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.”

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79 comments

Sorry, I have lost my true identity once more!

by Sesenco on October 19, 2008 at 5:59 pm. Reply #

That would be the October 1974 election where we got creamed, wouldn’t it?

by James Graham on October 19, 2008 at 6:07 pm. Reply #

Big problem ! If Lembit really believes that people are conspiring against him how on earth will he be able to deal with these people (let alone lead them in a united party) if he wins the Presidency ?

by Serious for our party on October 19, 2008 at 6:12 pm. Reply #

James Graham wrote:

“That would be the October 1974 election where we got creamed, wouldn’t it?”

The second best Liberal performance since the war (I think).

Question: Would the Liberals have done nearly so well in the early-to-mid-1970s had it not been for the larger-than-life Jeremy Thorpe?

Cyril Smith once said: “What this party needs is a bit of bloody razzamatazz”.

And he had a point. Provided that the razzamatazz is used to promote liberal principles and liberal policies, and it is deployed skilfully, it has the potential to be an invaluable tool.

by Sesenco on October 19, 2008 at 6:17 pm. Reply #

Sesenco:

An internal administrative candidate is ideal in situations where the Party has to review its structures and build its organisation.

You mean like now, with the Bone commission report up for serious review and at least partial implementation? The party structures are in trouble, and have been for a long time, what Nick and Bones are identifying are issues that should’ve been dealt with years ago.

To get the right solutions we need someone that’s good at structures and organisation. We need someone that’s identified there’s an actual problem and seeks to sort things out–Ros has done this (as has Chandila but I’m not as keen on his solutions), whereas Lembit is specifically playing the loyalist, don’t rock the boat, business as usual card. Sorry…

In the run-up to a General Election, the Party should be looking for an inspirational “personality” who will motivate activists and get publicity for the Party.

1) We’re always in the run up to a General election, and while I am of the strong opinion that the coming election may be as crucial as 1979 or 1997, I am also of the opinion that it’s the one after that that we need to be really ready for, as I think that may be the most Significant election since 1983, possibly even moreso.

2) The President is part of the party’s public face, but so is the leader, deputy leader and parliamentary team. We need to be putting Vince and Nick front and centre at all points during the next campaign. Besides which, I think Ros is a damn fine public speaker and will undoubtedly be a bloody good media performer as well. Lembit may be good on t’telly, but I don’t think he’s half as good at the background stuff.

The President’s key role is the chairing of the FE. It is palpable that that role is currently not being carried out properly, and Lembit is on record as saying he thinks the President shouldn’t do this.

The President needs to be the person that can, discretely and in private, turn around to the Leader (Clegg) and the Cheif Exec (Rennard) and tell them when they’re wrong. Lembit’s playing the loyalist card shows me that he doesn’t view that as part of the role. I view it as an essential part of the role, and one I’m absolutely sure Ros will be able to do–she’s confirmed to me that she’s prepared to do it when needed when I asked her.

I’m fortunate to have met all three candidates. I like all three candidates. But on his statements and platform, Lembit has lost my support, and will now get my third preference.

On the issues I think matter most, crucially the need to sort the party structure out and ensure the Federal Executive does its job properly, Ros has demonstrated to me an understanding of the issues and a willingness and competence in sorting things out. Ros is getting my first preference for these positive reasons.

I was prepared and happy to give Lembit the benefit of the doubt and hear him out. I’ve done this. During this campaign, he has gone down in my estimation.

I’m 4 Ros. That I’m also against Lembit is entirely down to his behaviour and (lack of) campaign.

by MatGB on October 19, 2008 at 6:50 pm. Reply #

The point is Sesenco, we went backward in 10/74, and the deciding factor YOU are citing is Cyril Smith handing out gingerbread to small children. Now, if you ask me Cyril Smith didn’t have very much to do with that either, but nor do I think it contributed much to the popularity outside of Rochdale.

In the last election, the polls suggested that a lot of people who voted for us would not have done so if they had perceived us as having any chance of winning the election. Emphasising the fact that our MPs are a bunch of loveable eccentrics who look at home on daytime television will not exactly improve that standing in my view.

by James Graham on October 19, 2008 at 7:34 pm. Reply #

James Graham wrote:

“and the deciding factor YOU are citing is Cyril Smith handing out gingerbread to small children.”

