Lembit: time for Lib Dems to stop the conspiracy against me

by Stephen Tall on October 17, 2008

A fairly extraordinary press release has been issued by Lembit Opik – one of the three Lib Dems standing for the post of party presidency which will be decided by an all-member ballot within the next few weeks – demanding an end to an alleged “conspiracy” in the party against his candidacy.

I’ll reproduce the whole release below, but here’s the part which will cause some sharp intakes of breath:

If anyone is conspiring against me I ask them to stop … I don’t agree with conspiracies in the Liberal Democrats. That’s why I backed former leader Charles Kennedy to the end – I was appalled by the perceived internal campaign against him. That’s why I defended Ming Campbell up to his moment of resignation, in the face of a whispering campaign against him too. I still refuse to play any part in such negative campaigning.”

Quite why Lembit should feel it’s appropriate to rake over the ashes of the Kennedy and Campbell resignations in a way that paints the party in quite such an unattractive (and, in my view, misleading) light is beyond me. To do so in a campaign for a post which is, above all, about uniting the party and moving it forwards smacks of appallingly poor judgement.

Editor’s note: Lib Dem Voice has volunteered to remain neutral in internal party elections. However, such defensive statements by a candidate which serve only to feed the anti-Lib Dem narrative of much of the media is, I believe, reckless. I hope this is the last we’ll see of it from Lembit’s campaign.

The full press release is below:

ÖPIK OFFERS ‘POSITIVE CAMPAIGNING’ IN RESPONSE TO ‘CONSPIRACY’

Lembit Öpik MP has hit out at the negative campaign allegedly being waged against him by asking the Liberal Democrat membership to ‘change up a gear towards Government’ by backing him for President.

It comes after reports of an organised ‘Stop Öpik’ campaign by his opponents.

Lembit said: “The enemy of the Liberal Democrats is conventionalism and conservatism. Everyone knows I’m neither conventional nor conservative! My national profile and my total adherence to liberal principles means I stand out in a clear and lively way. That’s why I was awarded the GovnetUK Alternative Politician of the year Award this week. That’s why I’m standing for President to breathe the same life and soul into our Party.

“The challenge to the membership is this: if a Lib Dem Party promoting itself in clear, bold, primary colours scares you, then don’t vote for me. But if you dare take our story, our image, and our vision to the citizens in refreshing and colourful, inspired ways, then voting for me is a vote for exactly that approach.

“If anyone is conspiring against me I ask them to stop a moment and consider this. I reach beyond the normal political barricades to real people in real homes living real lives. So we must decide: more of the
same or change up a gear towards Government. That’s what this presidential election is about a vote for me is a vote for that ambition. And sure there’s a risk, but there’s a bigger risk if we just carry on doing everything the same way, like we’ve always done. Let’s take the exciting path, the road less travelled. The one which can lead us to Government.”

Lembit added, “I don’t agree with conspiracies in the Liberal Democrats. That’s why I backed former leader Charles Kennedy to the end I was appalled by the perceived internal campaign against him. That’s why I defended Ming Campbell up to his moment of resignation, in the face of a whispering campaign against him too. I still refuse to play any part in such negative campaigning.”

Former Leicester South MP and by-election winner Parmjit Singh Gill said: “The membership know the score, they know Lembit’s record of loyalty to the Party and to its leaders. And they know his faith in positive campaigning, not negative spin. If they agree with Lembit, they know what to do. It’s up to the members to make that choice, but I think in a democratic organisation the members should be in charge. That?s what Lembit thinks and that?s the attitude I want from my Party President.”