What next for Lembit?

by Stephen Tall on November 8, 2008

That’s the question after Ros Scott’s landslide victory in the race to become party president. Lembit is, without doubt, one of the party’s stars: he has charisma, a sense of humour, a strong liberal streak, and is a terrific speaker.

And yet somehow all that talent, all that energy, seems to be channelled in an unfocused campaign to become … well, who knows what? Lembit resigned from the Lib Dem shadow cabinet to stand as President, and so, for the moment at least, he has no official role within the party. He said it was the role he had always coveted. Yet, despite Ros firing the starting gun well over a year ago, Lembit did not launch his campaign until six weeks ago. Was his heart really in it this time?

It’s a real shame that someone who has so much to contribute to the party, with a clear ideology and terrific communication skills, should have become tarred with the brush of being ‘a bit of a joker’. It’s a personal shame for him, and a real shame for the party. Now’s the time, I hope, for Lembit to take stock, and to work out how he can reclaim the respect within the party and the wider public which his abilities well merit.

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Now would also be a useful time for a certain section of our party to stop the constant character assassinations against one of our own most useful public assets.

by Mark Wright on November 8, 2008 at 5:17 pm. Reply #

I agree Stephen, I have just written on my blog that I feel he should show humility and learn from this result because it would be tragic if he was lost to politics altogether…

The main thing he has to learn is that he only has himself to blame for his reputation sadly…

by Darrell on November 8, 2008 at 5:18 pm. Reply #

I wonder how much longer Lembit will be with us, before he does a ‘Portillo’?

Mind you, this afternoon’s poll shows membership has now shrunk to 60,000, so he wouldn’t be alone…

It would have been nice to have elected a President who could have done something about it.

by Martin Land on November 8, 2008 at 6:00 pm. Reply #

Well, many have been bigging up Ros’s prospects as president, so now is the time for her to deliver and show she was worth that resounding victory…

by Mark Wright on November 8, 2008 at 6:05 pm. Reply #

I don’t think there has been much in the way of character assassination aimed at Lembit. What he has had, in spades, is a lot of justified criticism, which he has shrugged off as ‘a conspiracy of mediocrity’ and evidence of ‘cowardice.’. It isn’t surprising that so many lost their temper with him; it was as if he felt he was somehow above scrutiny, which was bemusing.

by James Graham on November 8, 2008 at 6:33 pm. Reply #

Martin Land:
“Mind you, this afternoon’s poll shows membership has now shrunk to 60,000, so he wouldn’t be alone…”

Indeed, and that amounts to a loss of about 400 members a month, on average, since the election of Nick Clegg. (Compared with the loss of about 350 a month under Ming Campbell.)

By my reckoning if that continues the party will be losing 1 member in 12 every year.

by Clegg's Candid Friend on November 8, 2008 at 7:43 pm. Reply #

As for Lembit’s next move, I suspect a period on the backbenches will do him a power of good.

We delude ourselves into thinking that being a backbencher is somehow a bad thing. It’s a fantastic opportunity to explore your own interests without having to worry about a portfolio. Look at the good work people like John Hemming, Jo Swinson and Norman Baker have done with the role – putting issues on the agenda which would otherwise be forgotten. It is clear that this is one of Lembit’s talents.

Finally, if this Leadership Academy is to ever get off the ground, Lembit will no doubt have a positive role to play in making it happen. His supporters rightly say he is one of the best trainers we have and before he became an MP, this is exactly the sort of thing he used to do for a living.

by James Graham on November 8, 2008 at 7:51 pm. Reply #

I am one of those who has not renewed my membership.

Those claiming Lembit’s an asset should face the facts – he’s not fit for public office, he’s just a self-centred show-off, an embarrassment.

by Julian Fountain on November 8, 2008 at 7:51 pm. Reply #

Julian – given that Lembit has just lost the election, why are you leaving?

by James Graham on November 8, 2008 at 7:53 pm. Reply #

The BBC website tonight sums up this issue nicely:

“The former housing spokesman is one of the best known Liberal Democrats for relationships with weather presenter Sian Lloyd and Cheeky Girls singer Gabriela Irimia.”

As Julian’s post suggests, this is still hurting us, even though just for once, the Party did something really sensible today.

We should find something useful for Lembit to do that involves a reasonable amount of responsibility, but no publicity whatsoever!

by David Allen on November 8, 2008 at 8:09 pm. Reply #

I think that Lembit should concentrate on holding his seat. I know it is meant to be safe, but I really wonder whether the publicity he gets goes down well in his constituency.
He needs to keep his private life private, and this is probably more difficult given the reputation he now has.
Politically he needs to make a name for himself on particular issues, just as Norman Baker has. We need to see that he is a serious politician and not just a celebrity. He did a good job at the last Federal conference by speaking at lots of fringe meetings on housing, and he needs to keep on doing that kind of thing.
I find him politically incoherent. In the 2006 leadership election, he switched his support from Mark Oaten to Simon Hughes, and must have been the only person to do so.
Having said all that, I did notice that his campaign videos were good and he does have a lot to offer to the party. I hope he will continue to do that.

by Geoffrey Payne on November 8, 2008 at 8:34 pm. Reply #

James, I didn’t decide to leave just over Lembit. I have known he’s a knob for years – he won’t remember me but I met him in a bar years ago when he was letting his hair down and he did not impress.

