Turning to the Dark Side

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.


  1. James, oh, where to start. Oaten himself admitted on my programme on 18 DOughty Street that he came close to defecting then. Watch it for yourself. And your memory is playing tricks. His activities came to light in Janaury 2006, although they actually happened twelve months previously I think. I don’t mind you picking my article to pieces. I would expect you too. But you make a mistake of thinking that I write from a standpoint of trying to convert Libdems in my Telegraph articles. I don’t. I’m given a subject to write about and I give my views, I do not doubt that some people in the Tory Party won’t like what I have written. That;s not the point. The point is I write it as I see it. If some people in my party or your party don’t like it, then so be it. A columnist doesn’t write to win friends…

  2. Iain, you’ve been maintaining that a defection is imminent pretty much ever since Cameron took the controls. You seem to be writing more out of hope than of genuine expectation.

    I’m not questioning the possibility that Mark Oaten considered defecting, just that it would have been a particular boon to the Tories, as Paul Walter points out. Indeed, having withstood a year and more of endless jibes about Oaten’s proclivity, it is a glorious counterfactual to meditate on.

    But was he of sound mind in Autumn 2005? I think not. The fact that by that point he’d ended his regular visits to a male prostitute doesn’t mean he had in any way come to terms with his living in denial at that stage. Maybe Gideon Osborne ought to put a “You don’t have to be mad to defect to the Conservative Party, but it helps” sign up on his door?

    Finally, please don’t overplay the ‘neutral commentator’ act. You don’t write it as you see it. You write it as it suits your agenda to write. So do we all (even, although he’d never admit it, Guido), but as an approved candidate actively seeking selection for a seat, you’re more of a player than most.

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