Last Tuesday I was told by a friend of Mark Oaten that he would announce this week he'd be standing down at the next election. And what did I do about it? Nothing. Diddly squat. Why? Because (cue embarrassed blush) I forgot about it. That sort of thing starts happening when you get to 44 I've been told! You can imagine my reaction tonight when I heard the news on 5 Live while driving home from Tunbridge Wells Sainsbury's.
So what does it all mean? Well for Mark Oaten it will close the chapter on a political career that appeared to promise much, but in the end delivered little. There's only one thing he'll be remembered for in the footnotes of early twenty first century political history, but let's not go into that here. I suspect that Oaten will try to reinvent himself as a sort of LibDem Michael Portillo and tart himself round the TV studios. He may well succeed in ther short term, but he hasn't got Portillo's charisma or intellect to make a long term career out of it. But whatever he does, let's wish the guy well.
I do wonder if the redrawing of the boundaries of his constituency played a part in his decision. Meon Valley always looked like a Tory gain. Now I'd say it was almost a dead certainty. We need to get a candidate selected their pretty damn quick, because you can bet your house on the LibDems having a Julia Goldsworthy look-a-like selected by the end of September. Are you ready George Hollingbery? Your Party needs you.
PS I seem to have been much kinder than certain LibDem Blogs to Mr Oaten. True colours will always out.