My colleagues at “Liberator” magazine didn’t print this letter originally written 24 October 2007 so I reproduce here. For background and explanation of references you should look at the magazine website:

Date:* Wed, 24 Oct 2007 10:58 +0100 (BST)


Obviously as a member of the “Liberator” collective I find myself usually agreeing with the “editorial line” taken by the magazine. ‘Commentary’ for example almost without exception accurately reflects my interpretation of our Liberal beliefs related to different current (and often longstanding) political situations. Apart from websites of various accuracy ‘RB’ is the only source of information about what is actually going on inside the party that isn’t vetted by official channels and has information from a variety of accurate sources. There is one part of the “Liberator” line though that I disagree with.

In recent times the magazine has an unfailing line of attacking our Montgomery MP Lembit Opik. I hear from conference that this line is also common among some younger or more careerist representatives – the latter not a group that “Liberator” normally sides with. I find this hard to understand as it ignores Lembit’s track record in working on behalf of the Liberal Democrats. He may have made the mistake of backing Mark Oaten but he isn’t a Mark Oaten – an utter embarrassment to the Party. Lembit has years of track record working on behalf of the Party, much more than many of our newer Johnny come lately MPs. Perhaps some conference goers don’t remember that Lembit did the rounds of training for the Party up and down the country when he was a leading European executive with Procter and Gamble. Or that he unfailingly always supported the youth and student wing of the party, at times when doing that wasn’t necessarily in tune with leading figures behind the Party Leadership. Lembit worked on training at a time when outside ALDC it wasn’t common, he was there as an activist at by-elections like Christchurch, he opposed the switch to Graduate Tax when that was the line the hierarchy wanted. Most significantly as an MP he has always unfailingly encouraged new activists, especially among his staff, which many MPs and MEPs don’t do. Several leading female Liberal Democrats originally worked for and received encouragement from Lembit.

I do wish however that Lembit would do some more serious political work again. Yes Lembit does appear often on Radio 4 where he is a respected speaker (or even poet). That is an important audience for us but it isn’t where the ordinary electorate is at. Like Charles he is popular on the quiz shows, and there is a serious point to his work on protection against asteroids. The Montgomery MP does need to remember though that the point of getting the publicity is to put across the principles of the party and more serious speeches would help in doing that. I concede one point – I think myself and Richard Clein recent of the Glee Club are the only members to approve of his harmonica playing.

Kiron Reid