Tim Farron has moved quickly to secure his frontrunner status for the Liberal Democrat leadership, writing in The Independent on Sunday that the party needs “a fresh start” after a disastrous general election.
The party now has only eight MPs, down from 57 in 2010, after the Lib Dems were battered by the electorate for its record in the coalition government.
Mr Farron, a former party president untainted by coalition, as he never served as a minister, has long been viewed as the likely successor to Nick Clegg, who resigned on Friday.
Mr Farron is likely to be challenged by the former health minister, Norman Lamb. Each would only need one supporter, as Lib Dem rules state a candidate needs 10 per cent of the parliamentary party to sign his or her nomination papers. Before last week’s rout, they would have needed six backers each.
Alistair Carmichael, the former Scotland secretary, is another possible contender, even though he has previously ruled himself out of ever running. He could reconsider if he feels he has the best chance of stopping Mr Farron, with whom he clashed during the coalition.
Leeds North West MP Greg Mulholland is understood to have been contacted by party members over his own ambitions for the leadership, but it is thought likely that he will eventually back Mr Farron. He believes that the party must select someone who voted against tuition fees which, of the remaining MPs, leaves himself, Mr Farron, John Pugh and Mark Williams.