By Bob Duncan
Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander has painted a picture of chaos and infighting at the very heart of the Westminster government.
Speaking to the Press & Journal, the Lib Dem MP for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey lifted the lid on the conflict raging between members of the ‘Quad’, the group of four senior cabinet ministers who essentially run the UK government.
Mr Alexander discussed the ‘arguments’ which go on behind closed doors when the quad – consisting of Tory Prime Minister Cameron and Tory Chancellor Osborne as well as Lib Dem Nick Clegg and himself – meets to discuss the troubled UK economy.
He described the divisions between the coalition parties, saying: “Yeah, look we’ve had some pretty tough exchanges of views and arguments about things. Of course we have, we come from parties with very different political traditions and values and ideas.”
Alexander bizarrely compared his relationship with the Tories to the days when Tony Blair and Gordon Brown lived next door in Downing street, when he claimed “chief secretaries of the day appeared to be sent here by the prime minister to spy on the chancellor”.
The interview gave an insight into the problems being caused by the Tories’ determination to hold an in-out referendum on the EU, which could see the UK leave altogether. It quotes the Treasury Secretary attacking his colleagues by saying that “I think the idea that somehow any of us would be better-off out is completely barking mad.”
Openly attacking the anti-European stance amongst many in the ranks of his coalition partners, Mr Alexander said: “Whether it’s in terms of the millions of jobs, the trade and investment that we get, the need to take common action of things like environmental pollution – these are the areas where the European Union strengthens the UK.
“I don’t think there’s any prospect of Britain leaving the EU – and I don’t think any responsible person would or should agree to that.”
The Highland MP also fired a warning shot across the bows of his own party leader, suggesting that he may challenge deputy prime minister Nick Clegg for leadership of the Lib Dems.
The Treasury secretary said he was focussed on his job and had “never entertained” leadership ambitions, but added “who knows what could happen in the future”.
Commenting, SNP MSP Mike MacKenzie said:
“Danny Alexander has spilled the beans and confirmed that the Westminster Government is paralysed by internal conflict and division as people have long suspected.
“If Danny Alexander is having such a hard time working with the Tories, then it begs the question why are he and his party continuing to prop up the Tory Government as their cuts and incompetence causes vast damage to people in Scotland.
“How can the LibDems continue claiming that we are better off with Westminster calling the shots when there are such deep and damaging divisions within the Westminster Government?
“It seems that the deeply damaging agenda of the Tories at Westminster cannot even attract support from their cabinet colleagues, let alone from people in Scotland.
“Instead of being tied to Westminster’s cuts agenda that is unfairly penalising thousands of people across Scotland and failing to support our economic needs, Scotland needs the powers of an independent country to ensure that Scotland’s Government always reflects the priorities of people in Scotland.”