The Liberal Democrats have become pointless, one of the party’s most senior MPs has claimed.
In a fresh attack on the direction the Lib Dems are being taken in, former minister Jeremy Browne said there was a lot of "conservatism" in the party and raised concerns that it "protects the state and the status quo".
It comes after earlier criticism of "political procrastination" and claims that the Lib Dems have become the "brake on the Government rather than being an accelerator".
In an interview with The Times, Browne said: "Every political party and every politician has to be able to answer the question: if you didn't exist why would it be necessary to invent you?
"I'm not sure it would be necessary to invent an ill-defined moderating centrist party."
Browne was unexpectedly sacked as a home office minister in last year's reshuffle and relations with party leader Nick Clegg are said to be strained.
The MP reportedly tried to raise his concerns about the party's direction in person with the Deputy Prime Minister but was rebuffed.
Browne warned voters that the deputy prime minister, who was considered to have lost two recent televised debates with Nigel Farage, the Ukip leader, is not the same politician who was elected as Lib Dem leader.
He believes that Clegg has come under fire as a result of being in coalition with the Tories, and has lost his identity.
Browne criticised Clegg for losing his “clarity and definition as a liberal politician” and for making compromises that leave him “in political no man’s land”.
“It disappoints me when he makes a virtue of being the brake within the government rather than the accelerator, that he sells himself as the figure who stops change happening rather than being a person who has a dynamic, restless appetite for positive change,” he told The Times.
“He thinks he has to meet his detractors halfway in political no man’s land. As a result of that, he has less clarity and definition as a liberal politician than I think he would otherwise have had, and I think we as a party have less clarity and definition as well.
“A lot of people who might quite like the Lib Dems they see in their locality have a difficulty getting what the Lib Dems stand for and why they are relevant.”
But he added: "I remain very supportive of all Nick Clegg's instincts that made him a compelling candidate to be party leader and Deputy Prime Minister.
"Whether he has moved away from some of his instincts, people may feel that he has.
"Maybe I'm a more defiantly loyal supporter of Nick Clegg than Nick Clegg is of himself."
The attack comes just a month before a set of elections in which the Liberal Democrats could be pushed into fourth place behind Labour, Ukip and the Tories.Suggest a correction