Sir Menzies Campbell has resigned as leader of the Liberal Democrats, "with immediate effect".
Senior Lib Dems Vincent Cable and Simon Hughes made the announcement, saying the party owed Sir Menzies "a huge debt of gratitude".
Deputy leader Mr Cable will take over as acting leader for now - a leadership timetable will be announced on Tuesday.
Mr Hughes said Sir Menzies had taken the decision in the "interests of the party and of Liberal Democracy".
I am not quite sure what the LibDems have to do with Liberal Democracy, but there you go; I suppose that the old boy had to say something.
Iain Dale thinks that the only person who can revive the LibDem fortunes is Charles Kennedy and I'm inclined to agree: after all, drunk though he may have been, Kennedy was about the only reason that they were so high in the polls in the first place.
The only man who can resurrect LibDem fortunes is... Charles Kennedy. I have no idea if he has recovered his health, but he seemed in cracking form on Newsnight last week. He has a rapport with the electorate which is almost unmatched by any politician from any of the three main parties.
LibDem MPs will recoil at the prospect of Charles Kennedy sticking his head above the political parapet again. But if they want to save their own seats, they ought to sideline their initial instincts. He's probably the only one who can achieve the impossible - to bring the LibDems back up to 20% or so in the polls.
To lose one leader might be considered an accident, etc. etc. However, I suppose it is better—now that the spectre of an imminent election is no longer looming—for the LibDems to jettison Ming now so that they have a decent run up to the next election.
After all, they could barely be more irrelevent than they are right now: what have they got to lose?
UPDATE: UKIP leader, Nigel Farage, said that Ming was...
"... much too nice a man to lead the most unpleasant, dishonest party in British politics."
I don't think that that's too contentious, I must say.
What will be interesting is whether the LibDems can hold together or whether, as Vindico speculated, they might split into two parties.
The Adam Smith Institute blog has a great post on this question...On the one hand, you've got the free-market 'orange-bookers', who have argued for privatization, free trade, repatriation of powers from the EU, a cap on government spending, the abolition of the DTI, and so on. They even called for the NHS to be replaced with a system of competing social insurance companies.
On the other hand, you don't have to look far to find a Lib Dem desperate to turn Britain into a socialist nirvana ruled from Brussels, complete with endless government regulation, soak-the-rich taxes, and compulsory eco-lunacy for all
Quite. How long can they sit under one roof? As a relatively small parliamentary party they stick together through inertia, but if the party grows it is very conceivable, especially if the left wing goes further left and the right wing resists, that the party will split in two. It is also conceivable that the classic liberals in the Conservative party could split of from the Camaroons and join forces in a brand new Liberal party (liberal in the classic sense of free markets and small government).
I suspect it won't happen, but we can but hope...