Opik shrugs off defection rumours

Opik is still planning to run for London Mayor.
Opik is still planning to run for London Mayor.

By Ian Dunt

The seemingly endless rumours of Liberal Democrat defections to Labour have been dealt another blow after Lembit Opik confirmed he was staying with his party.

The former Welsh MP - one of the most high-profile casualties of the general election - shrugged off a Daily Express report about his future.

The rebuttal came just days after former leader Charlie Kennedy confirmed he was staying with the party.

Some commentators have begun to question whether the parade of defection stories is a dirty tricks action by Labour figures, but the degree of discomfort with the deficit reduction plan among Lib Dem MPs is palpable in Westminster and certain figures are likely to contemplate their future depending on the results of the autumn spending review.

"Much as I love my friends in the Labour party, I'm not planning to move in with them politically," Mr Opik said.

"It's worth pointing out that I'm planning to be the Lib Dem candidate for mayor of London and that would be rather difficult if I was a Labour member.

"There seems to be a case of 'defectitis' in the media but happily myself and Charles Kennedy appear to be immune to this ridiculous obsession.

"I'm happy with my leadership and with my party. After all it would be a shame to leave the Lib Dems now they are in charge for the first time in 100 years and that really would be a defective strategy rather than a defecting one."

Liberal Democrat members and MPs are now looking ahead to the party's autumn conference next month, in which Nick Clegg will defend his decision to join a coalition with the Conservatives.


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