Nick Clegg Quits As Lib Dem Leader Following Election Result Horror For Party

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg delivers the leaders speech during the Liberal Democrat Spring Conference at the Barbican Centre, York.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg delivers the leaders speech during the Liberal Democrat Spring Conference at the Barbican Centre, York.
Tim Goode/EMPICS Entertainment

Nick Clegg has quit as leader of the Liberal Democrats, after his party was all but obliterated at the general election.

The Lib Dems had hoped to cling onto as many as 30 of their 57 MPs. However in the end the party was reduced to rump of just eight.

Clegg, the coalition's deputy prime minister, clung on in his Sheffield Hallam seat. But the rest of the senior ranks of the party have been entirely wiped out, including:

  • Business secretary Vince Cable
  • Energy secretary Ed Davey
  • Chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander
  • Business minister Jo Swinson
  • Justice minister Simon Hughes
  • Home Office minister Lynne Featherstone
  • Former leader Charles Kennedy

Former party president Tim Farron is now the favourite to take over the leadership of the party - or what is left of it. Former health minister Norman Lamb is also expected to run for the party's top job.

The "national tidal wave" against the Lib Dems, one party source observed as the full horror of the result became clear, "was just too strong".

In his resignation speech in central-London, Clegg said: "I always expected this election to be exceptionally difficult for the Liberal Democrats given the heavy responsibilities we have had to bear in government in the most challenging of circumstances.

"But clearly the results have been immeasurably more crushing and unkind than I could ever have feared. For that, of course, I must take responsibility."

Clegg confirmed the leadership contest would follow the party's rules, adding: "For the last seven years it has been a privilege, a huge privilege, an unlimited honour to lead a party of the most resilient, courageous and remarkable people."

Clegg insisted there was a "way back" and promised his party it "would win again". He added: "It is simply heartbreaking to see so many friends and colleagues who have served their friends and constituents so diligently over so many years abruptly lose their seats because of forces entirely beyond their control."

David Cameron, who has won an unexpected overall Commons majority, brutally destroyed his former coalition partner's seats in England. And the in Scotland, Lib Dem MPs were brushed aside by the SNP surge.

Cable, speaking after he lost his Twickenham seat, blamed a campaign of "fear" by the Tories for a "terrible night" for the party.

The business secretary was defeated by Conservative Tania Mathias by 25,580 votes to 23,563 in the seat he had held since 1997.

"We were hit by a very well organised national campaign based on people's fear of a Labour government and the Scottish nationalists and we will see in the days that follow what are the implications," he said.

"It has been a marvellous experience and an honour being the MP for this constituency. Unfortunately this has been a terrible night for our party all over. But I am absolutely sure that we are going to bounce back both nationally and locally."

Ed Davey

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General Election 2015