What I wrote at Lib Dem Voice

January 13, 2006

Mark Oaten: can he set the record straight?

A number of Lib Dem bloggers have been pretty beastly to Mark Oaten in the last few days. This has left some others bewildered as to what might have prompted such antagonism for a fellow Lib Dem.

A lot of this suspicion can, I suspect, be traced to an infamous passage from John Harris’s book, So Now Who Do We Vote For?:


Sitting in Parliamentary cafĂ©, we began talking about his membership of the nascent SDP as a first-time voter repulsed by Thatcherism, but almost as alienated by the Labour Party. … “And then,” he continued, his conversational tone suddenly brightening, “this new modern party comes along that has its own credit cards, that has rather nice logos, that has a modern, professional media launch.”

He now sounded positively evangelical. “They’re wearing suits. They’re driving round in Volvos. It’s claret and chips. It was different, exciting, dynamic. There wasn’t necessarily a philosophical belief: the important thing was, it wasn’t Tory or Labour. And it was modern, it was different.”

The next bit was so startling that I had trouble maintaining my composure. “I only really got a philosophical belief about three years ago,” he admitted. “I’ve gone through this whole process as a pragmatic individual, who’s just by quirk ended up in Parliament. It was only about three years ago that I got it. I was suddenly able to call myself a Liberal, which I’d found difficult to do in the past. It suddenly clicked. Before that, I’d become a Liberal Democrat, I’d got elected to Parliament – but I hadn’t really defined what being a Liberal Democrat meant. …

“Once I got over this barrier of the word Liberal, I suddenly clicked that if you have a philosophical belief that being Liberal is being laissez-faire and not wanting a nanny state, you can suddenly start to impose that on a whole load of political situations. I’ve now been able to get my head around doing it.”
Did Mark really say all this?

If he did, then no-one should be surprised that Lib Dem members view his leadership bid with real scepticism. If he did not, he should set the record straight.

6 comments:

James said...

That quote isn't the root cause of our concern, but it certainly does summarise it. The point is, this is a man who wears political ideology in the way that most people wear shirts.

Anonymous said...

A corner of your blog is black-on-black in firefox. I have to select the text to be able to read it.

Leah & Robin Darbyshire said...

To explain Mark's changes in mind:

I was a Lib Dem at the young age of 14 because it felt right. I've always been liberal and cared about social justice. IN 1997 I then studied PPE at Oxford - analysed all the previous governments and political parties in depth and found I couldn't support any of them at that time.

Mainly this was because the Lib Dems were sitting in with Labour at the time and the most important thing for me thenwas my hatred of tuition fees - actually it still is. I'm a beliver in free education and I didn't trust a left-wing Labour gov't that would implement that policy. Turns out I was right not to.

It was only after Kennedy moved us away from Paddy's 'in bed with Tony Blair' rubbish a few years later that I felt happy enough and in line enough with ALL Lib Dem policies and views on Labour enough to become a Lib Dem member and eventually employee and then candidate AGAIN.

What I'm saying is if this could happen to me why couldn't it happen to Mark?

Also I detest the way many people have a blind loyalty to the Party and are NEVER critical of it no matter what it does. I personally put the equality agenda above Party loyalty - thus in times when I have been told to shut up over my dislike of the sexism I've experienced of a Council and told to toe the line. I have stated that I would rather resign my membership than not fight this sexism.

MatGB said...

Seconding anonymous, I've been coming here regularly of late, and highlighting the inexplicable black box is getting beyond annoying. I can't see the reason in the source code, but reading CSS and DIVs is something I'm trying to learn.

But, overall, agree; I don't see how someone can become an MP without believing in something, have a principle, unless they're nought but a careerist, and I've a dislike of careerists.

Can you please fix whatever it is in the code that's messing the box up? It may just be a firefox thing, but over 50% of my readers are Firefox users now...

MatGB said...

Ah, it's linked to the sitetracker box at the bottom, beyond that I can't help.

Stephen Tall said...

I've no idea, I'm afraid. And not having Firefox I can't check it out.