Nick Clegg’s resignation triggered surge in Liberal Democrat membership - says leadership candidate Tim Farron

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Nick Clegg’s resignation speech was the ‘trigger’ for thousands of new people joining the Liberal Democrats, the man hoping to replace him said.

Tim Farron - one candidate in the running to lead the party after Mr Clegg stood down in the wake of a disastrous election result - met supporters and councillors in Crookes.

Tim Farron talks to Liberal Democrat supporters in The Ball pub in Crookes

Tim Farron talks to Liberal Democrat supporters in The Ball pub in Crookes

The party says 200 people in Sheffield have joined the party since May 7, more than in any other city.

Former party president Mr Farron said: “A lot of people who’ve joined the party - and membership has increased by a third in three and a bit weeks, which is pretty staggering - the trigger of this massive spike was Nick’s resignation speech.

“There’s a sense in which his extolling what the Liberal Democrats have actually done and what their values mean in Government was compelling to a lot of people who felt the party had a result they didn’t deserve.

Mr Farron said the party was ‘devastated’ after being cut down to just seven MPs but it had been in ‘worse situations in the past’ and its survival was ‘essential but not inevitable.’

‘We have to go out there and earn the right to be heard again’, he added.

He part of the reason why he wanted the top job was because: “I’m just not having the Liberal Democrats die on my watch frankly.

“I see that what we desperately need now is a skillset of someone who can communicate clearly with people, who is a campaigner, who has a plan to build the party back up from the grassroots - starting in places like Sheffield.

“We won Sheffield Hallam in the first place because we’d won those council seats in Sheffield, by being immersed in this city.

“If there’s a way back for the Liberal Democrats and there absolutely must be, then it is from the grassroots up - I think that meets my skillset.”

Mr Farron said there was ‘definitely’ a place for Mr Clegg in his team if he become leader. He said Mr Clegg had been ‘reinvisaged’ by the electorate as somebody who ‘did the right thing by the country and got punished for it.’

He also paid tribute to former Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy, who has died aged 55.

He said the dad was ‘very different in politics’ and had ‘spoken from his heart.’

Sheffield politicians have also paid tribute to former Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy.

Mr Kennedy, who led the party from 1999- 2006, died at his home in Scotland on Monday aged 55.

Sheffield Hallam MP Nick Clegg said he ‘ devoted his life to public service, yet he had an unusual gift for speaking about politics with humour and humility which touched people.’

Coun Jack Scott, Labour councillor for Arbourthorne, said he ‘stood up for Europe and against invading Iraq. He will be sadly missed.’