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Lamb to run for Lib Dem leadership

Published 11/05/2015

Lord Ashdown says inaccurate opinion polls helped the Tories win the general election
Lord Ashdown says inaccurate opinion polls helped the Tories win the general election

Norman Lamb has confirmed he will be standing for the Lib Dem leadership after being widely tipped as a frontrunner to replace Nick Clegg.

Mr Lamb - who became MP for North Norfolk in 2001 and was health and social care minister under the Coalition - described the role as a "monumental task".

The 57-year-old is the first to declare his bid in a race expected to be dominated by him and former party president Tim Farron.

Mr Farron, who has been urged to run by the leaders of the Scottish and Welsh Lib Dems, Willie Rennie and Kirsty Williams, has said that he will decide in the coming days whether to throw his hat into the ring.

Just eight Lib Dem MPs remain in the House of Commons after catastrophic losses on polling day, which saw most of their one-time coalition Cabinet colleagues, including Vince Cable and Danny Alexander, toppled.

Mr Clegg immediately announced his resignation as the scale of the disaster became clear.

Speaking to ITV Anglia, Mr Lamb said: "I think we've got a lot of learning to do and we've got to understand where we went wrong.

"I think we did a lot of good things in government that we should be very proud of - cutting tax for people on low pay, money we invested in children from poorer backgrounds and their schools - these are really important things that will make a big difference in time but we didn't communicate that very well.

"I suspect in the next five years, with the Conservatives on their own, people might start to see what a good restraining influence we were and also some of the very progressive policies that we actually achieved in government."

Watford-born former employment lawyer Mr Lamb, who first stood for election in North Norfolk in 1992 and again in 1997 before finally being elected four years later, held his seat last Thursday with a majority of 4,043, down from 11,626 in 2010.

Afterwards, the married father-of-two, who lives in Norwich, said he was "grateful" for the faith his constituents had shown in him but conceded it was a "bruising night" for the party.

Nominations for the Lib Dem leadership open on Wednesday. To get on the ballot a contender must secure the endorsement of 10% of MPs - now less than one person - as well as 200 members from at least 20 local Liberal Democrat parties.

The wider membership then elects the winner via an alternative vote system, with the verdict due on July 16.

Meanwhile, Paddy Ashdown has claimed his party was "killed" by the inaccuracy of the pre-election opinion polls.

Having said he would "eat my hat" after a learning a shock exit poll predicted a significant Conservative victory, the party's former leader admitted he had been "blindsided" by the result.

The pollsters are facing an independent inquiry by the British Polling Council after almost every election poll during the campaign underestimated the Tories' lead over Labour.

In an interview with the Guardian, Lord Ashdown said he thought the victory was an "unexpected success" for David Cameron's party as much as it was an "unexpected disaster" for the Liberal Democrats, although the polls had forecast heavy losses for the party.

He also said the success of the SNP was "the creation" of Mr Cameron and said he felt "the union was more at risk than at any moment in the last three centuries".

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