Tag Archives: lembit-opik

Where’s Lemby’s Answers? Day 7

Lembit OpikWell, Lembit won’t answer my questions, but he is keen to talk to politics.co.uk, where he criticises the party for “fear of standing out” and portraying its policies in “pastel shades” (I know there are people out there who criticise Lembit’s talk about “pastel shades” as being misogynist but I have a more fundamental objection: what the hell does it mean?). He also claims that:

“a good president turns up the volume of messages decided by the leadership.”

Leaving aside the unfortunate Iain Duncan Smithism, is that actually true? Is it really the role of the leader to sit back and determine the messages, and the president to be the one campaigning at the front? This suggests a significant redefinition of the role, in which the leader and president compete for air time. I’m not sure I want to see that happen.

But fundamentally, where, please, has Lembit been able to demonstrate this ability? Linda Jack is currently running down her 101 facts you may not know about Lembit. There are some duplicates there, but this is fair enough. By all accounts, when it comes to Northern Ireland for instance, Lembit has done a lot of good work behind the scenes. But why does Linda Jack need to tell us all this if Lembit is so great at putting his best foot forward? And where is the tangible evidence of him making headway front of house?

I’ve already mentioned his tenure as leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, during which time the party has been stuck with 6 AMs and actually decreased its regional list vote. Lembit of course prefers to concentrate on the doubling of our Welsh MPs during the 2005 general election, but that was a campaign he was far less centrally involved in.

But I could also cite the example of his role as housing spokesperson. During a time when repossessions have been on the rise, this is an issue the Lib Dems could have been making real headway on. So where is the evidence? As I wrote in Comment is Free last month, during one of the housing debates at party conference, Lembit was outside of the conference centre wowing crowds with his segway skills. The only housing issue I’ve ever seen him take a stance on is eco-towns; great if you happen to be in one of the few areas where the building of one is an issue, but pretty useless if you live anywhere else.

The point is, Lembit has a pretty patchy record when it comes to using the various party positions he has had over the years to actually make an impact, and this is entirely relevant both to the role of President and the direction he claims to want to take it. The fact that he won’t answer them speaks volumes. If you think it is time he answered them, then join my new Facebook group, and get others to do the same.

The questions he has yet to answer are:

a) Since Lembit claims to have such great campaigning and communications skills, why have the Liberal Democrats in Wales stagnated in the last two assembly elections (sticking with six AMs in 1999, 2003 and 2007)?

b) Given the deep problems at the heart of the Kennedy leadership, wasn’t it an error of judgment to stand by him? Loyalty is easy – a nodding dog at the back of a car can do it. Don’t the “rebels” – including Nick Clegg and Vince Cable – deserve credit for taking a difficult decision that Lembit lacked the resolve to take?

c) Why didn’t Lembit stand against Simon Hughes in 2006? Hughes presided over a string of failures, most notoriously watching the party’s membership fall by 10,000 members despite having pledged to treble the membership in two years. Again, doesn’t that suggest a lack of resolve?

d) Why wasn’t Lembit’s campaign ready in Bournemouth? Frankly, it was a total mess. Ros Scott launched her campaign exactly 12 months before, so it isn’t as if Lembit didn’t know she was serious. Is this the level of professionalism we can expect from him? Don’t actions speak louder than words?

Where’s Lemby’s Answers? Day 4

Adrian Pennock” (is this some obscure football/Ipswich angle I haven’t come across?) has a new angle on the conspiracy theory:

Lembit’s conspiracy angle sits well with the refusal to organise official hustings and let members see for themselves that the Baroness ought not to be party president for very obvious reasons which would be exposed in a hustings scenario.

The fundamental flaw in this theory is that with Lembit by far the highest profile candidate, he is the main beneficiary of the lack of official hustings (although in point of fact there have been several unofficial ones).

Apparently, any discussion of the prospect of Lembit appearing on Celebrity Big Brother is nothing but a vicious slur made up by his opponents. The very idea! So, I thought I’d show you all a video of Lembit, erm, appearing on Celebrity Big Brother:

Lembit of course claims that appearing on such programmes keeps the party in touch with people who would otherwise ignore us. Believe it or not, I’m not entirely unsympathetic to that theory, but surely we have enough evidence now to demonstrate it one way or another. So come on, where is it?

