New Lib Dem leader Tim Farron pledges comeback
Tim Farron declared the "comeback starts right now" for the Liberal Democrats as he addressed party members just hours after being elected leader.
The former party president beat opponent Norman Lamb by 56.5% to 43.5% on a 56% turnout in the contest to replace Nick Clegg.
Cheered on by supporters at a victory rally in London, Mr Farron said the party would win back support ward by ward.
He added: "Revival is in our grasp. Have hope. Have courage. Have belief.
" We start our plan for the 2020 election right now. And the fightback will begin well beyond Westminster."
He added: "That comeback starts right now, right here, it starts with us."
Mr Farron heaped praise on his leadership opponent, telling activists that the former minister was an "outstanding liberal".
And he paid tribute to predecessor Mr Clegg for the " passion and gravitas and sanity" he had shown in the wake of the party's crushing general election defeat.
He added: "In the election campaign which has just gone, we weren't bad at telling people what we were against. But we were pretty terrible at telling people what we were for.
"L et me be crystal clear what the Liberal Democrats are for: w e are the party that sees the best in people not the worst.
" We are the party that believes that the role of Government is to help us to be the best that we can be, no matter who we are or what our background. That's it. That's our mission."
The new leader now faces the challenge of turning around the ailing party after it lost all but eight of its 57 Commons seats after five years in coalition government with the Conservatives.
Nearly 34,000 members voted in the leadership election, with Mr Farron securing 19,137 votes and Mr Lamb 14,760.
A magnanimous Mr Lamb congratulated the victor, saying he had the capacity to "inspire people, in the party and beyond".
"We all together have to be absolutely united behind his leadership," he added.
Mr Clegg said his successor would pick the party up and get it fighting again following its brutal election drubbing.
"Tim Farron is a remarkable campaigner and a man of the utmost integrity and conviction," he said.
"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."
Former Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell 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 for the long haul. There will be no quick fixes, only hard work, commitment and dedication to the cause.
"Norman Lamb also has a great deal to contribute to the task of rebuilding the Liberal Democrats."
Former Liberal Democrat leader Lord (Paddy) Ashdown said: "Tim has fought a great campaign in which he showed all the gifts to be a very fine leader.
"I will be privileged to campaign under his leadership to rebuild our party."