Danny Alexander on the Economy – Lib Dem Spring Conference 2015

Below is Danny Alexander’s message on the Liberal Democrat record of achievement on the economy and what is to come if still in power in the next parliament. He was speaking at the 2015 Spring Conference in Liverpool. 

He asserts that the Liberal Democrats will borrow less than Labour, who will harm the economic progress made over the last 5 years, and cut less than the Conservatives, who want to cut state spending to a level last seen in the 1930s – before we had the NHS! This policy of moderation is the only way to create a stronger economy and a fairer society for all.

For more information on the Worcester Liberal Democrats follow us on twitter @worcesterlibs

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Danny Alexander on the Conservatives Planned ‘Destruction of Public Services’

During the coalition, the Liberal Democrats have been accused of being similar to the Conservatives. The following article, published in the Independent on the 24th December 2014, shows how this is not the case and that the coalition was one largely built on compromise rather than similar ideology. Mr Alexander is portraying the party as centrist, one more responsible than a Labour government who would overspend and stifle the economic recovery, but fairer than a Conservative government, obsessed with the ideological belief in a small state and public service cuts. If you disagree with both of these and want a choice based on fairness and realism, then the Liberal Democrats are for you!

George Osborne has been accused by his Liberal Democrat deputy of planning the “wilful destruction” of key public services if the Conservatives win next May’s general election.

Danny Alexander, a loyal ally of the Chancellor since the Coalition was formed in 2010, said Mr Osborne would make £60bn of unnecessary cuts by 2020. Claiming that his Treasury boss wants to “shrink the state”, he warned that even deeper cuts would be needed to deliver the Tories’ planned “unfunded” £7.2bn income tax reduction.

In an interview with The Independent, the Chief Treasury Secretary said: “The Tory agenda to keep reducing public spending beyond what is necessary would result in the wilful destruction of important parts of our public services. That is not appropriate or right for this country.

“People are prepared to go along with deficit reduction when they see it is necessary. When you are past that point, to where it is an ideological choice, people don’t agree with that.”

The Lib Dems support clearing the deficit on day-to-day spending on services by 2017-18 but, unlike the Tories, would meet 20 per cent through tax rises on the wealthiest.

Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, in his office Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, in his office (Justin Sutcliffe)
Mr Alexander said: “When you go beyond that, you have to start looking at things that to my mind are just wrong.”

He warned that the schools budget, provision for 16-19 year-olds, nursery education, and the pupil premium for children from low income families would all be at risk under Tory plans. In contrast, the front page of the Lib Dem manifesto next May would pledge to protect such spending.

He criticised Mr Osborne for ruling out any tax rises while proposing more welfare cuts.

“I find it very difficult to see how you find £12bn of savings focusing purely on working-age benefits. Having looked at it hard, I just don’t see how that is possible whilst maintaining a degree of fairness and a proper safety net,” he said.

If the Lib Dems were still in power, they would veto Iain Duncan Smith’s plan to limit child benefit to the first two children.

“A two-child policy on child benefit is just not on our agenda. I just don’t think it is right to say we are going to have some sort of limit on family numbers,” Mr Alexander said.

On the proposed £7.2bn of tax cuts, he said: “The Tories are playing fast and loose with the economy and frankly with their own credibility. It is not affordable or achievable, especially as they said they do not want any tax rises. Presumably to shrink the state, they would also have to make further spending cuts needed to pay for their tax cuts. I don’t think it adds up.”

His strongest-ever criticism of the Chancellor will raise the eyebrows of some Lib Dem activists, who worry that Mr Alexander has been seen as too close to Mr Osborne as he wielded the axe.

George Osborne and Danny Alexander, taking in a game of cricket last year George Osborne and Danny Alexander, taking in a game of cricket last year (Getty)
Mr Alexander insisted his relationship with Mr Osborne is “absolutely fine”. But using the past tense, he added: “George and I have worked effectively together in the Treasury to get on with the job of sorting out the economy. That is what both of us came into the Treasury to do, whilst recognising and understanding there are big political differences that cause arguments about policy.”