Where’s Lemby’s Answers?* Day 3

Another day, another opportunity for Lembit to exercise his right to reply. Not much to add today, so I thought I’d just provide a little light entertainment:

The questions in question, of course, are:

a) Since Lembit claims to have such great campaigning and communications skills, why have the Liberal Democrats in Wales stagnated in the last two assembly elections (sticking with six AMs in 1999, 2003 and 2007)?

b) Given the deep problems at the heart of the Kennedy leadership, wasn’t it an error of judgment to stand by him? Loyalty is easy – a nodding dog at the back of a car can do it. Don’t the “rebels” – including Nick Clegg and Vince Cable – deserve credit for taking a difficult decision that Lembit lacked the resolve to take?

c) Why didn’t Lembit stand against Simon Hughes in 2006? Hughes presided over a string of failures, most notoriously watching the party’s membership fall by 10,000 members despite having pledged to treble the membership in two years. Again, doesn’t that suggest a lack of resolve?

d) Why wasn’t Lembit’s campaign ready in Bournemouth? Frankly, it was a total mess. Ros Scott launched her campaign exactly 12 months before, so it isn’t as if Lembit didn’t know she was serious. Is this the level of professionalism we can expect from him? Don’t actions speak louder than words?

* As featured on MoreFourNews.

Where’s Lemby’s Answers? Day 2

Lembit OpikAlex Folkes has taken exception to me calling Lembit out on this:

First – the questions aren’t exactly neutrally phrased. And Lembit could probably expect that the answers would be brutally fisked. Solution – don’t offer up ammunition.

Second – you have shown you’re not entirely pro Lembit. You don’t have to be, of course, but I can think of far better things for Team Lembit to do with their time than spend it answering your questions.

Team Lembit has far better things to do than to answer hostile questions from people who are highly unlikely to ever support him. If the questions were more open and came from someone who at least appeared not to have made up their mind already (at least as regards Lembit) then there would be a better chance of getting them answered.

These are reasonable points, and of course Lembit should feel under no duty to answer these questions. But just as Lembit is free to not answer these questions, I am free to ask them.

And I ask them because, regardless of which way I am voting in this election, I think they raise serious issues that ought to concern everyone, whether they support him or not. Unlike some people, I have never dismissed Lembit’s chances of winning this election. But his claims don’t add up for me, and these questions sum up my anxieties (actually, I have others, but these will do for now).

I’m not expecting Lembit to answer; I am however allowing him a right to reply. If the questions are biased, they are not so biased that any politician worth his or her salt could not answer them on their own terms. If he doesn’t answer them however, I will spend the rest of the campaign mentioning them. Maybe that will make no difference to the election, maybe it will. What do I have to lose finding out?

As a reminder, these are the questions which remain unanswered:

a) Since Lembit claims to have such great campaigning and communications skills, why have the Liberal Democrats in Wales stagnated in the last two assembly elections (sticking with six AMs in 1999, 2003 and 2007)?

b) Given the deep problems at the heart of the Kennedy leadership, wasn’t it an error of judgment to stand by him? Loyalty is easy – a nodding dog at the back of a car can do it. Don’t the “rebels” – including Nick Clegg and Vince Cable – deserve credit for taking a difficult decision that Lembit lacked the resolve to take?

c) Why didn’t Lembit stand against Simon Hughes in 2006? Hughes presided over a string of failures, most notoriously watching the party’s membership fall by 10,000 members despite having pledged to treble the membership in two years. Again, doesn’t that suggest a lack of resolve?

d) Why wasn’t Lembit’s campaign ready in Bournemouth? Frankly, it was a total mess. Ros Scott launched her campaign exactly 12 months before, so it isn’t as if Lembit didn’t know she was serious. Is this the level of professionalism we can expect from him? Don’t actions speak louder than words?

Where’s Lemby’s Answers? Day 1

Lembit OpikYou may remember that on Thursday I asked – for the second time – Lembit what I regard as some pertinent questions he needs to answer as part of his bid to be elected as Party President. This was in response to a rather daft article in the Shropshire Star in which he alleges there is a “conspiracy of mediocrity” against him. The following day, Lembit’s PR Richard Clein made these allegations on Lib Dem Voice:

This is all getting rather personal and people should be ashamed about some of the things that are being posted. The bile and vitriol is completely over the top.

Regarding both claims, I asked for specific examples on the basis that what is being labled “bile” by Team Lembit looks very much to me like legitimate criticism.

I’ve not had any answers so far, but it is clear that Team Lembit are replying to their emails. So I thought it was time to start renewing my vigil.

