Danny Alexander

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
The Right Honourable
Danny Alexander
MP
Danny alexander hi.jpg
Chief Secretary to the Treasury
Incumbent
Assumed office
29 May 2010
Prime Minister David Cameron
Preceded by David Laws
Secretary of State for Scotland
In office
12 May 2010 – 29 May 2010
Prime Minister David Cameron
Preceded by Jim Murphy
Succeeded by Michael Moore
Member of Parliament
for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey
Incumbent
Assumed office
5 May 2005
Preceded by Constituency established
Majority 8,765 (18.6%)
Personal details
Born (1972-05-15) 15 May 1972 (age 42)
Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Political party Liberal Democrats
Spouse(s) Rebecca Hoar (2005–present)
Children Isabel Rose
Isla
Alma mater St Anne's College, Oxford
Website Official website

Daniel Grian Alexander (born 15 May 1972) is a British Liberal Democrat politician who has been Chief Secretary to the Treasury since 2010. He has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for the Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey constituency since 2005.

In his first parliamentary term (2005–2010), Alexander was the Liberal Democrat Shadow Secretary for Work and Pensions, the chief of staff to party leader, Nick Clegg, and Chair of the Liberal Democrat Manifesto Group (2007–2010).

With the 2010 UK general election producing a hung parliament, he played a key role in the four-man Liberal Democrat negotiating team and in the drawing up of the coalition document for the new Coalition Government with the Conservative Party. Alexander was initially appointed Secretary of State for Scotland,[1] but at the end of May 2010, he was promoted to Chief Secretary to the Treasury, following the resignation of David Laws.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Alexander was born in Edinburgh. As a child he lived on the island of Colonsay where his father Di was a firefighter, potter and deputy pier master. He attended Colonsay Primary School. The family then moved briefly to South Uist in the Outer Hebrides, then to Glengarry on the mainland, where he attended Glengarry Primary School. He was then educated at Lochaber High School, Fort William in the Scottish Highlands, where he counted future Sky News employee Samuel Quinn amongst his friends. While at Lochaber he excelled in Maths and science subjects,[3] before reading Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) at St Anne's College, Oxford.[4]

Early career[edit]

In 1993 and 1994, Alexander worked as a press officer with the Scottish Liberal Democrats, before spending eight years as the Director of Communications at the European Movement (1996–1999) and its successor organisation, the Britain in Europe campaign (1999–2004).

In 2004 and 2005, he was the Head of Communications for the recently formed Cairngorms National Park Authority.

Member of Parliament[edit]

Alexander was elected to the newly formed constituency of Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey in the 2005 UK general election. He won the seat from David Stewart, who was previously the Labour MP for Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber, the basis of the new constituency. In August 2005 it was revealed that Christopher Haskins, a Labour peer who was a friend of Alexander, had donated £2,500 to Alexander's campaign; subsequently Haskins was expelled from the Labour party for this action.[5]

Front bench spokesman[edit]

At the start of the new parliament in 2005, Alexander was appointed by party leader Charles Kennedy as a junior spokesman for Work and Pensions, responsible for disability issues, where he contributed to debates on incapacity benefit reform, the Child Support Agency and the Turner Report on future pension provision in the UK. He was also a member of the Scottish Affairs Select Committee (2005–2008).

In 2007, he was appointed as Liberal Democrat Shadow Secretary of State for Social Exclusion for six months, before becoming Liberal Democrat Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, holding the post until June 2008. He gave this post up to focus on his role as chief of staff to the new party leader, Nick Clegg, as well as his responsibility for leading the preparation of the party's election manifesto.[6]

Chief of staff to Nick Clegg[edit]

In June 2008 Alexander gave up his role shadowing the Work and Pensions brief to become Chief of Staff to the Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg.[7] As part of his role Alexander became the main author of the 2010 Liberal Democrat general election manifesto and became a confidant of the leader.[8] After the election Alexander became one to the key negotiators in the coalition discussions with the Conservatives and played a key role in the negotiating of the Coalition agreement alongside Oliver Letwin.[9]

