Business Secretary Vince Cable has stepped down as deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats to focus on his role in the coalition government.
The race to fill the number 2 spot, and the debate which will ensue to find his successor, could trigger debate within the party about the terms of the current coalition.
There are Lib Dem backbenchers unhappy with their new found alliance with the Conservatives, and may use the fight for the deputy leadership as an opportunity to demonstrate their discontent.
Speaking on his decision Mr Cable explained:
“It has been an honour to serve as the deputy leader of our party. However, in joining the cabinet I have taken on many new challenges and responsibilities and it is right that I focus wholeheartedly on the job in hand.
“These are exciting times to be a Liberal Democrat, and despite all the challenges we face we have a real opportunity to change Britain for the better.”
The contest to replace Mr Cable will take place on Wednesday 9 June, with the result announced that evening.
Will former contenders and leaders respectively, Simon Hughes and Charles Kennedy be tempted? Or will Sarah Teather or Lynne Featherstone follow Diane Abbott and Oona King’s example and bring some balance to the race?
By Richard Sudan