Well his parliamentary colleagues see it slightly differently. I have spoken to many of them in the last few days, including government ministers, and the overwhelming sense is that this was very much Farron’s leadership pitch, albeit for 2015, after the next election.
Farron himself has further fuelled such gossip, telling BBC 5 Live this morning:
I love doing my job and my job is to be the MP for Westland. That is my number one job. I have a mandate from the Liberal Democrats as well to be their president, I have absolutely no ambition other than that.
Of course there is no ruling it out in the future.
It’s as thinly disguised statement of intent, and it could backfire. His parliamentary colleagues are starting to get irritated at his posturing, especially since there is no suggestion of Clegg stepping down now, and 2015 is a long way away. His broadside went down particularly badly with the party leadership.
In particular, ministers are annoyed that he talked about the Lib Dems “divorcing” from the Tories in three or four years. It is a message designed to delight the delegates, but there are Lib Dems in government who feel the party’s best chance of power, having now thoroughly alienated Labour, would be to hope for the same result as in 2010. One told me that he would like the coalition to reform in 2015, and for the parties to stay “married” for ten years.
That’s not likely to go down well with the membership, and they may feel that backing Farron is their best way to avoid it.