Update on the latest twists and turns in the contest to become the Lib Dem candidate for Mayor of London

It’s been a fascinating — and characteristicaly bizarre — last 48 hours in the contest to become the Lib Dems’ London mayoral candidate.

There was the first hustings, reported here on LDV by Simon McGrath, which attracted comments from Brian Paddick, and some robust thoughts from Lembit Opik’s campaign manager Ed Joyce.

Further controversy was sparked by Peter Black’s blog-post yesterday, Lembit Öpik and the rewriting of history, highlighting a paragraph in Lembit’s manifesto which attributes his defeat in Montgomeryshire ‘to the incident in which Mick Bates drunkenly assaulted a paramedic in January 2010, which became public two months later.’ Peter concluded his post:

There were a number of reasons why Lembit lost his Parliamentary seat. Chief amongst them was his self-obsessive and flamboyant behaviour and his loss of perspective. His response to the expenses scandal was considered inappropriate and insensitive and then there was this, a free six-day cruise around the Canary Islands, worth around £3,000, in exchange for giving two lectures to the 2,000-odd passengers at a time when Parliament was sitting. That issue was raised a number of times during hustings and in my view was the final straw for some people. It is possible that the Mick Bates issue influenced some people but it does not account for the eradication of a 7,000 majority. The loss of Montgomeryshire was down to Lembit alone. It is time he took responsibility for it.

The public row came to the notice of the Welsh press, with Lembit attacking Peter: “It’s a pity people like Peter are more interested in confirming their own prejudices than looking at the facts… It’s very, very hard to respect this kind of mean-spirited and uninformed analysis.” But, later, Lembit:

… disowned the manifesto paragraph which he says he had not approved. He said: “Having seen what Peter has seen I think he’s justifiably angry. He’d be right to take a dim view of it if I approved that phrase and I haven’t… I’d like to apologise to Mick. I personally apologise to Mick because this is unacceptable.” Mr Opik said Mr Bates was “close to being a brother to me” and added: “From now on I won’t allow anything to be published without me signing it off in writing.”

This isn’t the first time Lembit’s campaign for an internal post has got him into trouble — when seeking the party presidency in 2008 he issued an ill-judged press release attacking elements of the party for conducting ‘conspiracies’ and ‘whispering campaigns’.

The timetable for the party’s London mayoral contest is here. There are four candidates standing:

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5 Comments

  • Simon McGrath 23rd Jul '11 - 10:19pm

    I have put the candidates manifestos on Scribd for anyone outside London who is interested in what they have to say

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/60713785/ldmayormanifestos2011

  • Andrew Suffield 23rd Jul '11 - 10:44pm

    A lot of people seem to “know” what the causes of Opik’s loss were, yet surprisingly few of them seem to have any real evidence to back that up.

    I say they’re all full of it. None of them has a credible explanation of what happened there.

  • Lembit now says (on twitter):
    “basically the wording was a mess up which i hadn’t seen and if I had I’d never have allowed it. I’m checking everything now on”

    Lembit – your campaign manager had been using near as damnit the same wording on hear and other places for several weeks. Did you really have no control over your own campaign?

  • This will tend to confirm people’s suspicions about Lembit’s lack of judgment. How can he not have checked the material which was to go out to party members?

    Having said that, I showed all the manifestos to my non party member spouse and asked for her views on who I should vote for. (I always do this because I think she is more in touch with the world than me). She chose Lembit, followed by Mike and Brian P which was a surprise to me but I had to agree with her that, leaving the rewriting of history aside, Lembit’s material was best….. The other candidates were all somewhat policy-lite.

    Anyway – for what it is worth, here is my advice to Lembit. You have great talent (and I remember when people I knew mentioned you for a future leader of the party) but it has been squandered over recent years. You desperately need to do something which would turn around public (and party) opinion of you and which would also help you grow as a person. You will have to work out for yourself what that is but a period of voluntary work in a really poor or deprived area might be one idea. Go and do something worthwhile and come back after a decent period of time.

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