So, the biggest surprise is that there wasn't a surprise. Simon Hughes secured 38 votes with Tim Farron receiving 18.
I personally would have preferred Tim Farron but there is little question that Simon Hughes will provide not only experience and vision but will ensure the party retains its dinstinctive voice while in coalition. Simon is highly popular among grassroots activists and, at a time when some Lib Dems are finding it difficult to identify with the direction in which the coalition government is going, his wisdom and fiercely liberal philosophy will ensure the parliamentary party retains its strong ideological identity.
He might just be what the party needs at the moment. With a difficult budget on the horizon, I am sure he will prove a unifying factor when hard decisions are likely to be made.
He's also very good with the media and is a skilled communicator. Again, these are assets which will prove crucial in taking the party's ideas and distinctive ethos to an electorate which may be critical of the achievements of the coalition.
Simon said: "I will fight every day for the principles which underpin our party: fairness, freedom, openness, equality, stewardship of our environment and standing up for those who cannot stand up for themselves." This is typical Hughes rhetoric, and he's preaching to the converted. But liberals love it, and we know he means it. The challenge facing him is taking his vision to the country and ensuring that the freedom and fairness we believe in is reflected in the party's actions and campaigning.
As for Tim Farron, it's hard to believe there wasn't a minsterial position for him after the way he managed the DEFRA portfolio during the previous parliament. Och well, I'm sure his time will come...