Is there really nothing else to write about Lembit Opik other than bloody Segways? Sheesh! It even makes it in a leader in the Independent today!
Fortunately, Jeremy Hargreaves is on hand to provide some analysis:
Would electing Lembit as President â€œsplit the partyâ€? No, I think thatâ€™s going a bit far. But, given where people are now, I do think that the party in the country effectively imposing Lembit as President on people who actually have to work with the person in that role, would be highly divisive. And once settled into post, it wouldnâ€™t necessarily get easier – see for example how uncomfortable many Welsh party members were with having the Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats having the celebrity profile that Lembit had.
Rightwing bloggers Andy Mayer and Tom Papworth have been picking fights with their own party, accusing large numbers of us of being guilty by association of being unreconstructed socialists. Andy cites the fact that UDF supporters were split 50/50 in the Sarko/Sego playoff, while even more incredibly Tom bases his argument on an online poll of 40 visitors to his blog in which 53% supported Sego.
Personally, I have no idea how I would have voted, but the idea that this is simply a left/right divide is completely flawed. Simplistically, the French were given the choice between a rightwing leader of a centrist party and a centrist leader of a leftwing party. Policy-wise, and leaving immigration to one side, I am probably closer to Sarkozy than Royal. However, it was a presidential election not a parliamentary one, so personality counts for a lot.
A vote for Sarkozy was a vote for a politician who makes David Blunkett look tactful and libertarian. I remain doubtful about his ability to operate on the world stage or even domestically without causing far more heat than light, a point on which Iain Dale of all people appears to agree. Segolene Royal had a point when she suggested that a vote for him could provoke riots.
Is Sarkozy capable of creating a consensus about the need to reform, or will his combative personality result in deadlock? That is what the French ultimately had to decide yesterday. The Papworth-Mayer slur rests on the calculation that anyone who voted for Royal was simply in favour of the status quo. For that to be true, France would have to have an elective dictatorship. In point of fact, the French President has less power than its US counterpart.
If you think that France wakes up to a bright new morning with reforming zeal in its heart, you are about to be sorely disappointed.
(Speaking of Lib Dem bloggers picking fights, anyone understand why Jeremy Hargreaves is making wild allegations of a Huhnista-putsch going on inside the party, his only evidence being a few critical comments about Ming by someone who supported Simon Hughes in the leadership election? Colour me confused)