There are five points to note about Liberal Democrat Jeremy Browne’s decision to stand down from Parliament at the next election:
- There’s been some snarky comments about how late in the Parliament Jeremy Browne has left it to stand down. But remember Cambridge last time – David Howarth leaving it until late in the Parliament didn’t stop Julian Huppert winning the seat. The political situation now is very different, but I’ve heard a fair number of senior party figures all through this Parliament take the view that the lesson from Cambridge is that a late announcement is fine. Whether or not you agree with them (and I’m dubious) there is at least an honourable defence to standing down late.
- As Richard Allan commented when standing down from Sheffield Hallam after two terms as an MP, outside politics leaving a job after two Parliaments (8-10 years) wouldn’t raise any questions about why someone is leaving ‘so soon’. In the rest of the world, being in the same job for a decade is a long time, and if anything the question you get asked is why you haven’t left sooner. I worked at party HQ for around the same time Jeremy Browne will have been an MP, for example, and on my departure no-one asked ‘why so soon?’
- Jeremy Browne’s comment that in national politics “my race is run”, aside from being a pun on his own book title, reflects not only his falling out with Nick Clegg (who sacked him as a minister) but also is a conclusion he can only have come to if he also thinks the next leader of the party – who after all may only be a few months away with a post-election contest – won’t be congenial to his views either. This is not the action of someone who thinks an Orange Book coup has taken over the party and changed it. And if even he doesn’t think that…
- Standing down isn’t the action of a man with a serious chance of winning the party’s next leadership election. I think Jeremy is right in his views of his own chances, in part because he so often polled so relatively poorly in Lib Dem Voice‘s polls of party members. It always struck me as odd that journalists talking him up as a future leadership contender did not think those poor ratings even worth a caveat, let alone be a reason for abandoning their speculation. Of course Jeremy isn’t the only person to have leadership speculation in the media whilst polling near the bottom of those polls. Hello, Danny Alexander.
- Although he doesn’t mention it in his statement, he became a father for the first time during this Parliament. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Jeremy is one of the politicians for whom ‘standing down to spend more time with my family’ is a genuine part of his reasoning but, given how much cynicism has become attached to the phrase, has wisely chosen not to use it.
Here’s his resignation letter in full: