I’ve written another Comment is Free article on this very subject:
Make no mistake: this election is no shoo-in for either candidate. They are both extremely strong contenders. At its heart, it has become quickly apparent that this election, more than any other in recent years, is going to be about what the Liberal Democrats are for. This isn’t merely a question of policy; it is a question about where the party strikes the balance between gaining power to change things and standing firm in its beliefs with a view to inspiring the electorate. There is real merit in both points of view and it is a question that, with a hung parliament still a possibility, the Lib Dems may yet end up have to answer at a UK level.
More Lembit news today, but none of it is very good.
First of all, the Western Mail reports that senior Welsh Lib Dem politicians are “snubbing” Lembit in favour of a “little-known candidate from England” (which is apparently a small place somewhere east of the Marches). Yet Lembit is apparently still standing, stating that:
â€œParty members can vote for whichever candidate they like. Itâ€™s called democracy and I support that. Ros Scott may have some supporters in Wales, but I have lots of people backing me in England.
â€œI believe I am the right person to become president. I am already the senior vice-president and chair meetings of the executive, of which I have been a member for 17 years.
â€œIf people want a president with experience and determination who is inspirational, I believe they should vote for me.
â€œI travel round Britain to see members of the party all the time, which is why my car has 380,000 miles on the clock.
â€œI am standing in this election not on what I say I will do in the future, but on the record of what I have been doing in the party and will continue to do.â€
But in a sign that he is a little irked about his lack of support, how’s this for a pout?
â€œI have done all the training for candidates within the party since 1990. I remember Kirsty Williams coming to a course I ran in the mid-1990s in the early stages of her career.
â€œIâ€™m sure she is grateful for the help I gave her.”
Ouch. I’m sure she feels suitably put in her place now. Bloody girls.
Meanwhile, it appears that it isn’t just the Welsh who are less than sympathetic to Lembit’s cause. For the second month in a row he has come bottom of Lib Dem Voice’s Members’ Poll on the Shadow Cabinet:
Sarah Teather -14.6%
Roger Williams -14.6%
Michael Moore -20.8%
Nick Harvey -23.9%
Lembit Opik -35.4%
No Lembit news today, so I thought I would just link to the launch of Kirsty Williams’ campaign to succeed him as Welsh Leader instead.
Spooky. I wrote this post earlier but it disappeared.
For those of you beginning to despair that there is nothing to write about Lembit Opik other than his obsession with odd looking bicycles – rejoice! Lembit’s campaign for President may still be failing to launch (despite the fact that Kirsty Williams is about to launch her campaign months before her election is due to take place), but at least we may now have an explanation.
Eagle eyed readers of the Guardian this morning have pointed out that in their handy guide to the Large Hadron Collider at Cern, one of the vital components is called a “Lembit Opik decay hole facilitator.” Even more intriguingly, operating the LHC appears to be dependent of a “mouth harp” and “kazoo.” Lembit is of course a dab hand with such instruments (it is a little known fact that Lembit performed the harmonica solo in Culture Club’s Karma Chameleon).
So, clearly Lembit has had other more important things to worry about than mere internal elections for Federal Party President. And can I just say that, given the possibility that the LHC might wipe out a major section of this quadrants of the galaxy, I can’t think of a single person I would rather trust with its operation?
My mole in Aberwystwyth has been bloody useless this morning and failed to notify me of Mike German’s decision on whether or not to restand as leader of the Welsh Assembly. To be fair, the mole was exactly right about what they throught German would say, and so it has passed. He has decided to restand (and presumably stand for the vacancy left by Lembit yesterday), but only on the basis of standing down again in 12 months.
Why the lame duck act? Simple: it’s called Operation Stop Peter. If Mike had stood down, the only viable candidate at the moment would have been Peter Black. If Mike hadn’t stood down, Peter would almost certainly have stood against him, and possibly would have won. With no-one else in the running (Eleanor Burnham has repeatedly implied she might stand but hasn’t been setting out her stall in the way Peter has, and as far as I can see lacks his power base), the idea would appear to be to create a 12 month “open vacancy” period with a view to persuading someone else to stand.
With only six Assembly Members, the options are a bit thin on the ground. Kirsty Williams is often sited as the heir to Excalibur but she hasn’t shown much enthusiasm for pulling the sword out of the stone thus far. This is partly because she has a young family, but if this is the case her youngest will still be 2 in 2008 (at least according to that unimpeachable font of all knowledge Wikipedia). The only other option that I’ve heard people mention is Jenny Randerson.
So we must hope that a transitionary period will work and that a strong challenger will emerge from it. In the meantime, we must hope that an essentially rudderless Assembly party will not cause significant problems for the Welsh local elections next May; I suspect it will be effectively neutral, neither helping nor hurting local parties’ chances of making serious inroads and defending their territory. But it will only work in the long run if the potential candidates start sticking their heads above the parapet and begin to engage in a debate on the party’s future.