2015 Liberal Democrats leadership election

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2015 Liberal Democrats leadership election
← 2007 8 May – 16 July 2015 (2015-05-08 – 2015-07-16) 2017 →
  Tim Farron 2016 (cropped).jpg Norman Lamb (2013).jpg
Candidate Tim Farron Norman Lamb
Popular vote 19,137 14,760
Percentage 56.5% 43.5%

Leader before election

Nick Clegg

Elected Leader

Tim Farron

The 2015 Liberal Democrats leadership election was held on 16 July 2015 following the resignation of Nick Clegg as leader on 8 May 2015, after almost eight years as leader of the Liberal Democrats, following the party's poor performance at the 2015 general election.

The result was announced on 16 July 2015 with Tim Farron winning by a margin of 13%.[1]


In the 2015 general election, the Liberal Democrats lost 49 seats, reducing the party to eight seats in the House of Commons.[2]

Many prominent party leaders and veteran MPs lost bids for re-election, including Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander; Business Secretary and former interim leader Vince Cable; Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey; Charles Kennedy, who had been party leader from 1999 to 2006 and had been a member of Parliament for 32 years; and former deputy party leader Simon Hughes, who had also served in Parliament for 32 years.[2] Ministers Jo Swinson, Lynne Featherstone, Paul Burstow and Jenny Willott were also among the Lib Dem MPs who lost their seats.[2]

Nick Clegg, the party's leader and Deputy Prime Minister in the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition government of 2010 to 2015, was re-elected in his Sheffield constituency, but resigned as party leader the morning after the election.[2] In an emotional speech, he stated: "I must take responsibility and therefore I announce that I will be resigning as leader of the Liberal Democrats."[3]

Under the rules of the Liberal Democrat parliamentary party, the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats serves as an interim leader for the Liberal Democrats until a new leader can be elected. However, this position had been vacant since the election due to the retirement of Malcolm Bruce. The party president, Sal Brinton, a member of the House of Lords, was the de facto interim leader.[4]

After the election, the party experienced a surge in membership;[5] 61,000 party members were entitled to vote, including over 16,500 new members who had joined before the close of nominations for the leadership.[6]

Election rules

The timetable for a leadership election was determined by the party's Federal Executive, under Article 10.4 of the Liberal Democrat constitution,[7] and a meeting was held to discuss this on 9 May 2015.[8]

Liberal Democrat leadership elections use the alternative vote (instant-runoff) system, the single-winner version of the single transferable vote. However, as only two candidates stood, it effectively became a simple plurality vote with all Liberal Democrat party members being entitled to vote under a "one member, one vote" system.

Article 10.5 of the Liberal Democrat constitution[7] requires that any candidate wishing to stand must be a Member of Parliament and must have the support of:

  • "at least ten percent of other members of the Parliamentary Party in the House of Commons" (i.e. one other MP at present); and
  • "[be] supported by 200 members in aggregate in not less than 20 Local Parties"

The election itself was overseen by Electoral Reform Services,[9][10] the commercial arm of the Electoral Reform Society.


7 May 2015 General election. Liberal Democrats return 8 MPs, down from 57 MPs in the 2010 election.
8 May 2015 Nick Clegg resigns as Liberal Democrat leader.
9 May 2015 Election timetable agreed by the Federal Executive.
13 May 2015 Nominations open.
3 June 2015 Nominations close.
24 June 2015 Ballot papers go out
15 July 2015 Voting closes.
16 July 2015 Result announced.




Candidate Born Seat Last positions Campaign Coordinator MPs' and MEPs' endorsements
Tim Farron 20150613.jpg
Tim Farron
27 May 1970
(age 45)
MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale[18] President of the Liberal Democrats (2011–2015) Greg Mulholland
5 / 9
 • Greg Mulholland[19]
 • John Pugh[15]
 • Mark Williams[17]
 • Catherine Bearder[20]
Norman Lamb 20150613.jpg
Norman Lamb
16 September 1957
(age 57)
MP for North Norfolk[21] Minister of State for Care and Support (2012–2015)
Minister of State for Employment Relations (2012)
Lynne Featherstone
2 / 9
 • Tom Brake[22]

Other endorsements

Tim Farron

Norman Lamb

Polling and surveys

Poll source Date(s)
Margin of
Tim Farron 2016 (cropped).jpgTim Farron Official portrait of Norman Lamb crop 2.jpgNorman Lamb Others/Undecided
Liberal Democrat Newswire[40][41] 23 June – 5 July 2015 629 Lib Dem members ± ?% 58% 42%
YouGov[42] 12–24 May 2015 730 Lib Dem members ± ?% 42% 14% 37%
Other 8%
Poll source Date(s)
Margin of
Official portrait of Mr Alistair Carmichael crop 2.jpgAlistair
Tim Farron 2016 (cropped).jpgTim Farron Official portrait of Norman Lamb crop 2.jpgNorman Lamb Others/Undecided
Survation/The Mail on Sunday[43][44] 8–9 May 2015 70 Lib Dem voters[a] ± 8.0% 13.9% 17.8% 13.3% 55%
1,027 British residents[b] ± 2.1% 7.7% 16.4% 9.5% 66.3%
  1. ^ Persons who voted Liberal Democrat in 2015 general election.
  2. ^ Residents over 18 in Great Britain

