Jeremy Browne: not changing teams. Photo: Getty
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Does David Cameron realise he needs Lib Dem voters to remain PM?

The Conservatives need to woo 2010 Lib Dem supporters.

"What happened to David Cameron's 'liberal conservatism'? I suppose it was just a marketing gimmick. Like 'vote blue, go green'. Inauthentic."

Jeremy Browne is a Liberal Democrat MP, so on one level his attack on the PM's reshuffle shouldn't come as any surprise: just a spot of pre-election differentiation.

But Browne is not any old Lib Dem MP. He is regarded as one of the most rightwing Lib Dems - a Thatcherite with a europhile face - and his sacking in the last cabinet reshuffle was lamented just as much by the Conservatives than the Lib Dems. He had been the Conservatives' main target as a potential Lib Dem defector. That is clearly not now going to happen.

And there is a wider point: what is Cameron now doing to woo 2010 Lib Dem voters? Because the Lib Dems' 23 per cent vote share could easily be halved, these voters will be critical next May. The Conservatives are second in 38 of the Lib Dems' 57 seats. There are also 37 Conservative-Labour marginals in which the third place Lib Dem vote is more than twice the incumbent's majority. Alienating Lib Dems risks these seats turning red even if the Conservatives maintain their share of the vote.

This reshuffle has been designed for many groups. Women. Ethnic minority. Northern people. The working-class. Eurosceptics. And the Tory right, Owen Paterson's fate notwithstanding. But not, apparently, disillusioned Lib Dems. 

It could be a serious mistake. With there being almost no actual governing for the new cabinet members to do, the last year of the coalition risks descending into rows over semantic differences. The Conservative temptation will be to show what they would have done if only those pesky Lib Dems hadn't got in the way.

The danger is the political terrain this leaves clear for the Lib Dems: the more the Conservatives trumpet areas they would like to go further, the more the Lib Dems can say they have dragged the coalition towards the centre ground. One MP in an arch-marginal Lib-Con seat told me that his aim was to position himself as the coalition candidate and push the Tory challenger out to the Tea Party right. For those voters who actually thought the coalition had worked well - you could call them liberal conservatives - sticking with the incumbent Lib Dem would be the logical, steady option. With this reshuffle, David Cameron has only strengthened that argument.

Tim Wigmore is a contributing writer to the New Statesman and the author of Second XI: Cricket In Its Outposts.

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An alternative Trainspotting script for John Humphrys’ Radio 4 “Choose Life” tribute

Born chippy.

Your mole often has Radio 4’s Today programme babbling away comfortingly in the background while emerging blinking from the burrow. So imagine its horror this morning, when the BBC decided to sully this listening experience with John Humphrys doing the “Choose Life” monologue from Trainspotting.

“I chose not to choose life: I chose something else. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you’ve got Radio 4?” he concluded, as a nation cringed.

Introduced as someone who has “taken issue with modernity”, Humphrys launched into the film character Renton’s iconic rant against the banality of modern life.

But Humphrys’ role as in-studio curmudgeon is neither endearing nor amusing to this mole. Often tasked with stories about modern technology and digital culture by supposedly mischievous editors, Humphrys sounds increasingly cranky and ill-informed. It doesn’t exactly make for enlightening interviews. So your mole has tampered with the script. Here’s what he should have said:

“Choose life. Choose a job and then never retire, ever. Choose a career defined by growling and scoffing. Choose crashing the pips three mornings out of five. Choose a fucking long contract. Choose interrupting your co-hosts, politicians, religious leaders and children. Choose sitting across the desk from Justin Webb at 7.20 wondering what you’re doing with your life. Choose confusion about why Thought for the Day is still a thing. Choose hogging political interviews. Choose anxiety about whether Jim Naughtie’s departure means there’s dwindling demand for grouchy old men on flagship political radio shows. Choose a staunch commitment to misunderstanding stories about video games and emoji. Choose doing those stories anyway. Choose turning on the radio and wondering why the fuck you aren’t on on a Sunday morning as well. Choose sitting on that black leather chair hosting mind-numbing spirit-crushing game shows (Mastermind). Choose going over time at the end of it all, pishing your last few seconds on needlessly combative questions, nothing more than an obstacle to that day’s editors being credited. Choose your future. Choose life . . .”

I'm a mole, innit.