Lib Dems elect Hughes president by landslide

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Indy Politics

Simon Hughes was elected president of the Liberal Democrats yesterday by a large majority, told the party to start preparing for government.

Simon Hughes was elected president of the Liberal Democrats yesterday by a large majority, told the party to start preparing for government.

Mr Hughes, who gained 71 per cent of the vote, said he wanted the party to "go for gold by going for government".

He added: "Our ambition is to be the next party of government. We are now winning silver. But in the years to come, nothing less than gold will do. My job as party president is to ensure Liberal Democrats grow in numbers, grow in effectiveness and become the leading force in British politics."

Mr Hughes' decision to run for president will be seen by many Liberal Democrats as a sign that he has not shelved his own leadership ambitions. The MP for North Southwark and Bermondsey was defeated by Charles Kennedy in the leadership contest five years ago. This year he stood down as the party's home affairs spokesman to run for London Mayor.

The party presidency, which he will hold for two years, will let him play a leading role in national campaigns and to tour local party associations. Mr Hughes has a strong following at grass roots level, and gained 24,333 votes against 10,002 for Lembit Opik, the Montgomeryshire MP who ran against him. Mr Opik praised Mr Hughes for "decades of investment in the Lib Dems", adding: "I shall wait for the vacancy but Simon can count on my absolute support and loyalty."

The outgoing president, Lord Dholakia, is being urged to run for deputy leader of the party in the Lords. Mr Kennedy paid tribute to Lord Dholakia and said he was looking forward to working with Mr Hughes: "He has been an excellent constituency MP for 21 years and I know he will serve the party with the same commitment as president."

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