After Tim Farron's resignation on Wednesday, Neil Monnery looks at the four realistic candidates to replace him as leader of the Lib Dems...
"Being seen as a liberal party but not having had a female leader rankles with a lot of people. Even though it shouldn't be a reason for her to get a leg-up as it were, if you look at what some of the members are saying on social media, many feel it is just time for a woman."
Tim Farron sent out an e-mail to Lib Dem members at 17:09 on Wednesday with the title, 'What's next'. A mere 89 minutes later he would send out another entitled, 'My Resignation'.
His departure, announced just hours after saying he wanted the party to have a new Deputy Leader for the House of Commons, seems somewhat surprising but politics has always been a strange beast.
Unless something unforeseen happens then don't expect Christine Jardine, Wera Hobhouse, Layla Moran, Jamie Stone, Tom Brake, Stephen Lloyd or Alistair Carmichael to throw their collective hats into the ring to replace the MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale. So we are down to just four names, which I'll look at on a case-by-case basis.
Jo Swinson - The Favourite
If you were following my tweets throughout the campaign then you are probably fairly happy right now with one of my tips. I was asked who would be the next leader should things not go well for the party. I said it would be a two-horse race between Jo Swinson and Nick Clegg. The former was [23.0] on the Exchange at the time. The latter went on to lose his Sheffield Hallam seat.
I saw the MP for Dunbartonshire East as the favourite quite simply because it has been widely spoken about within Lib Dem circles for years. She also has one good asset that is often seen as a disadvantage in many circles, her gender.
The Lib Dems had no female MPs in the House of Commons after the 2015 General Election and the membership were not happy about it. The election of Sarah Olney in the Richmond Park by-election was welcomed but much more was wanted.
Being seen as a liberal party but not having had a female leader rankles with a lot of people. Even though it shouldn't be a reason for her to get a leg-up as it were, if you look at what some of the members are saying on social media, many feel it is just time for a woman.
One of her big drawbacks is her voting record on tuition fees. She voted to increase them on every reading in the House. This is something I'm sure some members will be wary about. On the other side of the ledger though, so did the other three realistic names.
Sir Vince Cable - The Experienced Candidate
It could all have been so different for Sir Vince. The 74-year-old was reportedly in position to enact a coup on Nick Clegg in 2014. Instead of getting rid of the former Deputy Prime Minister though, the MP for Twickenham's bluff was called while he was out of the country. He would subsequently be part of the collateral damage of the coalition, losing his seat at the 2015 General Election.
Two years later though and he's back. Clegg is gone and Farron has quit. This leaves Cable as the best known Lib Dem among their parliamentary party. The former Business Secretary would be the steady hand that some outside of the members believe would be right at this point of political uncertainty.
Cable is seen as the leader who would be most open towards the so-called, 'Progressive Alliance'. This would speak to those who want the party to be all about stopping the Tories at all costs. His age though has to be a factor, remember what the party did to Sir Menzies Campbell?
Sir Ed Davey - The X Factor
Sir Ed Davey, like his south London colleague mentioned above won his seat back after a two-year hiatus at the 2017 General Election. He is the potential candidate who no-one is totally sure about at the moment.
Following the rapid departure of Chris Huhne from the brief, Davey took over as Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change for the final three years of the coalition government. During this time he didn't seem to make any waves but didn't do a bad job either. Certainly the dark horse candidate should he decide to run.
Norman Lamb - Second Time Lucky?
Widely expected to lose his North Norfolk seat, Lamb held on with relative ease and actually increased his vote by nearly 6,000 on 2015's numbers. He ran for the leadership after Clegg resigned but lost out to Farron.
Known as the strongest voice in the House of Commons regarding Mental Health issues, he is very popular within the Lib Dem rank and file. Rumours that he was the person who insisted on the second referendum being part of the manifesto persist though and if proven, would lead to many questioning his judgement on policy issues.
Quite simply, if Jo Swinson wants the job and runs then she is the rightful favourite. The 37-year-old would have broad support from the majority of members under the age of 40. A polished speaker who has stood up against positive discrimination in the past, the MP for Dunbartonshire East ticks a lot of boxes and would without a shadow of a doubt, be worthy of being the first female leader of the party.
Sir Ed Davey is her only real competition because no-one knows too much about him. Lamb is well liked and respected but the feeling is the party will go for an unabashed Pro-European and the MP for North Norfolk has certainly not been that. Sir Vince Cable would get a lot of support within the older members but the youngsters want a change. I'll tip up Davey for a small play only because the price is overly generous on the Sportsbook.
Since Tim's announcement yesterday evening, Jo Swinson has been backed into nearly 1/2 on the Exchange. She is the heavy favourite and only two things will stop her winning. Either she doesn't run (unlikely) or the party splits over the lack of diversity. The Swinson bandwagon is rolling and only she can stop it if she so desires.
You can follow @neilmonnery on twitter where he'll tweet about the latest movements on the Lib Dem leadership contest