That is not what I said (or at least not what I intended to convey).

The point I was making (but failed to get across in some cases, evidently) is that what Cyril Smith said in Ormskirk that day (something utterly trivial, as it happens) was reported on prime-time TV, and I remember it to this day.

Historically, those Liberals who have been most successful are those who have proved capable of drawing attention to themselves and have found ways of saying things that get people to remember them.

David Penhaligon is a better example than Cyril Smith. His great talent was getting people to listen to him and remember what he said. Something Nick Clegg lacks, I’m sorry to say.

I’m not saying the Parliamentary Party should be a bunch of loveable eccentrics. We need the serious guys and gals too. The Chris Huhnes and the Vince Cables. But we do have to make politics more fun and inject a bit of razzamatazz into an increasingly dull business.

(I’m trying my damndest to remember something Nick Clegg has said. I’m scratching my head and nothing is coming. Oh, and Nick, get rid of that suit just once in a while, please. Or wear a chalk-stripe.)

MatGB:

I do not doubt that Ros Scott is a worthy, admirable and capable lady. I just don’t think she is what’s needed at the moment. You get your structures right AFTER a General Election, not in the run-up period. If our organisation really is such a dog’s breakfast, then we must be asking serious questions of the people who allowed this state of affairs to arise in the first place.

by Anonymous on October 19, 2008 at 7:57 pm. Reply #

I have to write 500 times: when using a public computer, remember to fill in one’s name and email address.

by Sesenco on October 19, 2008 at 7:58 pm. Reply #

I’ve just had a look at Ros Scott’s blog, and I have to concede: she isn’t dull.

by Sesenco on October 19, 2008 at 8:01 pm. Reply #

Like I said before I’m really enjoying this election – it’s just a shame that we can’t combine all the strengths of each individual to form an idealised president!

Having met two of the candidates yesterday I am reassured we have the talent in our party to make a considerable impression going forward because both made strong cases to me for why I should give them their vote (Lembit’s eagerness and enthusiasm was both impressive even if it did take me back a bit!).

It was interesting to press them on some these issues and see how they reacted, so ultimately I’m more undecided than I was before!

by Oranjepan on October 19, 2008 at 8:20 pm. Reply #

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.

by Adrian Pennock on October 23, 2008 at 3:04 pm. Reply #

There haven’t been any official ‘central’ hustings in previous Presidential elections either though this time, as with previous elections, various parts of the party have organised their own.

by Mark Pack on October 24, 2008 at 8:04 am. Reply #

“that the Baroness ought not to be party president for very obvious reasons which would be exposed in a hustings scenario.”

That’s an allegation/innuendo which needs further explanation.

Whether your for or anti Ros she’s a member of the House of Lords, former candidate and party spokesperson on various issues. That makes it pretty clear that she passes the threshold of basic capability to be President and represent that party.

by Hywel Morgan on October 24, 2008 at 10:00 am. Reply #

You’ll only find out (what it is) when you meet her in person. Otherwise on paper and from what we already know “Ros [is] a member of the House of Lords, former candidate and party spokesperson on various issues. That makes it pretty clear that she passes the threshold of basic capability to be President and represent that party.”

by Adrian Pennock on October 24, 2008 at 3:07 pm. Reply #

I for one have met her in person – on several occasions. And she is perfectly engaging and competent.

For reference, Lembit, this is what we call a “smear”.

by James Graham on October 24, 2008 at 3:10 pm. Reply #

(by that I wasn’t suggesting that Lembit is “Adrian Pennock” just that this is exactly the sort of thing that Lembit is complaining is being said about him).

by James Graham on October 24, 2008 at 3:11 pm. Reply #

This is an absolutley outrageous comment. I have met Ros many many times. In one to one situations, groups, with her speaking to rooms full of people, her answering questions etc and not once has anything been of any concern to me. I suggest you say what you mean, or shut up.

by Duncan Borrowman on October 24, 2008 at 3:11 pm. Reply #

Sorry Adrian – you can’t just make vague innuendos like that. At least not if you want to be taken vaguely seriously.

