Liberal Democrat Leadership Contest, Put Simply

15271488979_6f52fd2c35_oBy Director of Media Richard Wood

With Tim Farron resigning, the Liberal Democrats are choosing a new leader.  Here’s a quick guide explaining how the party chooses its leaders.

Contest Rules

The initial criterion for someone to run for the position is that they must be one of the party’s MPs. Meanwhile, the second requirement is that 10% of the parliamentary party nominates the MP. Following Nick Clegg’s resignation in 2015, in the leadership contest that followed, MPs only required one nomination owing to the Lib Dems only having eight MPs. However, because the party returned twelve MPs in June this year, they needed two nominations. Lastly, the final requirement for candidates is that they receive nominations from a minimum of 200 party members from at least 20 local parties.

Nominated candidates then face each other in hustings around the country, after which party members receive ballots. The system used to elect the new leader is the alternative vote, in which members indicate their preferred nominee from one to however many candidates are standing. If more than two candidates stand and if no candidate gets more than 50% of first preference votes, the candidate in last-place is eliminated, and their votes are reallocated to the other candidates. This process continues until a candidate receives more than 50% of the available votes.

The 2017 leadership election

Nominations close on the 20 July. So far only one candidate, Sir Vince Cable, has put his name forward. If no one else is nominated, then Cable will automatically become party leader. However, if another candidate comes forward, ballots will be sent to voters from the 16 August, and the leader would be announced on 13 September.

Previous elections

In 2015, two candidates were nominated, Norman Lamb and Tim Farron. The latter won with 56.5% votes compared to Lamb’s 43.5%.

In 2007, Nick Clegg was elected leader after Sir Menzies Campbell stepped down, beating Chris Huhne for the top job (50.6% – 49.4%).

Additionally, in 2006, three candidates stood, with Campbell beating Chris Huhne in the final round after Simon Hughes’ elimination in the first round.

Deputy leadership election

The Liberal Democrats’ MPs elect the party’s deputy leader. After the 2017 general election, Jo Swinson, the newly re-elected MP for Dunbartonshire East, was elected to the role unopposed.

Image credit: Dave Radcliffe @Flickr


2017 election timeline:

2015 election results:

Parliamentary research on leadership election process and previous elections:



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