Lembit Opik quits Lib Dem shadow cabinet

Liberal Democrat MP Lembit Opik quit Nick Clegg's front bench today to concentrate on his bid to be elected party president.

His role as housing spokesman will be overseen by Julia Goldsworthy, the party's senior communities and local government spokeswoman.

Mr Opik is one of three candidates in the battle to succeed Simon Hughes, who is stepping down at the end of his term, in a vote of the party membership.

lembit opik

Resignation: Lembit Opik, seen here with ex-girlfriend Cheeky Girl Gabriella Irimia, has quit the Liberal Democrat shadow cabinet

Baroness Ros Scott and Chandila Fernando are the others in the ballot, which will close on November 7 with the result expected the following week.

Senior party figures have denied orchestrating a campaign to ensure Mr Opik, best known to the public for his celebrity romances, does not get the job.

But there has been much speculation over the last week that Mr Clegg's closest allies were running a high risk 'Stop Opik' campaign.

Senior Liberal Democrats view him as a colourful eccentric rather than a serious political player.

A party member last week told The Times: ' Do we want a joker as the party president? The message is no.'

Another added: '“We don’t want him as president. He shouldn’t even have been given a frontbench role.'

Mr Opik has been MP for Montgomeryshire since 1997 but is best known for his relationships with Cheeky Girl Gabriela Irima and weathergirl Sian Lloyd.

His roles have included party spokesman for Northern Ireland, Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform and most recently as Housing Spokesman.

lembit Opik

Romance: Lembit has also dated TV weathergirl Sian Lloyd

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