Lib Dem conference: General election will see MP elected with lowest ever vote, predicts Tim Farron

Party's former president says rise of smaller parties will lead to smashing of 1992 record

Click to follow

May's general election will see the shattering of the record for the MP elected with the lowest ever share of the vote, a prominent Liberal Democrat has predicted.

Speaking on the fringes of the party's spring conference in Liverpool, foreign affairs spokesman and former Lib Dem president Tim Farron told The Independent Online: “Here's a prediction: somebody, not necessarily a Liberal Democrat, will break Russell Johnston's record of 26 per cent of the vote to win a seat.”

Mr Johnston was a Lib Dem who scored that vote to retain his Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber seat in the Scottish Highlands in 1992. However, that was when the electoral system was still largely dominated by just two parties, The Conservatives, with a handful of Lib Dem MPs.

Since the Coalition came to power in 2010, smaller parties like Ukip and the Scottish National Party have been on the rise. This new era of multi-party politics has challenged the conventional electoral mathematics of British general elections, creating the possibility of four, five and even six-way marginal seats and making it possible that a small vote could be enough win a constituency.

Mr Farron also revealed that he has two sides of A4 paper pinned to his office wall that is full if top tips for holding on to his constituency - provided by Norman Lamb. The health minister is increasingly seen as Mr Farron's most serious opponent in the event of a Lib Dem leadership election.

Mr Lamb is gaining support among MPs, who believe current leader Nick Clegg would have to quit if the general election goes as poorly for the Lib Dems as their meagre opinion poll standings suggest.

Mr Lamb was Mr Farron's mentor when the latter was elected in Westmorland and Lonsdale in 2005. Mr Farron had a tiny majority of just 267 votes, but sought the advice of Mr Lamb, a noted campaigner, to turn it into a safe seat. That majority is now more than 12,000.