Sir Menzies Campbell, the former Liberal Democrat leader, is to retire from the Commons at the next election, he announced today.
One of the party’s most respected figures, he wrote to Nick Clegg to tell him he had decided to step down as MP from North East Fife in May 2015.
Sir Menzies, widely known as “Ming” at Westminster, was elected in 1987 and spent the bulk of his parliamentary career on the Lib Dem frontbench.
He served for nearly 14 years as its foreign affairs spokesman, leading the party’s criticism of the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Sir Menzies became leader three years later after Charles Kennedy resigned over his drinking problems, but endured an unhappy spell in charge of the party.
He was dogged by poll ratings and a whispering campaign that he had come to the job too late. He stood down after just 19 months and was succeeded by Mr Clegg.
Before arriving in Westminster he was a barrister, but was best known for his distinguished athletics career. He held the British 100 metres record and competed in the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
In his letter to Mr Clegg, Sir Menzies, who is 72, said he had “reached the conclusion that now would be the right time to step down and to allow someone else to have the opportunity to serve the people of North East Fife”.
The Lib Dem leader said his predecessor’s decision marked “a sad day for me, my party and British politics as a whole”.
Mr Clegg said: “Sir Menzies has been a towering presence in British politics for the past three decades. He has served this country and our party with unparalleled distinction.
“Most people would be satisfied with just one outstanding career but Menzies Campbell has had three - as an Olympic athlete, a renowned QC, and a leading politician.”