I have to admit that all this pisses me off royally. From the start of this campaign I’ve made no secret of my lack of enthusiasm for a Lembit Opik presidency, but frankly could live with it. With that in mind, and in the interests of basic decency, I’ve self-imposed a rule of declaring whole swathes of issues about Lembit off-limits during this campaign. Most other Lib Dem bloggers as far as I can see have done the same. I’m willing to back up everything I’ve said, yet Lembit has gone around making wild allegations which amount to smears on his opponents and critics.

Lembit has made great virtue in this campaign of how he is “bold” and campaigns with “vim and verve” – so why be so scared of a few questions?

I’ll add them again here for your reference:

a) Since Lembit claims to have such great campaigning and communications skills, why have the Liberal Democrats in Wales stagnated in the last two assembly elections (sticking with six AMs in 1999, 2003 and 2007)?

b) Given the deep problems at the heart of the Kennedy leadership, wasn’t it an error of judgment to stand by him? Loyalty is easy – a nodding dog at the back of a car can do it. Don’t the “rebels” – including Nick Clegg and Vince Cable – deserve credit for taking a difficult decision that Lembit lacked the resolve to take?

c) Why didn’t Lembit stand against Simon Hughes in 2006? Hughes presided over a string of failures, most notoriously watching the party’s membership fall by 10,000 members despite having pledged to treble the membership in two years. Again, doesn’t that suggest a lack of resolve?

d) Why wasn’t Lembit’s campaign ready in Bournemouth? Frankly, it was a total mess. Ros Scott launched her campaign exactly 12 months before, so it isn’t as if Lembit didn’t know she was serious. Is this the level of professionalism we can expect from him? Don’t actions speak louder than words?

Lembit: a question of mediocrity

Dear Lembit,

I wrote an article on Comment is Free last month asking four pointed questions regarding your bid to be Lib Dem President. Today I read you are claiming your opponents are running a “negative campaign” and a “conspiracy of mediocrity.”

I have to say that speaking personally, although I’ve been highly critical of your campaign, I’ve not been involved in any conspiracy. I’ve been quite open about my concerns about your putative Presidency and at each stage you have had every chance to rebut them. You haven’t. Moreover, you are the one who appears to have gone negative – I haven’t heard either of your opponents make such claims about you.

The main reason I’m voting for Ros Scott is because her campaign is the very opposite of mediocrity while your campaign… isn’t. Surely you would concede that actions speak louder than words? And surely you know the difference between criticism and negativity? Either way, to avoid any possibility of doubt that I do indeed want to hear your answers to my questions, here they are again for you to answer:

a) Since Lembit claims to have such great campaigning and communications skills, why have the Liberal Democrats in Wales stagnated in the last two assembly elections (sticking with six AMs in 1999, 2003 and 2007)?

b) Given the deep problems at the heart of the Kennedy leadership, wasn’t it an error of judgment to stand by him? Loyalty is easy – a nodding dog at the back of a car can do it. Don’t the “rebels” – including Nick Clegg and Vince Cable – deserve credit for taking a difficult decision that Lembit lacked the resolve to take?

c) Why didn’t Lembit stand against Simon Hughes in 2006? Hughes presided over a string of failures, most notoriously watching the party’s membership fall by 10,000 members despite having pledged to treble the membership in two years. Again, doesn’t that suggest a lack of resolve?

d) Why wasn’t Lembit’s campaign ready in Bournemouth? Frankly, it was a total mess. Ros Scott launched her campaign exactly 12 months before, so it isn’t as if Lembit didn’t know she was serious. Is this the level of professionalism we can expect from him? Don’t actions speak louder than words?

Cheers,

James

Has “Joker” Lembit been “stopped”?

So claims the Shropshire Star (hat tip: Jonathan Calder):

Sources say Mr Opik has secured the support of only six of the Liberal Democrat MPs – less than a tenth of the total… One insider described Mr Opik as ‘a joker’.

That latter word for some reason makes me think of a 70s song which had a brief 80s revival. How’s this for weirdly appropriate lyrics:

Some people call me the space cowboy, yeah
Some call me the gangster of love
Some people call me maurice
Cause I speak of the pompitous of love

People talk about me, baby
Say Im doin you wrong, doin you wrong

Well, dont you worry baby
Dont worry
Cause Im right here, right here, right here, right here at home

Cause Im a picker [technically an Opik…]
Im a grinner
Im a lover

And Im a sinner
I play my music in the sun

The rest is here.

