A marriage made in 'Hello!' (But is it over for Lembit and Gabriela?)

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The Independent Online

To many, it always seemed an odd match. What did a nerdy, middle-aged politician have to say to a Transylvanian popstress in her mid-twenties? Yet for 18 months the union between stargazing Lembit Opik MP and the Cheeky Girl Gabriela Irimia prospered – in the pages of glossy celebrity magazines, at least.

But sadly, it appears that opposites may not attract after all. A rift has developed between Britain's oddest celebrity couple. Just three months after Mr Opik proposed to Ms Irimia, 17 years his junior, by Rome's Trevi Fountain, the couple are "taking a break".

Her mother, Margit Irimia Scmal, says that the two remain engaged but are experiencing problems and spending time apart.

Ms Irimia, who once wrote a song for Lembit called "Text me: I love you", has declined to speak to the eccentric Liberal Democrat MP for a fortnight after a series of disagreements.

"The reality is that they did not break up. That was never the intention of either Gabriela or Lembit and nothing has changed in their engagement status," said Mrs Irimia Scmal. She added that a "social and cultural clash" between Britain and Romania is to blame.

Mrs Irimia Scmal said that her daughter had been deeply depressed by the death of her grandmother, who died in March while Ms Irimia was appearing on television with Mr Opik. She felt guilty for going on holiday and accepting Mr Opik's proposal just two weeks later, according to her mother.

"In Romania, the tradition is not to celebrate for around six months after someone close to you dies," she said. "Gabriela had been very close to her grandmother and felt guilty about going ahead with the holiday. She had been brought up by her grandmother for 20 years. She was a kind of a mother to her. It all added to her stress as she works a lot." She added that Ms Irimia was steeling herself to meet Mr Opik, to talk things through.

The pair had not been living together, spending only a couple of nights a week in Mr Opik's London flat or at one of his homes in Wales. According to her mother, Ms Irimia wanted more.

It is not the first time that there has been tension between the two. Their tumultuous relationship was revealed during a reality television show, when they were filmed arguing after Mr Opik arrived late at Ms Irimia's mother's birthday party, having been delayed by a vote in the Commons. Ms Irimia had also become irked by having to turn up to parties in Mr Opik's underwhelming Vauxhall Cavalier.

Mr Opik's office declined to comment last night.

Star-crossed lovers?

* "Our relationship is not based on lust; it's primarily a relationship of intellect, a meeting of minds, and I find that really interesting and attractive." Lembit, January 2007, Hello!

* "I found him really interesting, smart, delicate and funny – he tells jokes all the time. He's a gentleman and is very protective." Gabriela, January 2007, Hello!

* "We were euphoric afterwards, walking around the city and then sipping champagne and chatting away in our hotel suite until the early hours. I couldn't ask for things to go better than they did." Lembit, on proposing to Gabriela. April 2008, Hello!

* "Tears of joy poured out of his eyes." Gabriela's mother, on the proposal. April 2008, Hello!

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