Mark Oaten has a point

by Stephen Tall on September 6, 2007

Of course, there’s lots to disagree with in today’s article by Mark Oaten in The Times arguing in favour of a Lib Dem / Tory coalition – for example:

Many people may be surprised by how much shared agenda there is between the two parties. On the environment, civil liberties and localism the two parties share some common ground.

“Surprised” doesn’t come anywhere near it, Mark. The Tory commitment to such values is about as firm as a meringue.

However, he does have at least half a point about the need for the party to shift its position what the Lib Dems would do in the event of a Hung Parliament. Simply to keep repeating our maxim, “Maximum votes, maximum seats”, will be seen as dodging the question – altogether too lawyerly – in the fevered maelstrom of a general election campaign.

Instead Mark urges:

Ming needs to come out now and state that, in the event of a hung Parliament, the Liberal Democrats will work with whichever party has the most MPs.

Well, I’m not sure whether it should be with whichever party has the most MPs… we are, after all, supposed to be a party committed to a fairer electoral system. But exchange the words “MPs” for “votes”, and I’m with him all the way.

Such an answer avoids the party getting dragged into the dead-end debate the media loves about whether the party is closer to the Tories or closer to Labour. (In reality, of course, they’re much closer to each other than we are to either one of them.) And yet it is a principled stance which promises the Liberal Democrats will respect the wishes of the public.

A double whammy, in fact.