He might not have the official backing of the Lib Dems but he has decided not to wait. Lempit Opik will today start knocking on doors in Southwick as he gets his candidacy under way. The former MP for Montgomeryshire will not receive any party funding for his campaign unless he gets selected as the Lib Dem candidate and a decision for that isn’t expected until the late summer/early autumn.
Of course we have seen an independent win this position in the past as Ken Livingstone swept to victory over the Conservative candidate Steven Norris. The official Labour candidate Frank Dobson came third in first preference votes but actually came fourth overall if you take into account the second preference votes for the Lib Dem candidate Susan Kramer. This was a pretty bad moment for Labour as their vote was clearly split and had Red Ken not won then it would not have been a pretty site.
However I doubt that any potential split in the Lib Dem vote will have any difference here. The 2012 Mayor of London Election is a two-horse race and no-one else is getting a sniff of victory. This is a straight Ken Livingstone v Boris Johnson battle and all the other candidates are in the race to boost their profile and battle to protect their £10,000 deposit, which in all honesty if Opik runs as an independent he will lose.
Speaking yesterday Opik said, “My economic interest is to promote small firms. I also want to give London back to the public with a referendum on whether people are willing to pay more for a 24-hour Tube.” A 24-hour tube is something that will attract interest but enough interest to give him a hope? Quite simply no.
This is a pure ego trip from a man with a rather interesting private life who without a doubt enjoys the limelight. Running will keep him in the public eye and will help keep him in after-dinner speaking engagements. Whether or not he can ever make it into the House of Commons as an MP again is certainly up for debate but I don’t see the Lib Dem parachuting him into anywhere cosy so the odds are long.
So be prepared for lots of Lempit Opik on your TV for the next year or so as the campaign heats up but don’t expect Opik’s plan for London to ever come to fruition.
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