++ Jeremy Browne sacked from Home Office, replaced by Norman Baker

That’s not a headline I’d have predicted writing…

Jeremy Browne has always been a bit of a marmite character within the party: an Orange Booker economically, but not a social libertarian. He was regarded as having had a successful stint in his first government post at the Foreign Office (although unless you accidentally start a war I’m not sure what the criteria for a bad stint are). His move to the home office, replacing Lynne Featherstone, was intended to reduce the number of clashes with Home Secretary Theresa May.

However, it’s not been a happy match. Despite an early success on free speech and some baby steps on drugs reform, Jeremy was sidelined in the Home Office on the controversial ‘Go home’ vans; meanwhile his interview in conference week with the Telegraph on the need for a national debate on whether Muslim women should be banned from wearing the veil in public places generated headlines but few new allies within the party.

His replacement, Norman Baker, is an instinctive liberal even libertarian, a more maverick character but one renowned for his tenacious thirst for detail. It’s some irony that he should end up in the home office given his well-publicised allegations of state involvement in the death of Dr David Kelly.

* Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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34 Comments

  • 🙁

  • Good news. I wonder what the security services think of having Norman Baker at the home office though.

  • That said if Paul Waugh is right about Jeremy’s views on bombing Syria maybe he has a bit more ability to not just toe the establishment line than he showed at the Home Office.

  • Paul Walter: If Jeremy Browne has been sacked cd be 2 things 1) his internal opposition to Syria bombing 2) wants to pitch for LD leader outside Coaltn?
    1:48 PM – 7 Oct 2013

    Re #2: is Paul Waugh spending reshuffle day on the Planet Zog? LibDem activists have rated Browne bottom of all our ministers and “seething hatred” might not be too strong a term to describe the feelings of some towards him after burkhas, Go Home vans and the David Miranda affair. He is the one minister whose removal from office will cause jubilant celebration amongst many LibDem activists. That he has been replaced by Norman Baker makes the whole thing sweeter.

    https://www.libdemvoice.org/how-party-members-rate-the-performances-of-leading-lib-dems-august-2013-35680.html

  • Have to say that Jeremy Browne isn’t the best voice for the Lib Dems on tv. But the party needs to have a broad spectrum of liberal and I hope he finds some new work to do for the LDs from the backbenches.

  • Difficult to top Dave’s comment, really!

  • Richard Wingfield 7th Oct '13 - 3:06pm

    I thought Jeremy Browne did a fantastic job at the Foreign Office and I had high hopes for him at the Home Office. However, for whatever reason, he never really seemed to make much of an impact. Apart from a few early areas of disagreement at the Home Office (ID cards, Protection of Freedoms Act), this is one department that has had very little Lib Dem influence. On immigration and drugs, in particular, the agenda has been very Conservative (big C and small C) indeed.

    Norman Baker has been very good at Transport, and I hope that he carries some of that force over with him to the Home Office. I daresay it’s not easy to stand up against Theresa May, but it needs to be done and Norman might just be the man to do it. Fingers crossed!

  • Peter Reynolds 7th Oct '13 - 3:21pm

    So can we now expect the new drugs minister to work in accordance with LibDem policies?

    Drugs policy is not part of the coalition agreement so there is no excuse for toadying up to Theresa May.

    We expect vigorous work towards an intelligent, progressive and evidence based drugs policy and away from the present repressive, cruel and self-defeating stupidity – particularly on medicinal cannabis , where Britain is in the dark ages.

  • Simon McGrath 7th Oct '13 - 3:24pm

    How on earth can someone who wrote a completely bonkers book about the suicide of David kelly with wild accusations be at the Home Office. Very odd.

  • I’ve no idea if his background, but Jeremy always came over as far more Bullingdon, rather than, Liberal Club crossed with Tim Nice but Dim in his pronouncements.

    An independent mind at the Hone Office – heaven forfend . Love to be a fly on that wall…

  • Good. He can now feel free to join the tories.

  • Glad he’s gone. He was socially illiberal in his stint there, and the Home Office was exactly the wrong place for him.

  • Tony Greaves 7th Oct '13 - 4:12pm

    Two quite exciting new appointments.

    Tony

  • Eddie Sammon 7th Oct '13 - 4:18pm

    Jeremy Browne has courage and his call to question face veils on young girls was a liberal act, but people jumped at an excuse to criticise him.

  • Shame Norman is leaving Transport. He achieved the unusual feat of impressing the professionals.

    Don’t like his replacement being unelected.

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 7th Oct '13 - 5:10pm

    Crewegwyn,

    She does know her stuff on transport though – former Transport for London board member, expert on infrastructure financing.

    And we’ve got some very good people in the Lords, so why not use them?

  • Susan will be a fantastic minister.

  • Nothing here yet about Stephen Williams or Dan Rogerson getting jobs but Lynne Featherstone had tweeted that they both have. Plus isn’t Don Foster taking over as Lib Dem Chief Whip. Lib Dem Voice seems ot be slipping.

  • And this week’s winner of oxymoron of the week is…

    “social libertarian”

  • Simon
    Norman Baker did get a letter from The Mechanic some time ago.

  • Peter Watson 7th Oct '13 - 6:00pm

    Not knowing who he was, a year or two ago I watched Browne being interviewed on TV and was shocked afterwards to hear him described as a Lib Dem. I had to google him to make sure I had not misheard.
    Perhaps he is being replaced before he swaps parties in order to maintain the Lib Dem quota in government.

  • @Peter Watson. A relatively politically savvy friend of mine also assumed he was a Tory.

  • Paul Walter
    Social background?

  • Paul Walter Any of us, I maintain, if we didn’t know (or had an anonymous quote of a typical Browne nature) would assume he was a Tory.

  • Geoffrey, I think we can have a very good guess about NC’s views on Israel – Palestine. Every time there is an issue where a party rep has spoken in favour of Palestine, he has slapped them down.

  • I read some early speculation that Clegg sacked him for being too right wing – is this possible???!!!

  • David White 8th Oct '13 - 12:09pm

    Rumour has it that Theresa May is far from pleased to have Norman Baker added to her department of state – and that’s putting it mildly!

  • Peter Reynolds 8th Oct '13 - 12:54pm

    If Theresa May is unhappy about Norman Baker’s appointment then it follows that it is a very good thing.

  • Jeremy Browne is very much a liberal and will now have the freedom to speak his mind a bit more. I think he’d make an excellent party leader

  • Peter Reynolds 8th Oct '13 - 7:20pm

    @Ashley, Jeremy Browne’s tenure at the Home Office comprehenisvely disproves your statement. The only party he’d be fit to lead is the Tory very wets.

  • Matthew Huntbach 8th Oct '13 - 11:25pm

    Well, having complained just days ago about how Clegg has been partisan in his appointments, favouring people from just his own right-wing stream in the party, it would be churlish not to show some gratitude for him having made a move to balance things by getting rid of Jeremy Browne, who often came across in the sort of things he said as Tory in all but nominal party attachment, and putting in his place someone who is definitely more awkward squad than orthodox Cleggie.

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