Third time lucky

Forceful and moderate’s own George Galloway Libertycat (which presumably makes the fire headed Viv Rula Lenska) mentions an interesting quote from Oaten in the Guardian:

Mr Oaten also warned that some Lib Dems were failing to live up to their liberal belief in individual freedom by falling in with “nanny state” proposals to ban smoking or outlaw foxhunting.

He said: “A lot of my colleagues would support a ban on smoking, but as a liberal I’m uncomfortable with that, so I do challenge the party to be tough about its liberal values and stick to them even when it challenges something we believe in.”

This, I would remind you, is the mastermind behind the party’s opposition to relaxing the licensing laws, claiming that alcohol related crime was “out of control” (when it has been falling) and that we were to expect a “Christmas Crisis” once the new laws took effect.

Personally, from a liberal perspective, I would say that there is a much stronger argument for smoking bans than strict licensing laws. Passive smoking has a perceptable effect on people’s health regardless of who does the smoking while the effects of drinking very much depends on the individual. My point is, quite simply, the Oaten is in no position to lecture anyone about liberalism.


  1. Gosh. So Mark Oaten is a friend of the tobacco industry? Does he have shares in any of the tobacco companies, perchance? (like Roger Scruton, Britain’s most self-righteous and overpaid “moralist”)

    Not really very consistent with his “health conscious” image. (Jogging to the office, sleaves rolled up, bottle of Lucozade beside him on the desk.)

    Why he should support hunting is something of a mystery. Yes, there are farmers in Winchester, but all of them vote Tory, and many will be taken out by the Boundaries Commission. Maybe (like Roger Scruton – and Peter Mandelson) he is simply a snob. He would love to be invited to a country house weekend and hobnob with the aristos. He probably won’t be – you need better dress sense. But it’s worth a bit of grovelling if he covets the invitation that much.

    Again, what really concerns me about Mark is the claim made in the “Daily Mail” that he is in favour of conscription.

    Mark is supposed to be the candidate who wants to make the Party “young and modern” (Leah Darbyshire). But he only pitches his appeal to young people who can vote. Those too young to vote are the object of his ire. Especially council estate yobs and underage drinkers.

    And there are plenty of voters who will love it. It is no longer acceptable to pour bile on ethnic and religious minorities, or gays or women, or those with disabilities. But you can be as nasty about people under the age of 18 as you like.

  2. I don’t begrudge his opposition to the hunting ban. Personally I see very little benefit in this piece of legislation.

  3. I wonder about your phrase ‘the mastermind behind the party’s opposition to relaxing the licensing laws’.

    My reading of things was that Don Foster and his team had set the course of opposition to the licensing laws back in the summer if not before. Anyone who has been part of a council group let alone a parliamentary party will have found that sometimes you have no choice but to go along with or even promote a party line that you personally are uncomfortable with.

    Mark seemed a bit of a latecomer to the opposition to the licensing laws relaxation. I was surprised by his stance, since on social issues like this he has been consistently libertarian (pro-foxhunting, ‘euthanasia’, choice on abortion, equal age of consent etc.)

    Of course, whichever way Mark should bear at least a share of the blame for the parliamentary party’s stance. But are you basing your description of him as ‘mastermind’ on anything as real as actual evidence?

  4. The Lib Dems’ position on licensing laws is a direct consequence of the “tough liberalism” stance that Oaten has masterminded, so yes he bears great responsibility. He hasn’t merely let Don get on with it, he has taken a lead on numerous occasions.

  5. My problem with Mark on these issues was demonstrated on the Sky News debate. When it suits him – like on smoking – he claims the Liberal mantle and accuses those who disagree with being illiberal.

    Yet on another issue like Licencing he happily takes the ‘illiberal’ position.

    The reality – as Chris Huhne points out – is that many of these issues are a balance between different liberties.

    Personally I am unhappy with many of the rather over the top attacks some people make upon Mark. I am equally unhappy with the attitude he displays towards other liberals on the smoking issue.

  6. I’ve probably been a bit unfair to Oaten here.

    It is quite possible that he supports hunting for the reason he gives. (Though he obviously doesn’t accord much weight to the rights of the fox!)

    What really must concern us is the possibility that he is in favour of conscription (like his one time hero, Dr David Owen).

    I have mentioned this in several posts now, but none of the Oaten fan club has ventured forward thus far to set the record straight. I wonder why.

    (I once got Owen’s policy hack, Harold Carter, in a real old lather by questioning his boss’s comments about conscription in a “Guardian” interview. If I had found compromising photographs of Owen, the man couldn’t have been in a more agitated state!)

  7. To be fair Angus, you haven’t been too forthcoming in terms of actual evidence that Oaten supports conscription. He may have said something warm about national service, but there is a bit difference between a national volunteers programme of the type that there is cross party support for and forcing 18 year olds to join the army.

  8. With respect, James, I have been totally forthcoming.

    I have said that the “Daily Mail” has made the claim that Oaten is in favour of “National Service” (their words), which means forcing 18 year-olds to join the armed forces (or get sent to Wormwood Scrubs for two years).

    This national volunteering business has a long pedigree. I am suspicious of it, because it first turned up in around 1985, and was an attempt by Danny Finkelstein to appease Owen’s lust for conscription. At the time, I called the proposal “voluntary forced labour”.

    Mark needs to tell us what his position actually is.

    I dislike whistling in the dark just as much as you do.

  9. I’m afraid I’m still not clear about what the Mail said EXACTLY.

    You have quoted, for instance, “national service” but not quoted directly how that term was subsequently defined in the article. I’ve read lots of instances over the past year whereby senior politicians (notably Gordon Brown and David Cameron) have called for something called “national service” but which was subsequently defined to mean encourage school leavers to undertake voluntary work. No mention of Wormwood Scrubs.

    I’m not saying you’re wrong, I am just a loyal adherent to practice of the apostle Thomas (exile in India notwithstanding) and would like to see an excerpt from the exact newspaper story in question before I believe Oaten has a case to answer here.

    And, as you may have noticed, I’m hardly Oaten’s greatest fan! Show me some evidence and on one level I will be delighted.

  10. The claim that passive smoking kills is just PC fakery used to justify banning things. There have been no large scale double blind trials (which is how medical trials are normally done) & such small scale checks as have been done have never purported to find more than a 25% increase among non-smokers which is well within the margin of statistical error of such tests. Many teset have found zero increase.

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