Hughes and Opik go head to head in leadership contest

Lembit seeks top job
Lembit seeks top job

Simon Hughes and Lembit Opik have announced their intention to stand for the Liberal Democrat party presidency.

Lembit Opik, Liberal Democrat spokesman on Wales and Northern Ireland, has announced his intention to stand on Thursday.

Mr Opik pledged to communicate with grass roots members and motivate the party.

He is perhaps best known for his calls for the Government to take the threat of an asteroid strike seriously, but is widely regarded as intelligent and ambitious.

Defeated London mayoral candidate Simon Hughes announced his intention to stand this afternoon. He claims to have gathered the support of two thirds of Liberal Democrat MPs, and said: "My reasons for standing to be Liberal Democrat president are simple. I believe passionately in liberalism and liberal democracy. More and more parts of Britain now have Liberal Democrat leadership.

"I want to use my energy, enthusiasm and experience to help turn my party's campaign for liberal democracy into a crusade."

Nominations for the position close on 30th June and there will be a ballot of members in August.

The presidency is currently held by Lord Dholakia, who will stand down after serving the maximum four years.

Commentators are divided on the importance of the role. Though there is a large ceremonial aspect, with president essentially the Liberal Democrat figurehead at formal events, for some it can act as a springboard to political advancement.

Current party leader Charles Kennedy held the presidency between 1990 and 1994.

The president is responsible for chairing policy committees and motivating and uniting the party.