Coalition Government[edit]

Following the 2010 general election, Alexander was part of the Liberal Democrats key negotiating team alongside Chris Huhne, David Laws and Andrew Stunell that brokered the agreement to go into a governing coalition with the Conservatives.[10] He was initially appointed Secretary of State for Scotland for the coalition government, then was appointed Chief Secretary to the Treasury after the resignation of David Laws on 29 May 2010.[2] He was appointed as a Privy Counsellor on 13 May 2010.[11]

Secretary of State for Scotland[edit]

Following the negotiations between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, Alexander was appointed to the cabinet as the Secretary of State for Scotland making him one of five Liberal Democrats to serve in the cabinet. Speaking about his approach to the role Alexander said it was "about ensuring the UK government can also work together with the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament" and added "we've got a programme for government which we've set out which I think will deliver enormous benefits to the people of Scotland."[12]

As part of his role Alexander was given responsibility to implement the recommendations of the Calman Commission which was to give more fiscal powers to the Scottish Parliament, the promise to implement the proposals had formed part of the coalition agreement.[13] (See also: Scotland Bill 2011)

In his first official visit to Scotland in his new capacity Alexander was accompanied by the Prime Minister David Cameron for a series of meetings with the First Minister Alex Salmond. Cameron called for a fresh start in relations between the parliaments in Westminster and Holyrood and committed to appearing every year to answer questions at the Scottish Parliament. Speaking of the coalitions support for the Calman Commission findings Cameron said "I believe, and Danny believes, we should be pursuing the Calman agenda. That is a much greater degree of fiscal autonomy for Scotland. I think that is right and that is what we want to put in place".[14]

Alexander's tenure as Scottish Secretary was short lived, and just over two weeks from his appointment on 29 May 2010 he was promoted to the role of Chief Secretary to the Treasury following the resignation of David Laws. Michael Moore, MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk, replaced Alexander as Secretary of State for Scotland.[15]

Chief Secretary to the Treasury[edit]

The move to the Treasury and the effective number two position to chancellor George Osborne marked his second cabinet post in under a month. The role effectively put Alexander in charge of the government's deficit reduction plan – a position of power which he particularly relished.[16]

Capital gains tax controversy[edit]

Two days after being appointed to his new position, the Daily Telegraph newspaper published front-page allegations that Alexander had exploited a legal loophole to avoid the payment of capital gains tax on a property he had sold in 2007 alleging that he had profited from a "morally dubious" loophole to avoid paying capital gains tax. A few days earlier, the same newspaper had caused the resignation of Alexander's predecessor David Laws after finding irregularities in his expenses claims. The paper suggested that "the fact that Mr Alexander has become the second Lib Dem to face questions about his finances within three days has focused attention on whether the party leadership has properly audited the financial activities of its senior figures".[17]

Alexander had bought the property, a London flat, in 1999 and, after being elected to parliament for a Scottish constituency in 2005, designated the property as his "second home" while claiming that his first home was now in his constituency. The property was then sold in 2007 for a profit on which he paid no capital gains tax.[18] As the property was the only one he owned, up until 2006, HM Revenue and Customs rules meant that capital gains tax was not payable as should someone find a buyer for their home within three years the property qualifies for relief from [capital gains tax] as long as the property has been the only or main home at some point. Speaking at the time Alexander said "I have always listed London as my second home on the basis set out in the parliamentary rules as I spent more time in Scotland than I did in London."[19] The Daily Telegraph itself claimed that "there is no suggestion that Mr Alexander has actually broken any tax laws".[20]

