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

by Stephen Tall on October 7, 2013

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 Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.