Thursday, March 03, 2005

What is Mark Oaten's problem?

Simon Titley complains of "another piss-poor performance" from Mark Oaten on the Prevention of Terrorism Bill. I was there on Monday, and it is hard to disagree. Judge for yourself here.

Oaten is not an orator. Nor, by his own admission, is he not much of an ideologue. But then many people have successful and useful political careers without one or even both of these qualities.

I would not, like some, accuse him of being a right-winger - if only because that tends to imply the existence of a coherent and shared philosophy on the radical wing of the Liberal Democrats which he rejects. I am afraid the party's beliefs are more muddled than that.

What does worry me about Oaten is that he suffers from what is known in the literature as David Steel Syndrome. That is, he is fascinated by the mechanics of politics (pacts, deals, negotiations) but has less interest in its content - in beliefs and policies.

On the Prevention of Terrorism Bill, for instance, he seems to have made up his mind to reach a deal with the government. Or, if he has Steel Syndrome really badly, to be seen to make a deal with the government and so prove himself a serious politician. What the contents of this deal are will be almost incidental.

I hope that events will prove this analysis wrong or unfair, but we shall see.

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