Nick Clegg celebrates same-sex marriage as he steps down as Lib Dem leader

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Following a devastating defeat for the Lib Dems at the general election this week, Nick Clegg has announced his resignation as party leader, noting same-sex marriage as one of the party’s greatest achievements.

Mr Clegg held onto his Sheffield Hallam seat in the 2015 general election, but speaking on the result announcement, hinted that he may step down as party leader.

Despite a strong challenge from Labour’s Oliver Coppard, Mr Clegg gained 40% of the vote to keep his seat compared to 36% from the challenger.

He described the election as “cruel and punishing” for his party, having gone from a majority of over 15,000 votes in 2010 to just 2,353.

Then, on confirming his resignation, Mr Clegg said: “I always expected this election to be exceptionally difficult for the Liberal Democrats.”

Describing the election as “immeasurably more crushing and unkind than I could ever have feared”, and immediately said he “must take responsibility” and said he would “resign as the leader of the Liberal Democrats”.

Saying it had been “a privilege” to serve in Government, he said the number of Lib Dem colleagues who lost their seats was “heartbreaking”.

He went on to say that he hoped that “gay couples know that their love was worth as much as everyone else’s” would mean that “our losses can be endured with a little selfless dignity too.”

Continuing, he said the Lib Dems had the “courage to step up at a time of crisis – we have done something that cannot be undone. We leave Britain as a fairer stronger, greener, more liberal country than it was five years ago”, he said.

“I believe the history books will judge our party kindly.”

Hinting that he may no longer lead the party, he said: “The election has profound implications for the country, and obviously has profound implications for the Liberal Democrats. I will be seeking to make further remarks about the implications of this election, both for the country and for the party that I lead and for my position in the Liberal Democrats when I make remarks to my colleagues in the Liberal Democrats later this mornign when I return to Westminster.”

Mr Clegg became the first main party leader to back same-sex marriage in a PinkNews readers’ Q&A in 2010.

On answering PinkNews readers’ questions, he announced his support for equal marriage, saying: “I support gay marriage”.

He later reiterated his support for marriage equality between gay and straight couples in England and Wales, affirming that it was no longer a question of ‘if’ the move will go ahead.

Other senior members of Mr Clegg’s party were unable to retain their seats, including business secretary Vince Cable, who lost his Twickenham seat to the Conservatives.

Mr Cable lost his seat by 25,580 votes to Conservative Tania Mathias.

The Liberal Democrat minister responsible for introducing same-sex marriage, Lynne Featherstone, was also unseated after a knife-edge battle with Labour’s Catherine West for her Hornsey and Wood Green constituency.

Liberal Democrat equalities minister Jo Swinson also lost her East Dunbartonshire seat to the Scottish National Party.

Simon Hughes who has served as Minister of State for Justice and Civil Liberties and was the UK’s most senior openly bisexual politician – lost out to Labour’s Neil Coyle.