LONDON (Reuters) - Vince Cable is to step down as deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats following his appointment as Business Secretary in the coalition government, triggering an election for his successor, the party said on Wednesday.
Cable, 67, said he needed to “focus wholeheartedly” on running his sprawling department, which spans industry, trade, science and higher education.
The contest to replace Cable as deputy to Nick Clegg could open the way for a left-wing candidate such as Simon Hughes, a senior legislator who is popular with the party grass roots and not a minister in the coalition with the centre-right Conservatives.
Clegg, now deputy prime minister, said Cable had been a “fantastic deputy leader during an exciting time for the party.”
The election will take place on June 9 at a meeting of the party’s 57 members of parliament, with nominations due by June 2.
Cable, deputy for four years, was briefly acting leader of the party before Clegg was elected leader, following the resignation of Menzies Campbell in October 2007.
He was credited with raising the party’s profile during the banking crisis, gaining a reputation for economic sagacity with his no-nonsense pronouncements on the financial turmoil.
Reporting by Tim Castle