A message from Nick Clegg to Liberal Democrat members
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats
Nick Clegg has written to Liberal Democrat members following the General Election. His letter is below:
I always expected this election to be exceptionally difficult for the Liberal Democrats, given the heavy responsibilities we have had to bear in government in the most challenging of circumstances.
But clearly the results have been immeasurably more crushing and unkind than I could ever have feared.
For that, of course, I must take responsibility and therefore I announce that I will be resigning as leader of the Liberal Democrats.
A leadership election will now take place according to the party's rules. Our President, Sal Brinton, will be in touch with you later on today with details of that process.
For the last seven years it has been a privilege and an honour to lead a party of the most resilient, courageous and remarkable people.
The Liberal Democrats are a family and I will always be extremely proud of the warmth, good grace and good humour which our political family has shown through the ups and downs of recent years.
I want to thank every member, every campaigner, every councillor and every parliamentarian for the commitment you have shown to our country and to our party.
It is simply heart-breaking to see so many friends and colleagues who have served their constituents so diligently over so many years abruptly lose their seats because of forces entirely beyond their control.
In 2011, after a night of disappointing election results for our party, one of our candidates in Edinburgh, Alex Cole-Hamilton said that if his defeat was part-payment for the ending of child detention then he accepted it with all his heart.
Those words revealed a selfless dignity which is rare in politics but common amongst Liberal Democrats.
We will never know how many lives we changed for the better because we had the courage to step up at a time of crisis.
But we have done something that cannot be undone.
Because there can be no doubt that we leave Government with Britain a far stronger, fairer, greener and more liberal country than it was five years ago.
However unforgiving the judgement has been of the Liberal Democrats in the ballot box, I believe the history books will judge our party kindly for the service we sought to provide to the nation at a time of great economic difficultly and for the policies and values which we brought to bear on government - opportunity, fairness and liberty - which I believe will stand the test of time.
It is no exaggeration to say that in the absence of strong and statesmanlike leadership, Britain's place in Europe and the world, and the continued existence of our United Kingdom itself, is now in grave jeopardy.
And the cruellest irony of all is that it is exactly at this time that British liberalism - that fine, noble tradition that believes that we are stronger together and weaker apart - is more needed than ever before.
We must keep fighting for it.
That is both the great challenge and the great cause that my successor will have to face.
I will always give my unstinting support to all those who continue to keep the flame of British liberalism alive.
On the morning after the most crushing blow to the Liberal Democrats since our party was founded it is easy to imagine that there is no road back.
But there is because there is no path to a fairer, greener, freer Britain without British liberalism showing the way.
This is a very dark hour for our party but we cannot and will not allow decent liberal values to be extinguished overnight.
Our party will come back. Our party will win again.
Thank you, so much, for everything you have done.