Danny Alexander: strait-laced loyalist who played a key role in coalition negotiations

Danny Alexander is rewarded for his commitment

His lack of experience in the finer principles of economics has made Danny Alexander's promotion to the post of Chief Secretary to the Treasury a surprising one. Yet after the previous incumbent survived just 18 days, Nick Clegg and David Cameron were hoping the man from the Highlands would bring another quality to the role – a distinct lack of excitement.

Even before his arrival at Westminster, during his time as the director of communications for a pro-European group, he earned a serious, straight-laced reputation. In the early hours of one party conference, while most journalists and MPs had long-since abandoned their professional roles in favour of a drink and a gossip, Mr Alexander continued to prowl the bar, seeking to persuade those present of the merits of a single currency.

But his commitment to his chosen causes is precisely why he has become so trusted by Mr Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister. After entering parliament in 2005, Mr Alexander gave up his role as the party's spokesman on Work and Pensions in June 2008 to concentrate on his job as the Lib Dem leader's chief of staff. He was also handed the responsibility of drafting the party's manifesto for the 2010 election.

His unswerving loyalty perhaps explains why Mr Clegg felt so able to divulge his innermost thoughts about the capabilities of his own shadow Cabinet team to Mr Alexander during a flight to London. While Mr Clegg criticised the likes of Chris Huhne and Steve Webb during the conversation, overheard by a newspaper reporter, Mr Alexander was left in no doubt about the abilities of Mr Laws, whose shoes he now has to fill. "He's got a forensic intelligence," Mr Clegg told him. "He's probably the best brain we have."

He will be well aware that Mr Clegg's support won't protect him from accusations that he is too young and too inexperienced in the Treasury brief to replace Mr Laws. He turned 38 just weeks ago, and was already struggling to keep on top of his job as Scottish Secretary following the birth of his second child. In fact, his unlikely promotion marks one of the most meteoric rises in recent Westminster history. Just five years ago, before picking up his Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey seat, he was head of communications for the Cairngorms National Park. He had started his career as a regional press officer for the Liberal Democrats, before taking communication roles with the Brussels think tank, the European Movement, and the pro-euro campaign, Britain In Europe.

The brilliance of his predecessor is not just a problem for Mr Alexander.

It has also caused a headache for Mr Cameron in keeping his own backbenchers onside. Some Tories, bowled over by Mr Laws' performance in the Commons last week, were last night grumbling that Mr Alexander would struggle in the role, with his only financial grounding coming from his brief time studying Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford. Unlike Mr Laws, Vince Cable or Mr Huhne, he does not have any experience in the City.

Some Tories are also concerned about his pro-euro credentials. One Europhile, the Justice Secretary Ken Clarke, has already revealed his delight at having an ally at the heart of the Treasury. The pair met during Mr Alexander's time campaigning for a single currency. The markets may fear that the coalition has lost not only an impressive performer but also the lynchpin of the Tory/Liberal Democrat agreement. Mr Laws had come close to joining the Tories and had been asked to defect from the Liberal Democrats by George Osborne while the Tories were in opposition. With him gone, the danger is that the join between the two parties will become ever clearer.

But discounting Mr Alexander may be unfair. He impressed senior Tories for his role in negotiating the coalition contract, which he drew up with the Tory manifesto chief, Oliver Letwin. Even before his second promotion in less than a month, he had already been given seats on eight highly influential Cabinet committees, including the "coalition committee" in which disagreements will be hammered out, and the committees covering economic affairs and banking reform.

Despite his apparent straight bat, it has not taken long for Mr Alexander to become the target of renewed media interest. Before last night, his only expenses war story was a claim for a 99p for a bottle of Mr Muscle glass cleaner. But the Telegraph has now accused him of using a loophole for avoiding paying capital gains tax on his second home in London. "I sold the flat in 2007 and moved to another flat but was advised that CGT was not payable," he said. Cabinet colleagues will be hoping it is the last nasty surprise.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: New Lift Sales Executive - Lift and Elevators

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service / Receptionist

£14000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss