Tim Farron elected new leader of Liberal Democrats to replace Nick Clegg

But the MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale faces a tough road ahead

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Indy Politics

In Government he was isolated by the Liberal Democrat leadership, considered too left wing and too untrustworthy to hold ministerial office.

But the tables have been turned after Tim Farron decisively won the battle to succeed Nick Clegg as Lib Dem leader, while those who might have been his closest rivals were unable to even stand because they had lost their seats in Parliament.

Mr Farron, the MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale, beat Norman Lamb, a former health minister, by 56.5 per cent to 43.5 per cent – a narrower margin than most in the party had predicted.

But worryingly, only 56 per cent of Lib Dem members eligible to vote turned out, suggesting Mr Farron has a long way to go to rebuild the activist base following May’s disastrous election result.

After his victory was announced, Mr Farron, who was the only Lib Dem to increase his majority at the election, said he planned to re-invent the party “from the bottom up” focusing less on Westminster politics and more on rebuilding its base in local Government.

“Westminster is only one brick in the governance of this country,” Mr Farron said at a Liberal Democrat rally in Islington, north London, after the result was announced.

Tim Farron's predecessor, Nick Clegg, and his leadership rival, Norman Lamb, greet his victory

“The challenges we face in the cities, towns and villages of these islands, are ones which we can help to address wherever there are Liberal Democrats.

“We may not be able to change Britain from the top down but we can change lives from the bottom up. Our survival, revival, our rebirth our rebuild will happen in communities in councils in common rooms, away from the stuffy corridors of Westminster. 

“Step by step, we will change people lives for the better and as we do that we will regain their trust.”

Mr Farron’s victory expected to move the Lib Dems decisively away from the centrist of politics of the Coalition which he described in one hustings event as “uninspiring” and “pointless”.

It is also likely to result in some former senior Lib Dem MPs playing a much less prominent role in re-building the party than they would have done if Mr Lamb had won.

Danny Alexander, the former Chief Secretary to the Treasury, warned during the campaign that the Lib Dems should not vacate the centre ground and become “a sort of soggy Syriza in sandals”.

But Mr Clegg said he believed Mr Farron had the ability to pick the party up and get it fighting again.

“Tim Farron is a remarkable campaigner and a man of the utmost integrity and conviction.

“He is a natural communicator with a rare ability to inspire people and rally them to our cause. He knows how to win and I have no doubt he can pick the party up and get us fighting again.

“It has been a pleasure to serve alongside Tim in Parliament and a privilege to consider him a friend. I know he will be a brilliant leader and he will always have my support.”

Mr Lamb congratulated Mr Farron and said he would make a “fantastic” party leader who would champion social justice.

“Tim Farron will be a passionate leader of our party, championing social justice and leading from the front in our campaign to rebuild the liberal voice in our country. I will give him my full backing,” he said.

Sir Menzies Campbell, the former Lib Dem leader, said: “After a keenly-fought contest, the new leader is entitled to the full support of every Liberal Democrat.

“But none of us should be in any doubt that the leader and the party must be in it for the long haul. There will be no quick fixes, only hard work, commitment and dedication to the cause.”