1 December 2010

Lembit's I'm a celebrity reality check

Lembit Opik wants to be the Lib Dem candidate for London Mayor (among other things no doubt).  His campaign technique so far has been to appear on any available tv show and be pictured in any available tabloid newspaper with whichever young lady is foolish enough to let him smooch her.  Needless to say the cause of Liberal Democracy doesn't appear to have been advanced by any of these antics.

Lembit justified his 'I'm a celebrity...' appearance writing the following on Lib Dem Voice:
"But the best campaigning narrative in the world is pointless unless people are actually interested in it, and have some association with the people putting it forward. Being worthy is not empowering to the public if you’re anonymous and can’t generate the coverage to get the message across.

For this reason, I’ve decided to appear on the reality television show “I’m a Celebrity – Get Me Out Of Here!” It’s a great opportunity to get direct to the viewing public...My appearance on the programme will generate varied views – and that’s the point: it WILL generate views, which is crucial to prevent us from becoming invisible in the Mayoral campaign."
First week, Lembit won immunity from eviction so couldn't be voted out.  But as soon as he was eligible for eviction the public uncermoniously dumped him from the show.  His performance certainly generated views - but not the ones he was probably expecting (although exactly the ones everyone else was).  It's now surely time for him to recognise what everyone else does - as a politician he's a busted flush and it's invisibility that the public wants from him.  The people are not interested in him or his narrative.


  1. Let's give him his due. Lembit is right to identify that there are several politicians who have genuine public sympathy and popularity beyond their parties. The best cross-party examples would be Ken Clarke (for being principled and "close to normal" within the Tories, no mean feat during the last 20 years); Boris Johnson (yes, a bumbling oaf, but popular nonetheless); Ken Livingstone (for having independent thought and the balls to speak up); Clare Short (for something similar); Charles Kennedy (for being normal and witty at the same time); and Vince Cable (for being able to make sense out of confusion). Betty Boothroyd is consistently the most popular recent politician, but as a Speaker she was a special case.

    Now for the bad news: Lembit is almost as far from these six/seven as it is possible to imagine. He tries hard, bless him, but popularity is not to be found by going out of your way to seek it, by seeking fame through OK! magazine, or by making asteroids your defining political issue. The six or seven above are popular because they still have great credibility on political issues. Credibility is not to be found if most people think you're tantamount to a f***ing clown, which is where Mr Opik resides in the public sentiments, to the extent that they give him any attention at all. This is so much so the case that his perception is now irrecoverable (unlike, for example, Michael Portillo, who has done much to rejuvenate his reputation after being the poster boy for Tory problems in the 1990s).

  2. Apart from the first five words you're right. Those politicians who appeal across party lines do so because they are serious grown up people who deal with tough issues in an engaging and non-patronising way (and I'll even give you Ken Livingstone on that).

    Lembit as you rightly point out does none of that and I'm not convinced he has the self awareness to recognise the difference between having a platform to do something with and simply having a platform.

    I once met his (now ex) head of parliamentary office at a wedding. From what he said it was clear Lembit was going to be an ex-MP as soon as the voters got the chance to have their say. It is simply preposterous for him to continue a political career and his small band of supporters need to start telling him some home truths, rather than fawning to his over weening ego.