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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Lembit and the Daily Sport

Lembit Őpik attracts a lot of abuse for his column in the Daily Sport and it is true, sometimes he says things which are off-the-wall, risqué, over-the-top or just plain wrong. That is what politics is all about, we cannot agree all the time, even within the same political party.

What I have noticed however, is that when he writes sensible stuff in this column or even sets out controversial views that amount to mainstream liberal orthodoxy, nobody ever comments on it. People are looking for ammunition to throw at a good constituency MP and a good Liberal in the hope of doing him down.

This is particularly true of some of his opponents in the General Election who seem prepared to abandon any pretence at liberal values themselves to comment unfavourably on Lembit's private life and his choice of partner. That is not a plea for privacy for Lembit by the way, I accept that he has forsaken that right some time ago, but it a request for some of those candidates to step back a bit and think about how they would feel if they were being publicly criticised in the same way for their choice of partner. They would feel violated and upset. I would not blame them.

This week's Daily Sport column is an example of how an MP can use a vehicle in a popularist magazine, whose readers do not normally do politics, to get across some serious and thought-provoking views. Lembit talks about Haiti and urges his readers to cut out a couple of pints this weekend and give the money to the aid appeal. He talks about Tony Blair giving evidence to the Chilcott enquiry and he also writes this:

THE UK Independence party caused a rumpus this week by calling for a total ban on women wearing burkas. They say this piece of clothing – which completely covers a Muslim lady’s face – is a sign of a “divided Britain”. No, no, no! The fact people are allowed to wear their own religious clothes shows just how tolerant and inclusive Britain is. If we use UKIP’s logic to ban burkas we’ll have to follow it up with a ban on turbans, skull-caps, crucifixes and whatever it is that Jedi Knights wear. We might as well go even further and just give everyone a string vest, rolled up trousers and a hanky for their head so that we can all look “British”. Diversity is the spice of life – it’s one of the things that makes Britain a good place to be. It might be okay to ask people to take off face coverings when they enter a bank or passport control. But you’d need to be a berk to ban the burka!

That is entirely in line with what Sarah Teather and others said on Question Time on Thursday but, more importantly, it is addressed to those who would not dream of watching that programme and who might be taken in by UKIP and the BNP rhetoric on this issue, using language that they can relate to. It is at times like these that Lembit shows the value of his column. He should do it more often.
Never thought I'd find myself agreeing with anything written in The Daily Smut but alas, Lembit continues to surprise me.

Perhaps we should go one step further and follow the lead of many of our country's secondary schools and have a standard-issue "uniform" that all UK citizens must wear?

I'll have a knitted Union Jack please.
But you’d need to be a berk to ban the burka!

Priceless! Go Lembit!
Thanks for this Peter. I'll link to Lembit's column for this week, since I did criticise him last week so, as you say, it's only fair to also draw attention to the good stuff he writes, as well as the occasionally not so good bits.
I'd like to add a footnote to Lembit's comment about banning "whatever it is that Jedi knights wear". This story is about a member of the Holyhead Jedi Church being banned from Tesco for wearing a hood, as dictated by his religion. http://www.dailypost.co.uk/news/north-wales-news/2009/09/18/jedi-to-boycott-supermarket-after-being-banned-for-wearing-a-hood-55578-24720221/
if lembit didnt parade his personal life through the media then it would be unfair for his opponents to attack him. yet lembit has used his relationships as part of a PR offensive and whine when people have a pop at him.

He must be in trouble if you are rushing to his defence peter.
"if lembit didnt parade his personal life through the media"

And I suppose the Paparazzi's fingers just slipped when taking pictures of Opik?
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