DANNY Alexander has called on voters to form a unionist alliance to stop his and other Liberal Democrat seats falling into the hands of nationalists.
Speaking to Scotland on Sunday yesterday, the chief secretary to the treasury admitted that he is fighting for his political life but believes he will defy the polls and win his Highland seat.
‘The battle is between me and the Scottish Nationalists’Danny Alexander
Asked if he would try to encourage those who voted No in last year’s referendum to support him in Inverness, Nairn, Baednoch and Strathspey, in a tactical move to see off the SNP, Alexander said: “Yes. I am absolutely saying to people that the nationalists here are campaigning for independence. If you don’t want that then the only way to stop the nationalists is to vote Lib Dem in this constituency.
“Labour and the Tories are way off the pace and they don’t have a hope of winning.”
He also argued that unionist parties should rule out any deal with the SNP at Westminster and suggested that anybody in the Labour party who is considering such as a move “needs their head examined”.
A recent poll by Lord Ashcroft put the Lib Dems in third place in his constituency and last week Alexander was inadvertently embroiled in a donations sting, but yesterday he seemed in ebullient mood as he strode about his party’s spring conference in Liverpool.
He insisted that he was not contemplating defeat and would “not deal in hypotheticals” about election day.
He said: “I’ve got a big fight on my hands but I think I’ll come through it, I think I’ll win.”
Quoting the Terminator he added: “I’ll be back.”
Addressing Ashcroft’s poll he said he did not believe it was accurate. “I think constituency polling is a very fickle business and it does reflect my experience on the ground,” he said.
“There is absolutely a noisy and mobilised group of nationalists and they have mobilised some people through the referendum campaign so that is the battle.”
But focussing on the need for voters to consider tactics he added: “The battle is between me and the Scottish Nationalists.”
He went on: “I think that there are a lot of people who absolutely don’t want there to be an SNP MP, who see that the nationalists want to use this election as a stepping stone to independence, including my opponents at the moment who has said it.”
Asked what Lib Dems should do in other constituencies across Scotland where his party is not strong, he said: “I would say everyone should cast their vote according to their own beliefs and principles and that’s a matter of voters in those constituencies.”
But he then added: “Obviously, I hope people will vote Lib Dem in every part of the UK, absolutely.”
He accused the Tories and SNP of being in an “unholy alliance to talk up the other for their own political purposes”.
But says this is “fuelled by a bit of foolishness in the Labour Party about how to handle the SNP”.
Warning of the dangers of the SNP being involved in government in Westminster, he said: “My view is that never in a month of Sundays are the SNP going to be a partner that wants the best governance for the UK. I would no more put the SNP in charge of Britain than I would put Ukip in charge of the EU.
“I think anyone in the Labour Party who thinks somehow the SNP can be a reliable partner and put them into government needs their head examined.”
Unlike Business Secretary Vince Cable, Alexander emphatically ruled out the idea of a progressive alliance involving his party, Labour and the SNP.
He said: “I see no possibility of the Lib Dems forming a coalition with the SNP. They want to break up the UK, they don’t want the stability of the UK. Fundamentally, anything they do they want to play for short term political gain and I don’t think in any way they could be a reliable partner.”
He also said that the issue of the SNP’s plans to fuel the Scottish economy with oil and gas revenues through independence or fiscal autonomy was helping him on the doorstep in his own constituency.
He said: “It is really striking on the doorstep now. The truth is independence would be even more dangerous than what we warned it could be. [It is] really striking how many people now raise the oil price on the doorstep with people saying ‘Wow we really dodged a bullet there’.”
He claimed fiscal autonomy would “blow Scotland’s budget wide open”. He said: “If the SNP had their way and there was no pooling and sharing of resources we would be absorbing the entire hit of the collapsing oil price, it would be a disaster.”
Alexander has received many personal attacks for being one of the prime movers behind his party joining the Tories in coalition but he insisted yesterday that he has no regrets, although he declined to describe Tory Chancellor George Osborne as a friend, preferring “colleague”.
But he said: “Every morning I look at myself in the mirror and ask myself am I doing this for the national interest and the answer is ‘yes’.”
He insisted that the ideological positions between the two parties now are “wider than ever” and admitted that he regrets the bedroom tax and the married couples allowance.
He also warned pundits against writing off his party saying it is “incredibly strong” in the seats it currently holds where it can tell its story.
Alexander said: “I think the Liberal Democrats are an incredibly resilient party. I was talking to my grandad about this who has been a liberal all his life. He is now 97. He often reminds me of the times the Liberals had four MPs in the 1950s. And you know those people worked hard to build the party up. We stand on those people’s shoulders actually.”
He added: “Like an archipelago maybe the tide has gone out on us in some places but in those islands of strength we remain just as strong as we have been.”
In his keynote speech to the conference tomorrow, party leader Nick Clegg is expected to issue a warning that a vote for the SNP is not as “harmless” as people might think.
Last night, a senior party source said: “You have got the forces of different kinds of nationalism in this country. It is by no means unique in this country in times of difficulty.
“The Western world at large has undergone pretty pressing difficulties since the crash of 2008. You have got Le Penn in France, Wilders in Holland, the Tea Party in the US. This country is no different. You have Ukip trying to pull us out of one union or the SNP trying to break up the UK.
“These are the forces of nationalism who are wishing to fracture our country. Something the Lib Dems stand against wholeheartedly.”
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