Wednesday, October 15, 2008

20 Questions to a Presidential Candidate - Lembit Opik

Having already posted Ros Scott's answers, here are Lembit's. I have made it clear, despite the siren calls of his detractors, that I am supporting Lembit. I think he has an extraordinary ability not only to connect with our membership but with the wider electorate. If we are to achieve Nick's stated aim of doubling our number of MPs we can't do that without both increasing the membership and engaging with the electorate..

1. What motivated you to get involved in politics and does that still motivate you now?
My family's whole life has been changed by international politics, and members of it have died as a result of it. This, coupled with my childhood in Northern Ireland means I was surrounded by political issues from a very young age. I continue to believe that politics done badly destroys lives, but politics done well can redeem civilisations. These grand ideas inform my political life; accepting that much of it is at a very local level, I nevertheless believe that our local collective efforts can make a national, and even international difference.

2. Which political figure, living or dead, do you most admire and why?
I admire principles, achievements and values rather than people. If I had to choose one person it would be my acquaintance Benazir Bhutto, whom I had the honour to know before her tragic assassination. She summarised all that's best in an honourable life and an honourable approach to politics. Her patience when being tested to the extreme, her courage, her persistence and her warmth were exceptional. I admire her and miss her.

3. If you could introduce a new party policy, what would it be?
The president is not responsible for developing party policy. As such, it would NOT be my intention to introduce or medal with party policy as Pres, because this cuts across the work of others, including the leader. In the spirit of completeness, I'd take a more generous approach to student funding if I were into policy development, but I stress this is NOT how I'd approach the role.

4. If there was a party policy you could overturn, what would it be? Again this is NOT the President's role. Personally, I've not liked our position on fox hunting because it strikes me as illiberal, but I cannot overemphasise that the President really shouldn't be meddling in policy development, and I would not do that.

5. Have you done the “political compass” exercise and if so where do you sit?
I think I remember doing it! However, I'm left wing and libertarian. This is confirmed by the fact that an independent organisation in September 2008 identified me as the most liberal MP in the Liberal Democrats. I’ve pretty consistently been identified as such fro most of my political life.

6. What will you bring to the position of President?
Experience to organise the Party; I've been on the Federal Executive which the President chairs for 17 years, as well as most other committees in the Lib Dems. Also, I've been the senior vice president fro 5 years, which is the number 2 position to the current President Simon Hughes. Nobody has more experience as me for this role. I also bring inspiration, because I seem to be able to build people up to a high level of energy by visiting and working with the local activist party nationwide. I can motivate people to turn that energy into specific action and achieve membership growth and win votes. And I’m determined - with the staying power to see things through. Organisation, inspiration, motivation, determination - these are the qualities I offer.

7. What will be your priorities if elected?
1. Ensure that the party projects its message clearly
2. Make the Party structures ready for Government
3. Support our Leader and never compete with his role
4. Achieve positive membership growth by 2010
5. Be the voice of the membership - a voice the Party HQ can't ignore

8. What is your view on the marketisation of public services?
I'm opposed to it. I don't object to using the free market to an extent, but public service provision must remain under the governance of the State.

9. What is your view on our policy on Trident?
A waste of money, and a status symbol rather than a relevant deterrent. We can use the money in other, less escalatory, ways.

10. If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing in this country, what would it be?
A zero carbon Britain - meaning zero carbon industry and transport and the creation of enough zero carbon housing - including retrofitting old housing - to accommodate everyone with no carbon footprint.

11. If elected how will you advance the cause of Libdemmery?
See 6 above. I'll be the "chief engineer" and "morale officer" to make our Party sufficiently robust to make it to and in Government. This Party will be professional and present its policy proposition in Primary Colours not pastel shades. People will know what we stand for, and our image will be a refreshing alternative to the two old parties.

12. As a party, despite our values, we still seem to find it impossible to reflect the diversity of the country we seek to represent, how will you redress this?
I already work to bring women and ethnic minorities into the political mainstream. People forget my ethnic background, but I know what racism feels like from the inside. There’s no magic solution, it just takes time and effort and mentoring and determination. I've proved I can do all this fro diversity before and can do even more as President.

13. There has been a lot of debate, in the blogosphere and elsewhere, about our narrative. What should it be?!
Our political narrative is obviously liberal, and to an extent left wing - i.e. redistributive with a protection from the state regarding the economy. That’s not the problem. We' could be more sparkly at portraying it. This is what I mean by replacing pastels with primary colours. It's presentational and attitudinal. We need to shine brightly instead of glowing quietly. That's something a strong president can help address.

14. What do you consider the most pressing issue facing the world?The environment above all else. Not everyone can see that yet, but if we wait till it's manifestly and blatantly the biggest issue, it will be too late.

15. With a resurgent Tory Party, how would you ensure that as a third party, our voice was heard?
See above. In essence, let's find the courage and if my answers sound repetitive its' simply because I think a small number of core issues hold us back. Fix our clarity, boldness and energy levels and the rest follows.

16. If elected, what do you most look forward to about the role?Turning us into an evidently professional, responsive and characterful party which people not necessarily all that interested in politics - i.e. the majority! - warm to.

17. As someone more on the “left” of the party, why should I vote for you?
Because I am too, but that's not the point. the president's political angle is much less important than the President's ability to connect with members and provide a strong voice fro that membership to the leadership. That way, the Leader knows what the party thinks and can more effectively formulate the best political agendas for our journey towards government.

18. If you were stranded on a desert island, which politician – from another party – would you be happy to be stranded with and why?
It would have to be Nigel Evans AND Stephen Pound. The three of us do a lot of non-political charity work together, and I think we'd make it through till help arrives.

19. If you were stranded on a desert island, which politician – from our party – would you be happy to be stranded with and why?!
Tim Farron AND Greg Mulholland. We have a close bond and we'd probably work well enough together to rescue ourselves!

20. If elected President what will you do to help elect a second MEP in the East of England? (Or anywhere else actually!!!)
I'd be with you campaigning, and with you building the national image of the Party. we need both to win and I can deliver both.


Andrew said...

"4. Achieve positive membership growth by 20105."

Now come on, surely it won't take that long!

Linda Jack said...


My mistake!!!! Will sort out right now.........

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