Stop the press! Danny Alexander didn’t break the law

Stop the press! Danny Alexander didn’t break the law
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There’s something Galsworthian about Danny Alexander, the man of property. A downy press secretary for the Cairngorm National Park bought a south London hovel in 1999, re-designated it his second home in 2005 when he became an MP, and the Bright Young Thing then sold it in 2007 for £300,000. The dashing Cabinet Minister's recent mortgage claims of £1,100 per month suggest an existence amid more salubrious environs – Volvos, delicatessens and Oxfam.

Alexander didn't cheat his way to Cheam, or wherever he lives. ‘There is no suggestion that Mr Alexander has broken any tax laws,’ opine the authors of this morning’s expenses expose. Alexander was liable for capital Gains Tax courtesy of the 3-year final relief loophole, since closed. Hazel Blears profited in the same manner. Both were within their rights but, as public money was used to make improvements to those private residences, their morality is suspect. This being the era of transparency, Alexander will probably pay his retrospective dues: if the new politics is not to become the greatest joke since Gordon Brown saved the world, it cannot be eclipsed by Hazel Blears.

I’ve been baffled by the Daily Telegraph’s current strategy of demolishing the government, naive in my supposition that it was a conservative newspaper. The authors of this morning’s piece have set me straight:

‘When Mr Alexander sold his flat, the top rate of CGT was 40 per cent. It has since dropped to 18 per cent but the Lib Dems are now pushing for it to be increased to 40 or even 50 per cent.

The Daily Telegraph is running a campaign calling on the Government to protect the savings of small investors and ordinary second-home owners from any rise in CGT.’

I applaud the Telegraph’s acute grasp of the situation. Capital Gains Tax reform must be enacted with extreme caution. David Laws’ approach to the issue was politically sensible and economically conservative. My attempt to point this out on Saturday was drowned by the Telegraph’s Germanic shafting of David Laws.

 

By all means campaign against the CGT plan; by all means expose the Lib Dems’ hypocrisy over expenses – Nick Clegg would be far more palatable if he read Machiavelli rather than Michael Moore. But the Telegraph’s method is madness. They have the scalp of David Laws, who was the best man (Tory or Liberal) for the job. Now they hunt Alexander. Alexander is capable and he constructed the coalition agreement, a document that reeks of Toryism on the whole. The alternatives are Huhne and Cable; I rest my case.