Friday, December 16, 2005

Do the oligarchs want Mark Oaten as Liberal-Democrat leader in the UK?

(Update 5 January 2006; Charles Kennedy admits he has struggled against alcohol)

In his Online Diary , The Closed Circle » Politics, Dave Briggs wrote:

"A ‘rising star’ in the party, Mark Oaten, is more right wing than Michael Howard, and professes not to have had a political philosophy until after he had already been an MP for some years."

According to an article in The Telegraph, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2005/12/16/npoll216.xml , Oaten believes "His party must not... move to the Left of Labour."

According to The Telegraph, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2005/12/15/nlib115.xml "Moderniser Mark Oaten, 41, is courted as a voice of the future at Westminster but needs to bolster his image among the Left-leaning activists who make up the bulk of the party. Former parliamentary aide to Mr Kennedy, his supporters are widely blamed for rumours undermining the leader, who he has pledged never to stand against. Currently home affairs spokesman, the affable Mr Oaten is known to feel he needs more time to develop his leadership ambitions. Key player in the Orange Book group of MPs who want the party to take a more economically-liberal, Right-wing direction."

The following is from The Liberal Dissenter: January 2005

Things had looked more promising last November when Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy attacked David Blunkett's use of a "climate of fear" to introduce some "extremely repressive measures". His home affairs spokesman Mark Oaten has now undermined that position.

On BBC Radio 4's The Week in Westminster on Saturday morning, listeners heard the government's proposals being attacked by Labour MP Bob Marshall-Andrews but were also treated to the shameful spectacle of these proposals being given a fair wind by Mark Oaten. To the extent that Oaten opposed the government, his criticism was muted. (You can hear the programme online for the next seven days - fast-forward 9 minutes 35 seconds into the broadcast to find the relevant report).Marshall-Andrews made the right points and Oaten didn't, as these extracts from Saturday's radio broadcast show:

OATEN: "I welcomed what Charles Clarke said in the sense that at least we were now having a debate and the politicians were able to get into some of the detail, and there may very well be some measures that he is putting forward that the Lib Dems can support."

MARSHALL-ANDREWS: "I'm actually very disappointed to hear that the Liberal Democrats are giving any support at all to measures which are in fact infinitely worse than those that we have at the moment... For the first time for 300 years, what is being proposed here is executive arrest and detention without trial and indefinitely of British subjects... External threat has been the excuse used by authoritarian governments throughout history... The worst thing that terrorism does to you is not the threat that terrorists pose to us, it's what they induce us to do to ourselves."

OATEN: "What I've got to do as a politician and a Liberal is to try and juggle this complicated equation over making sure that on the one hand I defend those civil liberties but on the other hand that I am responsible and listen to the security threats. I think that the last Home Secretary had the balance completely wrong. What I'm indicating is that there may be a way in which we can redress that balance with this new Home Secretary but obviously there's a range of control orders that he's suggesting. Now there may be some of those which do not require a derogation [from the EU human rights convention], which we can live with. There may be other of those control orders, such as house detention, which if they do require a derogation we would have serious concerns about."

MARSHALL-ANDREWS: "The last Home Secretary, whose record on civil liberties was deplorable, probably the worst in modern memory, even the last Home Secretary never brought through proposals for the executive detention without trial of British citizens indefinitely. Now this is what it is. The fact that's it's not in Belmarsh and it happens to be in a bungalow is neither here nor there... One thing that I am absolutely certain about is that we did not have [during Blunkett's time as Home Secretary] an absence of terrorist attacks because of the erosion of civil liberty... Now if it is going to be suggested that those twelve people in Belmarsh are the effective reason why we have had no terrorist attacks, I simply do not accept it and I don't know anybody who has put that forward. But we were threatened by the IRA for effectively half a century. We never, never introduced measures of this kind."

OATEN: "What I have to do is to listen carefully to this change of announcements and that's got nothing to with general elections, it's got to do with sensible grown-up politics, to find a good way forward which can balance the civil liberty beliefs I have and I must take note of the security implications at the same time."

