Sir Menzies Relinquishes Lib Dem leadership
Sir Menzies Campbell has been forced to resign as leader of the Liberal Democrats after a brutal coup by his own MPs.
After a string of desperate poll showings - the worst put his party on just 10 per cent - MPs moved to oust their leader.
His removal shocked Westminster for its savage and swift nature.
At a meeting of MPs Mr Campbell tried to rally support but found there were too few colleagues willing to back him. He then took the decision to stand down.
Vince Cable, the deputy leader, has taken over as caretaker leader until a contest is held.
It opens up the leadership to a younger candidate with Nick Clegg, the home affairs spokesman, or Chris Huhne, the environment spokesman, the obvious candidates to lead the party towards the next election.
Mr Hughes said in a statement: "Ming Campbell has this evening submitted his resignation as the Leader of the Liberal Democrats with immediate effect.
In his letter of resignation, released shortly after the announcement, Sir Menzies said: "It has become clear that following the prime minister's decision not to hold an election, questions about leadership are getting in the way of further progress by the party. Accordingly, I now submit my resignation as leader with immediate effect."
Nick Clegg, the party’s up-and-coming home affairs spokesman, was swiftly installed by bookmakers as favourite to take over.
In an interview for GMTV's Sunday programme Mr Hughes - who stood against Sir Menzies in the poll for party leader - said: "Everybody accepts it wasn't a great start, that he's improved considerably."
But he added: "The leader has to continually do well and better."
But Sir Menzies has insisted over the past weeks that he would stay on until after the next general election.
Earlier today the writing was on the wall when Mr Cable refused to endorse his leader in a radio interview.
Asked directly whether Sir Menzies' position was under threat he said: “It’s certainly under discussion, I don’t think it’s under threat."
The 66-year-old Scot has come under increasing pressure after poor showings for the LibDems in recent opinion polls.
"For the last two years Menzies has given huge purpose and stability to our party. He has led the professionalisation of the party and he has led the very successful preparations for the general election, whenever it comes," Mr Hughes said.
It is understood Glasgow-born Sir Menzies had been sounding out colleagues over the past few days, amid claims he was too old and lacking in dynamism.
The East Fife MP, who lives in Edinburgh, took over the party leadership in 2006 after Charles Kennedy was ousted after he admitted having a drink problem.
Under Kennedy, the party achieved its best ever result in the May 2005 general election, winning 22 percent of the vote -- but less than 10 percent of seats in parliament under Britain's first-past-the-post electoral system.
Charles Kennedy said: "I am sorry that things have ended up for Ming in this way, but know the gratitude felt towards him within the Party.
"I don't doubt he has a valuable ongoing contribution to make to the Liberal Democrats into the future."
Prime Minister Gordon Brown described Sir Menzies as "a man of great stature and integrity who has served his party and country with distinction", while Tory leader David Cameron added his tribute, saying: "Sir Menzies Campbell has had a distinguished parliamentary career and is a fine public servant."
Former Liberal leader Lord Steel, told the BBC: "I'm afraid the media had it in for him from the start and he was never able to overcome that. Its been very cruel, very unkind and very unfair."
This is Sir Menzies Campbell's letter of resignation as leader of the Liberal Democrats in full:
Sir Menzies Campbell
When I was elected Leader of the Party in March 2006 I had three objectives.
First, to restore stability and purpose in the party following my predecessor's resignation and the leadership campaign itself, second to make the internal operations of the party more professional, and third to prepare the party for a General Election.
With the help of others, I believe that I have fulfilled these objectives, although I am convinced that the internal structures of the party need radical revision if we are to compete effectively against Labour and the Conservatives.
But it has become clear that following the Prime Minister's decision not to hold an election, questions about leadership are getting in the way of further progress by the party.
Accordingly I now submit my resignation as Leader with immediate effect.
I do not intend to hold a press conference or to make any further comment.
Leader, Liberal Democrats