Lots of people (me included) have met Ros – and long before she thought of running for President. Nothing from meeting her suggested she didn’t have the basic competence to be President rather than your suggestion that there is some personality flaw that should rule her out.

by Hywel Morgan on October 24, 2008 at 3:18 pm. Reply #

Nor am I “Adrian Pennock”, even though my boss owns Ipswich Town and Welling United is in my constituency!

by Duncan Borrowman on October 24, 2008 at 3:19 pm. Reply #

Pretty bizarre – and elliptical – allegation re: Ros. Why not just spell out what your problem is with her? I went to the Liberty Network hustings and saw all three candidates perform. I really can’t imagine what you’re referring to.

On the hustings point though, I think the party should organise a handful of set piece hustings for a contest like this – maybe 4 of so across the country.

The problem is that not doing so aids the frontrunner really and – a bit like leadership election hustings – its a good trail by ordeal.

by Mark Littlewood on October 24, 2008 at 5:18 pm. Reply #

I’m voting for Lembit. As much as I like Ros, I think Lembit is the best candidate. He’s done more than most to promote our party and liberal values.

by Andi Ali on October 26, 2008 at 1:41 pm. Reply #

I voted for Lembit. Ros Scott would be a disaster for us. An utterly awful candidate IMHO.

by Jay Entee on October 26, 2008 at 2:20 pm. Reply #

Ros “an utterly awful candidate” ! Come off it Jay Entee. How well do you know Ros ? How do you substantiate your “awful” and “disaster “claims ? As far as I’m concerned such claims have no foundation at all.

by Serious for our party on October 26, 2008 at 3:07 pm. Reply #

I sort of half agree with Richard, there is a lot of stuff expressed with too much vitriol and agression.

But I also think that if you take the unnecessary heat away, the points are fair.

by Biscit on November 2, 2008 at 3:23 pm. Reply #

I was in Sheffield yesterday, and thought Ros came over well there too.

Wasn’t too enamoured of Lembit, although I liked him- all his jokes fell flat for me. I’m wondering if I’d already made up my mind before hearing the husting.

However the one candidate who did go up in my estimation was Chandilla. I won’t be voting for him, I don’t even think he’s the second best candidate, but deeply respect him for coming forward in the way he has done.

by Biscit on November 2, 2008 at 3:30 pm. Reply #

I’ve moderated some comments in this thread as it looks like one person, sat at one computer, was pretending to be several different people in order to exaggerate the level of support for one of the candidates in this thread.

by Mark Pack on November 2, 2008 at 3:35 pm. Reply #

Seems very reasonable.

But…

Is that in your capacity as an independent moderator of the independent LibDem website, LDV?

Or do you have any professional relationship with anyone running the election?

Or both?

(I have enough respect for Mark P. that I know he can distinguish between the two, and probably balance them properly…am only asking…)

PS.

(For info, the only comments you’ll get from my computer are from my and – very occasionally – the missus…although, that could well be ruled to be two people from only one computer)

by Mark Littlewood on November 3, 2008 at 2:39 am. Reply #

Mark W: TBH, Mark P’s left up more comments than I would’ve–getting the notifications, it was bloody obvious they were sockpuppets or astroturfers, you’d have thought by now the people organising this sort of thing would’ve learnt how to make it harder to spot.

The McCain campaign almost managed it, but Lembit’s supporters (that are posting here) don’t seem up to it.

Ah well.

Also went to Sheffield Saturday, and agree with Simon–Chandila gets my 2nd pref for sure now, Lembit was very very strong on the ‘business as usual, there are no problems to solve’ platform, stressing his length of time on FE. I genuinely think he isn’t aware of any actual problems within the party structure. At least Chandila is asking the right questions, even if I’m not as keen on his solutions.

Go Ros.

by MatGB on November 3, 2008 at 9:07 am. Reply #

Mark: it’s a fair point about keeping different roles separate. Moderation was done with LDV hat.

by Mark Pack on November 3, 2008 at 10:18 am. Reply #

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