A survey by LibDemVoice.org of self-selecting 1065 members out of 1900+ registered on the forum (out of a total party membership of 57,773) showed Tim Farron on 71%, with 29% preferring Norman Lamb for leader. LibDemVoice do not claim that their survey is representative of the total party membership but they claim they "are the largest independent samples of the views of Lib Dem members across the country, and have in the past offered accurate guides to what party members think."[45]

On the day the results were due, Farron was the bookmakers' favourite.[46]


Farron was seen as the candidate of the left of the party, while Lamb was seen as representing the politics of the party's prior involvement in coalition government, although others have argued the candidates' policy differences were minor.[47]

Farron's religious beliefs and voting record on abortion and gay rights came under scrutiny.[48][49] Lamb suspended two members of his campaign team over a survey of party members that broke party rules that highlighted views the Lamb campaign consider "illiberal".[50]

In comments during the campaign, Tim Farron made reference to rebranding the party, but emphasised that in his view this needed to be more substantial than a simple superficial change: "I think rebranding ourselves, repositioning ourselves is very important. We've got to be absolutely radical about that but 18 months of a constitutional wrangle as we Tipp-Ex out a couple of words and add in another one in the constitution strikes me as a bit of a waste of time."[51]

During the campaign Tim Farron was asked what role former Chief Executive, Chris Rennard, would have under his leadership. He replied, "I have no intention of appointing him to any role in the party."[52]

Questions and answers put to the candidates

  • Daisy Cooper
  • Green Liberal Democrats
  • Liberal Reform
  • Libdems for Seekers of Sanctuary
  • Foreign Policy, via Libdem Voice
  • Liberal Democrat Lawyers


Candidate Votes %
Tim Farron Green tickY 19,137
Norman Lamb 14,760
Total 33,897 N/A

