Where next for Lembit?

There’s a slightly plaintive piece in today’s Independent’s Pandora column under the self-explanatory heading, ‘Opik’s plea to Clegg: use me’. The paper quotes the Lib Dem MP for Montgomeryshire saying:

I’m certainly available to the party in any way they want me, and that’s a matter for them.

This all follows Lembit’s latest appearance in the spotlight since he joined forces with model Katie Green to front the ‘Give a big zero to size zero’ campaign. The trouble is, as so often with Lembit, that the celebrity gossip prompted by his friendship/relationship/whatever with Katie has overshadowed the worthy cause he is supposed to be promoting. And, as so often, far from tamping down the speculation and gossip, Lembit appears to thrive on it, telling The Guardian:

It’s very flattering that everyone wants to speculate about it. It’s understandably interesting from a gossip prospective but we are more interested in promoting the campaign about dangerous severe weight loss fuelled by the misguided idea of what’s beautiful and that being anorexically thin is attractive.”

But he is not disabusing me of the notion they are in a relationship, I suggest. “Well, we’re not engaged,” he says. “You could have a very philosophical discussion about what is a relationship.”

It is exactly these kind of nudge-nudge statements which drive those of us who genuinely admire Lembit’s talents – and I very much count myself among their number – to distraction. I have no doubt that Lembit believes he does a lot of good for the Lib Dems and the serious campaigns he is involved with – from ‘Big Zero’ to motor neurone disease – through attracting such publicity.

Yet the overall impression is of a bit of a joker, a wildcard eccentric, the type of guy you’d like to have a drink with, but not want in charge of anything that matters. And his in-touch-with-the-public schtick took a battering from his rather disastrous appearance on Radio 5 Live, attacking the Telegraph and defending his expenses.

Which leaves Lembit, and the party, with a bit of a dilemma. Here we have a politician capable of inspiring the public, a terrific speaker, a passionate liberal, a clever guy. Yet he’s also saddled at the moment with the label, ‘A bit of an embarrassment’. Which is a real shame, but the truth. Be honest, if you were Nick Clegg, would you be thinking right now of appointing Lembit to a high-profile post on the party’s front bench?

Lib Dem blogger James Graham pondered all this back in December, and came up with the most constructive answer to the Lembit problem: that he should embrace technology and take himself online. After all, it’s done wonders for both Alistair Campbell and John Prescott, two other figures perceptions of whom are being altered by their web-presence. To quote James’s conclusion:

So what I’d really like to see in 2009 is a Lembit Opik blog to put us all in our places. If Lembit is right, then such a blog would climb to prominence quite quickly. What’s more, it would bridge the gap between the programmes he appears on and his politics. He’d win, his critics would be proven wrong but wouldn’t mind and the party would gain a major new asset. So how about it?

It’s not too late, Lembit. Do it, for your sake as well as the party’s.

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16 Comments

  • Roger Shade 30th Jul '09 - 7:39pm

    Hell does it really matter if Lembit remains one of the boys. I sometimes wonder if the public really admire someone like Lembit who doesn’t always act like a boring old politician. One day he will settle down, I guess, and then he will really prove to be all that he promises, in the meantime at least he gets some publicity for the Lib Dems and we really do need some, before everyone forgets the party exists.

  • Montgomery’s plea to Opik :

    We would like you to work on our behalf in any way you can. But if you don’t, that’s up to you.

  • Where next for Lembit?

    The job centre in less than a year?

  • Opik is a joke. The joke is on this self indulgent attention seeker and his Party.
    Glyn Davies will put him out to pasture at the next election.

  • the world will always be facinated by weird men with attractive women.

    he adds a bit of spice to westminster.

  • Why am I so bored with Opik? Probably because there are so many more interesting and challenging things going on in the world than obsession with B rate celebs.

  • I know where Limpit Opek should be – in an alternative universe. Oh, hang on a sec………

  • I’ve just two words of advice for Mr Opik:

    GET MARRIED

  • Lembit is a good & decent guy , a bit obsessive may be .. ; He needs to make up his mind if he is serious about politics . And if he is .. he should give up his celebrity extra curricular activities and focus on serving the public. In return , the party should “rehabilitate” [ Not Soviet style :-) ] back into the leadership before the next election .

  • LibDem guru 1st Aug '09 - 4:45pm

    The Party needs to get rid of jokers (not in a good way) such as Lembit ‘i’ll do anything for money’ Opik. We are a laughing stock because of people like him.

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