A strong supporter of Britain’s EU membership, Mr Alexander criticised Tory ministers including the Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond for saying they might vote to leave in an in/out referendum. “That is a gross dereliction of duty. To have a foreign secretary who is willing to stand up and contemplate taking Britain out of the EU is completely potty,” he said.

Although many of his criticisms echo Labour’s, Mr Alexander is equally scathing about Ed Miliband’s party, saying it has not learnt from its economic mistakes. He argued the weakness of the two big parties creates a “monumental opportunity” for the Lib Dems.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond’s comments on the EU were ‘completely potty,’ says Danny Alexander Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond’s comments on the EU were ‘completely potty,’ says Danny Alexander (Getty)
“Having the Lib Dems in the mix in the next parliament becomes the only way to stop the country lurching to one extreme or the other,” he said. He is sure the Lib Dems will do much better next May than commentators suggest, but smiled: “We may be leaving it a bit late.”

The 42-year-old MP for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey does not rule out running for the Lib Dem leadership one day, saying: “I have got a huge job to do. All these other things are bridges that will be crossed when and if we come to them.”

Mr Alexander has been dubbed the “King of Candy Crush” at Westminster after reaching level 241 of 785 on the online puzzle game on his iPad. Unlike the Tory MP Nigel Mills, he does not play in the Commons but only “on a long plane to journey back to the Highlands or at home late at night”.

“There could not be a worse time to argue that we should abandon our plan…We won’t do it. It is the foundation for everything else.”- Danny Alexander, amid growing calls on George Osborne to abandon his Plan A, September 2012

“George Osborne and I work very closely together within the Treasury.” – Danny Alexander, March 2013

“George and I both work hard to make sure that the Treasury is the department where the Coalition works best, because it is the department that is responsible for the policy area that brought the two parties together in the first place.” – Danny Alexander, July 2013

“The Treasury team gets on famously well. The relationship between George [Osborne] and Danny Alexander is very, very good.” – Rob Wilson, Conservative minister and former parliamentary aide to the Chancellor, February 2014

“If that’s what people think about me, then they are wrong. I am Liberal Democrat – full stop, end of story.” -Danny Alexander, February 2014, on Lib Dem claims he had “gone native” at the Treasury.

GE2015: The Choice Could Not Be Clearer

The upcoming General Election is set to be one of the most closely fought in a generation. The UK’s two-party system has been blown out if the water and many parties, who for years could only dream of getting elected, are now relishing the prospect of having the balance of power in what is looking like an inevitable hung parliament. The choice you make will have a huge impact on the country. The following article should help you make your decision.

There are 6 parties who could realistically be in government, in one way or another, after the 2015 election. These are the Conservatives, Labour, Lib Dems, Greens, UKIP and the SNP. You probably already know which one I will be voting for (Look at the web address!). This article is designed to help you, the voter, make an informed choice.

Conservatives – A party who seem to be hell-bent on making life worse for most people whilst maintaining the wealth of the rich. They claim to be making ‘difficult decisions’ which include, incidentally, changing the highest band of tax from 50% to 45% whilst cutting sure start centres and welfare payments for the most vulnerable. George Osborne recently set out what he would do if he were allowed to set his own budgets without a Lib Dem influence which includes a further £50 billion of ideological cuts which would see the state shrink to a size last seen in the 1930’s. A chunk of this would come out of local government, effecting local services such as buses and walk-in health centres.

Recent revelations also suggest a party in complete disarray with Home Secretary, Theresa May reportedly ignoring orders from Cameron after he fired two of her special advisers. It has resulted in a stand-off with May trying to gather support for a leadership challenge, should the Tories lose the election. Can we trust these people to govern us?

Labour – A party trying to distance themselves from the previous Labour regime, but oddly containing many of the same members – Miliband, Harman, Balls, Burnham, Alexander and Benn were all part of the Cabinet that lead the country into the deepest recession in living memory. Do you want to go back to those dark days? More worryingly, the party seems void of new, innovative ideas. On the economy, they have no credible plan to balance the books, only the current account. There is no doubt, that under Labour, borrowing would increase and the UK’s economic recovery put at risk.

