The Liberal Democrats have suffered from "poverty of ambition" and must raise their expectations of achieving power, Chris Huhne, one of the contenders for the party leadership, has warned.
Mr Huhne, whose odds to become leader narrowed sharply last week after the withdrawal of Mark Oaten from the race, said the Liberal Democrats have not "raised our sights high enough" and urged the party to be optimistic and "raise our ambitions" for the next election.
The MP, who is seen as the outsider in the race to become leader, said he was confident the party could gain dozens of seats from Labour at the next election.
But Mr Huhne warned that, following the resignation of Charles Kennedy, the leadership race could divide the party. He said that, as leader, he would act as "an honest broker" to lead a party which embraces both its left wing and free-market traditions.
In an interview with The Independent on Sunday, he said that he wanted to give the membership "a choice", after being urged to stand by scores of members. He says he has gained support from both Sir Menzies Campbell, who is the front-runner, and Simon Hughes, the party's president.
"I am very struck by the fact people know I am an honest broker," he said.