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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Benn vs McDonnell: how Brexit has exposed the fight over Labour's party machine

In the wake of Brexit, should Labour MPs listen more closely to voters, or their own party members?

Two Labour MPs on primetime TV. Two prominent politicians ruling themselves out of a Labour leadership contest. But that was as far as the similarity went.

Hilary Benn was speaking hours after he resigned - or was sacked - from the Shadow Cabinet. He described Jeremy Corbyn as a "good and decent man" but not a leader.

Framing his overnight removal as a matter of conscience, Benn told the BBC's Andrew Marr: "I no longer have confidence in him [Corbyn] and I think the right thing to do would be for him to take that decision."

In Benn's view, diehard leftie pin ups do not go down well in the real world, or on the ballot papers of middle England. 

But while Benn may be drawing on a New Labour truism, this in turn rests on the assumption that voters matter more than the party members when it comes to winning elections.

That assumption was contested moments later by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell.

Dismissive of the personal appeal of Shadow Cabinet ministers - "we can replace them" - McDonnell's message was that Labour under Corbyn had rejuvenated its electoral machine.

Pointing to success in by-elections and the London mayoral election, McDonnell warned would-be rebels: "Who is sovereign in our party? The people who are soverign are the party members. 

"I'm saying respect the party members. And in that way we can hold together and win the next election."

Indeed, nearly a year on from Corbyn's surprise election to the Labour leadership, it is worth remembering he captured nearly 60% of the 400,000 votes cast. Momentum, the grassroots organisation formed in the wake of his success, now has more than 50 branches around the country.

Come the next election, it will be these grassroots members who will knock on doors, hand out leaflets and perhaps even threaten to deselect MPs.

The question for wavering Labour MPs will be whether what they trust more - their own connection with voters, or this potentially unbiddable party machine.