MP: 'The day Clegg sacked me from the Home Office'
A Westcountry MP who was the most high-profile casualty of the recent Cabinet reshuffle has said Nick Clegg faces being pulled away from the centre-ground of British politics by a Liberal Democrat "shopping trolley that defaults to the left".
Jeremy Browne, Liberal Democrat MP for Taunton Deane, has spoken out about his sacking from the Home Office and dodging calls to defect to the Conservatives in an interview with The Times. He also reaffirmed his staunch party credentials and what he feels the future should be for the coalition partner which needs to avoid looking too "ambivalent" about being in Government.
Speaking of the moment he received a call from party leader Nick Clegg informing him of his impending departure from office, Mr Browne said it was "a bit painful".
He also revealed in his interview with the national newspaper how he had turned down a meeting with Tory chairman Grant Shapps "because he has no intention or desire" to defect.
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Comparing his party to a shopping trolley that "left to its own devices defaults to the left and being the party of protest", he said: "I'd say my ambition for the Lib Dems is to attract the small 'l' liberals in the Conservative and Labour parties. I regard it as a disappointment that we have not attracted more people of a liberal disposition in other political parties."
Going back to the moment he received a call from the Downing Street switchboard two Sundays ago, informing him to expect a call from Mr Clegg, the Somerset MP told The Times it struck him "as a bit ominous", adding: "I was a very early and enthusiastic supporter of Nick Clegg. I was enthusiastic about him taking us in to Government. It was an act of leadership for which he gets insufficient credit.
"So it's disorientating to receive that phone call and I suppose a bit puzzling. A bit painful."
But the man who Tory Planning Minister Nick Boles urged his party to recruit said there was a lot of "misunderstanding" about him.
"I'm 43 years old," he said. "I joined the Liberal Democrats when I was 18. I've worked energetically for the Lib Dems at every level. Not many people have delivered more leaflets than me or knocked on more doors than me or helped in more council by-elections than me."
Mr Browne revealed to The Times the "absolutely exhausting level of commitment and dedication" it took him to win his seat in 2005 and hold on to it, reaffirming his "grassroot credentials".
"If you believe that the country should live within its means, people should be encouraged to work (and) we should improve rigour in education, that doesn't make you a Conservative but a reform minded Liberal," he said. "We can't get in to a position where people misunderstand that."