POLITICS
08/05/2014 19:58 BST | Updated 08/05/2014 19:59 BST

I'm Not Swapping To The Tories Just Because I'm Posh, Says Ex-Lib Dem Minister Jeremy Browne

Former Lib Dem minister Jeremy Browne has aired his frustration at being constantly mistaken for a Tory - because he is posh.

“I think it’s partly the way I speak actually," Browne told House magazine. "British politics is more interested in class than the British public are. I think it’s an assumption about what a Conservative MP or what a Labour MP ought to look like and sound like."

"But I’m not interested in class-based politics. I have no assumption about what a person in any party ought to look and sound like. I always think that accusation against me says more about the person making the accusation.”

posh jeremy browne

Too posh for his party? Lib Dem Jeremy Browne says he's not switching sides

But he added that just because he was a believer in "unambiguous liberalism", that did not mean he should join the Conservative Party.

Browne has often been rumoured as a potential side-switcher, and told the Times last year that he had been approached by senior Tories, including Grant Shapps, who “he suspects were seeking his defection” after he was unceremoniously sacked from his position at the Home Office.

Even today, Browne was breaking ranks with his Lib Dem colleagues, urging Nick Clegg to support cutting taxes for the richest voters, and earning himself plaudits himself from the Conservatives.

In the wide-ranging interview on Thursday, Browne repeatedly hit out at his own party and its tactics electorally and in government.

His party, Browne said, believe they can capitalise by saying they have been "operating guerrilla warfare tactics within government".

"I think that is a pitch which the electorate will not find persuasive," he added. "I don’t think it will be electorally successful for us to put the emphasis on where we are a destructive brake on government.

"We’re not doing well in the opinion polls. We’ve made extensive efforts to appeal to people who don’t like the government, that we are representing their views.

'But the problem with appealing to people who don’t like the government is they have other vehicles for voting than us. If you don’t like the government then there are opposition parties to vote for; Labour, UKIP and others.

"Nine in ten people in the country are not intending to vote for us, so we have a lot of work to do.

Browne said two core voter groups, both left-wingers and protest voters, which had voted Lib Dem in 2010 were unlikely to vote for the party again, and said the Lib Dems were "walking towards a mirage if we think we can appeal to those people".

Browne said he draws some inspiration from politicians like Ukip's Nigel Farage and the Scottish National Party's Alex Salmond. "I think the public values politicians who have unambiguous beliefs and are willing to argue for ideas that they have a conviction attachment to," he said. "They aren’t looking to always caveat everything, or to blur the distinctions, or to water everything down."

Farage, he said, is "too quickly dismissed in our Westminster debate".

"I think UKIP are a vehicle for protest If people are protesting against the mainstream political parties, people need to ask themselves why.

Browne, it has been pointed out, has recently shaved his beard, prompting speculation that the image change means he is positioning himself to succeed Nick Clegg as Lib Dem leader.

"I’m not sure if that would make me more or less likely to appeal to Liberal Democrats!" he laughed in response.