I’m sure nobody ever discusses my Liberal Democrat Voice co-editor Stephen Tall and I down the pub, but if you did, you would reckon that if we were choosing who we thought should be Liberal Democrat Shadow Chancellor for the 2015 election, Stephen, economic liberal that he is, would choose Danny Alexander, our man in the Treasury. I, on the other hand as the hippy, lefty one, would be more inclined to choose the Almighty Vince.
Funnily enough, it turned out the other way round. Here’s what Stephen wrote on Liberal Democrat Voice:
It is absolutely clear, though, who should be the Lib Dem shadow chancellor at the next general election: the guy who was our shadow chancellor at the last general election, Vince Cable.
He is, by a long, long way, the best-qualified candidate. I say that for two reasons.
First, his understanding of the British economy far exceeds that of either Danny (or Steve). It is impossible to imagine anyone other than Vince writing as good and nuanced an account of the Coalition’s economic policies as he did last year in the New Statesman: When the facts change, should I change my mind?
Secondly, his understanding of the politics far exceeds that of Danny (though not necessarily Steve). Vince has walked the tightrope of respecting collective cabinet responsibility while signalling quite clearly when and why he disagrees with the Conservatives, most notably on immigration.
And yet, as Jonathan Calder highlighted yesterday, he is unafraid to take the fight to Labour also, offering a parliamentary tour de force that utterly floored those Opposition MPs trying to score points against either Vince or the Lib Dems.
I respectfully disagreed in the comments:
I am going to respectfully disagree with Stephen. In truth, I would much prefer to see Vince as Shadow Chancellor, but if Nick undermined Danny, that would be a major news story that would overshadow the entire election campaign. It would look like Nick had no faith in his Chief Secretary and none of the media would talk about anything else. It would be an extraordinary gift to our opponents.
Much as I may disagree with Danny, and sometimes I do think he’s shown more pride in the welfare reforms than I as a social liberal consider appropriate, I also take issue with John Tilley’s comment about Danny only being there cos of Laws’ resignation. His position of Secretary of State for Scotland was not as if he was on the tea boy. He was on loads of Cabinet committees and charged with really being Nick’s eyes and ears across government. However, he had to give all of that up when he became Chief Secretary. That meant that our operation across government suffered (in the early days, anyway, it’s better now.)
Without question, though, Danny has been right up there with Nick doing the troubleshooting across government, backing him up in, for example, stopping the web snooping stuff, stopping the Tories going even further with welfare reform, fighting for the fulfilment of our promise to raise the tax threshold. Whatever you think about that, it’s clearly popular, which is why the Tories are falling over themselves to try to make it their own. When issues become troublesome in the Government, it’s Danny that’s with Nick in there in the Quad trying to sort them out.
Vince is to the Shadow-Chancellorship what, for me, Tom Baker is to the Doctor. That doesn’t mean he can or should go back to that position. What must happen, though, is that he must have a very high presence in the campaign. We need to hear his voice.
To be clear, when I did my 30 day Doctor Who bloggy thing last year, I had to answer who was my favourite Doctor. Up until the last minute, I thought I was going to say it was David Tennant. But I couldn’t do it. It had to be my Doctor, the person who set the standard for all others to follow, Tom Baker. Vince is my Tom Baker of the economy.
Vince has been at the helm of one of the powerhouses of economic recovery. His department has done wonders on apprenticeships, science, shared parental leave, the Royal Mail and post offices. I want to hear him speak out on how we take the business agenda forward in the next parliament.
Danny is the right person to be shadow chancellor. And while I often disagree with him, anyone would be very foolish to underestimate his talents and his contribution to the Liberal Democrats’ record in government.
What do you think?