The former care minister, Norman Lamb, has confirmed his plans to run for the leadership of the Liberal Democrats.
The MP for North Norfolk is the first Lib Dem MP to announce their intention to stand. Lamb told ITV Anglia: “Yes, I intend to go for it. It’s a monumental task, but I am up for it.”
The Lib Dems are seeking to choose a new leader by mid-July in a contest expected to be a head-to-head between Lamb and the MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale, Tim Farron. The party will take nominations from candidates from Wednesday and the winner will be announced on 16 July.
To get on the ballot, a candidate must have the endorsement of 200 members from 20 local party organisations as well as 10% of the parliamentary party. After the party lost 48 of its 56 MPs, leaving only eight, the last requirement is irrelevant as it amounts to needing the support of less than one MP. The membership will cast their ballot under an alternative vote system.
Farron, a former party president and key figurehead on the left of the Lib Dems, is the frontrunner to take the top job due to his popularity with grassroots activists. He won 52% of the vote in his constituency on Thursday and famously opposed the coalition’s tripling of tuition fees.
Speaking last Friday, he said the party needed a fresh start but that he would speak to “members, councillors and activists” before deciding whether to run for leader.
Lamb, a former employment lawyer, is more aligned with the politics of the coalition, having served as minister for care and support. He is considered to be a centrist and served as parliamentary private secretary to former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg from May 2010 to February 2012.
Tom Brake, the Lib Dem MP for Carshalton and Wallington, told the Sutton Guardian that he would be backing Lamb’s leadership bid: “The two I expect to announce that they are running are Tim Farron and Norman Lamb, but I will be supporting Norman for the leadership. I think he will be a good leader and will be able to begin restructuring the party.”
The leaders of the Welsh and Scottish wings of the Liberal Democrats have urged Farron to stand.
In a joint statement, the Welsh leader, Kirsty Williams, and the Scottish leader, Willie Rennie, described the results of Thursday’s general election as devastating and urged Farron to “lead our party to recovery”.
“Our pain is eased by the knowledge that our liberal gains in government will endure,” it says. “Despite our loss, our party remains optimistic, hopeful and confident about what we can achieve on behalf of Britain.
“However, we now have to earn the right to be listened to again. To move forward, we need a fresh start. With that in mind, we call on Tim Farron to stand to be our next federal leader. We believe he is the right person to rebuild our party, inspire and lead us into next year’s election campaigns. We will wholeheartedly support him if he decides to put himself forward.”
Mark Williams, the party’s only surviving Welsh MP, also came out in favour of Farron, saying: “The party needs rebuilding. The person with the skills and vision to lead our party next is Tim Farron.”
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