The left-wing of the Liberal Democrats has hit back at former minister Jeremy Browne, after he warned Nick Clegg not to get dragged away from the centre ground of British politics.
Browne, who was sacked as a Home Office minister by Clegg in the recent reshuffle despite being seen as a close ally of the deputy prime minister, said today that "left to its own devices" the Lib Dems were a "shopping trolley that defaults to the left".
In an interview with The Times, Browne said he had spent his time in government "doing everything I can to accelerate the Lib Dems' journey from a party of protest to a party of government" and that he saw his role as applying "corrective pressure" to keep the party from veering too far to the left.
However writing on The Huffington Post UK, Naomi Smith, the co-chair of the internal Lib Dem Social Liberal Forum group, hit back at Browne for attempting to "hijack" the party in order to further his career.
"If the Lib Dems are a shopping trolley that defaults to the left, then Jeremy Browne is the spare wheel on the right: at least shopping trolley’s have a mind of their own," she said.
"Jeremy Browne, like Nick Clegg so many times before him, poses a false dichotomy when he says the Party must choose whether to be a party of protest or of Government. Liberal Democrats want the Party to be an effective Party Government, which upholds the principles it says it stands for, not to be hijacked by those seeking a mid-career boost, before moving onto lobbying or the City.
She added: "Nick wants to fight 2015 asking electors to “vote for continuing Coalition” which is a version of Browne’s 'protest/government' question. The point is, it’s the outcome of the Election that will determine this: it’s not an option on the ballot paper."
Smith said Browne was guilty of trying to persuade the party to "abandon its traditional radical and progressive stance, despite this being the very rationale of its foundation and its major appeal for most members".
In his interview with The Times, Browne also revealed Tory chairman Grant Shapps had asked to meet him to discuss him defecting from the Lib Dems - a meeting Browne said he turned down.