Lembit would have my vote

Update at 23.30pm “Lembit Opik stands down for Liberal Democrat presidential bid.” So the bastards won.

The Liberal Democrat leadership are said to be moving heaven and earth to stop Bangor -born Lembit Opik from capturing the party presidency. Lembit has attracted more labels than any politician I know. The Cheeky tendency for his relationship with Cheeky Girl (“Touch My Bum) Gabriella , the Curse of Lembit for backing leadership candidates who fail – like Mark Oaten for his gay romp and then Chris Huhne; and Asteroid Man, a title explained by rottweiler profiler Lynn Barber:

“He is 43 going on 14. He confides, unnecessarily, that he is ‘a bit of an anorak’. He owns 15 harmonicas. His big hobby is flying – he has a private pilot’s licence – and he courted his Cheeky Girl fiancée by taking her to the Science Museum on their first date. He famously believes that the Earth will be hit by an asteroid soon.

“Opik got the asteroid bug from his grandfather, a famous Estonian astronomer who fled to Northern Ireland at the end of the Second World War and worked at Armagh Observatory. His son, Uno Opik, Lembit’s father, became a research physicist at Queen’s University, Belfast. Born in Bangor, Lembit was raised in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and spoke only Estonian until he went to school”

But Lembit is far more than a figure of fun. He won respect as a decent and passionate NI spokesman, bringing personal knowledge to the job. Affection for him runs deep in the Commons. I watched and later joined in, as speaker after speaker commiserated with him on the sudden death of his brother three years ago. How many MPs are shown such affection? But the Cheeky Girl image no longer suits, it seems. As the election draws nearer, the Lib Dems are polishing a graver image. What is it about the Lib Dems and sex? Lembit was upfront about his girl friends, Mark Oaten, a likely leadership candidate was caught with a gay prostitute. And what about the shiny new leader himself, with his thirty lovers? Lembit is a modest guy by comparison. Too much personality or too little, what is a politician to do?

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London