By Matthew Barrett
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Today's Times (£) has the news that Sir Menzies accused Alexander of political interference in Defence matters, in order to help his popularity in his own constituency:
"Sir Menzies went public with his irritation at his colleague, suggesting that the coalition may have taken the decision on an improper basis after an unsuccessful campaign to keep RAF Leuchars in his North East Fife constituency active. He said: “It’s a remarkable coincidence that these decisions should have been thought to assist the political credibility of the Chief Secretary to the Treasury. Or is it? The result of the closure of Leuchars is that the RAF has been banished to the north of Scotland. The Army’s preferences have been met at the expense of proper strategic analysis.”
Sir Menzies believed that Mr Alexander had used the might of the Treasury to help him to win a constituency battle. Mr Alexander has admitted that Treasury arguments about economic impact had played a part and helped to swing the decision in his favour. A last-minute reprieve for Fort William, which is also in Mr Alexander’s constituency and had been earmarked for closure, means that the Black Watch regiment will probably remain there."
Sir Menzies is not a Yellow B**tard, but is not the Coalition's biggest fan either. There may not be much to read into this in terms of Lib Dem civil war, but Danny Alexander's role as the face of government spending cuts announcements does put him in a difficult position in his party. Some Lib Dem MPs don't consider Alexander to be doing enough to represent the grassroots Lib Dem viewpoint in the Treasury. As the Times says, "a public disagreement is potentially dangerous for Mr Alexander", and would mean he "risks becoming a lightning rod for coalition criticism among Liberal Democrats".