Jeremy Browne responds on Twitter to Times’s ‘pointless’ front page headline

Three weeks ago, Lib Dem MP Jeremy Browne joined Twitter. He’s been putting it to use this morning to refute The Times’s front page headline that claims he said the Lib Dems are ‘pointless’:

As for those imagining that he’s about jump ships, Jeremy couldn’t be clearer:

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  • Sorry, I’m not willing to pay the Times to read what Browne has been saying, but the verbatim quotations in the other papers are sufficiently damning of the party’s direction under Clegg, whether the headline is accurate or not.

  • Radical Liberal 12th Apr '14 - 10:36am

    I thought all these right wing types in the party were supposed to be media savvy and professional – the ‘grown up’s’ in the party? Aren’t the amateurs supposed be those of us on the left with our sandals and our apparent desire to be in opposition forever? So not only is Browne and his ilk just wrong on about everything they are also incompetent and don’t know how to handle the media. They can’t be trusted.

  • Nick Collins 12th Apr '14 - 10:42am

    Ooo goody: this makes five threads devoted to “the wit and wisdom of Jeremy Browne”.

  • Philip Rolle 12th Apr '14 - 11:00am

    Surely the point JB makes about the party’s conservatism is a good one? It now seems to exist to put a brake on the policies of a Conservative or Labour government. It exists to be the party of “in” the EU, with no questions asked.
    Where are the radical policies?

  • Until last week I dont think I had heard of Browne, from now on I dont want to hear from him again.
    Brownes defence is pathetic, does he not know how Newspapers work ?
    Brownes main point is silly, there is no contradiction between radical Liberalism & Centrism, they are talking about different things.
    There is a constituency for radical Liberalism, probably 10-15% of the Electorate. There is also an (oeverlapping) constituency for Centrism, around 30-50%. The space for Centrism grows as Tories & Labour move to their own extremes as they are doing now.
    Browne should be sverely ticked off, in private & we should get on with real Politics.

  • @Nick Perry :

    “How about using your allegedly enormous brain to work out that a hostile press might use your self-serving exhibitionism to damage the party that you have been a member of for XX years, in the middle of an election campaign?”

    Is that remark addressed at Jeremy Browne MP or the author who keeps putting Brown commentaries on this site?

  • Jeremy Browne excuses his dramatic media mistakes with a Twitter statement that he joined the party 26 years ago.
    But that does not tell us a great deal.
    What does it tell us about Jeremy Browne and his understanding of Liberalism?

    A one minute guide to Jeremy Browne —
    So he joined it he party in 1988 — when he was 17 or 18. This would have been just after the general election where The Alliance was headed up by two Davids in jumpers.
    Thatcher won her third term. The Alliance manifesto was to say the least a very, very long way from the views that Browne is promoting this week.

    Browne will be 44 next month — just before the elections.
    Having spent most of his early childhood outside the UK, he will have been five years or so in this country at the elite and very expensive school Bedales before he joined the party.
    By 1993 he had a degree in politics from Nottingham University and a job as a researcher for Alan Beith .
    He worked for financiers Dewe Rogerson and for PR firms Edelman and Reputationinc.
    He was the party’s grandly named “Director of Press and Broadcasting” under Charles Kennedy.
    As Enfield Southgate candidate in the 1997 general election he came third.
    He became candidate for Taunton which Jackie Ballard had lost by just 235 votes in 2001.
    In 2005 Browne was elected MP with a majority of 573 .
    During the 2007 leadership election, he was a supporter of Nick Clegg and a member of his campaign team.

    So nothing there to suggest he would end up peddling what one reviewer described as “Turbo Charged Thatcherism”.

    Taunton is not known as a hotbed of Thatcherites. I doubt if a close study of Taunton Liberal Democrat leaflets would reveal anything like this. So where did it all go wrong?

    Perhaps we have to wait for a few more messages on Twitter to fill in the gaps?

  • Well there isn’t exactly a Liberal Democrat newspaper to state the Liberal view.

  • I’m afraid that I find some of the reaction on this and other threads concerning Jeremy Browne somewhat disappointing but predictable. He represents an important strand of British Liberalism which, unless I’ve spent forty years in the wrong party, deserves to be heard. I’ve ordered a copy of his book and will read it before jumping to conclusions. Robust political debate is the lifeblood of a political party and, it might well be argued, that the Liberal Democrats need more not less.

  • John Broggio 12th Apr '14 - 12:48pm

    No LD newspaper? Clearly I read a different version of the Guardian who encouraged their readership to vote LD in 2010 and still have many columnists not-too-subtly still trying to make the same pitch.

  • Eddie Sammon 12th Apr '14 - 12:57pm

    John Tilley, you are a smart person, please don’t fall into the trap of promoting money printing. Not everybody on the left is your ally. Far left money printing ideas are worse for social justice than “soggy” centrists.

