Lembit Öpik for mayor of London? Bad idea.

It would be a terrible blunder for the Lib Dems to put forward their own joker against Boris.

Lembit Öpik for mayor of London? Why would one of the world's greatest cities elect a comic buffoon as mayor? Still, he at least passes the first test for any aspirant to the post: are you, like Ken and Boris, identifiable by your first name?

Here's what Öpik himself had to say:

I'm potentially standing for mayor of London because one or two fairly senior MPs from London suggested it. I'm not narcissistic about it. If London wants it and if the Lib Dems want it, then I'll stand. Boris Johnson has proved that this city is mature enough to recognise the difference between character and policy.

I don't doubt Öpik's sincerity, but he would be a terrible candidate for the party to select. For a start, he managed to turn a Lib Dem majority of 7,173 into a Tory one of 1,184 at the election, a none-too-subtle suggestion that his idiosyncrasies may lack electoral appeal.

And then consider that one of the best arguments against Boris is precisely that he is all style and little substance. Select Öpik as your candidate and this line becomes redundant.

At a time when the Lib Dems need to do everything they can to distinguish themselves from the Tories, putting forward their own comedic candidate would be a huge blunder. After Brian Paddick's poor performance in 2008, Nick Clegg can't afford another dud candidate.

In the meantime, Öpik should stick to the stand-up circuit.

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Michael Gove definitely didn't betray anyone, says Michael Gove

What's a disagreement among friends?

Michael Gove is certainly not a traitor and he thinks Theresa May is absolutely the best leader of the Conservative party.

That's according to the cast out Brexiteer, who told the BBC's World At One life on the back benches has given him the opportunity to reflect on his mistakes. 

He described Boris Johnson, his one-time Leave ally before he decided to run against him for leader, as "phenomenally talented". 

Asked whether he had betrayed Johnson with his surprise leadership bid, Gove protested: "I wouldn't say I stabbed him in the back."

Instead, "while I intially thought Boris was the right person to be Prime Minister", he later came to the conclusion "he wasn't the right person to be Prime Minister at that point".

As for campaigning against the then-PM David Cameron, he declared: "I absolutely reject the idea of betrayal." Instead, it was a "disagreement" among friends: "Disagreement among friends is always painful."

Gove, who up to July had been a government minister since 2010, also found time to praise the person in charge of hiring government ministers, Theresa May. 

He said: "With the benefit of hindsight and the opportunity to spend some time on the backbenches reflecting on some of the mistakes I've made and some of the judgements I've made, I actually think that Theresa is the right leader at the right time. 

"I think that someone who took the position she did during the referendum is very well placed both to unite the party and lead these negotiations effectively."

Gove, who told The Times he was shocked when Cameron resigned after the Brexit vote, had backed Johnson for leader.

However, at the last minute he announced his candidacy, and caused an infuriated Johnson to pull his own campaign. Gove received just 14 per cent of the vote in the final contest, compared to 60.5 per cent for May. 


Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.