Page last updated at 21:25 GMT, Wednesday, 26 May 2010 22:25 UK

Vince Cable stands down as Lib Dem deputy leader

Vince Cable
Vince Cable is one of the most familiar figures in British politics

Vince Cable has quit as Liberal Democrat deputy leader to concentrate on his job as business secretary.

Mr Cable, who has held the party role since 2006 and served as acting party leader in 2007, is one of five Lib Dems in the Tory-Lib Dem coalition cabinet.

He said he wanted to focus on the challenges of his government role and stressed the Lib Dems had a "real opportunity" to change Britain.

The party will elect a new deputy to leader Nick Clegg on 9 June.

The likely frontrunner for the role is former party president Simon Hughes who stood for the leadership in 2006 but does not have a job in the new government.

'Exciting times'

The BBC's political correspondent Ross Hawkins said Mr Hughes, who has been prominent in his support for the coalition in its first few weeks, was likely to make an announcement on whether he would stand in the next few days.

In his resignation letter, Mr Cable said it had been a "great honour" to serve as deputy leader.

There are great opportunities for the party alongside our working in coalition
Vince Cable

"However, in joining the cabinet I have taken on many new challenges and responsibilities and it is right that I focus wholeheartedly on the job in hand," he said.

"These are exciting times to be a Liberal Democrat and, despite all the challenges we face, we have a real opportunity to change Britain for the better. There are great opportunities for the party alongside our working in coalition."

In response, party leader Mr Clegg - who is deputy prime minister in the coalition - said Mr Cable had been a "fantastic deputy" and he looked forward to the two of them "continuing to work together in government".

Our correspondent said party sources suggested the deputy leadership involved fund-raising and other party political duties for which Mr Cable no longer had sufficient time. The sources also rejected suggestions he had a wider political agenda in stepping down.

Election process

Mr Cable was elected deputy leader in 2006, defeating former MP Matthew Taylor and current Lib Dem minister David Heath.

He became acting leader after the resignation of Sir Menzies Campbell in 2007 but opted not to run for the leadership at that time, citing his age as one factor.

Mr Cable helped raise the profile of the party during the financial crisis, having been one of the first MPs to draw attention to the risks of the lending boom.

The new deputy leader will be elected at a meeting of the party's 57 MPs.

Nominations for the position will be sought on 2 June and the election will take place a week later, preceded by hustings if there is more than one candidate standing.

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