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Home > Politics

TFT meets... Lembit Opik MP

He's the rising star of the Liberal Democrats, and he hates asteroids. He's quite thin. He's Lembit Opik MP, and he spoke to us hands-free in a traffic jam on the A40. It was twenty to midnight, and Lembit was furious.

"This is absurd", he cried. "If Saddam Hussein really wants to bring London to its knees, all he needs to do is bring down two millimetres of snow, or set up some roadworks."

But eventually the cones tailed away, the traffic cleared, and we were able to chat more calmly...

13 February 2003

> Are you going to the march on Saturday?

Yes. I'm going there to demonstrate in favour of the war. I'm going to see if I can make a few hundred thousand people see the sense and justice of - no - that's not true. I'll be protesting against the war.

> Are you a pacifist?

I'm not. There are circumstances in which I would reluctantly support military action. I'm not against war as such. But I'm very pro-UN.

> Have you seen enough evidence to justify pre-emptive action against Iraq?

There might be enough evidence, but I haven't seen it. The problem is that Blair and Bush set certain criteria, then when these criteria are met, they change the criteria. They're constantly raising the bar.

> How dangerous is Iraq?

How do we know for sure that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction? Well, we could find them. But we haven't found them. And even if he does have them, we'd then have to prove that he's mad enough to use them. And he's clearly not mad. He's bad but he's not mad. Saddam knows very well that if he puts a foot wrong militarily it's curtains for his regime.

> Do you think Tony Blair is leading us or being led?

Tony Blair is certainly leading us, but he's leading us in the wrong direction. It's a matter of opinion of course, and it may just possible that he has evidence we don't know about. But it does seem that the evidence is getting less and less credible - and the suggestion that Al Quaeda is ganging up with Saddam Hussein has got about as much logic as saying the Pope enjoys drinking with Ian Paisley, and the two of them like to get a bit drunk and go out on the town looking for trouble.

> So what is the right direction?

Negotiation. If you want to reduce the terror threat - you have to look to negotiation. Negotiation is working in Northern Ireland; what has been achieved there has been done the peaceful way, by engaging with would-be terrorists, but not by blasting the country to smithereens. John Major, when he was prime minister, had secret conversations with the IRA, when the IRA were still killing our soldiers. Sometimes in life I might not like you, I might find it gut wrenching to talk to you, but I do it because I want to understand you. I always prefer shouting to shooting.

> Do you think, hand on your heart, that there's going to be a terror strike on the UK in the near future?

If there's a war, I think there's a good chance of it. If not, I doubt it. I think that these terrorist operations are not being carried out in a mad rage - the terrorists calculate, they look around - they can see the strong peace movement in this country. On the other hand, we shouldn't go soft on terrorists or bad regimes.

> What are your thoughts on the death of Roy Jenkins?

I don't mourn Roy Jenkins' death. He had a great life, and he died at home surrounded by people who loved him. And he made a great difference - I can look around me and see the things he achieved. But in parliament now, it's a bit like not having an uncle in the house. I think Roy probably drank more red wine than anyone in Parliament since Churchill. Churchill drank brandy, of course. In fact, I think he drank as much brandy as Roy drank red wine.

> Do you think we're more likely to be wiped out by an asteroid or a 'super volcano'?

An asteroid, definitely. Although if an asteroid hits, it'll probably smash into the super volcano under Yosemite National Park. Nature has got a sense of humour.

> Would you punch Uri Geller in the face for 50?

No. I'd probably say to him if you can bend this spoon in front of me, I'll buy you a pint. It's almost irrelevant if Uri Geller is a fake. The beauty of magic is the art. If it's real or if it's pretend-real doesn't matter. People who are down on magic are forgetting the point of life. It's the journey that matters. The getting there. People should learn to look out of the window more, not just sit with their head in the manual.

> What's your favourite kind of nut?

The Brazil. It's one of the few foodstuffs that engenders strong feelings - it's in the same exalted category as Marmite and anchovies. I like to think of foods as dinner guests. If I was having a dinner party, I'd rather have Marmite, anchovies and Brazil nuts turn up than unsalted margarine and bran. Bran would probably turn up wearing sandals.

> But at least he'd stick around to do the washing up. Are you looking forward to seeing Billy Bragg on Saturday at the demo?

Absolutely. I did some work with him on English folk music once, and got to know him a little. I have a lot of time for what he stands for - I think he's good for music, and good for political music.

> Do you have a favourite musician?

John Martyn. The early stuff. And any Roy Harper. As for modern day music, I'm a bit of a country and western boy - I like Junior Brown. I'd recommend him to anyone. Basically, I like the stuff Andy Kershaw plays.

> And finally, what book would you recommend to our readers?

The Lost Continent by Bill Bryson. It's a warming look at what most of America is really like, rather than what George Bush makes it look like.


Find out more about Lembit here.

Or buy Bill Bryson's book.



Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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