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  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.

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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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