Opik falls on grim night for Lib Dems

Steve Dinneen
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Swing 13.2%

THE unofficial Lib Dem mantra in the lead-up to the election was “I agree with Nick”.

But yesterday voters made it clear they still disagreed with Nick Clegg’s Lib Dems. The party failed to make significant inroads despite the massive hype machine surrounding them.

Their misery deepened when Lembit Opik, the eccentric Lib Dem icon, was unexpectedly beheaded by Tory Glyn Davies.

A staggering 13 per cent swing in ultra-Lib Dem Montgomeryshire was a symbolic body blow for a party already reeling from a grim performance in the exit poll.

Opik gained 37.8 per cent of the vote compared to Davies’ 41.3.

Opik, famed for dating weather girl Sian Lloyd and pop star Gabriela Irimia, admitted he had not expected the result. The dejected former MP said: “It’s a sad time for me. If you stand in politics you have to countenance the possibility of defeat. I didn’t expect this and neither did my people.”

The result reflected disappointing performances across the country.

They lost a key election battleground in Dorset West, where the party had hoped former British Army captain Sue Farrant could topple the Conservatives’ Oliver Letwin from the seat he has held since 1997.

But Letwin held on to the seat easily with a 1.1 per cent swing of the vote towards the Tories, netting 47.6 per cent of the vote in comparison to Farrant’s 40.7 per cent. Labour candidate Steve Bick took 6.7 per cent of the vote, down from 7.7 per cent in the 2005 election.

Former party leader Menzies Campbell held his Fife North East seat but conceded a five per cent swing to the Tories and 7.8 per cent of the overall vote.

The Lib Dems were also disappointed to lose ground on the Labour-held Durham seat they coveted.

There was some good news, with Lib Dem shadow home secretary gaining a swing of three per cent from the Tories to hold Eastleigh.