Election `97: Northern Ireland's Estonian a favourite in Wales

Lembit Opik, Montgomeryshire's Liberal Democrat candidate, has one of the most intriguing CVs of any election hopeful. He was born in Bangor, Northern Ireland, to Estonian parents who fled from the Communists who took over their country in 1945.

A philosophy degree at Bristol University followed. Then Mr Opik headed for the North-east to join Proctor & Gamble, where he rose swiftly to become the detergent giant's global personnel training manager - a lengthy job description which he hopes to exchange for the letters MP on 1 May.

"You can't grow up in a family so affected by politics as mine without wanting to right wrong," he says.

He won the nomination against stiff opposition last September when Alex Carlile announced he would stand down after 14 years at Westminster. Except for a blip in 1979, when the Tories unexpectedly captured the seat, Montgomeryshire has been Liberal territory for more than a century.

Mr Carlile leaves behind a majority of more than 5,000 over the Tories, sufficient, it seems, to see Mr Opik home. But no chances are being taken. "Paddy's been here twice and David [Sir David Steel] once," the energetic Mr Opik said as he strode round Tan Yr Allt, a 1960s estate contrasting sharply with the timber-framed black-and-white houses that dot Llanidloes.

The Rev Penny Burkill, who looks after half a dozen Methodist congregations, was impressed: "He's the sort of person who will represent us well - he's very sincere," she said.

Back in town, Mr Opik expanded on one of his favourite pastimes - motorcycling. He bumped into Simon Evans, about to ride off on a gleaming 750cc machine to his job as a computer operator in Newtown, 10 miles away. "I own two," Mr Opik remarked modestly, as a discussion on stopping distances and fuel consumption got under way. Transport is a problem for Owen Jarman, a 72-year-old retired farmer visiting Llanidloes from his remote mountain home. "We have a post bus and let's hope the Post Office isn't privatised," he said. Mr Opik nodded vigorously.

Trays of meats ranging from prime steak to pig's liver are displayed at Edward Hamer's shop, underlining Mid-Wales's dependence on pastoral farming.

BSE is much talked about. The Tory candidate, a farmer, Glyn Davies, has had six cases in his herd. "I well understand how much of a shock BSE has been," he says. The latest European Union rebuff to Britain is not exactly helpful to the Tory cause.

Labour, third in 1992, is fielding Angharad Davies, a 25-year-old political researcher regarded as a rising star.

Helen Jones, of Plaid Cymru, the Green Party's Sue Walker, and John Bufton, of the Referendum Party are striving to make an impact but without much success.

Mr Opik is refreshingly open. "I have a 70 per cent chance of winning, the Tories a 30 per cent chance," he says. A man of many parts, he claims to have loved flying ever since falling out of a tree when he was seven. He holds a pilot's licence, paraglides and is an amateur astronomer.

Vote of confidence: Lembit Opik, campaigning in Montgomeryshire, hopes for an easy win in this traditionally Liberal seat, but is taking nothing for granted

Photograph: John Voos

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Sport
Ashley Barnes of Burnley scores their second goal
footballMan City vs Burnley match report
News
news
News
Sir James Dyson: 'Students must be inspired to take up the challenge of engineering'
i100
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Arts and Entertainment
Catherine (Sarah Lancashire) in Happy Valley ((C) Red Productions/Ben Blackall)
TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Estimator

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Negotiator - OTE £24,000

£22000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An enthusiastic individual is r...

Recruitment Genius: Area Manager - West Midlands - OTE £35,000

£27000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Area Manager is required to ...

Recruitment Genius: Area Manager - Yorkshire & Humber - OTE £35,000

£27000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Area Manager is required to ...

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?