They also claim to be the guardians of the NHS, saying that they are the only party that can be trusted with it. Seems very strange considering that the first privatised hospital was Hinchingbrooke in 2007, under the Labour government. They also gave sweeteners to private firms looking to invest in the NHS, something reversed as a result of Lib Dem policy in the current government.

UKIP – A party beautifully described as ‘angry men in suits’ this week by Nick Clegg. Everything seems to be the fault of Eastern European, congestion, housing shortages, unemployment (which is falling!) among other things. On top of this they do seem to attract a wide variety of ‘interesting’ candidates with antiquated views including Roger Helmer, an elected MEP who once supported gay conversion therapy and is against same-sex marriage, along with Kerry Smith, a PPC who was recorded using offensive language towards Asians and homosexuals. Whilst these views are not necessarily the views of the party, the prospect of being governed by people like this is a worrying one indeed.

Greens – A party that has taken over the far-left, abandoned by Labour in the late 1980’s. They make big promises which upon further inspection are unachievable, At council level, they pledge to install cavity wall insulation in ALL houses, without suggesting how to pay for it. They promise to make the ‘living wage’ legislation, against the advice of the independent Low Pay Commission, thus effecting employment numbers. Whilst in principle, the Greens and the Liberal Democrats have quite a lot in common, we recognize that the economy and reducing public expenditure is as vital as maintaining public services.

SNP – A one cause party in denial. Their dream of Scottish independence appeared to over for another generation, but Alex Salmond has other ideas. Even though Scotland voted against independence, he is willing to jeopardise the prospects of businesses again by pushing for greater autonomy, through Westminster, pushing Scotland further away from the UK. No does not mean no to this party and voters should be aware that every move they make is geared towards one thing; independence.

So this leaves only one party…..the Lib Dems. Whilst mistakes have been made, largely due to only having 1/6 of the power in the cabinet, many of the policies set out in the 2010 manifesto have been carried out. The pupil premium, free school meals, taking 26 million out of tax the list goes on. When a pledge was broken, Clegg offered an unreserved apology – when have you ever seen a politician do that! In addition, Lib Dems ensured that average monthly repayments for graduates fell! So if you want a government that works for a stronger economy and a fairer desire without the ideological austerity of the Conservatives or the irresponsibility of Labour then voting Lib Dem is the way to go.

For more news on the Worcester Lib Dems follow our Twitter page, @worcesterlibs

Clegg: Bite The Ballot Review

On Tuesday evening, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg, appeared on Leaders Live – a programme supported by the youth organisation Bite the Ballot; that hopes to raise awareness of politics and political issues amongst young people. Clegg answered questions from a studio audience and from people on Twitter. Below are the main points that were raised.

Introduction : Clegg urged the audience to get involved in politics and to stand up against the ‘politics of fear’ currently dominating British politics (A reference to UKIP? We couldn’t possibly say) He then went on to reference his proudest achievements in government ; the pupil premium and free school meals.

Jobs – Clegg emphasized the need of a strong economy to provide jobs and referenced the drop in youth unemployment and increase in apprenticeships to emphasize how the government has increased opportunities for young people. He went on to say that if involved in the next government he would take more low paid workers out of income tax and make it easier for people to move up the career ladder.

Zero Hours Contracts – Said that exclusive zero hours contracts were ‘deeply exploitative’ and should be outlawed. Also said apprenticeship minimum wage (£2.73) should be abolished and that apprenticeships should be put on the age related minimum wage (£3.71)

Unpaid Internships – Said internships should be about ‘what you know and not who you know’ and should be completely meritocratic. He went on to say that companies that offer work masked as an internship should be clamped down on. In government he has quadrupled the penalties companies can receive for such an offence and increased the number of inspections they have to undergo. He also noted that it is now much easier for the public to report abuses.

Unequal Pay and Gender Discrimination – He noted that the gender pay gap has almost been eliminated for under 40s. For over 40s where gap is still wide, he suggested that all companies should have to publish what their pay back is, thus increasing scrutiny. He also spoke of the increase of women on the boards of FTSE100 companies.

