Lembit on life after defeat

Thanks to Will Barter and James King for alerting us to an interview Lembit Opik gave to Radio 4’s Saturday Live, broadcast yesterday, where he talked about the huge effect his 2010 election defeat had had on him. He had been worried about losing, but his confidence had been boosted by the data they had locally and when he was defeated, he was totally shocked. He said he’s “assumed he was going to win” and defeat hit him in 4 stages, taking him 3.5 years to turn his life around.

He described the initial disbelief and the displacement activity that led him to go pretty much straight on to Have I got news for you in the immediate aftermath of his defeat. He then described a 2 year grieving process and further period of depression before he was able to get on with his life. He talked about the “albatross” of having the reputation of having thrown away a safe Liberal Democrat seat. He also described how he came within 6 weeks of having his house repossessed when he didn’t have a Plan B to fall back on when he lost his income.

He also talked about his relationship with Gabriela Irimia from the Cheeky Girls and said that it was the most important relationship he had had. He was heartbroken when she ended it. He only used her name once in quite a long discussion about her. What surprised me was that he said that he was surprised that his personal life would affect his professional reputation. You’d think he’d never read a tabloid. He said he’d do it all again if he had his time again because nobody should tell anyone who to love.

When asked how he was now, he said that he thought he was fine, but said that he was still far into debt. He says he appreciates sunrises, laughter and a pint of Guinness in his local. He also talked about who the loss of his brother at 37 injected a whole sense of urgency into his life and that partly explains why he rushed headlong into things like I’m a Celebrity, Celebrity Juice and other such things as he seized the moment.

Will Barter said on Twitter that he thought it would be useful for people to see the context behind Lembit’s actions in recent years, but I wonder if anyone who has suffered redundancy without the relative generosity of provisions made for former MPs on defeat might see his comments as a bit self-indulgent.
See what you think by listening here from about 47 minutes till 58 minutes in.
We may see more of him in the next wee while as he has a comic novel, All at Sea, about life on a cruise ship, coming out.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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20 Comments

  • Interesting , this explains his level of what seemed unnecessary anger at the party and it s leadership after the tragic loss of Charles Kennedy . He does not , from what is mentioned herin , dwell on those aspects , yet it makes sense in that Lembit obviously identified with the late leader s personal loss after losing the leadership , and the public nature of any sort of trial by media . Much of it is often self inflicted , as seen in the case of the travails of the present mp for Rochdale , but Lembit is a funny mixture of media tart and sensitive man . I have met him only once and liked him . I would like to see him put aside rancour and his demons too .

  • Bill le Breton 3rd Jan '16 - 3:37pm

    I once enjoyed a very pleasant train journey of two or so hours on the East Coast line withthe then NE campaigner, Lembit, in which we mapped out a route by small plane round the world – stopping and refueling locations etc. I helped in his campaign to get the local nomination with some phone canvassing and then also repeated this in his subsequentelection campaign.

    So I hope he will forgive me for saying that this interview was far less important for the future of the Party than a rebroadcasting last night of Lord Henessy’s Reflections programme with David Owen – available here for a week: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b061q92b

    Those wishing to develop ideas about where we should be positioning ourselves could do worse than include in their research a few matters raised in the programme, such as what should be left to the market and what should not.

  • There is something here that really does puzzle me. Boris Johnson plays the fool and his career trajectory soars. Lembit plays the fool and his career comes to a crashing halt. Is it because Lembit lacks Johnson’s Old Etonian self-assurance and innate sense of entitlement? Of have the media simply given Johnson a far easier ride on account of who he is?

    I think there is a lesson to be learned in all of this. Perhaps in future, when Lib Dem MPs find themselves viciously attacked in the media, party managers should be on hand to show them how to handle it. If, after those first nasty articles in the DM, Lembit had simply kept his mouth shut and had got on with his job, rather than dig a deeper hole for himself, he might still be MP for Montgomeryshire.

  • Lembit, along with Ben Ramm and Linda Jack was one of the characters put up against me on local radio when there was some anti-Nick Clegg story in the press. He was easily the best informed and most reasonable of the three.

  • Paul Pettinger 3rd Jan '16 - 5:22pm

    Linda can carry the Conference floor quite well though: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KX9HGNNcgc4&feature=youtu.be&t=6h53m38s

  • Oh yes, “nobody could call me a member of the establishment” from someone who has probably been on 2 of the main three federal committees for the last 10 years.