2010 Spending Review[edit]

Alexander speaking to Sky News in 2010

On 8 June 2010 Alexander and the Chancellor George Osborne announced details of how they would conduct the government's spending review which would set spending limits for every government department for the period from 2011–12 up until 2014–15. As part of the review due to be announced on 20 October 2010 a star chamber was established chaired by both Osborne and Alexander designed to scrutinise the spending plans of each government department.[21] Shortly after the announcement of how the review would take place, Alexander announced on 17 June 2010 that £2billion worth of projects agreed by the previous Labour government would be cancelled. The projects included an £80million loan to Sheffield Forgemasters and the cancellation of a £25million visitors centre at Stonehenge. Labour attacked the plans as an "attack on jobs" but Alexander countered by saying that the previous government had gone on a "pre-election spending spree in the full knowledge that the government had long since run out of money."[22]

Following the announcement on the cancellation of projects, Alexander worked closely with the Chancellor George Osborne to produce an emergency budget on 22 June 2010 which announced a series of measures designed to reduce the United Kingdoms budget deficit. Measures included a rise in the rate of VAT from 17.5% to 20% starting in 2011, a rise in Capital Gains Tax from 18% to 28% and the introduction of a levy on the banks designed to raise £2 billion a year.[23] Defending the budget against allegations that it disproportionately hit the poor hardest, Alexander described it as "fair" and "progressive" saying "this is a Budget that protects the most vulnerable – especially children in poverty and pensioners – while ensuring those with the broadest shoulders take the greatest share of the burden.".[24]

Following the budget, and in the period until the spending review, Alexander found himself at the heart of controversial spending decisions made by the government. A series of leaked letters from cabinet ministers showed that the spending review was causing strain within government departments including within the Department of Work and Pensions when a memo from Osborne to Iain Duncan Smith suggested that deep cuts to the welfare budget had already been agreed, prompting accusations by Labour that the cuts were "vicious" and an attack on the poorest in society. In response Alexander said "I am not going to comment on a leaked letter but what I will say is that with welfare spending making up nearly £200bn, of course it is something we have to look at in the context of the spending review."[25] Further controversy came when the Treasury announced that the Ministry of Defence would have to include the £20billion replacement of Trident within their budget on top of potential cuts of potentially up to 10 and 20%.[26] The Secretary of State for Defence himself Liam Fox later wrote to David Cameron in another leaked letter saying that cuts in defence spending would seriously damage troops' morale.[27] Ken Clarke, the Secretary of State for Justice, said that he was "relishing" life back at the centre of government and said that the discussions on the spending review he had with Danny Alexander were "rather informal but quite intense and serious."[28]

On 19 October 2010, the day before the spending review was announced in the House of Commons, Alexander was photographed reading a memo which showed that as a result of the cuts the government would be announcing up to 490,000 public service jobs could be lost. The figure contained within confidential briefing papers came from the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR).[29] On 20 October 2010 the chancellor George Osborne announced the findings of the review which included the claim from the OBR. Other key points from the review included an average 19% cut in departmental budgets, the desire to eliminate the structural deficit by 2015, £7bn extra in cuts to welfare spending and a move for the retirement age to be increased to 66 for both men and women by 2020.[30] In a letter to Liberal Democrat members Alexander defended the cuts by saying "When we came into office, we inherited an economy that was on the brink. With the largest budget deficit in Europe and no plan for tackling it, Britain faced huge economic risks. These could only be dealt with by a clear plan to deal rapidly with the worst financial position this country has faced for generations." Despite the scale of the cuts announced Alexander, in his letter, went on to claim that the burden had been spread fairly by ensuring that key public services relied on by the most vulnerable in society had been protected. He emphasised the announcement of the 'fairness premium' designed to help the poorest children and noted that key transport projects had been given the go ahead as well as the announcement of a green investment bank.[31]

Bank lobbying[edit]

It was reported in the Independent in December 2011 that Danny Alexander had been involved in meetings[32] with bankers lobbying to avoid proposals in the Vickers Report[33] that were intended to reduce risks in the banking industry. The talks were alleged to be secret, but were obtained via a Freedom of Information request.

