Thursday, October 10, 2013

David Heath and Jeremy Browne were victims of an earlier reshuffle

I was pleased to see Norman Baker moved to the Home Office in the recent Lib Dem reshuffle. And I note that many of those poking fun at his book on the death of Dr David Kelly – step forward Jonathan Freedland and John Rentoul – are Blairite armchair warriors seeking to refight the invasion of Iraq.

But I do feel sorry for Jeremy Browne, who was sacked to make way for Norman Baker. Because in the previous reshuffle, which took place in September 2012, he was moved from the Foreign Office. And he had given every appearance of being at home there, which he never did at the Home Office.

And Jeremy Browne was not the only Lib Dem who was moved from a job where he was at home to one where he was not in that reshuffle and then sacked this week.

David Heath was by all accounts a success as deputy Leader of the House and, as ‘a good House of Commons man’, he certainly looked happy in the role.

But in September of last year he was moved to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. 

Fair enough for a rural MP, you may say, but he was given the worst hospital pass of all time and was made the minister for shooting badgers. I don't think anyone could be happy in that role.

Now Dan Rogerson has been appointed to DEFRA in his place. I don’t know if he now has responsibilities for the badger cull – it is possible that they have moved the goalposts.

That September 2012 was not just a misfortune for these individual ministers: it was a misfortune for the Liberal Democrats as a whole. Because, despite everything, I like my party being in government and I was sorry to see us giving up any representation in important, grown-up departments like Defence and the Foreign Office.

Why did we do this? The theory heard most often is that Nick Clegg was so anxious to secure the return of David Laws that he was forced to concede a lot of ground in return.

I hope this is true. If Nick gave that ground of his own free will we really should be worrying.

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1 comment:

Left Lib said...

You would have thought it was the Tories who would want to be insisting that David Laws be in the cabinet. As for Jeremy Browne - I am not sure he did any good in the foreign office. One area he totally failed was to engage the party in a debate about what Lib Dem foreign policy should be. Given that our position on Iraq was our high point back in 2003, no one seems to know what we think on foreign policy anymore.