Sunday, November 08, 2009

The contradictions of Mark Oaten

Two years ago I wrote about the contradictions of Mark Oaten's career.

How he attempted to convert the party to his "tough Liberalism" when he was the Lib Dem shadow home secretary and later claimed that he had wanted to close all prisons but could not get his colleagues' support.

How he declared himself to be a new kind of MP more interested in his constituency than Westminster and then went on to accept two of the most Westminster insider jobs going.

How he had been visibly ambitious to become Liberal Democrat leader all along, but proved laughably unprepared when he got the chance to stand for the postion.

I was reading Mark Oaten's memoirs in Waterstone's the other day (as you do) and came across two more examples.

He writes at length about the absurdity of the Commons and its stuffy procedures, then tells us two pages later that he became an associate editor of the stuffy House Magazine.

He complains that his critics saw the Peel Group, of which he was the prime mover, as an attempt to shift Liberal Democrat policy in a Conservative direction. Two pages later he admits that he seriously considered picking up the phone and telling David Cameron that he wanted to join the Tories.

Maybe we all seem equally contradictory to people who do not know us well. Certainly, we tend to forgive and even celebrate contradictions in our friends.

But I remain mystified by Mark Oaten, the trajectory of his career and what he hoped to achieve.

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1 comment:

Will said...

But I remain mystified by Mark Oaten, the trajectory of his career and what he hoped to achieve.

One word - power.

I remember him coming to dinner with my then university libdem group when he was shadow home secretary. Challenged on his 'tough liberalism'
he made it very clear that his aim was to make it into the cabinet in a coalition government. He was very willing to do what he thought necessary. Perhaps his 'turning 40' was more a realisation this wasn't going to happen.