Delivering George Osborne’s austerity programme, seen chummily joshing with Oliver Letwin at a fringe event last night - admitting that the “only area we disagree on is Europe” - and generally being an all-round “proalition” representative, Danny Alexander seems to have got off lightly so far in terms of grassroots resentment.
Usually it’s for Nick Clegg to take the flak for right-wing tendencies or capitulation to the Tories at the top of the party, but, as one MP suggested to Total Politics today, Alexander is the new source of ideological ire among some party members.
And Alexander today in a policy motion speech to conference certainly did his damnedest to defend the coalition, opposing an amendment to his ‘Generating Growth and Jobs in a Time of Austerity’ motion to abandon the coalition’s fiscal mandate.
“We are in the coalition for the national interest”, he politely informed the conference hall, “our plan is not small-state madness.”
Indeed, in his very first breath, he slathered blame upon the previous Labour government for the state of the economy: “Labour would have us believe there’s some easy solution.”
But there was more than a hint of Lib Dem purism in the thrust of his motion, as he insisted upon the green agenda being key to economic recovery, describing it as a “huge challenge” and a subject “no longer a fringe issue that Lib Dems stand for alone” and calling for “no more mixed messages.”
This was a hint at individuals such as George Osborne at the top of the coalition obstructing the energy agenda, indicating a future fight, if necessary, with his right-wing colleagues for the green economy. It seems Alexander won’t give up his Lib Dem roots that easily, or perhaps he’s merely trying to put the resentful whisperers to rest.