Nick Clegg offered to quit as leader of the Liberal Democrats a year before the election

Former Deputy Prime Minister discussed standing down after the Liberal Democrats lost all but one of their seats at the European elections last year

Nick Clegg offered to quit as leader of the Liberal Democrats a year before his party was wiped-out at the general election, senior figures in the party have revealed.

He discussed standing aside after the Lib Dems lost all but one of its seats at last year’s European Parliamentary election, in what his close ally and former Lib Dem leader Paddy Ashdown described as the “darkest of the dark nights of the soul”.

The former Deputy Prime Minister eventually resigned a day after his party's disastrous performance at the general election, when the Lib Dems were left with just eight seats in the House of Commons, down from 56.

An in-depth analysis of the Lib Dem's devastating election result by the Guardian discovered Mr Clegg discussed resigning during several phone calls after the 2014 May elections, following four years of being Deputy Prime Minister in Britain’s first Coalition since the Second World War.

Lord Ashdown persuaded Mr Clegg to stay on as leader and fight the general election. A senior Lib Dem said Mr Clegg told him at the time: “If I believe – and I think I’m very close to it – that I am the problem and not the solution, then I have to stand to one side.”

However, the insider replied: “You don’t have that luxury – this is your burden now, you have to carry it through to the election. Whether you believe that or not, it’s tough titty.”

Tim Farron, one of the two contenders to replace him as leader, told Mr Clegg he had a responsibility, after leading the party into coalition, to fight to the end.

“I just thought this could end up in a bloodbath and we’re far better sticking with captain who has done nothing to deserve this,” Mr Farron told the Guardian.

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