GREG Mulholland hung on to his Leeds North West seat in a rare bit of good news for the Lib Dems - but ruled himself out of challenging for the party leadership.
Speculation had been rife that with Nick Clegg just clinging on to his Sheffield Hallam seat - and the Lib Dems’ virtual collapse nationwide - a change in leadership will soon be on the cards at the top.
Asked if it was a bittersweet night, Mr Mulholland said “yes, very much so”.
“Obviously I’m delighted and honoured to have been elected for a third time in Leeds North West and very happy to be able to get on with my job in the constutuency,” he said,
“But clearly for the Liberal Democrats it’s been a dismal night and I have the responsibility along with my colleagues to do our best to rebuild the party.”
Asked if he would be throwing his hat in the ring for the Lib Dem leadership, he said “No, that’s a very easy question to answer”.
“It’’s up to Nick to decide what to do and he’ll do it right.
“We need to arrange to get together r and discuss how best to go forward and how to organise ourselves over the next five years.”
Speaking before the Tories outright majority had been confirmed, he said there was “no question of the Liberal Democrats being involved in anything with the Conservatives agin.
“It’s not even on the agenda,” he said,
“We can now get on with thinking of how we can best we provide a strong, if smaller, liberal and Liberal Democrat voice in British politics.”
A 70 per cent turnout saw Mr Mulholland gain almostt 16,000 votes in Leeds North West, almost 3,000 more than his nearest rival, Labour’s Alex Sobel.
However it was a nervous victory, slashing his previous majority of more than 10,000.
He admitted it had been a tough battele to retain his seat, but praised the “wonderful” team of people behind him.
“I now have a responsibility to the constituents and the responsibiilty of doing my part to rebuild the party.
“We just have to regroup and do our best both in the House of Commons and to re-engage with the British Public and show them why the Liberal Democrats are needed.”
With 17 seats still to be declared this morning, the Liberal Democrats had secured just eight.