Nick Clegg turns down prominent Lib Dem post

Nick Clegg and Brian Paddick

Nick Clegg has turned down the offer of a prominent post in the new Liberal Democrat frontbench to allow Tim Farron to mould the party in his own image.

The former deputy prime minister, who was offered a post combining foreign affairs, defence and Europe, has told his successor as Lib Dem leader that he would like to wait until next year before he joins his team.

The discussions between Farron, who had said during the Lib Dem leadership contest that he hoped Clegg would take on a “very high-profile” role in the parliamentary party, are understood to have been friendly.

Clegg felt it was important to give Farron the space to build his team without, in the words of one party source, having to look over his shoulder at his predecessor.

The former deputy prime minister, who is keen to play a role in the cross-party pro-EU campaign in the runup to the referendum, is understood to be keen to join Farron’s team next year.

The decision by Clegg emerged as Farron unveiled his new top team after the Lib Dems’ bashing at the general election, which saw their number of MPs reduced from 57 to eight. Their depleted ranks mean the party’s main economics spokesperson – Lady Kramer – sits in the House of Lords. Dorothy Thornhill, the mayor of Watford, will serve as local government spokeswoman. Farron will speak on economic matters in the House of Commons.

Every Lib Dem MP, bar Clegg and the MP for Ceredigion, Mark Williams, has a job on the frontbench. Williams will take on a campaigning job in the summer. Norman Lamb, the former health minister who was defeated by Farron in the leadership contest, reverts to his role before the 2010 election as health spokesman.

The Lib Dems are a diminished force in the Commons after they lost their status as the third largest party. They are in joint fourth place with the DUP after the SNP saw their number of MPs increase from six to 56.

Farron said: “I am delighted to be able to announce my team of party spokespeople. The team I am announcing today is the liberal voice that Britain desperately needs. It features some of the best campaigners that the party has, balanced with the experience and economic credibility that our party has developed over the last five years in government.

“It was important to me to be able to call on the advice and experience of people at all levels of our party and I believe we have an excellent team to lead the Lib Dem fight back. Together, we will take our ideas, our values and our liberal messages to every corner of Britain. We will make the case for housing, immigration, Europe, environmentalism and human rights.”

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Nicholas Watt Chief political correspondent, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 29th July 2015 13.43 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010