Interview: Lembit Opik

Liberal Democrat presidential hopeful Lembit Opik gives his views on his party’s future.

Mr Opik told politics.co.uk he believes the party has a “fear of standing out” and portraying its policies in “pastel shades”.

Travelling up in his “presidential motorhome” to talk to students to Coventry, Mr Opik is in no mood to mince his words.

He wants to take the Lib Dems’ “strong messages” and help get them across to the public more effectively than has previously been the case if he wins the contest for party presidency.

“I will be helping to portray those policies in primary colours – bold, direct measures,” he said, pledging a presidency in which he would play a key role in the party’s “marketing operation”.

Mr Opik faces a tough fight for the presidency against rivals Chandila Fernando, an activists’ favourite, and Baroness Ros Scott who has said she will concentrate on the internal aspects of the job.

Critics of Mr Opik have pointed out his focus on the external aspects of the presidency could tread on the toes of party leader Nick Clegg, but the former housing spokesperson – who stood down to concentrate on his campaign – thinks otherwise.

“A good president turns up the volume of messages decided by the leadership. I’m not the songwriter but I’m the amplifier. The leader writes the song but the president turns up the volume – to me that is clearly an external role,” he said.

It’s no surprise the ‘I pick Opik’ campaign has concentrated on Mr Opik’s familiarity with the media. Whether it is his celebrity relationships or stunts outside Westminster involving Segways, he enjoys first-name recognition among the general public.

“That profile is a great political opportunity for me to get our narrative in gear and project it out to the public,” he said. “I reach out to a whole massive community of citizens – they know who I am and I can engage them in politics.”

Mr Opik has until November 7th to convince straggling voters he is the right man to take over from Simon Hughes. The postal ballot is underway and it is difficult to tell who maintains the advantage.

“I can’t really judge the outcome,” he finishes.

“But I hope my decades of political activity, my high profile, my training work, my recruiting work, my campaigning work and my fundraising work across 18 years in the Liberal Democrats qualify me to be the president that this party wants.”

Voting continues.