I left because I have given up trying to get the local Lib Dems in Walthamstow to have some minimum standards for what party members and the public can expect of their councillors, for instance, how many times a year should they turn up for their surgeries, how often should they actively go round door to door, how much leaflet delivery should they personally take part in, etc.

This matter was discussed by the local party but the councilors who are in charge of everything declined to set such standards. (Its really just a clique because the party has lots of money and they don’t want do more than pay lip service to calls to widen the membership)

This is a pity, as there is a councillor in my ward who would not pull his weight in the ward when I was trying to get the delivery system working and enthuse people into becoming active new members. He would promise the earth but never deliver – and failed to campaign in the Mayoral elections despite the local party having decided to use it as a dry run for a general election. It turns out he thinks councillors should not deliver things through doors as it is beneath them. He’d rather pay people to do this. He has also rarely attended advertised surgeries, asking others to cover for him. He prefers to play communal politics instead.

Our local councillors get paid ten thousand a year for the work they do. I think the whole electorate should be able to expect them to put in hard work, or at least fulfill a minimum, but it seems the local party does not want this. I won’t campaign for the party until these attitudes and people change.

by Julian Fountain on November 9, 2008 at 1:26 am. Reply #

As a public and vocal Ros supporter. I was at the count today for Ros. I think Lembit’s speech was magnanimous, uniting, and hit every issue on the head.
I think he was wrong to run for President, but he is a strong Liberal Democrat, a great MP, and has declared he is on the inside of Team Ros.
This was an internal election about nuances of direction, not a battle between opposing ideals.
Of the 20,000+ Ros voters, a huge number voted for Lembit as their second preference. This was an election about who heads up our internal structures, not between rival ideals.

by Duncan Borrowman on November 9, 2008 at 2:17 am. Reply #

I forgot an alternative answer to the question posed in the heading is that next week’s local paper in his constituency will have ‘Lib Dem website says “What next for Lembit?” as headline.
When I print a leaflet several people will spend time considering it, shame we don’t do the same with instant web based communication and put our brains in gear.

by Duncan Borrowman on November 9, 2008 at 2:31 am. Reply #

I agree with James and others.

What next for Lembit?

Er…he’s paid £61,820 a year to work as member of parliament for Montgomeryshire.

That’s over twice the average national wage.

Would it be revolutionary to suggest that he just does the job he is paid to do?

by Paul Walter on November 9, 2008 at 10:59 am. Reply #

No other membership-wide election in this party’s or its predecessors’ history has resulted in a candidate with a high public profile losing to an unknown.

In this thread and elswhere a lot of unjustified bile has been poured over Lembit. Yes, he has made mistakes, and yes, he does cross the line now and again. But his private life has done this party a hell of a lot LESS harm that those of Jeremy Thorpe, Peter Bessell, and one or two others I won’t mention. Has Lembit chucked a lover about of bed because they are not posh enough? Has Lembit paid businessmen to do something unspecified to someone on Exmoor? Or are those stupid questions?

Perspective, folks, please.

by Sesenco on November 9, 2008 at 1:17 pm. Reply #

Lembit is a good public speaker and debater who can really make an impact when he has a focussed brief – I want to see rather more of his contributions to public life than any more exposees of his private life.

by Oranjepan on November 9, 2008 at 1:35 pm. Reply #

In the event of a reshuffle, Lembit could do well in the Higher and Further Education brief (no offence to Stephen Williams intended).

He’s got experience of the professional/adult training sector, a neglected area of the portfolio, he is a former University of Bristol Union president and member of the NUS national executive, and also, as with Boris Johnson did in the role for the Tories, Lembit does play well with students and young people.

by James Shaddock on November 9, 2008 at 1:52 pm. Reply #

Lembit is an incredible campaigner and motivator and knows pretty much all there is to know about getting Liberal Democracy out into people’s homes.

I would suggest he do two things.

1 – Get straight on the phone to the many SAOs and AOs like Liberal Youth, Delga, EMLDs et al and offer his skills in training and publicity to help the party get its message out there to these groups.

2 – Go back to Montgomeryshire and use his talents to not only make sure he holds his seat but that neighbouring local parties like Ceredigion, Wrexham, Ludlow and those slightly further afield that could really gain from his help, get it.

by Benjamin on November 11, 2008 at 12:06 pm. Reply #

“I have known he’s a knob for years – he won’t remember me but I met him in a bar years ago when he was letting his hair down and he did not impress.”

Actually he could well remember you. One of Lembit’s strengths, which he shares with a lot of successful politicians including, famously, Bill Clinton, is an incredible memory for names and faces. I’ve met Lembit once, in passing, at conference years ago, and have passed him a few times since then when he has always greeted me by name. A very useful skill!

by Perennially Bored on November 11, 2008 at 12:49 pm. Reply #

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