Donald Macintyre's Sketch: Danny Alexander wins bore war and manages to keep dignity intact

The jokes were not much better than last year’s conference, but there were fewer of them

Share
Related Topics

Largely by wandering about the stage and making some truly terrible jokes, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, tried hard to make his speech to last year’s Lib Dem conference lively and interesting, with – to put it mildly – doubtful results. Today he made no such effort. And got a standing ovation, possibly because the audience was relieved that he was quite boring.

He remained in one place. He brought a printed text, just in case the autocue broke down. Alluding to his “obsession” with tackling tax avoidance, he announced plans to close loopholes exploited by “private equity shareholders” and “partners in partnership firms”.

And he unfurled a hypnotic array of statistics to show that his party had helped to ensure the economy was “on the mend”.

He had warmed up earlier by opposing unilateralists in the defence debate. If not exactly Nye Bevan in 1957 – “you will send a British Foreign Secretary naked into the conference chamber…” – it hardly mattered since in its current ultra-responsible, loyal-to-the-leader mood the party defeated the call to scrap Trident anyway.

The jokes were not much better, but there were fewer of them. As in “Glasgow, or as we like to call it in Inverness, the deep south.” As though everyone south of the border thinks it’s in the Arctic Circle.

Or “Benjamin Franklin said: ‘Nothing is certain except death and taxes. And a conference announcement from Danny Alexander on tax avoidance’. OK, maybe he didn’t say that last bit.” (In case some pedant looked it up and triumphantly pointed out that the great polymath never said anything about Danny Alexander).

And there was the occasional clunking segue: “This great city has many claims to fame…it’s even the home of the new Doctor Who. So let me take you back in time. It’s spring 2010. We’re in the depths of the economic storm...”

Alexander is popular as well as powerful. But Charles Kennedy’s speech, a passionate appeal to the party to stick to its principles on Europe was a reminder how few real Lib Dem orators there are left. “I’m happier to be unpopular for that [“rational pro-Europeanism”] than I am for some of the things we’re having to swallow as a result of the age of austerity in which we live,” Kennedy pointedly declared.

Alexander’s Labour shadow, Rachel Reeves, pointed out that “Glamorous and exciting are probably not two things you would want from someone in charge of public finances.” Today Alexander, bordering at times on the narcotic, did not let her down.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Ashdown Group: PHP Web Developer / Website Coordinator (PHP, JavaScript)

£25000 - £28000 per annum + 25 days holidays & pension: Ashdown Group: PHP Web...

Recruitment Genius: Estates Projects & Resources Manager

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Based in London, Manchester, Br...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: moderate, iconic royals are a shoe-in for a pedantic kicking

Guy Keleny
 

Letter from the Whitehall Editor: Cameron is running scared from the “empty chair”

Oliver Wright
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us