On a slightly more serious note, one of the things that appears to have blown Lembit’s thunder is Chandila Fernando’s candidacy. People are at least talking about Chandila (not just me). Lembit’s appeal for Primary Colors, sorry “primary colours” has failed to set tongues wagging while Chandila’s more explicit talk about rebranding has provoked much more discussion.

Now, I’ve called Chandila’s candidacy a “cunning stunt” before and I still do, but I’ve never claimed it wasn’t effective. I wonder about unintended consequences though. Superficially at least, with Liberal Vision hailing Lembit as the most liberal Lib Dem MP, it does appear that they would prefer it for Lembit to beat Ros. If that is the case then Chandila’s exercise has essentially backfired.

But if they do feel that way, they are being unfair to Ros. The one candidate who has proven they know a thing or two about branding and positioning in this campaign is Ros Scott, and she’s shown actions speak louder than words.

Why I’ll be voting for Ros Scott

I’ve spent a significant amount of time over the past month or so criticising the other two candidates, but what I haven’t done is write about why I’m voting for Ros.

The shortest and simplest reason is that for the past year I’ve seen her walk the talk. The other two candidates talk a lot about campaigning. Ros has got off her arse, toured the country, developed a brand, shored up supporters, experimented with social media (successfully) and built momentum. A year ago, her chances of beating Lembit were minimal. Rather than settling for second place and a pat on the head, she’s worked her socks off to turn that around.

Now, I supported Lembit in 2004 and I agree with his lot of his supporters that he is one of the best trainers and motivators the party has. But Lembit’s response to this very public onslaught by Ros has been complacency. I wasn’t expecting him to go into full scale campaign mode in October 2007. But when I started my Where’s Lemby…? series of blog posts is was because I fully expected him to have a campaign team ready and waiting to get moving. I thought the blog posts might last a few days, a week at most, and that at best I would be able to leech some of the momentum from his launch. But there was no launch, at least not one to speak off. He just about managed to get a website up and running halfway through conference but even that was appallingly cack-handed.

The role of Federal President has very few powers. What powers it has is soft, not hard; it is not a point-and-click role by any means. Successful presidents need a combination of diplomacy, strategic vision and drive. Of the two presidents I served under on the Federal Executive, Navnit Dholakia had all three of those qualities to a greater or lesser extent, while Simon Hughes completely lacked a sense of strategy (and while I don’t think anyone could get away with accusing the Simon-The-Human-Dynamo of lacking drive, he did give up on his pledge to grow the party’s membership base remarkably quickly). Lembit’s big problem is drive, which explains why despite his seniority in both the FE and the Welsh Party, his liberal instincts, his charisma and his intellect he has never managed to deliver anything even close to what his manifesto proposes in the past. He gets bored too easily. The sad fact is that does not merely make him less effective than he could be, it makes him a positive liability at times.

Having seen Ros both up close and at a distance, it is my judgement that she has all three in spades. But fundamentally, she really wants the job. Lembit really wanted it in 2004 and it showed. The difference between the campaign he ran then and the campaign he is running now is huge.

Dynamism is the single most important quality in political campaigning. Everything else comes second in this election. For that reason I urge everyone to do the party a favour and give Ros Scott your first preference.

What the Big Brother incident says about Lembit’s narrative… and campaign.

Claims that Lembit will be appearing on the next Celebrity Big Brother have now been vigourously denied. But there remain two problems.

The first thing is that the story “rang” true. CBB is pretty much the only celebrity reality TV show Lembit hasn’t appeared on. He’s made much out of his appearances on I’m a Celebrity and Celebrity Apprentice*. And he has of course appeared on a myriad of other chat and panel shows. By contrast, no-one would have believed the story about Ros Scott or indeed pretty much any other MP. That is an image problem which Lembit himself has cultivated. So while it may indeed be “mischief” to invent stories such as this, it is only planting a seed in well cultivated soil.

The second thing is the length of time it took to rebut the story. Indeed, at the time of writing (1.20pm) the denial has yet to appear on his official website. No bloggers were briefed to start the rebuttal process. Why the length of time? Could it be that his campaign team weren’t completely sure the story wasn’t true and wasted the morning trying to track down the candidate? This suggests that a) Team Lembit perceive the same image problem that the rest of us do and b) either the campaigners or the candidate is not really concentrating on the fight.

Issuing a denial on a website is a five minute job. Is it really too much to expect Lembit to sort this out?

UPDATE: * Not forgetting Big Brother’s Little Brother of course**.

** Oops. Didn’t mention the All Star Talent Show, All-Star Mr and Mrs, Celebrity Weakest Link and Celebrity Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.