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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 September, 2004, 07:34 GMT 08:34 UK
Hughes is new Lib Dem president
Simon Hughes
Simon Hughes has pledged to treble Lib Dem membership
The Liberal Democrats have named former home affairs spokesman Simon Hughes as their new president.

He polled 71% of votes cast by party members, defeating the only other opponent, Wales spokesman Lembit Opik. The turnout was 47.3%.

The president chairs the party's executive and helps draws up strategy. Mr Hughes will serve for two years.

The vacancy arose because current president Lord Dholakia has ended a maximum period of four years in office.

The North Southwark and Bermondsey MP said it was an honour and a privilege to be elected president.

"Working with Charles Kennedy and Menzies Campbell, my immediate aim as party president will be to follow up our successes in Brent and Leicester by helping Jody Dunn win the forthcoming Hartlepool by-election.

We are now winning silver. But in the years to come nothing less than gold will do
Simon Hughes
Lib Dem President

"I will then work flat out for a big increase in Liberal Democrat seats at the next general election, to increase our membership to overtake Labour's and grow our party's resources, appeal and votes to make the party fit for the purpose of government."

Mr Hughes has told BBC News Online that he would aim to increase the number of Lib Dem MPs by 50% at the next election.

"My job as party president is to ensure the Liberal Democrats grow in numbers, grow in effectiveness and become the leading force in British politics."

Britain was rightly celebrating successes at the Olympics, Mr Hughes said, adding that the Liberals had had some golden days in the past.

'Going for gold'

"But times are changing now our sights are higher. Our aspirations are greater. Our potential for achievement is better too.

"We are now winning silver. But in the years to come nothing less than gold will do."

Mr Hughes polled 24,333 of the 34,479 ballots returned, while Mr Opik won 10,002 votes cast.

Labour chairman Ian McCartney said Mr Hughes' election confirmed the Lib Dems were "soft on crime"

"Simon Hughes is the man who has led the fight to stop Labour's tough measures on anti-social behaviour in Westminster," he said.

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