North Sea oil windfall tax[edit]

Alexander caused controversy after giving a speech to a group of businessmen that a £10 billion windfall tax on North Sea oil revenue in the 2011 budget was his idea.[34] The move has been estimated to cost up to 40,000 jobs.[35]

Trident nuclear review[edit]

On 22 September 2012, Danny Alexander was appointed by Nick Clegg to review alternatives to like-for-like replacement of the Trident nuclear missile system, after Minister of State for the Armed Forces Nick Harvey left the government in David Cameron's government reshuffle.[36]

Personal life[edit]

Alexander married Rebecca Hoar in July 2005 in Chippenham. They have two children, Isabel,[37] (b. 2007), and Isla,[37][38] (b. 2010), and live in Aviemore.[39] He met his wife while working for the European Movement in London. She is a features editor for Psychologies magazine.

In October 2010, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party Harriet Harman mentioned Alexander during her speech at the Labour Party's Scottish Conference, referring to his red hair. She said, "Now, many of us in the Labour Party are conservationists and we all love the red squirrel. But there is one ginger rodent which we never want to see again in the Highlands – Danny Alexander." The speech generated controversial media attention and Alexander responded stating he was "proud" of his hair colour. Harman later apologised, admitting her conduct was "wrong".[40][41]

In November 2012 the Cairngorm Brewery launched a beer called "Ginger Rodent" with Alexander's agreement and cooperation. The brewery is located in his constituency.[42]

