It’s hard to raise the subject of Lembit Opik without somebody cracking a joke. He’s certainly not loved by our own party’s leadership and many see him as more of a celebrity than a politician. I can, however, name two other people who are hated by their party’s leadership and seem to be two parts celebrity, one part politician, and they’ve both held the position of Mayor of London.
Lembit has great recognition among people. My own unscientific polling leads me to believe that he isn’t far behind Ken and Boris in who knows who he is, which is quite a feat for a Liberal Democrat. A lot of people beyond the politically passionate recognise Lembit and these are exactly the people that we as a party need to be appealing to right now. We are in government, we are leading this country, we have Ministers and our own conferences set government policy – yet people seem to be struggling to really appreciate what we are, what we stand for, what we can offer them. Regardless of your opinions on Lembit, he has clearly laid out his scheme for Liberal London: he plans to introduce shared ownership schemes to make houses affordable for residents, promote home-working to reduce congestion and pollution, tackle the issue of whether the Tube should run 24 hours a day, pioneer a more liberal drugs policy and champion small business.
Lembit speaks fluent Estonian and with his cosmpolitan background, appeals to the unique diversity of London. To vote in a General Election, you have to be a British citizen. This means the many thousands of EU citizens living in London are ignored in General Elections, but become crucial in a Mayoral / Assembly election. Lembit is popular among many EU citizens especially Eastern Europeans. Asked about who he feels are under represented in London, he explains that he believes the real motor of London is the thousands of people that wake up at dawn, take the Tube into the city and spend the day cleaning the offices of those on £100K salaries.
The main reason I support Lembit as our candidate for the next Mayoral Election is this: We all accept, as Lib Dems, that no matter how hard we try, elections like this will always be out of our grasp for now. The worst thing we could do is allow the election to turn into a two horse race between Ken and Boris – we need a high profile and energetic personality. Somebody capable of interrupting Boris and showing Ken for what he is. When I was at the ‘Lembit 4 London’ launch event, I was surprised at how many people there were not Liberal Democrats. People there were Greens, socialists and charity workers. I’ve heard the same story from left wingers time and time again – they don’t want Boris but they know that Ken isn’t the answer to all their problems. Lembit is, believe it or not, one of the most respected Liberal Democrats unconnected with the Coalition. He is the man to show Londoners what liberalism means to their lives in the 21st Century. He is the personality to take on Boris and Ken.
You can find his Facebook page here.