Britain’s coalition government faced fresh trouble from a newspaper sting on Friday over a minister’s comments describing the leading Conservative party’s European allies as “nutty”.
The remarks by Foreign Office minister Jeremy Browne, a member of the Liberal Democrat party which is the junior partner in the coalition, come after another Lib Dem’s minister’s unguarded comments about Rupert Murdoch.
The Daily Telegraph quoted Browne as telling an undercover reporter posing as a constituent that the Conservatives’ “very harsh” immigration policy was “driven by quite a lot of uncharitable instincts.”
Browne said foreign diplomats were pleased that Lib Dems had ensured the coalition was “far more amenable and civilised” towards the European Union than the eurosceptic Conservatives would have been on their own.
Asked about Prime Minister David Cameron’s decision to ally his party with some nationalist parties in Europe, he said: “They (the parties) are quite nutty and that’s an embarrassment to them.”
The Conservatives broke away in 2009 from the main centre-right grouping in Europe to join the a group of coalition of small nationalist parties, some whom have faced accusations of anti-Semitism.
Browne’s comments are the latest to expose the tensions in the coalition, which came to power after a general election in May.
But it has since faced internal wrangling over policies, especially on how to cut Britain’s huge deficit.
It was the latest in a series of articles in which members of the junior coalition Lib Dems were targeted by the paper.
On Wednesday the Telegraph revealed that Business Secretary Vince Cable, a senior party member, told journalists that he had “declared war” on Murdoch over a bid by the media magnate’s News Corporation to take full control of pay TV company BSkyB.
The remarks emerged as British regulators mull the deal, and forced Cameron to remove Cable from any role in reviewing the bid.
In the same sting, Cable was caught threatening to “bring the government down” if the centre-left Lib Dems were forced to compromise too much with the centre-right Tories.
Another Lib Dem, Paul Burstow, the minister for care services, Paul Burstow, was quoted as saying: “I don’t want you to trust David Cameron”.
And local government minister Andrew Stunell said he did not know where Cameron stood on the “sincerity monitor”.
David Heath, deputy leader of the House of Commons, said finance minister George Osborne “has a capacity to get up one’s nose”.