    Again, can the party and Jeremy please sort this out? Specifically Nick and Jeremy. The whip is not something that is awarded forever…

  • Max Wilkinson 12th Apr '14 - 1:02pm

    I suspect Jeremy Browne has a valuable contribution to make to the debate about the future direction of the Lib Dems. However, releasing a book about the future of the party this close to a European election was a tactical error. Adding to this by giving quotes critical of the party to a national newspaper is naive in the extreme, even stupid and selfish.

    If he’s looking to spark debate about liberalism, he’s going about it completely the wrong way at the wrong time.

  • John
    The Manchester Guardian Weekly does seem to retain some balance and even a little influence of its Free Church fathers but the parent paper has lost much of its liberalism. I don’t think it will be encouraging its readers to vote for the Liberal Democrats in 2015

  • Graham Evans 12th Apr '14 - 1:33pm

    In their original ALC pamphlet outlining the philosophy of community politics Bernard Greaves and Gordon Lishman made the point that the Liberal Party needed to identify the fundamental essence of liberalism, rather than defining it in terms of attitudes to “transient policies”. Surely this need is equally true today when opponents of Jeremy Browne such as Helen Tadcastle dismiss his ideas by simply labeling them as Thatcherite or neoliberal. Many of us could equally lazily label her ideas and attitudes as essentially neosocialist.

    Incidentally I assume Helen and John Tilley believe we should withdraw from ALDE, bearing in mind that the views of most of its members are closer to those of Jeremy Browne than they are to Helen and John.

  • Eddie Sammon
    I really do not understand your comment about “money printing”. Should your comment be addressed to someone else?
    I am 99% sure I have never suggested any such thing. Are you sure you are not confusing me with someone ele?

  • Graham Evans

    The make up of ALDE is understandably complex. Political traditions across the EU differ considerably . Graham Watson and others have over 20 years done a fantastic job working with a range of politicians who woud not obviously be too comfortable in the UK Liberal Democrats. Although I would suggest that the variations are nothing compared with what they were in the past.

    Other UK political parties similarly have interesting partners in the European Parliament. I do not even need to mention the Tories or UKIP – both of whom have “unusual relatives”. Tony Blair’s British Labour Party found itself in the same group as Socialists – which must have been embarrassing to everyone involved especially when Blair was acting as George W Bush’s chief messenger boy. This will no doubt be emphasised when the Chilcott Report is published. (If the Chilcott Report is ever published). In comparison the ALDE is a very cohesive group and I hope they do well in next months elections.

    It really would be appalling if as a result of the sort of headlines that Jeremy Browne has been gathering that he tipped the balance and managed with his ill-judged remarks to the Murdoch Press to reduce our percentage support and thereby reduce the number of ALDE MEPs coming from the UK.

  • Eddie Sammon 12th Apr '14 - 3:36pm

    Hi John, sorry, just an emotional outburst from me because the author of the link you referred to has promoted it consistently. It really is off topic, I need to learn to restrain from child-like impulses.

  • Nick Barlow 12th Apr '14 - 3:40pm

    ‘Jeremy couldn’t be clearer’? Surely he could have just said ‘I’m not going to leave the party or defect to the Tories’ which would have been a lot clearer. The tweet he did make could easily be followed by a ‘but the party doesn’t believe in it anymore, so I must leave’ or some such.

  • Tony Greaves 12th Apr '14 - 5:37pm

    It leads me to wonder “Who or what is pointless?”

    I have been sent a free copy of this book (whcih leads me to ask where is the money coming from?) and will give it a flip through. Three pages opened at random do not encrouage me to think it will reflect the Liberalism I have beenpromoting for over 50 years. But I will see.

    As for printing money, this government has printed billions of pounds. Unfortuantely they have donated it all to those great promoters of social good, the big banks.


  • Nick Collins 12th Apr '14 - 6:44pm

    ‘It leads me to wonder “Who or what is pointless?”’

    I thought “Pointless” was a tv game show. As a hard-working peer, Tony, you probably will not have come across it

  • Graham Evans 12th Apr '14 - 7:02pm

    @Helen Tadcastle “I think the fundamental Liberal ideas of fighting against poverty, ignorance as well as fighting for a fairer society – are as important today as ever they were. ” While these are ideas which Liberals would share, they are not unique to Liberals. Most socialists, members of the Green Party, SNP, and Welsh Nationalists would also share these ideals, as might even some Tories. So I ask again: ” What fundamental ideas make Helen Tadcastle more of a liberal than Jeremy Browne, rather than merely a disagreement over “transient policies”?

  • Graham Evans 12th Apr '14 - 7:12pm

    @John Tilley I actually share your analysis of the ALDE. However if LD MEPs feel that it is worthwhile working with other ALDE members who come to liberalism from a different perspective, why do some contributors to this forum, and in particular Helen Tadcastle, want to drive out from the Party Jeremy Browne and others who share his perspective on liberalism? On this basis the Party is in danger of repeating the mistakes of Labour in the early 80s.

  • Paul In Twickenham 12th Apr '14 - 7:45pm

    @Graham Evans – to my superficial observation, it seems that Jeremy Browne is proposing that Clegg’s mushy-middle FDP-like triangulating centrist strategy is a dud – and on that I would agree with him.

