Ming & PMQs, Oaten & civil liberties

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.


  1. This sums up Oaten very nicely.

    He is basically a pragmatist, looking for good ways to impress people. His politics is driven by market research, not by values.

    Marshall-Andrews is a barrister, so he will have little difficulty ripping Mark to pieces on civil liberites and criminal justice issues.

    Clearly Mark buys into the ridiculous Sunday School “freedom and responsibility” hokum. Every right carries with it a corresponding duty, so generations of school children are told.

    Question: Precisely what is it that I have to do to to earn the right not to be tortured by the state?

    Answer: Presicely nothing. I don’t have to grovel to a single authority figure. Article 3, ECHR, prohibits torture absolutely.

    Mark is not a lawyer, so he doesn’t really know what he is talking about when he delves into the more abstract issues.

  2. The Ink Slinger’s first Rule of Politics states: Every Home Secretary is worse than his predecessor.

    Anyway, now that Oaten’s been proct-ored, his opinions are pretty irrelevant.

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