Which Lembit story will you read about today?

Will it by any chance be this one on the BBC News website:

Cheeky Girl singer Gabriela Irimia is taking a break from her Lib Dem MP fiance Lembit Opik – but the couple have not split up, her mother says.

Magrit Irimia Scmal says the pair have not spoken for at least two weeks, but denied their engagement was off.

Or will it be this one:

£200m tenant tax is scandalous – Öpik

Figures obtained by the Liberal Democrats show that the Government is planning to keep nearly £200m of council tenants’ rent this year.

Every year, the Treasury decides how much local authorities need to spend on new homes and maintaining council houses. Those it deems to take more in rent than they need to spend pay a ‘negative subsidy’ to the Treasury, which is then redistributed to authorities in greater need.

However, this year the Treasury is collecting £195,816,938 more than it is redistributing. This extra money will remain with the exchequer and will not be spent on council housing.

Commenting, Liberal Democrat Shadow Housing Minister, Lembit Öpik said:

It is scandalous that when council tenants are finding it harder and harder to make ends meet, the Government is pocketing £200m of their rent. After the 10p tax debacle, higher road tax on older cars and now a massive tenant tax, it’s clear that this is a Government that is prepared to take from those who can least afford it just to balance its own books. The tax on tenants is preventing councils from investing in their housing stock, and crucially, building new homes for the 1.67 million families on social housing waiting lists. It’s time to scrap the tenant tax.”

Chances are, it’ll be the story about Lembit and Gabi being ‘on a break’. Why? Because it’ll be judged more newsworthy by every single media outlet – including the BBC – than Lembit’s revelation about the Government keeping £200m of council tenants’ rents. Which is the very definition of scandalous.

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28 Comments

  • Paul is spot on.. the scandalous part is that Clegg thinks we actually have a housing spokesman in Lembit rather than a complete media joke.

  • Alun Williams 14th Jul '08 - 10:35pm

    He isn’t helping himself by doing a Living TV special with his girlfriend.

  • Alun

    Quite right. Absolutely deplorable.

    Any idea what time it’s on?

  • It was shown last week, and repeated tonight at 8pm apparently.

    How vexing!

  • At least he’s getting press… which is more than can generally be said for the rest of the party.

    Most of the electorate tend to think politicians are all lying weasels and scum bags, yet they’ll happily put faith in celebrities… look at the sheer volume of people who would vote in Big Brother, but not in a general election.

    Criticising the first person to get any decent publicity for the party at all since Charlie Kennedy left (ie in the Have I got News for You and other TV stuff he did, before all the stuff right at the end)… well this is exactly the kind of mindsets that send us round in circles never achieving a great deal. If you want the electorate to really take you seriously, a bit of celebrity is not a bad thing.

    Given the standard of press releases that I tend to see from LDHQ, I’m of the impression that noone else in the party is capable of courting serious press coverage… and yes, no publicity is a great thing if you want noone to know what you stand for and to always be a really nice, but never electable party (which is the current status quo)

    When Labour came to power, they had photos with Spice Girls, the lot. And it worked. Yes, people were ready for change, but the manefesto of change + some celebrity thrown in, does seem to work. Obama, “we can change”: manefesto for change + celebritiy.

    I think many people underestimate the impact of postmodernity on the contemporary mindset. Too many of us live in a political bubble, where we loose touch with how voters think. They might moan about Hello magazine, but they secretly would at the very least peek at the pages over somebody’s shoulder and be drawn in by the human interest (even the middle class voters, who pretend not to).

    Until someone can find a better way of getting us bigger, better publicity… then I suggest you think about whether what you’re saying is actually constructive. If you can get us that level of publicity and more… then maybe we’ll be able to afford to criticise.

  • Todays Indy reports that this former B list celebrity is ‘irked by having to turn up to parties in Mr Opik’s underwhelming Vauxhall Cavalier’. Says it all really.

  • Way back in the mid-80s [1980s – I don’t quite date back to Mr Gladstone’s leadership] I could happily spend an afternoon in my role as Governor at a school for children with special educational needs; and the evening “bashing” Class 40s between Warrington and Chester [don’t ask, but this is big-time anorak / trainspotterish / nerdy].

    The odd thing is that the latter didn’t adversely influence the former, nor did my school governorship enhance my anorakdom.

    So why not accept the possibility that:

    a) a taste for the celebrity lifestyle
    b) being an effective constuency MP
    and c) being an effective spokesman on a portfolio;

    are not mutually exclusive qualities ???

  • crewegwyn, you’re right of course, they aren’t necessarily exclusive, however there is a serious point about how to use each to complement the others in an appropriate and methodical manner – celebrity for the celebrity’s sake is ultimately vacuuous.

    I think the point about the Blair attachment to the spice girls and oasis was that they represented a cultural shift and he wanted to use them to cement the ‘authenticity’ of his appeal with a ‘common touch’.

    Lembit may court celebrity, but unceremoniously dumping a weather girl for a more glamourous and younger non-entity speaks volumes about his character. I fear for him in the sense that the publicity he recieves is more akin to tracking prey ahead of the pounce when he is exposed for whatever it will be, rather then for any real political appeal – the press obviously sniff a target, so he better not be hiding any guilty secrets for his and the party’s sake.

  • Julian H, tracking the evolution of the Telegraph is interesting at the moment, especially now that we seem to have its support for our tax-cutting measures and more generally for our economics expertise.

    It reads as though there is a shift back to Morning Post whiggishness there with an underlying scepticism for Camerons competence, so I’d give it the benefit of the doubt for the time being.

  • Martin Land 15th Jul '08 - 6:49pm

    Taking a completely different angle, this is an important issue and surely our press office should have realised that putting this out under the name of Lembit would result in instant vertical filing.

    What they should have done is put this out as a financial story under the Vince Cable banner, then we would have got coverage for this and for Lembit’s antics as well.

  • Guest Speaker 15th Jul '08 - 11:35pm

    Stephen, you are, of course right, in that the second story is more important than the first.

    However, if the media is your target, your example is a poor one, as Lembit has hardly been a media-shy wallflower and has only brought this on himself.

    Time for a chat with HQ methinks.

  • simon wilson 16th Jul '08 - 9:44am

    Sadly, I think that this story says as much about Lembit and his reputation as it does about the media.

  • Interestingly nobody has commented about the Guardian story on housing today (p11). Perhaps because it doesn’t fit the underlying prejudice of the thread ….

    Quotes from Government minister, Local government network (ex-labour MP), House Builders Federation, Shelter and … oh yes Lembit Opik LIb Dem Housing Spokesman. Not a Tory in sight ……….

  • Lembit for London Mayor? or for Speaker of HoC?

  • simon wilson 18th Jul '08 - 12:59pm

    Pity that this important issue didn’t merit inclusion in Lib Dem News.

  • Spanny Thomas 20th Jul '08 - 9:42am

    I agree with Martin Land, this is an important issue and should have been put out by a politician with more gravitas. Lembit, bless im, has become a self-parody. One of those wacky eccentric types. That is fine if he wants to do that.

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