Page last updated at 16:17 GMT, Wednesday, 24 September 2008 17:17 UK

Opik leaves Lib Dem front bench

Lembit Opik
Mr Opik is campaigning to become the next Lib Dem party president

Lembit Opik is standing down as Liberal Democrat housing spokesman to concentrate on his campaign to succeed Simon Hughes as the party's president.

A Lib Dem spokesman said the MP for Montgomeryshire was facing two rivals in the presidency election - Baroness Scott and Chandila Fernando.

The housing portfolio will now be overseen by local government spokeswoman Julia Goldsworthy.

Voting for Lib Dem president ends on 7 November, with a result the next week.

Segway protest

Mr Opik is one of the best-known Lib Dem MPs, hitting the headlines for relationships with weather presenter Sian Lloyd and Cheeky Girls singer Gabriela Irimia.

His hobbies include flying planes and playing the ukelele, and he recently tried to get himself arrested as part of a campaign to allow Segway scooters on British roads.

Baroness Scott, a former audit commissioner and councillor in Suffolk, is vice-chairman of the Local Government Association.

She recently served as the party's spokesman on local government in the House of Lords.

Mr Fernando is director of the Liberal Vision think-tank. He has called for the Lib Dems to employ a "new style of campaigning, simplify their message and become more professional in order to be considered a real force in British Politics by the voting public".

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