Opik touted as Lib Dem mayoral candidate

Rumours are gathering pace around Westminster that Lembit Opik, Lib Dem business spokesman, could become the party’s London mayoral candidate.

With Boris Johnson almost a certainty for the Conservative ticket, the election already features two of the largest personalities in British politics, and certainly the only two British MPs known only by their Christian names – Boris and Ken.

The Liberal Democrats are under pressure to find an individual with similar amounts of coverage in the tabloid press, and in that respect Mr Opik is an ideal candidate.

Following his cancelled engagement to weather girl Sian Lloyd, Mr Opik’s subsequent relationship with Cheeky Girl Gabriela Irimia has provoked sustained public interest and bemusement.

Mr Opik told the BBC: “It’s ever so flattering. If I was a London MP I would stand like a shot. The only issue is my constituency is 205 miles away.

“I think I might go and have a chat with the boss to see what’s going on. The momentum seems to be developing a life of its own.”

The Lib Dems are drawing up a shortlist in September with a final choice being made later in the year.

As for Mr Johnson, he now faces a selection process which includes an open primary in which any Londoner on the electoral register can vote.

Some observers are suggesting the structure of the open primary means Tory opponents are being given a clear opportunity to wreak havoc on the Conservative selection process.

Nevertheless, very few commentators doubt that Mr Johnson will gain the candidacy. What remains open to debate is whether he stands any chance against Ken Livingstone.

Following expulsion from the Labour party, Mr Livingstone stood as an independent and won the election against Frank Dobson, a fellow Labour left-winger.

Recognising Mr Livingstone’s election potential, he was quickly adopted back into the party, and retains an impressive level of support among Londoners.

Meanwhile, commentators from across the political spectrum are questioning whether gaff-prone Mr Johnson is suitable for a job which involves so much responsibility.