Village People: Lembit Opik to reveal feline side in return to limelight

Lembit Opik, the former Liberal Democrat MP, is so ridiculous that he is rather lovable.

Such is his lack of self-awareness that when he rose to speak in a packed Commons after his affair with a Cheeky Girl had made the news, he thought the laughter was genuine and told his fellow MPs to cheer up because there was still one Cheeky Girl left.

That affair is over. So is his parliamentary career. The latest announcement from the Opik self-publicity factory is that he is going to appear on I'm a Celebrity, Get Me out of Here. There are various reasons why people might go on this programme: it is a den for publicity junkies, and there is a fee, reputed to be £25,000, for those who appear on it, who might be having difficulty earning money any other way. But Lembit insists that he is thinking only of the potential benefits for his party.

"Perhaps more than any other reality programme, it does tend to reveal character. I'm hoping this will be of use as we try to ensure that the Lib Dems aren't forgotten in the mayoral campaign..."

It is reminiscent of George Galloway speaking – "I believe that politicians should use every opportunity to communicate with people" – as he accepted a fat fee to appear on Big Brother. And what did he communicate? That he does a very bad impersonation of a cat.

Maoism under threat in regions

Wednesday's court ruling that the Communities Secretary Eric Pickles acted illegally by abolishing regional housing targets was almost entirely overlooked. The policy was seized on by councils as an opportunity to abandon plans for 189,000 new homes. Another troublesome proposal is the abolition of local development agencies, which a distinguished after-dinner speaker described as "Maoist and chaotic". The speaker was Vince Cable, just back from China.

Comparisons of students and Nazis are odious

Robert Halfon, the new Tory MP for Harrow, has an Eric Cantona-like fondness for the unusual turn of phrase. Some are apt, some are silly, and some are just enigmatic. He was on good form last month when he described the Information Commissioner's investigation of Google as "more Keystone Cops than protector of our civil liberties".

Pleased with that success, he tried out a similar phrase this week, describing the former government's record on welfare reform as "more Ethelred the Unready than Nixon in China". What? But he was at his silliest when he likened Wednesday's student riot with book burning in the 1930s. Challenged about this absurd comparison, he said both were examples of "mob rule". Is it worth explaining that it was not the mob burning books in Nazi Germany, but agents of the state acting under orders?

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