  • Richard Underhill 3rd Jan '16 - 6:56pm

    Q: “What does Lembit Opik mean?”
    A; “It is an anagram for ‘Don’t privatise the Post Office'”. [Source Liberal Democrat News ]
    I made a speech to federal conference about Stalin’s invasion of Finland in 1939 and the effective defence of this small country against the big one. Lembit Opik came and congratulated me.
    Current bullying of smaller countries such as Estonia is part of a long-term habit, as in Georgia, as in Ukraine, etc..
    When the LI visited Finland we heard a Finnish joke “The north coast of Finland”. Have a look at a map and see that it is no longer in Finland but in Russia.
    When former Commissioner Lord Dahrendorf spoke to the John Stuart Mill Society he was doubtful that Finland would vote Yes to to joining the EU in a referendum and disliked the phrase ‘political gravity’. In fact Finland led the way, holding their count first and voting Yes emphatically. Sweden, known for its “armed neutrality” then voted Yes. Regrettably Norway narrowly voted NO, for the second time leaving the EU with a rather long external border.
    Lembit Opik is not very Welsh, but this party should be able to accommodate diversity.

  • Why is Linda Jack being attacked. Linda was accurate in predicting the collapse in votes in places such as Sheffield Manchester and Liverpool. The party needs to listen more to the Linda Jacks of the world.

  • Richard Taylor 4th Jan '16 - 2:53am

    “He had been worried about losing, but his confidence had been boosted by the data they had locally and when he was defeated, he was totally shocked”.

    You’ll forgive me for saying this, but Lib Dem private polling often seems incredibly optimistic in the vein of, “we can’t lose this seat, we’ve seen the numbers”. If its aim is to bolster confidence, then that’s cool, but it appears that the polling gives you completely misleading results.

  • Richard Underhill 4th Jan '16 - 12:27pm

    Today’s news is that Sweden has instituted border controls . There is a huge bridge, doubtless very expensive, linking Sweden and Denmark, as featured in the fictional crime and police drama ‘The Bridge’ on Channel 4 tv.
    There was a Nordic Union before these EFTA countries joined the EU.

  • David Evans 4th Jan '16 - 12:58pm

    Cllr Mark Wright – Yes, I think everyone knew our vote would collapse in the cities after the things we started to do in coalition became apparent. However, the uber loyalists chose to pretend firstly that people’s opinions would all change as time progressed. When it became clear that it wasn’t, the story changed to it was all “grown up politics” to imply those who disagreed were just children. Then it was necessary for dodgy polls to be produced to pretend things would be alright, and finally after the disaster it became “there was no alternative, it was inevitable.” This perpetual rewriting of history to justify a failed experiment is standard in many hierarchical organisations where a leader has made a bad call. However, in a supposedly evidence based partly like the Lib Dems is a total disaster.

    Linda and people like her whose loyalty was to the party were right. Those who chose simply to believe the leadership were disastrously wrong.

    There is no justification for anyone having a go at Linda.

  • Thanks for writing this up Caron.

    I would not wish depression on anyone. That Lembit went through this – regardless of his relative starting position – coupled with the untimely death of a sibling, is horrific. I don’t know how I’d react to this – I’m not sure many of us do.

    I certainly had no idea that Lembit had gone through all this; I genuinely feel it casts his actions in a new light, and I am now moved far more to sorrow than any other emotion when considering him and the last few years.

    Seeing all this has also helped me realise that I am too quick to judge people, without knowing the context. I guess I’ll always be quite judgmental, but it’s something I’ll work on.

  • Wow, I found this really moving! So honest, so humble. He was lampooned so much, including within the party. He really suffered. We should be encouraging him.

  • David Evans 4th Jan '16 - 6:31pm

    I have sympathy for Lembit, but I have even more sympathy for the Lib Dems in Montgomeryshire who worked so hard to keep Lembit in Westminster but ultimately were defeated. The loss of a seat that Liberal and then Lib Dem MPs for 126 of the previous 130 years was a disaster. The loss of that heartland is still keenly felt.

    However, the ones who have lost the most are the people of Montgomeryshire who are no longer represented by a Lib Dem MP, fighting for their communities. They are the ones who really suffered after Lembit’s defeat.

  • Richard Underhill 5th Jan '16 - 3:55pm

    Clement Freud came to the Liberal Party’s autumn assembly after his defeat in the general election. I asked him whether he would be standing again. He replied “You can ask” and turned away. This was, of course, before the Fixed Term Parliament Act. He continued to be a subtle wit on radio.
    As a restaurant owner during post war shortages he was congratulated by a diner and asked what the meat was. He replied “It was horse” which was greeted by laughter.
    It was true, he had marinated the meat overnight.

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