This was not simply a matter of a difference of opinion. Marshall-Andrews was not only logical but also expressed moral clarity and passion. Oaten, in contrast, expressed his views in mostly dessicated, administrative terms, as if this were nothing more than a question of weighing up some technical details.

His talk of "on the one hand" and "on the other hand" betrayed a belief that fundamental values are tradeable. He then had the nerve to co-opt the language of responsibility with his tendentious reference to "sensible grown-up politics".

Oaten's problem, as his reference to a "complicated equation" showed, is that he has accepted the false premise of authoritarianism, that civil liberty and security exist in inverse proportion to one another.

Consequently, his argument with the government has become a matter of degree rather than a principled disagreement.What distinguishes a liberal political party should, above all, be its liberalism.

The government's proposals are not about administrative efficiency or our security but instead strike at the heart of our political values and our liberties.

Any Liberal Democrat MP who does not understand this fundamental point is unfit to serve as a frontbench spokesperson.

When a Law Lord and a Labour MP can demonstrate a better grasp of liberalism and express it in forthright terms, while our parliamentary spokesman ends up batting for the opposition, what hope is there?

A Jewish blogger referred to an article in The Independent
http://jewssansfrontieres.blogspot.com/2005_07_01_jewssansfrontieres_archive.html

Kennedy assassinated

Here's a nice little job on Charles Kennedy by a former Deputy Chair of the Lib Dems. http://comment.independent.co.uk/commentators/article298483.ece

I first realised Mr Kennedy's unfitness to lead when the party had to campaign against the illegal Iraqi invasion, despite Mr Kennedy rather than because of him. For months prior to the invasion, we urged him to lead the opposition to the war but he refused, stating he was not against the war but in favour of the UN.

Anything else?

When the party voted to end the corrupt practice of Liberal Democrat peers working as political lobbyists, he threatened legal action against those who complained about the continuing practice. Indeed, Lord Clement-Jones, who was employed as a political lobbyist by the notorious Cayman Islands tax haven, has just been made the party's federal treasurer, and Lord Razzall was put in charge of the general election campaign which called for fairer taxation, despite his being a director of a company in the Channel Islands tax haven.

But where would you say he stands on the political spectrum?

Whilst unbelievably downplaying the war in the run-up to the general election, his lieutenants, instead of building on the successful centre-left progressive coalition that had won so many Tory seats, embarked on a policy of "sounding more Tory", which ended in total failure at the election. This lurch to the right was heralded by the publication of the infamous Orange Book, which, despite Kennedy's written introduction, was derided across the party as a right-wing Blairite manifesto. Nevertheless, Kennedy placed the core Orange Book authors Vince Cable, David Laws and Mark Oaten into key positions of power. Britain does not need or deserve three centre-right parties.

What about the vision thing?

Finally, there is Mr Kennedy's unwillingness to take a clear position on most issues. Indeed, this was claimed to be an advantage by his aides, who said it meant voters from both sides of issues ended up supporting him. This is political nonsense. Constructive politics is about advocating policies that will benefit the wider good. A party has to campaign on its policies if it is to persuade the public of their value. The party has a range of crucial progressive liberal policies such as a renewable energy economy, creating a fairer democracy, an effective drugs strategy and so on, yet the leadership refuses to encourage grassroots campaigning on these.

But he won votes, surely?

After the general election, Kennedy distracted attention from his failure to make a major breakthrough by launching a profoundly dishonest attack on his own party activists who had just worked their hearts out. He blamed them for foisting unpopular policies on the party which had been attacked by our opponents in the election. The real truth was that these policies were included in papers submitted by Mr Kennedy's own Federal Policy Committee.

And the future?

Unless the leadership passes to people with political integrity and campaigning talent, the Liberal Democrat Party will miss the enormous opportunity that it currently has to lead Britain to a better future.So here lies Charles Kennedy.



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1 comment:

lucien de la peste said...

Every Home Secretary is worse than the last.

It's in their blood.

 
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