See also


  1. ^ "Tim Farron is new Lib Dem leader". BBC News Online. 16 July 2015. Retrieved 16 July 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d "Election results: Nick Clegg resigns after Lib Dem losses". BBC News. Bbc.com. 2015-05-08. Retrieved 2015-05-16.
  3. ^ "Election results: Nick Clegg resigns as Liberal Democrat leader". Bbc.co.uk. 2015-05-08. Retrieved 2015-05-16.
  4. ^ "Every major British political party – except the Conservatives – currently led by a woman – UK Politics – UK". Independent.co.k. 2015-05-09. Retrieved 2015-05-16.
  5. ^ Adam Lusher (2015-05-17). "Liberal Democrat membership numbers soar despite the party's woeful election performance – UK Politics – UK". Independent.co.k. Retrieved 2015-05-24.
  6. ^ "Lib Dem leadership nominations close". Liberal Democrats.
  7. ^ a b "Our Constitution". Libdems.org.uk. 2014-02-14. Retrieved 2015-05-16.
  8. ^ Mark Leftly (2015-05-09). "Tim Farron secures frontrunner status in bid to become Lib Dem leader – General Election 2015 – UK Politics". Independent.co.uk. Retrieved 2015-05-16.
  9. ^ Dave Goddard. [@davegoddardsk2] (26 June 2015). "@cmrwdk @trevdick @timfarron And two more from Lord and Lady Goddard of Stockport" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  10. ^ "Junade". Twitter. [permanent dead link]
  11. ^ Sunday Politics, BBC1, 10 May 2015
  12. ^ David Maddox (2015-05-10). "Alistair Carmichael 'won't succeed Nick Clegg'". Scotsman.com. Retrieved 2015-05-16.
  13. ^ "Alistair Carmichael rules out Liberal Democrats leadership bid | Scotland Decides". News.stv.tv. 2015-02-28. Archived from the original on 2015-05-18. Retrieved 2015-05-16.
  14. ^ "Greg Mulholland rules himself out of Lib Dem leadership contest | Calendar – ITV News". Itv.com. 2015-05-08. Retrieved 2015-05-16.
  15. ^ a b BBC Radio 4, "Today Programme", 13 May 2015
  16. ^ a b "Who will replace Nick Clegg as Liberal Democrat leader? - BBC News". BBC News. Bbc.co.uk. 2015-05-11. Retrieved 2015-05-16.
  17. ^ a b c d e Frances Perraudin. "Welsh and Scottish Lib Dem leaders back Tim Farron to replace Nick Clegg | Politics". Theguardian.com. Retrieved 2015-05-16.
  18. ^ "Liberal Democrat leadership: Tim Farron confirms his bid". BBC News. Bbc.com. 2015-05-14. Retrieved 2015-05-16.
  19. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Support Tim | Tim Farron". Tim2lead.com. Archived from the original on 2015-05-17. Retrieved 2015-05-16.
  20. ^ a b c Frances Perraudin. "Lib Dem leadership candidate Norman Lamb calls for cannabis legalisation". the Guardian.
  21. ^ "Norman Lamb considers standing for Lib Dem leadership – ITV News". Itv.com. 2015-05-11. Retrieved 2015-05-16.
  22. ^ "I won't stand as leader but I back Norman Lamb says Tom Brake (From Your Local Guardian)". Yourlocalguardian.co.uk. Retrieved 2015-05-16.
  23. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "Lib Dem leadership endorsements: see who (ex)MPs back". Mark Pack. 2015-06-04.
  24. ^ "Sir Alan Beith endorses Tim Farron's leadership bid". ITV News. Retrieved 2015-05-24.
  25. ^ "Politics Live – 14 May – BBC News". Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2015-05-16.
  26. ^ "Simon Hughes endorses Tim Farron's Lib Dem leadership bid". london-se1.co.uk. Retrieved 2015-05-24.
  27. ^ John Leech [@johnleechmcr] (14 May 2015). "And Tim has my full support #tim2win" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  28. ^ "The Guardian view on a new Lib Dem leader: he must be hi-vis. That means Tim Farron". The Guardian. 3 July 2015. Retrieved 3 July 2015.
  29. ^ "The right man for the job: Britain needs a party devoted to liberalism - Tim Farron is best placed to build it". The Independent. 1 July 2015. Retrieved 25 July 2016.
  30. ^ "The NS Leader: Why We're Endorsing Tim Farron for the Liberal Democrat Leadership". New Statesman. Retrieved 2015-06-10.
  31. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v "Why we're backing Norman – Back Norman". Back Norman.
  32. ^ Paddy Ashdown [@paddyashdown] (24 June 2015). "Like many #libdems i've found it hard to choose from 2 great Leader candidates. But now decision time. I've told Norman I will vote for him" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  33. ^ Olly Grender [@OllyGrender] (14 May 2015). "I'm backing @NormanLamb to become leader of the Liberal Democrats and help put power back in the hands of individuals" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  34. ^ "Ed Davey: I might stand again but against Zac Goldsmith? Certainly not". Surrey Comet.
  35. ^ Mike Thornton [@Mike4Eastleigh] (13 June 2015). "2 fantastic leadership candidates whoever wins will be great for us but I'm backing Norman. His inspired work on Mental Health changes lives" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  36. ^ "Why Jenny Willott is backing Norman Lamb". YouTube. 2015-06-11. Retrieved 2019-01-19.
  37. ^ "Why Eluned Parrott is backing Norman Lamb". YouTube. 2015-06-25. Retrieved 2019-01-19.
  38. ^ Perraudin, Frances (14 May 2015). "Rapper Dappy backs Norman Lamb's bid for leadership of Lib Dems". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 May 2015.
  39. ^ "The battle for the ruins". The Economist. 11 July 2015. Retrieved 13 July 2015.
  40. ^ "+++ Exclusive poll results of Lib Dem members on Farron vs Lamb". campaign-archive1.com.
  41. ^ Pack, Mark (14 July 2015). "Liberal Democrat Newswire #69 is out: final poll of Farron vs Lamb race". Lib Dem Newswire. Retrieved 15 August 2016.
  42. ^ Pack, Mark (24 June 2015). "Exclusive: results of poll of Lib Dem members on leadership race". Lib Dem Newswire. Retrieved 15 August 2016.
  43. ^ Esterson, Bill (2015-05-10). "First poll shows Labour leadership contest remains wide open". LabourList.org. Retrieved 2015-05-16.
  44. ^ "Post-Election Poll" (PDF). Survation.com. Retrieved 2015-05-16.
  45. ^ "Who Lib Dem Voice members think should be the next leader". Liberal Democrat Voice.
  46. ^ "Tim Farron is new Lib Dem leader". BBC News.
  47. ^ Tall, Stephen (26 June 2015). "The 'Orange Booker' Case for Supporting Tim Farron". Stephen Tall. Retrieved 11 June 2017.
  48. ^ Frances Perraudin. "Tim Farron: my religion would not be an issue if I were Jewish or Muslim". the Guardian.
  49. ^ "+++ Exclusive poll results of Lib Dem members on Farron vs Lamb". campaign-archive1.com.
  50. ^ Rowena Mason. "Norman Lamb's Lib Dem leadership campaign admits to 'negative' polling". the Guardian.
  51. ^ "Liberal Democrat leadership: Tim Farron confirms his bid". BBC News. 2015-05-14. Retrieved 2016-08-03.
  52. ^ "What role would Rennard have under a new Lib Dem leader?". Markpack.org.uk. 2015-07-10. Retrieved 2016-08-03.
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