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Thursday 22 April 2010

The Curse Of Owen

One endorsement that Nick Clegg may receive with mixed feelings has come from former Foreign Secretary and SDP leader Dr David Owen.

Owen has backed Clegg on scrapping the replacement for Trident, which is a policy I personally find highly sensible. He makes the point that a nuclear deterrent could be had for a fraction – a small fraction – of what it will cost to replace Trident. This is also sensible.

The problem is that mention of Owen brings back bad memories for many Lib Dems, especially those who were formerly in the Liberal Party, or SDP members who made the pragmatic decision to follow Bob Maclennan and merge the Liberals and SDP. Owen, disregarding the SDP membership’s vote to merge, carried on with what was effectively his own party, and the rump SDP even contested a by-election against the Social and Liberal Democrats (later Lib Dems).

That by-election, held in 1989 in the north Yorkshire constituency of Richmond, was won by one William ‘Ague, after the anti-Tory vote had been split by Owen and his one man band putting its oar in. It did not endear Owen to his former allies, and is one reason why he is so often referred to as “Doctor Death”.

Clegg may be hoping that Owen’s endorsement does not curse his progress in this campaign.

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