Liberal Democrat head Vince Cable has followed the example of Prime Minister Theresa May and announced his resignation as party leader.
The move triggers a leadership race in the party which formed a coalition alongside the Conservatives from 2010 to 2015, but has lost much of its support afterwards.
Cable said his successor would take the reins on 23 July, adding he would be proud to “hand over a bigger, stronger party” than when he became leader.
“There are major challenges ahead,” he said. “One is to win, finally, the battle to stop Brexit. Our campaigning has given hope; now we need to secure a referendum in Parliament, and then win it.”
“Our long and proud tradition of success in local government was revived this month by the best local election results in our party’s history. In the last two years, we have gained 780 more council seats and 15 new councils.
Cable led the party to a strong showing in the local elections at the start of May, gaining 10 councils and 704 council seats.
The Lib Dems are yet to overcome their disastrous showing in the 2015 general election, however, which saw their number of MPs slashed from 57 to just eight, which has since risen to 11.
Yet recent renewed support gave the Lib Dems a boost in the polls in the run-up to yesterday’s European Elections. They fought on a strongly pro-Remain agenda, using the slogan “bollocks to Brexit”.
Cable, 76, surprised many with the slogan. He told ITV news following its announcement: “It is an attempt to put in a more pungent way what a lot of people think actually.”
Cable said today: “Membership is at record levels with a strengthening base of supporters amongst students and young people.”
Nominations for the position of party leader are now open, and will close on 7 June.