The post’s full title is Deputy Leader of the Parliamentary Party in the House of Commons – so the ballot is restricted to MPs. Last time round, in summer 2010 following Vince Cable resignation to take up the post of Business Secretary, it was contested by Simon and by Tim Farron. Simon beat Tim by 38 votes to 18.
The party’s standing orders were changed following the decision to enter coalition so that only an MP outside government is eligible to become deputy leader. This restricts the potential runners and riders list – which is all the more interesting given whoever’s elected pretty much automatically qualifies as a potential future leadership contender.
By my reckoning, if you exclude the MPs who are in government as either ministers or whips, or who are standing down at the next election, or who are Charles Kennedy or Mike Thornton, there are only 27 possible contenders. (Happy to be corrected on this.) Here’s that list, in some kind of order of likelihood as it seems to me…
I’d be surprised:
Sir Robert Smith
Agree? Disagree? That’s what below-the-line is for…
* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.