Lib Dem veteran Vince Cable looks set to be coronated as party leader after Ed Davey ruled himself out of the running this afternoon.
The 74-year-old, who made a triumphant return to the Commons in his former Twickenham seat, appears to be the only contender poised to take over from Tim Farron when he stands down in July.
After former favourite Norman Lamb announced last week he would not stand for the leadership, Cable’s last obvious rival was Davey.
But the former Energy Secretary revealed on Tuesday that he would not run, to the surprise of many, because he wants to dedicate time to his young family after losing both his parents at a young age.
Writing for Lib Dem Voice, Davey said: “My decision not to stand now to be Leader of our party is a difficult one, but it is rooted in my family: The need to be there for my young children and not continually away from home; the need to protect my family from the inevitable intrusion on our lives; and the need to protect myself from pressures that would otherwise compromise my job as a father while they are still so young.
“And this was a difficult decision, because I want to play a big part in rebuilding our party, and taking it into power, at all levels of Government.”
Davey said he expected his former cabinet colleague Jo Swinson would run - and that he would have backed her - before she was elected unopposed deputy leader of the party earlier this month. But he stopped short of endorsing another candidate.
He added: “If I’d run, my message would have been simple: we need to be the party of reform, challenging the status quo. Saying the uncomfortable things. Recognising how broken our politics is.
“And to be a winning party of reform, we must start telling the British people who Liberal Democrats are, and what we stand for. And not simply what and who we are against.”
Davey had been tipped for the post by several senior party figures, including MEP Catherine Bearder, who said he had ‘real commitment and a record of achievement in government’.
Farron will stand down formally when Parliament breaks for summer recess on July 20 and the election of a new party leader will be held over the summer.