Living Wage – He paid tribute to those who have implemented a living wage, including Ed Davey, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change and several councils. However, he stopped short of saying it should be implemented as legislation due to the findings of the low pay commission, an independent body which sets the minimum wage based on maximum job creation. He said disregarding this would be foolish.

(58% OF TWITTER AUDIENCE AGREED WITH NICK)

Education – Emphasized the need to help children early – ‘before they’ve hung up their coat on the first day of school’. Referenced policies that help children from disadvantaged backgrounds from the age of 2 and universal childcare and pre-school support for 3-4 year olds. Spoke of the pupil premium that has pumped £2.5bn into schools for disadvantaged children. He added that vocational courses should not be seen as less worthwhile than academic courses – calling the current perception as ‘snobbery’.

Tuition Fees – Explained the reason for his well publicized u-turn, saying that scrapping fees would have been impossible due to economic restraints and a Labour-Conservative consensus against it. He went on to say that he’s ‘learnt his lesson’ and will not make a promise he can’t keep again. He went on to say how the rise actually makes the majority of graduates better off as nothing is paid until they are earning £21,000, up from £15,000 and that no up-front payment is required. Stated that more people from ethnic minorities and disadvantaged backgrounds are attending university than ever before. When asked about the Scottish paying no tuition fees he said that the system was ‘unsustainable’.

Political Studies in UK – He said that citizenship and sex education should be taught in all schools, including free schools and academies. He also said that he was trying to secure money to publicize the new electoral registration system.

Age of Compulsory Education – Said that he supports the rise from 16 to 18. Went on to say that a 2/3 reduction in bus fares for all 16-21 year olds would be included on the front page on the 2015 general election manifesto.

Gender Equality in School – He said that the best way of promoting this is to have successful women in schools that the girls want to emulate.

(45% OF TWITTER AUDIENCE AGREED WITH NICK)

Health – He said that we should ‘cherish, defend, promote and protect’ the NHS.

Mental Health – He said we should end the ‘dickensian’ treatment of mental health in the UK and that it should be put on an equal footing with physical health. NHS constitution has been changed to reflect this and £120 million has been put in to improving waiting times for mental health patients. He added that funding for mental health clinics is now on a par with physical health clinics. He then spoke of the mental health taskforce that he founded and currently chairs. Health secretary Jeremy Hunt is the vice-chair. A report is currently due on how to get treatment for children with mental health issues more quickly.

Governance – He said that getting involved locally is the best way. From this people can get involved nationwide. Noted the current trend of decentralisation of power.

NHS Privatisation – Noted that it was actually Labour who introduced private companies into the NHS and that privatisation has slowed under the current government. He said that he has outlawed the practice of giving sweetners to the private sector and that £1 billion extra should be put into the NHS pot, paid for by taxing the rich on their dividends, shares and assets at the same rate as their income. He finished by saying that ‘people should come before profit’.

(60% OF TWITTER AUDIENCE AGREED WITH NICK)

Immigration – He said that Britain needs to ‘fair but firm’. He noted the contribution of immigrants to Britain, 1 in 7 companies in Britain set up by foreigners, and that without immigration the NHS would disintegrate. He added the immigrants should be counted in and out as one of the biggest problems regarding immigration is people staying in the UK on expired visas. Illegal immigration needs to be clamped down on and exploitative companies paying migrants less than minimum wage should be reprimanded.

EU – He said the EU is very beneficial as issues such as climate change and cross-boarder crime must be done collectively.He also added that 3 million jobs directly depend on EU membership. He said leaving the EU would be ‘economically self-defeating’.

Benefits – Said that freedom of movement is not the same as freedom to claim and that immigrants should not be entitled to take benefits that they haven’t paid into. He said that the issue was not about race but principle.

Integration – Agreed that immigrants should learn English and that there is greater focus on this at job centres than under the last government.

(61% OF TWITTER AUDIENCE AGREED WITH NICK)

Do you agree with Nick? Comment you thoughts below. For more info on the work of Worcester Liberal Democrats follow us on twitter @worcesterlibs.