    He appears to envision reimagining the Liberal Democrats as some sort of Libertarian “liberal” party, as the bullet point policies listed in various places sound like the sort of things that Ron Paul (who I actually quite admire) would be entirely comfortable with.

    But the entertainment value of a stimulating existentialist critique is somewhat diminished when the party is facing imminent annihilation in the Euro elections and the loss of many good, conscientious and hard working councillors. For Mr Browne to gift ammunition to the opponents of the party at this moment is frankly appalling, crass and unforgivable.

  • Graham Evans 12th Apr '14 - 9:39pm

    Helen, most of your contributions in earlier posts revolve around education in schools. It is those of us involved in further education who have to pick up the pieces of a schools system which continues to fail vaste numbers of young people, but your approach offers little hope of radical improvement. The essence of community politics is giving communities the opportunity to experiment and sometimes fail. On that basis giving parents choice through a voucher scheme is a perfectly valid proposal.
    However, my main complaint against you is your failure to elucidate what you consider the essence of liberalism and therefore why your take on liberalism is more authentic than Jeremy Browne’s.

  • I’ve read the article and it is an interesting, thought provoking read. His points about the conservatism of centrism are very good. Please don’t be swayed simply by twisted headlines. Debate about direction is a good thing.

  • @ Simon Shaw thank you for quoting from the Times article as I haven’t subscribed to it.

    @ Graham Evans – “the essence of liberalism”

    Perhaps Conrad Russell can help – “Liberalism has always been about power – how it is to be controlled and dispersed and used to help the powerless and the underprivileged to help themselves.” And “Liberals are for minimum oppression. We want to see all power subject to control …”

    Comment 86 on is my attempt to provide a free market model for education that gives power to parents, but costs more and involves the government enforcing certain things to ensure this happens long term. My model is a long way from what Jeremy Browne is proposing, which because of its lack of government enforcement will not give power to every parent, but only to a few while taking power away from most parents and giving it to private organisations.

  • dean crofts 13th Apr '14 - 8:28am

    Please everyone read the book if our values do not fit the book then why are we liberals?

  • Graham Evans 12th Apr ’14 – 7:12pm
    Your points have been well answered by Helen Tedcastle.
    But I would like to add something especially after yeaterday’s Spectator (astonishingly we now have a Liberal Democrat MP with views that are more rightwing than The Spectator).
    First of all there is a difference between “driving someone out of the party” and pointing out in debate that the views they have recently adopted and then dramatically and heavily promoted in the media are damaging the party.
    See Paul In Twickenham’s comment.
    If Browne’s new views go against the fundamental beliefs of the party as set out in The Preamble to the Constitution it would be sensiblebfor him to quietly reflect on that.
    If a party member really does not believe in those things any more they are in the wrong party.
    That is not “driving him out” — it is just stating the obvious..

    It is also not unreasonable to ask what Jeremy Browne really believes when he has deliberately splashed this damaging sstuff all over the media ( as a former Chief press officer for the party he knew exactly what he is doing when he talked to the Murdoch Press in this way ).
    It is also not unreasonable to ask if it is just a case of a sacked ex-minister going off in a sulk.
    The Spectator thinks it is Browne’s bid for the leadership when the sorry episode of Clegg’s disastrous reign comes to inevitable end. See —

    The piece in The Spectator includes this revealing insight into what Clegg and co think of Browne —
    “One would have expected Browne to flourish under Nick Clegg’s leadership, given that they are both from the liberal wing. Certainly, Browne regarded himself as an intellectual outrider for Clegg. He embraced coalition and the idea of the Liberal Democrats as a governing party with an enthusiasm that few colleagues could match. Then he was sacked.

    Quite why Browne was dismissed remains shrouded in controversy. Clegg’s henchmen whisper that Browne was lazy. ”

    My guess is that laziness is not the only reason. Browne was maybe just not very good as a junior minister. There seems to be a naive assumption that (unlike in other parties) all Liberal Democrat MPs would be brilliant junior ministers. life is not like that and there are “less capable” MPs in all parties.
    So maybe Browne was just a dud as a minister who has become a dud as an author? There is no shame in that and it would not be a cause to drive him out of the party. There is no shame in being a back bench MP so long as you do not fiddle your expenses, assault young researchers on the way home from the Strangers Bar or mislead your constituents as to your real views. Browne may be guilty of the last one but I think he is in the clear on the first two.

  • A friend in Taunton points me to these direct quotes from Browne in The Western Daily Press —

    The MP reportedly tried to raise his concerns about the party’s direction in person with the Deputy Prime Minister but was rebuffed.
    He added: “I remain very supportive of all Nick Clegg’s instincts that made him a compelling candidate to be party leader and Deputy Prime Minister.
    “Whether he has moved away from some of his instincts, people may feel that he has.

    “Maybe I’m a more defiantly loyal supporter of Nick Clegg than Nick Clegg is of himself.”

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