Jeremy Browne, the Lib Dem former Home Office minister, has just announced that he is to stand down as an MP at the general election:
I have decided not to stand as a candidate at the 2015 General Election. Resignation letter to local party attached. pic.twitter.com/rYfpa3XVIO
— Jeremy Browne (@JeremyBrowneMP) October 15, 2014
This may be because Taunton Deane would have been difficult to hold, though I understand the MP’s own private polling had told him that he was on course to win.
A lot of people are saying this is a great loss to the Liberal Democrats. In a long-term sense it is because this MP had a sincere long-term vision for a liberal Liberal Democrat party that made a big pitch to voters beyond simply offering to modify the other main parties. But Browne had been sidelined by the leadership, who considered his ‘global race’ post that he wrote for this blog such a betrayal that it factored in Nick Clegg’s decision to sack him.
His criticisms of the leadership once he had left government were not heeded, and while he was a popular speaker at fringes and dinners, it was becoming clear that this MP was a maverick voice, rather than someone who could immediately change things. The increasingly vocal liberal wing of the Lib Dems may mourn his departure, but he may well have concluded from his party’s conference which didn’t just feature the very pitch that he dislikes from Clegg but also activists creating a rather statist and not particularly liberal football policy that he wasn’t going to get much traction.
Browne was one of the MPs that Nick Boles cited when he suggested a National Liberal Party. That didn’t go well for Boles – and Browne’s increasingly robust and vocal defence of Liberalism hasn’t gone well either as he has concluded that ‘in national politics my race is run’. Liberals are clearly going to have to be a lot more creative if they want to win influence.
P.S. Nick Clegg has released this less-than-warm valedictory statement:
‘Jeremy Browne has decided that now is the right time to announce he will not stand at the next election and the Liberal Democrats wish him all the best for the future.
‘The Deputy Prime Minister regrets that he has taken the decision to leave politics as Jeremy has always had strongly held views which he expressed with great skill and conviction.
‘Jeremy has been a tireless constituency MP to the people of Taunton and served in two important ministerial roles in the early part of this government.’
P.P.S. Here’s the full text of Browne’s letter:
Cllr Gill Slattery
Chair, Taunton Deane Liberal Democrats
15 October 2014
After considerable deliberation I have decided not to contest Taunton Deane as the Liberal Democrat candidate at the 2015 General Election and to stand down as the Member of Parliament for Taunton Deane at the end of this Parliament.
By 2015 I will have been the Member of Parliament for Taunton Deane for ten years. That is generally long enough to do the same job/ it is not my ambition to remain in Parliament until I retire. I have been very committed to the role and I have done it to the best of my ability. It is time to do something different. There is a world beyond politics full of hopeful opportunities and it will be exciting to explore it.
I hope and expect that the Liberal Democrats will hold Taunton Deane at the 2015 General Election. We defied the national trends by winning at the last two General Elections and gaining seats in the Count Council elections last year/ My goal has always been to ensure that the Liberal Democrats are the natural choice for the residents of Taunton Deane. We should be confident of again demonstrating the realisations of that objective in 2015.
I have also come to the conclusion that in national politics my race is run. I have enjoyed writing two books in the past year exploring the strategic and ideological choices confronting both the Liberal Democrats and the United Kingdom. My views have been well rehearsed and I do not wish to add any more. I hope that others may find some value in them. I have been proud to be an unwavering supporter of the first government to contain Liberal Democrat Ministers since the Second World War. I was also honoured to serve my country as a Minister of State in the Foreign Office and the Home Office and grateful to be given this opportunity.
For the avoidance of any doubt, I will not be joining another political party and I have no intention to serve in any other capacity in politics.
I am humbled by the support I have received since I was first selected as the local Liberal Democrat candidate in 2001: from the people f Taunton Deane (often regardless of how they voted), from family and friends, from the staff who have worked with me, from the Taunton Deane Liberal Democrats, and from the wider family of Liberal Democrats, of which I have been a member for 26 years. It has been a memorable journey, but every journey much come to an end.
Jeremy Browne MP