Norman Baker is facing a Conservative backlash today after he coupled his dramatic resignation from the Government with a scathing attack on Theresa May, the Home Secretary.
His decision to quit as a Home Office minister – exclusively revealed by the Independent – has prompted a fresh bout of Coalition infighting, and raised questions over how the two parties will handle the final four and a half months of their power-sharing deal.
Downing Street sources signalled their anger that Mr Baker told The Independent of his resignation before telling David Cameron.
Damian Green, a Tory former Home Office Minister, hit back at Mr Baker’s claims that Mrs May had refused to work collegiately with her Lib Dem minister.
Accusing Mr Baker of focusing on pushing his own agenda, he said: “He was a guitarist who was only interested in his own solos while the rest of the band was trying to play a close harmony number.”
Mr Green added: “He regarded himself as being on a par with the Home Secretary and asked for papers from other ministers. He wanted to check what everyone else was doing.
“The world doesn’t work like that. If you are a minister of state, in the end, you work to the secretary of state in that department.”
Tory backbenchers said Mr Baker’s departure should be regarded as a badge of honour by Ms May.
Mark Pritchard, the MP for The Wrekin, tweeted: “Three cheers for the Home Secretary, proof, not that it was needed, she wears the designer trousers in her department. Under-estimated!”
He added: “Lib Dems get over it! Lib Dems ‘minority partner’ in coalition government - not 'equal partner'.”
The former Cabinet Minister John Gummer suggested his resignation had “less to do with drugs policy” and more to do with defending his Sussex seat of Lewes at the next election.
The senior Tory backbencher Bernard Jenkin tweeted: “David Cameron should appoint a Conservative to replace Norman Baker.”
Mr Baker was unrepentant today over his decision and predicted Coalition relations would deteriorate further in the coming months.
He said: "I think the Coalition relations are clearly going to be more difficult as we get nearer the election. I think the Coalition works very well. Unfortunately, there are one or two ministers, I am afraid that includes the Home Secretary, who take the view that this is not a Coalition Government, but a Conservative government with Lib Dems in it."
Lib Dems: policy focus
Lib Dems: policy focus
1/6 GEOFF PAYNE English Party representative, Federal Policy Committee
“The Tories have been seen over the last week for the nasty party that they are. I would go on the offensive to justify our record and ruthlessly exploit those differences over things like the benefit cap and scrapping the Human Rights Act.”
2/6 GARETH EPPS Co-chair, Social Liberal Forum
“We need to make it clear that we’re not in it for our mates, like the Tories. Some of the successes, like shared parental leave, would never have been there with only the Tories.”
3/6 DAISY COOPER Candidate, party president
“A lot of people do know that raising the tax threshold is a Liberal Democrat policy. We just need to keep telling the public that.”
4/6 JOHN PUGH Southport MP, rebelled against leadership on tuition fees
“We need to say that issues of social inequality and justice are equal priorities to economics. We must return to a traditional funding of the NHS.”
5/6 LORELY BURT Solihull MP, former deputy leadership candidate
“It does seem that we’ve been the repository of all the best ideas and that nice Mr Cameron has pinched our income tax policy and Labour the mansion tax policy.”
6/6 BARONESS PARMINTER Former chief executive, Campaign for the Protection of Rural England
“We have got to be very clear where we have stopped the Tories implementing changes that would have been detrimental to the environment.”
The president of the Liberal Democrats said the resignation was actually proof that the Coalition is working, even though the Tories "behave like they won the last election", according to the president of the Liberal Democrats.
His move has been seen by some as further evidence that the Coalition is falling apart as tensions rise leading up to May's general election, but Tim Farron insisted that was far from the truth.
"The evidence that the Coalition is working well is that this is the only time this has happened in four and a half years," the Liberal Democrat president told BBC Radio 4's Today programme. "This is the exception that proves the rule."
But he did back Mr Baker's claims that the Tories are governing as though they won an outright majority in 2010 and not adequately realising their Coalition partners.
"I'm not here to lay into Theresa May but there is a sense within the Home Office, and it's sensed around the rest of Government on both sides of the Coalition, that Theresa May behaves as though the Conservatives won the last election - and they didn't," Mr Farron said.
The Lib Dem MP Lynne Featherstone is to return to the Home Office as Mr Baker’s replacement, Nick Clegg announced this afternoon.
Ms Featherstone was a junior Home Office minister between 2010 and 2012 before being switched to the Department for International Development (DfID). She said: “I have always had a very constructive relationship with Theresa May and I look forward to working with her again.”
Ms Featherstone, the MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, is regarded as being on the left of her party. She was replaced at DfID by Baroness Northover.Reuse content