As with Labour and UKIP, the Liberal Democrats are looking for a new leader after Nick Clegg’s predictable resignation. With so few Liberal Democrat MPs to choose from, the choice of a new Liberal Democrat leader is likely to be a two horse race between favourites Tim Farron and Norman Lamb.
Former party figureheads that would likely have been strong candidates for party leader had they retained their seats include Vince Cable, Danny Alexander, Jo Swinson, and Ed Davey. Of course, they could still become leader – but it’s unlikely.
Currently to stand for leader candidates have to win the support from 10% of MPs, but for the Liberal Democrats this is now worth less than one MP. They also need the backing of at least 200 party members from at least 20 different local parties, and nominated candidates are then elected by the wider membership using the alternative vote system. This will not leave the Liberal Democrats with much choice or the elected leader with much mandate.
Let’s take a look at the very few potential leadership candidates:
Tim Farron is former President of the Liberal Democrats and managed to keep his Westmorland and Lonsdale seat. The MP has been a member of the education select committee since his election in 2005 and is currently favourite to be the next leader with odds of 1/5 at Bet365, 2/9 at Betfair and 1/6 at Ladbrokes and William Hill.
Norman Lamb is the current Care Minister who managed to retain his seat in Norfolk North due to the large personal following he has in his constituency. He was Nick Clegg’s parliamentary private secretary at the beginning of the Coalition Government, and so is perhaps more established than Tim Farron. His odds however are lower at 23/5 at Betfair, 4 at Bet365 and 5/1 at Ladbrokes.
As the Scotland Secretary, he has existing cabinet experience after being parachuted in to play a key role in the party’s campaign ahead of the Scottish independence referendum last year. His chances may be lessened by being a Scottish MP, the only Lib Dem Scottish MP to exist in a sea of SNP seats, and further accentuated by not representing a mainland seat, as he is MP for Orkney and Shetland which sits precariously at the very edge of the UK. Ladbrokes have odds of 12/1 on him, while Betfair holds 83/5 odds.
The only other Lib Dem politician who was fortunate enough to hold their seat and have even a slight chance of attaining leadership is Greg Mulholland for Leeds North West, who has odds of 16/1 at Ladbrokes.