Two weeks from now nominations will close in the ‘contest’ to become the Liberal Democrat 2012 Mayor of London candidate.
Except there isn’t much of a contest.
Former MP Lembit Opik is the highest profile name to put himself forward so far, a fact anyone who cares about London should find highly depressing.
His recent Evening Standard interview suggests he doesn’t have a detailed understanding of how the capital works.
He’s the latest in a long line of wannabe Mayors who thinks you can magically operate the Tube 24/7 – when is the maintenance to be carried out if we’re going to run near-empty trains at 4am?
Ok, so Opik wouldn’t be the first Mayor to win office and then discover many of things he promised are impossible but against the two experienced post-holders on offer he’ll soon start to look pretty vacuous and under briefed.
Then there’s the issue of electoral credibility.
Opik has never sufficiently explained why Londoners would want a man rejected not only by his own party members both times he put himself forward as party President and the constituents who sacked him last May, but also by the hardly discerning viewers of ITV”s I’m a Celebrity reality-fest.
If sofa-based phone voters don’t even think you’re up to the job of eating grub worms live on camera how can you expect Londoners to see you as a viable Mayor?
It’s a question he’ll be asked repeatedly during the 2012 campaign yet I’ve never heard an even vaguely sensible answer.
There’s a more serious issue to consider too.
The Greens have a three-term London Assembly Member as their candidate with huge amounts of experience in tackling both Ken and Boris.
Yet past elections suggest much of the media coverage – especially the mass audience TV coverage – will focus on the ‘three main parties’ even though a LibDem candidate has no more chance of winning that a Green or UKIP runner.
If Londoners have to accept the media’s three party bias, they should be entitled to expect the smaller of the three to offer a knowledgable, informed and credible candidate.
Liberal Democrats have a chance to boost the campaign scrutiny of the next Mayor of London but do to so they need a candidate voters – and his opponents – can take seriously.
When measured against that criteria Opik isn’t the right choice for London.