Does Lembit have the 'Mayor factor'?

The cheeky Lib Dem milks speculation of a London mayoral bid for all its worth

With Parliament now in recess and Middle England migrating to France for August, traditional media enters the silly season as news editors look to fill column inches. This period of wild rumours has found a natural home on the blogosphere.

The British blogging scene was salivating for a few hours at the possibility of a triumvirate of big political personalities clashing for the post of London Mayor with the rumour Lembit Opik had put his name in the hat.

With the thought of such a celebrity-driven election, The Daily Referendum suggested: "Maybe Simon Cowell can be signed up to run some kind of 'The Mayor Factor' competition for TV?"

In an interview on ePolitix.com, Ed Davey proclaimed: "Lembit is a good friend of mine, I share an office with him, and if he decided to run he would certainly make one of the most interesting candidates in the race. Would Lembit make a good mayor? I think that Lembit would make a much better mayor than Boris Johnson or Ken Livingstone."

This was picked up by Welsh blogger Matt Withers, who concluded: "Sounds pretty definite to me. Ken v Boris v Lembit, eh? This could get interesting..."

When Lembit finally denied he would be running, it prompted accusations of storms in tea cups. Not least from Peter Black AM: "What puzzled me was why Lembit did not kill the rumour stone dead immediately, but then he has always enjoyed the spotlight and clearly wanted to drag his denial out as long as possible."

The summer break also brings on a bout of annual blog backslapping. In the Witanagemot awards there were more categories than bloggers. Some of the more outlandish categories were "Blogger you’d most like to shag" (won by Rachel from North London) and "Blogger most likely to vote for a donkey if you slapped the correct colour rosette on it" (Iain Dale).

In fact, Dale swept the awards, including the award for most deserving of a book deal. Which is just as well seeing as he is compiling his annual top 100 list for the 2007 Guide to Political Blogging in the UK. This year he is relying on contributions from readers, which you can add to here.

Owen Walker is a journalist for a number of titles within Financial Times Business, primarily focussing on pensions. He recently graduated from Cardiff University’s newspaper journalism post-graduate course and is cursed by a passion for Crystal Palace FC.
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Let's face it: supporting Spurs is basically a form of charity

Now, for my biggest donation yet . . .

I gazed in awe at the new stadium, the future home of Spurs, wondering where my treasures will go. It is going to be one of the architectural wonders of the modern world (football stadia division), yet at the same time it seems ancient, archaic, a Roman ruin, very much like an amphitheatre I once saw in Croatia. It’s at the stage in a new construction when you can see all the bones and none of the flesh, with huge tiers soaring up into the sky. You can’t tell if it’s going or coming, a past perfect ruin or a perfect future model.

It has been so annoying at White Hart Lane this past year or so, having to walk round walkways and under awnings and dodge fences and hoardings, losing all sense of direction. Millions of pounds were being poured into what appeared to be a hole in the ground. The new stadium will replace part of one end of the present one, which was built in 1898. It has been hard not to be unaware of what’s going on, continually asking ourselves, as we take our seats: did the earth move for you?

Now, at long last, you can see what will be there, when it emerges from the scaffolding in another year. Awesome, of course. And, har, har, it will hold more people than Arsenal’s new home by 1,000 (61,000, as opposed to the puny Emirates, with only 60,000). At each home game, I am thinking about the future, wondering how my treasures will fare: will they be happy there?

No, I don’t mean Harry Kane, Danny Rose and Kyle Walker – local as well as national treasures. Not many Prem teams these days can boast quite as many English persons in their ranks. I mean my treasures, stuff wot I have been collecting these past 50 years.

About ten years ago, I went to a shareholders’ meeting at White Hart Lane when the embryonic plans for the new stadium were being announced. I stood up when questions were called for and asked the chairman, Daniel Levy, about having a museum in the new stadium. I told him that Man United had made £1m the previous year from their museum. Surely Spurs should make room for one in the brave new mega-stadium – to show off our long and proud history, delight the fans and all those interested in football history and make a few bob.

He mumbled something – fluent enough, as he did go to Cambridge – but gave nothing away, like the PM caught at Prime Minister’s Questions with an unexpected question.

But now it is going to happen. The people who are designing the museum are coming from Manchester to look at my treasures. They asked for a list but I said, “No chance.” I must have 2,000 items of Spurs memorabilia. I could be dead by the time I finish listing them. They’ll have to see them, in the flesh, and then they’ll be free to take away whatever they might consider worth having in the new museum.

I’m awfully kind that way, partly because I have always looked on supporting Spurs as a form of charity. You don’t expect any reward. Nor could you expect a great deal of pleasure, these past few decades, and certainly not the other day at Liverpool when they were shite. But you do want to help them, poor things.

I have been downsizing since my wife died, and since we sold our Loweswater house, and I’m now clearing out some of my treasures. I’ve donated a very rare Wordsworth book to Dove Cottage, five letters from Beatrix Potter to the Armitt Library in Ambleside, and handwritten Beatles lyrics to the British Library. If Beckham and I don’t get a knighthood in the next honours list, I will be spitting.

My Spurs stuff includes programmes going back to 1910, plus recent stuff like the Opus book, that monster publication, about the size of a black cab. Limited editions cost £8,000 a copy in 2007. I got mine free, as I did the introduction and loaned them photographs. I will be glad to get rid of it. It’s blocking the light in my room.

Perhaps, depending on what they want, and they might take nothing, I will ask for a small pourboire in return. Two free tickets in the new stadium. For life. Or longer . . . 

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 16 February 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The New Times