Never say life is over for cast-off politicians. Danny Alexander, former Liberal Democrat MP for Inverness and Chief Secretary to the Treasury under Chancellor George Osborne, has just discovered that a door may close but others mysteriously swing open.
He has been appointed by the UK Government to be the UK’s representative on the new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) based in Beijing in China. Sir Danny will be a Vice-President of the Bank.
He lost his MP seat in 2015 by 10,809 votes as part of the SNP landslide and has been out of work since last May. But Osborne has appointed him to be the UK’s representative on the AIIB. However, there has been strong opposition to his appointment in China, elsewhere in Asia and even in the UK.
Here, in a brilliant skit picked up by economist Tony Mackay in his latest monthly commentary, Financial Times columnist Robert Shrimsley claims to have obtained a recording of a telephone conversation between the President of the AIIB and George Osborne.
The imagined dialogue went thus:
The scene: George Osborne’s office as a call comes in from Jin Liqun, president of the AIIB.
Ni hao Mr Jin, good to speak to you again. It all sounds very auspicious Mr Jin, I can see you mean for everything about the AIIB to be first class.
Which brings you to Danny Alexander? I’m not sure I follow you Mr Jin. Well yes, I do consider him first class. Well, first class for a Liberal Democrat, you can never entirely get past that.
I see he wasn’t quite the sort of person you had in mind for the job.
What’s that Mr Jin? If we are going to send you deadbeats they might as well have the right credentials? Now I’m sorry Mr Jin but that really is not fair. I really feel you have the wrong impression of Danny Alexander.
What? You think he’s just some has-been politician, thrown out by the people of Scotland and to whom I owe a favour?
Well OK, maybe you don’t have the wrong impression.
But I have to say Mr Jin, I have the highest possible regard for Danny. As you know, he was my deputy at the Treasury for five years, my right-hand man, my princeling if you will. I could have given him to JPMorgan but it is a measure of the importance to building our strategic relationship that I was prepared to give you someone so valuable to the British body politic.
Sir Danny is a man of the highest intellectual calibre. I tried to get him a job in Downing Street with the Prime Minister, but it turned out he hadn’t gone to the right school.
Yes I did see the advertisement. I know you specified a minimum of 20 years leadership experience in multilateral development banks or equivalent. But five years at Her Majesty’s Treasury were worth 20 at a development bank.
Now, be fair Mr Jin. He was not a press officer for the Cairngorms National Park. He was head of communications — and it is the largest park in the British Isles, significantly bigger than Loch Lomond and the Trossachs. But he really built his reputation as a leader on the Britain in Europe campaign and you have to admit, Britain is still in Europe.
Now, there’s no need to be like that Mr Jin. We haven’t singled you out as a place to send deadbeat politicians. We send them everywhere. And you are getting one of the very best has-beens. And he’s a whizz at communications. He could sell whisky to Scotland, even if he could not sell himself to the Scots.
Trust me Mr Jin, Sir Danny will do a good job for you. I wouldn’t send him if I thought otherwise. By the way, are you sure you wouldn’t like to put some more money into Hinkley Point?
Thank you, Robert Shrimsley for brightening a dull day. Truly Scotland’s loss is China’s gain…