Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
29 June 2010

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.

By George Eaton

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.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A weekly dig into the New Statesman’s archive of over 100 years of stellar and influential journalism, sent each Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy

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.

Special subscription offer: Get 12 issues for £12 plus a free copy of Andy Beckett’s “When the Lights Went Out”.