Alexander has been nicknamed "Beaker" due to his apparent resemblance to the hapless Muppet character.[43][44][45]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Lib Dem MP Danny Alexander to be new Scottish secretary BBC News, 12 May 2010
  2. ^ a b Treasury Minister David Laws resigns over expenses BBC News, 29 May 2010
  3. ^ Daily Mail Weekend Interview. 9 June 2012, p6
  4. ^ Dinwoodie, Robin (31 May 2010) "The boy from Colonsay takes on critical job at Treasury". Glasgow; The Herald.
  5. ^ "Labour peer expelled for donation". BBC News. 23 September 2005. Retrieved 2 November 2006. 
  6. ^ Lib Dem manifesto 'to the point' BBC News, 5 March 2010
  7. ^ "Danny Alexander bio". Scotlibdems.org.uk. 5 December 2009. Retrieved 20 October 2010. 
  8. ^ The Times | backroom boys and girls behind Clegg's rise to power
  9. ^ Savage, Michael (31 May 2010). "Straight laced loyalist who played a key role in coalition negotiations". London: Independent.co.uk. Retrieved 20 October 2010. 
  10. ^ Haroon Siddique, Profiles: The Liberal Democrat, Conservative and Labour negotiators, The Guardian, 11 May 2010
  11. ^ "Privy Council appointments, 13 May 2010". Privy Council. Retrieved 26 July 2010. 
  12. ^ "Lib Dem Danny Alexander to be Scottish Secretary". BBC News. 12 May 2010. Retrieved 20 October 2010. 
  13. ^ Johnson, Simon (13 May 2010). "Cameron and Clegg to give new tax raising powers to Scotland". London: The Telegraph. Retrieved 20 October 2010. 
  14. ^ "Cameron visits Scotland and admits new title is sinking in". London: Daily Mail. 14 May 2010. Retrieved 20 October 2010. 
  15. ^ Brian Taylor Political editor, BBC Scotland (30 May 2010). "Moore named new Scottish Secretary". Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 20 October 2010. 
  16. ^ "New chief secretary Danny Alexander". Bbc.co.uk. 29 May 2010. Retrieved 20 October 2010. 
  17. ^ Swaine, Jon; Watt, Holly (30 May 2010). "Danny Alexander, new Treasury chief, avoided capital gains tax on house". The Daily Telegraph (London). 
  18. ^ Taylor, Matthew; Wintour, Patrick (30 May 2010). "Danny Alexander in spotlight over tax loophole". The Guardian (London). 
  19. ^ "Treasury chief Danny Alexander 'paid home sale taxes'". BBC News. 31 May 2010. Retrieved 20 October 2010. 
  20. ^ Swaine, Jon (30 May 2010). "Danny Alexander avoided paying capital gains tax on house". London: The Telegraph. Retrieved 20 October 2010. 
  21. ^ "Spending Review 2010". Hm-treasury.gov.uk. 8 June 2010. Retrieved 20 October 2010. 
  22. ^ "Coalition government axes £2bn of projects". Bbc.co.uk. 17 June 2010. Retrieved 20 October 2010. 
  23. ^ Larry Elliott and Patrick Wintour (22 June 2010). "VAT austerity plan". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 20 October 2010. 
  24. ^ Howarth, Angus (7 July 2010). "Alexander denies emergency budget hits vulnerable hardest". Edinburgh: News.scotsman.com. Retrieved 20 October 2010. 
  25. ^ Mark Smith, Toby Helm, and agencies (12 September 2010). "Welfare budget cuts defended by Danny Alexander". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 20 October 2010. 
  26. ^ "Trident costs must come from MOD". Bbc.co.uk. 30 July 2010. Retrieved 20 October 2010. 
  27. ^ "Defence cuts – Liam Fox's leaked letter in full". London: The Telegraph. 28 September 2010. Retrieved 20 October 2010. 
  28. ^ Toby Helm and Anushka Asthana (2 October 2010). "Ken Clarke interview". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 20 October 2010. 
  29. ^ Winnett, Robert; Porter, Andrew (19 October 2010). "Alexander reveals extent of cuts in document gaffe". London: The Telegraph. Retrieved 1 February 2011. 
  30. ^ "BBC News | key points of the spending review at a glance". Bbc.co.uk. 21 October 2010. Retrieved 1 February 2011. 
  31. ^ "Liberal Democrat Voice | Letter to members – we have done the right thing". Libdemvoice.org. 21 October 2010. Retrieved 1 February 2011. 
  32. ^ Chu, Ben (16 December 2011). "Revealed: bankers' secret meetings with ministers". The Independent (London). 
  33. ^ Boone, Peter; Johnson, Simon (11 April 2011). "Vickers' banking report not enough to reduce risks to us all in global banking". The Daily Telegraph (London). 
  34. ^ Maddox, David (30 March 2011). "Alexander urged to resign after boasting oil tax grab was his idea". The Scotsman (Edinburgh). 
  35. ^ http://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/Article.aspx/2195521?UserKey=
  36. ^ "Lib Dem's Danny Alexander to lead Trident nuclear review". BBC News. 22 September 2012. 
  37. ^ a b "Baby joy for Scottish Secretary Danny Alexander". Scotland On Sunday (Edinburgh: Johnston Press Digital Publishing). 23 May 2010. Retrieved 1 June 2010. 
  38. ^ New Scottish Secretary Danny Alexander becomes a dad again Sunday Mail 23 May 2010
  39. ^ And baby will make three..., Inverness Courier, 12 January 2007
  40. ^ Kite, Melissa (30 October 2010). "Harriet Harman rebuked for calling minister 'a ginger rodent'". The Daily Telegraph (London). 
  41. ^ http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/politics/harman-apologises-over-alexander-ginger-rodent-jibe-1.1064927
  42. ^ "Danny Alexander launches Ginger Rodent beer". BBC News. 9 November 2012. 
  43. ^ Blackhurst, Chris (2 June 2010). "Danny Alexander must remain canny under the City's fierce glare". Evening Standard. 
  44. ^ Schofield, Kevin (31 May 2010). "I'm no Muppet, says rising star". The Sun (London). 
  45. ^ Barnett, Ruth (31 May 2010). "Alexander: Who Is New 'Minister For Cuts'?". Sky News. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
New constituency Member of Parliament
for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey

2005–present
Incumbent
Political offices
Preceded by
Jim Murphy
Secretary of State for Scotland
2010
Succeeded by
Michael Moore
Preceded by
David Laws
Chief Secretary to the Treasury
2010–present
Incumbent