Lord Ashdown dismisses Lib Dem leadership ‘rival’

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LIBERAL Democrat peer Lord Ashdown insisted yesterday Nick Clegg was safe as the party’s leader, as he dismissed a potential successor as a “jolly guy”.

He said Mr Clegg now “comfortably presides” over the Lib Dems, which he had transformed from the “party of protest” to the “party of government”. He dismissed Lib Dem president Tim Farron as a “jolly guy” after he said the party had to ensure they stood up for themselves.

Mr Farron has emerged as a future leader in recent weeks, as Mr Clegg has come in for criticism for his handling of allegations that former chief executive Lord Rennard sexually harassed women activists.

Lord Rennard strongly denies the accusations.

Mr Farron is seen by some to have not helped the situation when he claimed the party had “screwed up” and appeared “to have let people down”.

In another interview with the parliamentary journal the House, he said: “The party is in a critical state. We may well be cockroach-ish, but we shouldn’t take that for granted. One day someone will stand on us if we are not careful.”

Mr Farron added: “We shouldn’t assume our survival is guaranteed.”