Danny Alexander told Andrew Neil on The Sunday Politics that even if he had known the economy would only grow by 0.6% rather than the five and a half percent plus that the Office of Budget Responsibility predicted in 2010, he would still have backed the austerity programme. ‘The judgment we made was the right one’, he declared. He cited how the deficit reduction programme had reassured the markets from which Britain still has to borrow and that the OBR’s view is that fiscal tightening has not been a major reason why its forecasts were so out.
Alexander refused to concede that a mansion tax was dead, despite the Chancellor unequivocally ruling out. He also wouldn’t comment on whether companies that are aggressively avoiding tax are ‘morally repugnant’.
Away from the Treasury, Alexander is playing a significant role in coalition’s strategy for the Scottish independence referendum. He took the chance to increase the pressure on Alex Salmond over this bizarre business of him spending public money to not disclose legal advice on an independent Scotland’s EU membership status. What makes this bizarre is that the Scottish executive didn’t actually have legal advice on this. Alexander said that its chief accounting officer had ‘questions to answer’ about public money having been spent in this way. Salmond’s defensiveness on this issue does show how weak the nationalists are on the details of what would happen if Scotland really did split away from the rest of the UK.