Norman Baker accused of being a 'guitarist only interested in his own solos'

Tory party piles in on former Lib Dem minister

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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."

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.

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