Nick Clegg 20,988
Chris Huhne 20,477
Chris Huhne will feel desperate this afternoon. No one thought he would get close to Clegg, but Clegg ran a very unconvincing campaign - uninspiring and anonymous. Huhne actually deserved to win.
However, I say all this in the knowledge that no one should underestimate Nick Clegg. I think he is a very talented politician and will be a more formidable opponent than Ming Campbell ever could have been. He is much closer to the Conservatives politically than Ming or Chris Huhne, and that in the end may be his undoing. His instinct in the short term will be to mark out his own distinctive brand of liberalism. Overtures from other parties will be ignored or laughed at.
But Nick Clegg knows, just as well as most sane Conservatives and LibDems know, that he may play a pivotal role after the next election. It is inconceivable to me that he could work with Labour. If he really wants to "change Britain to make it the liberal society we want it to be", there is only one course of action open to him - to work with David Cameron to achieve it. I listened carefully to his victory speech - there was hardly anything in it which David Cameron ( or indeed David Davis) couldn't have said.
Nick Clegg is the leader of a new generation of thirty and fortysomething Liberal Democrats. These are people who actually want power. They're not content to sit on the fringes and postulate. They want to change things. And they all realise that the only way to do it is to get into bed with a modern liberal Conservative Party after the next election, if there is a hung parliament. Nothing would please me more than top see a majority Conservative government and the Liberal Democrats reduced to a rump. But electoral arithmetic shows that a hung parliament is a real possibility - and the Conservatives and LibDems now have two years to work out how they would deal with it. I certainly don't expect them to do it in public, but do it they must.
UPDATE 3pm: Caroline Spelman has been quick off the mark with the first 'love bomb' with Nick Clegg's name on it...
We congratulate Nick Clegg on becoming the latest leader of the LiberalUPDATE: 10,000 fewer people voted in this contest compared to the one inMarch 2006 which was won by Ming.
Democrats. We hope that the Liberal Democrats under Mr Clegg will join us
in putting pressure on the Government to devolve power to local authorities,
communities and individuals; in our opposition to ID cards; and in our
commitment to social justice and environmental progress. We hope that together
we can create a new progressive alliance to decentralise British politics.
UPDATE: Nick Clegg's speech can be heard HERE courtesy of Tory (rather than LibDem!) Radio.