LONDON (Reuters) - The Liberal Democrats, the former junior coalition partners of Prime Minister David Cameron, on Thursday named left-leaning Tim Farron as their new leader, two months after the party was virtually wiped out in May’s British election.
Former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who in 2010 led the Liberal Democrats to their first ever spell in government alongside Cameron’s Conservatives, stood down as leader after all but seven of his 56 colleagues lost their seats in the election.
Farron, 45, the party’s former president, was the bookmakers’ favourite for the role. He stood against former junior health minister Norman Lamb in the vote, which was decided by the party’s members.
Farron, a father of four, received 56.5 percent of the vote, while Lamb received 43.5 percent, the party said.
“Tim is a fantastic communicator and his energy, enthusiasm and passion will inspire and drive the Liberal Democrats back to winning ways,” party president Sal Brinton said in a statement.
Farron thanked his supporters, posting on Twitter: “This is a liberal country. Our job now is to turn millions of liberals throughout the UK into Liberal Democrats.”
The Liberal Democrats were punished for their decision to join Cameron in government in 2010 which meant having to abandon key campaign pledges, most crucially a promise not to raise university tuition fees. Many supporters never forgave them, with two-thirds of their voters deserting them at the election.
Farron, who worked in higher education for 10 years before being elected to parliament in 2005 on his fourth attempt, was seen as less tainted by the party’s time in coalition as he did not serve as a minister and voted against the tuition fee rise.
Reporting by Kylie MacLellan; editing by Kate Holton