Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg shook hands with Tim Farron, the bookies' hot favourite to succeed him, this morning just hours after the publication of an interview that all but confirmed the foreign affairs spokesman wants the top job.
Mr Farron and the deputy prime minister bumped into each other at the Jury's Inn hotel in Liverpool, where the party was holding its spring conference.
In an interview with the Mail on Sunday, Mr Farron said that the Lib Dems had been "tarnished" by being in coalition government and vowed to bring the party "back from the dead".
Sources close to Mr Farron have argued the article "bears no relation" to the interview, but it nevertheless infuriated Lord Ashdown. This morning the former party leader took to the airwaves to question Mr Farron's "judgement" and "patience".
A source close to Mr Clegg added that the deputy prime minister "gets on well" with Mr Farron, who is hugely popular among party activists. Mr Farron played the part of Nigel Farage when Mr Clegg was preparing to take on the UKIP leader over Britain's membership of the European Union in two television debates last year.
Mr Farron bamboozled Mr Clegg by making up statistics on the EU, arguing it would ape the tactics used by Mr Farage. Despite the amount of preparation, Mr Clegg is widely considered to have lost the debates, temporarily damaging his own leadership last year.Reuse content