Sir Vince Cable announces he will quit as Liberal Democrat leader in May
Sir Vince Cable has announced he will step down as leader of the Liberal Democrats in May after less than two years in the role.
He said he wanted to quit following May’s local elections to make way for a “new generation”.
The 75-year-old, who plans to remain as the MP for Twickenham, made the announcement hours after MPs voted in the Commons to delay Brexit.
Sir Vince, who was elected leader following the 2017 election, had previously said he would remain in post until “Brexit is resolved or stopped”.
In a message to party members, ahead of the party’s spring conference, which begins today in York, he said: "I indicated last year that once the Brexit story had moved on, and we had fought this year's crucial local elections in 9,000 seats across England, it would be time for me to make way for a new generation.
"I set considerable store by having an orderly, business-like succession, unlike the power struggles in the other parties.
"So I wanted you, our members, to know that, assuming parliament does not collapse into an early general election, I will ask the party to begin a leadership contest in May."
He added: "It has been my great privilege to lead the Liberal Democrats at this crucial time.
"I inherited the leadership after two difficult and disappointing general elections.
"But I take pride in seeing the party recovering strongly, with last year's local election results the best in 15 years, record membership and a central role in the People's Vote campaign."
A former Business Secretary under the Tory/Lib Dem coalition government, Sir Vince succeeded Tim Farron as party leader.
But the party has struggled to make any major breakthroughs in the polls in recent months, despite being a strong proponent for a second Brexit referendum.
Speaking to BBC Newsnight, Sir Vince admitted the new Independent Group of MPs had distracted attention away from his party, but he added: “We have made a lot of steady progress after two very difficult general elections.”
Deputy leader Jo Swinson, who is viewed as a possibly successor to Sir Vince, tweeted: “Vince has been a voice of reason in unreasonable times.
“He has led the party with calm authority in our campaign for a people's vote and has laid the foundations for us to build on as we fight not only against Brexit but for a brighter future for our country.
"It has been an honour to work with Vince for a more open, liberal & tolerant Britain. He has helped @LibDems through challenges of last two years & led us to some of our best local election results in a decade - and I'm confident we'll celebrate another strong set of wins in May."
Another possible succeessor, Lib Dem education spokeswoman Layla Moran, tweeted: "Vince Cable I want you to know how grateful I am for all you've done. Thank you so much for your service to the Party and Brexit."