There are few crossovers between this blog’s twin main obsessions (2000AD and Libby Dem politics). A few years ago there was some dig at the Lib Dems in a strip called Thirteen but that’s pretty much your lot.
So you takes your references where you can get them, as the accompanying panel taken from this week‘s Ten-Seconders strip demonstrates. Who could they be referring to I wonder?
Lib Dem Voice has the skinny on Mark Oaten ruminating on the possibility that he might quit early and force a byelection. Stephen Tall has quoted from the Hampshire Chronicle Oaten’s views, but I can exclusively reveal the subtext:
He said it was “me me me”.
Mr Oaten said he did not intend to trigger a by-election but “me me me”.
He said if the “me me me” came up for him and his wife, he would “me me me”.
The father-of-two said: “I hope people understand.
“Me me me me me me me me me me me me me.”
People may recall that the good people of Winchester are not known for their forgiving nature when it comes to having unnecessary byelections foisted on them. Nice as it would be for us to increase our majority by one million per cent a second time, I feel it may be asking a little too much.
What a bizarre article by Iain Dale!
First, he makes a big deal out of the fact that Mark Oaten, apparently, came “very close” to defecting to the Tories in Autumn 2005. Work that date out in your head for a minute. Posterity records that Mark Oaten wasn’t exactly of sound mind at the time, and was apparently rather more interested in something else that is spelled very similarly to defection, but has an extra ‘a’.
Defecting to the Conservatives may well be a degrading form of self abuse, but I’m not sure it was Iain’s intention to make the link quite so explicit.
Oaten was apparently disappointed by the Lib Dems’ opposition to his ‘tough’ stance on crime. Yet Nick Clegg, also considered a prime candidate for defection, has done more than anyone else to bury Oaten’s ‘tough liberalism’ stance. So which type of Lib Dem do you want?
He goes on to talk about the need for secrecy when it comes to defections, and that careless talk costs them, only to reveal that Ed Vaizey has been given the job by Cameron to co-ordinate it all. Good job that’s still a secret, then.
And then there’s all those strange innuendos, that make it all sound rather like “Confessions of a Career Politician”. “[Vaizey’s] recent trip to the Arctic Circle with Nick Clegg may not have resulted in a defection, but eight hours a night in an igloo can hardly have failed to bring them closer.” F’narr f’narr! “[Shaun Woodward] was promised all manner of rewards (none of which has materialised) and made to feel wanted. But, at the last minute, he wobbled and the seduction turned into a brutal rape.” Err, we are still talking about defections, right?
This article can hardly have helped the Tory plan to get us all to sign up, and indeed makes it sound like the Tory frontbench spend rather too much time obsessing about it. It’s very flattering, but it does rather suggest that they aren’t feeling too confident about how they are likely to fare in the run up to the General Election, and need us to bail them out.
Liberal Review has more.
I like Mark Littlewood. I first got to know him when he was setting up NO2ID. Think he’s done a good job in the Lib Dems, and he is a good dining companion.
So, while I think his departure now may be politically expedient, I don’t delight in it. The person most responsible for last Sunday’s debacle was the one who came up with the ‘5 tests’ wheeze and in particular, these lines:
And if he meets these five tests he will have changed direction.
Coalition overtures with Labour
He will have changed direction, and embraced liberal democracy.
Coalition overtures with Labour
Are the Conservatives up to this same challenge?
Coalition overtures with Labour
Of course not.
If, reading between the lines, you can’t see coalition overtures with Labour, you must be blind, or stupid, or both.
I’m also very aware that the knives have been out for Littlewood ever since the Mark Oaten’s leadership candidacy went belly up. Littlewood was widely blamed for Ming’s disastrous ‘head teacher’ intervention at PMQs, widely believed to have been spun by the Oaten camp. In turn, Littlewood was accused of actively undermining Oaten’s campaign, something which was hotly denied at the time and, as we saw quite quickly afterwards, entirely unnecessary due to Oaten’s own limitless capacity for self destruction. There has been a quietly simmering feud going on for the past 12 months between Oatenistas and supporters of Littlewood, which seems to have now ended in a score draw (with the party stuck in the middle like some kind of bird of liberty-shaped pinata).
So, good luck Mark. And Ming: get your act together.
This is a bit of a shock, although perhaps a bit understandable given his recent fatherhood. Matthew’s career showed a lot of early promise but he somehow never fulfilled it. Being stripped of his position as Chair of the Parliamentary Party in 2005 must have been a bit of a blow and Mark Oaten’s experiece may have made him think twice about continuing a Parliamentary career.
But the fact remains that a whole political generation is either leaving Parliament or has been otherwise compromised in the past twelve months. Of course there is Oaten and Charles Kennedy, but Paul Keetch announced his resignation a couple of months ago and Richard Allen left before the last election. Oh, and then there is whatever the hell is going on with Lembit. That leaves quite a few MPs aged between 40 and 50, but only Nick Clegg (who turned 40 last week) and David Laws are generally regarded as “rising stars”.
It may well be that the “rising star” label itself is a poisoned chalice, if you will permit me to mix my metaphors for a minute. Anyone found with one about their person seems doomed to failure.
