Monday, April 24, 2006

Mark Oaten and Hello! magazine

The Independent on Sunday reported yesterday that:

The wife of the disgraced Liberal Democrat MP Mark Oaten is to tell her story about the "rent boy" revelations that led to her husband's downfall.

In a concerted effort to rehabilitate the couple personally and politically, Belinda Oaten will write an article for Hello! magazine detailing the fall-out from her husband's affair with a male prostitute.

Both Iain Dale and James Graham are right when they say that the last thing Mark Oaten should do is become involved with Hello! The strategy most likely to redeem him in the eyes of the voters is to concentrate on being a good MP for Winchester for the next few years.

It is important to remember what the case against Mark Oaten is. It is certainly not anything he got up to with rent boys. Before history gets rewritten, it should be remembered that his leadership bid had fallen apart before the revelations in the News of the World.

It fell apart because he was able to win the unqualified backing of only one of his fellow Lib Dem MPs (step forward Lembit Öpik, for it is he). And his speech at the London event which saw the first leadership hustings was almost content free.

Nor was Oaten the dangerous right-winger that some painted him. Those who identify great ideological dividing lines within the Liberal Democrats are in danger of making the party sound more exciting than it really is. Certainly, Oaten's chapter in the Orange Book was a sensible but uninspired call for more education in prisons. Everyone believes in that these days.

True, Oaten was the leadership candidate favoured by some ambitious young PR types who were more pro-market than most Lib Dems. The mystery is why they hitched their cart to such an obviously inadequatee beast. Perhaps no one else would have them.

Oaten was not a success as shadow home secretary either. By his own admission he is not a good Commons performer, and when he accepted the government argument that there is a simple trade off between civil liberties and security he had lost the debate before it had begun. He had already been promoted beyond his obvious level of competence.

I wish the Oatens well and hope that Mark continues as MP for Winchester. But the idea that he represents a lost leader brought low by a tragic weakness is nonsense.


James Graham (Quaequam Blog!) said...

You are correct both to point out that the Oaten wheels had come off long before the male prostitute revelations broke (I dislike the term rentboy particularly as in this instance it happens to be highly inaccurate) and also to point out that he is no rightwing demagogue as some have tried to portray him. He's far, far worse than that: a politician untroubled by an ideological compass more interested in winning elections than securing genuine change based on liberal principles.

Lobster Blogster said...

Er, hello. Reality check here. The IoS story is about Mrs Oaten giving her side of the story. All this "the case against Oaten" stuff is because you can't see human side of this.

The Cat said...

Off topic, but have you seen this:

Seems like Frank Luntz may be pulling Dave the Chameleon's strings!

James Graham (Quaequam Blog!) said...

'All this "the case against Oaten" stuff is because you can't see human side of this.'

I don't think I need to be lectured on humanity by a lobster. Anyway, you're talking nonsense: I for one am perfectly happy to respect Oaten's private life. He's the one trying to rehabilitate his political career and make a quick buck off Hello! magazine in the process.

Lobster Blogster said...

Human naming conventions leave me puzzled here, I thought I was quoting from a post by Jonathon, but someone called James got into a tizzy over it.

Sorry to also have to correct you James, but the IoS story definately refers to a human female.