A Cheeky Interview: Lembit Opik
Britain’s cheekiest politician and Lola Lo fan LEMBIT OPIK spoke to BEN REDWOOD before heading out on the town.
Lembit Opik, former Lib Dem MP, ex-partner of half of The Cheeky Girls and star of I’m A Celeb stormed the Cambridge Union on Thursday night, leading both the opposition to victory and the crowd to fits of laughter. Then he carried on the party with a late night jaunt to Lola Lo.
We grilled him on his take on Nick Clegg, the highlight of his career, and the ultimate test of his wrestling ambitions.
I think George Osbourne hasn’t been a great chancellor, as the promises he made were undeliverable. We need to continue the cuts agenda because we haven’t got a pot to spend. They should reduce paperwork, ease down on health and safety, make it harder for good employers to be sued by opportunistic ambulance chasers – then just sit tight.
What’s your opinion on Nick Clegg’s recent apology for the rise in tuition fees?
Nick apologised for the wrong thing. He apologised for the pledge, but he should have apologised for breaking it. It’s hardly surprising people made fun of him because it was open to ridicule. But, by and large, if people hear an honest apology they’ll accept it. I’ve done it!
So would you take him out for a beer?
I’d love to, because I’ve got things to say to him. Such as… ‘Stop being leader’. You can be deputy PM mate, but you can’t lead the Liberal Democrats too. Frankly, Mother Teresa couldn’t. I’ve got nothing against Nick, you know – at a personal level he’s a nice enough guy. But he needs to give up one, or lose both.
If I’m correct, this is the main subject of your recent book, The Alternate View. Would you like to use this opportunity to shamelessly plug it?
Absolutely. The book predicts that Clegg can’t expect to be party leader in 2015; it suggests someone more left leaning, and more in tune with the grass roots of the party, should try and rebuild it. That the European election results will be catastrophic for the Lib Dems – and that all the while he holds on, they’re sinking fast. Available for £14.99 on Amazon and Kindle.
You’ve been a politician but you’ve also gained a degree of celebrity status. What’s it been like to balance these two sides of your career?
It’s been easy to balance because I never deliberately became a celebrity. The press have created that reputation for me, so it has always been out of my control. Maybe my naivete was that I allowed this to happen when I was younger – but then did I really want to spend years in a court chasing press accusations? I’m not an angry person. Journalists that have besmirched me have to live with their own consciences.
What was the highlight of your career?
The funniest moment was probably being starstruck by the Queen. I panicked and ended up saying ‘I’m just a massive supporter of… you’, which even she cringed at. But the greatest moment was a meeting in Downing Street, trying to raise money for the MND association – the disease that killed my father. There was a moment at the end where Gordon Brown said, ‘I’m not going to give you 7.5 million pounds.’ After a pause he said, ‘But if you can raise 7.5 million pounds yourselves, I’ll match you on that. I’ll give you the other half.’ And the chief executive burst into tears. I walked out of there and thought, ‘I’ve done that.’ And that was important. It meant something.
Without wanting to completely change the tone – TOWIE or Made In Chelsea?
TOWIE – because I know more of the… let’s call them ‘actors’.
One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich – 120 pages of hope in the darkest situation.
Cambridge or Oxford?
Cambridge for debates… because the parties here are better afterwards!
If you could win the WWE world championship, but to do so you had to kill Nick Clegg in a one on one death match, would you spare his life or take the title?
I would spare his life… [I see the championship belt flicker across his eyes] I would spare it, and instead take the glory of being able to say, “If doing what is right, to rehabilitate one man, is the crime – then world, I am guilty!”
Finally – if you were to “Touch my bum”, and I were to ask, “Is it nice?”, how would you answer?
Judging by what I can see… I’ve had much nicer!
Lembit Opik – a very cheeky man indeed.