I’ve been told off for being rude about Mark Oaten too often on this blog.
So I will just say that what is Winchester and Westminster’s loss is Z-list celebrity reality TV show’s gain.
According to Mark Oaten’s campaign manager:
“It was Mark’s declaration that he was going to stand that ensured there was a contest. The others came in after him. It was he that ensured there was a choice for the membership.”
Yes, we know Oaten was first off the starting blocks. But then, he’d been planning the campaign for months, so it was hardly a surprise. But if Oaten hadn’t stood on the Tuesday, then the other two would have almost certainly have done a couple of days later. And that isn’t to mention the fact that both John Hemming and Phil Willis had declared an intention to be stalking horses to guarantee a contest.
Lembit: you’ve done so badly over the past week at least in part due to your habit of repeatedly over-egging the pudding. At least bow out graciously now rather than trying to pretend you’ve made some kind of monumental breakthrough.
What. The. Hell?
Seriously, why are the wheels on the Oaten bus coming off so quickly? While I’ve never had that much regard for Oaten himself, I have some regard for Opik as someone who understands both campaigning and communication. And I never dreamt that we would reach this stage with Oaten unable to claim more than one actual supporter.
Indeed, his campaign is starting to sound distinctly Orwellian:
- He claims to be the loyalty candidate, yet was the first to launch his campaign (in the Telegraph before Christmas);
- He claims to be the unity candidate, yet only one MP actually supports him;
- He claims to be the media-friendly candidate, yet his campaign has lunged from one PR disaster to the next;
- He claims to be the 21st century candidate yet is the only one without a campaign website (oh, and I checked the other day and could find no evidence that anyone has been buying URLs along the lines of mark2win, mark4leader, oatentowin, oatenforleader or any other variations);
- He claims to be the liberal candidate, yet admits to only having discovered liberalism four years ago (5 years after being elected as a Liberal Democrat MP) and more than any other candidate his actual commitment to liberalism is questioned, with serious examples cited.
Last week I said he had a moral duty to stand; he’s organised for it long enough. Now, it looks so bad that I would be inclined to release him from his moral obligation. But I genuinely don’t understand why it has gone so bad for him. Perhaps I bought the hype more than I thought I did. More to the point, perhaps he did too.
Well done Ming on two well-judged questions this afternoon. It is astonishing that Blair did so poorly in answering them, which says a lot about his own political priorities. He was clearly not briefed on this issue at all, despite it being on the front pages for the best part of the last week. Yet I can bet he was briefed to within an inch of his life about the current Lib Dem leadership contest.
Very briefly, and because Mark Oaten has decided to make such an issue of it, I thought I’d link to this post by aangirfan. It includes a very telling exchange between Bob Marshall-Andrews and the Lib Dem Shadow Home Secretary and reaches this conclusion:
This was not simply a matter of a difference of opinion. Marshall-Andrews was not only logical but also expressed moral clarity and passion. Oaten, in contrast, expressed his views in mostly dessicated, administrative terms, as if this were nothing more than a question of weighing up some technical details.
His talk of “on the one hand” and “on the other hand” betrayed a belief that fundamental values are tradeable. He then had the nerve to co-opt the language of responsibility with his tendentious reference to “sensible grown-up politics”.
Oaten’s problem, as his reference to a “complicated equation” showed, is that he has accepted the false premise of authoritarianism, that civil liberty and security exist in inverse proportion to one another.
Consequently, his argument with the government has become a matter of degree rather than a principled disagreement.What distinguishes a liberal political party should, above all, be its liberalism.
Quite. But what’s this? Mark Oaten again on the principles of liberalism:
I do challenge the party to be tough about its liberal values and stick to them even when it challenges something we believe in.
Very brief, but in order of performance…
- 1st, Chris: good interventions, best on policy. Absolutely creamed Oaten on his attempts to claim the Liberal crown. Delighted to hear him critical of road user charging (preferring higher fuel duties) and his general candidness about environmental policy. Also, by far the strongest on public sector reform.
- 2nd, Ming: came across very well. Articulate, to the point. Not clear what he was saying about the Lib Dem’s current policy on getting more women MPs, describing it as a complete failure yet opposing all women shortlists. I would humbly suggest that the failure was in the lack of senior political support, not the current GBTF policy itself which has been a modest success.
- 3rd, Oaten: came across as the most bullying and least consensual. His pontificating about Cameron not being a real liberal was a joke given his own latter-day damascene conversion. On environmental issues he was appalling, claiming that we should simply financially reward good behaviour rather than punish bad behaviour (with what? Fairy dust?), and waxing about bioethanol which is a complete environmental blind alley. But at least he participated, unlike…
- 4th, Hughes: the most reserved of the four and all but disappeared as the debate went on. Genial and consensual, and what he said was fine, but he allowed the others to dominate which is not what you want to see in a leader.
Conclusion: on this type of format, Huhne could do very well indeed. Roll on Any Questions (and Question Time?).
Oh, and Rob Fenwick – you are very cheeky! 🙂