Update on the latest twists and turns in the contest to become the Lib Dem candidate for Mayor of London

by Stephen Tall on July 23, 2011

It’s been a fascinating — and characteristicaly bizarre — last 48 hours in the contest to become the Lib Dems’ London mayoral candidate.

There was the first hustings, reported here on LDV by Simon McGrath, which attracted comments from Brian Paddick, and some robust thoughts from Lembit Opik’s campaign manager Ed Joyce.

Further controversy was sparked by Peter Black’s blog-post yesterday, Lembit Öpik and the rewriting of history, highlighting a paragraph in Lembit’s manifesto which attributes his defeat in Montgomeryshire ‘to the incident in which Mick Bates drunkenly assaulted a paramedic in January 2010, which became public two months later.’ Peter concluded his post:

There were a number of reasons why Lembit lost his Parliamentary seat. Chief amongst them was his self-obsessive and flamboyant behaviour and his loss of perspective. His response to the expenses scandal was considered inappropriate and insensitive and then there was this, a free six-day cruise around the Canary Islands, worth around £3,000, in exchange for giving two lectures to the 2,000-odd passengers at a time when Parliament was sitting. That issue was raised a number of times during hustings and in my view was the final straw for some people. It is possible that the Mick Bates issue influenced some people but it does not account for the eradication of a 7,000 majority. The loss of Montgomeryshire was down to Lembit alone. It is time he took responsibility for it.

The public row came to the notice of the Welsh press, with Lembit attacking Peter: “It’s a pity people like Peter are more interested in confirming their own prejudices than looking at the facts… It’s very, very hard to respect this kind of mean-spirited and uninformed analysis.” But, later, Lembit:

… disowned the manifesto paragraph which he says he had not approved. He said: “Having seen what Peter has seen I think he’s justifiably angry. He’d be right to take a dim view of it if I approved that phrase and I haven’t… I’d like to apologise to Mick. I personally apologise to Mick because this is unacceptable.” Mr Opik said Mr Bates was “close to being a brother to me” and added: “From now on I won’t allow anything to be published without me signing it off in writing.”

This isn’t the first time Lembit’s campaign for an internal post has got him into trouble — when seeking the party presidency in 2008 he issued an ill-judged press release attacking elements of the party for conducting ‘conspiracies’ and ‘whispering campaigns’.

The timetable for the party’s London mayoral contest is here. There are four candidates standing: