WESTMORLAND MP Tim Farron is being touted as the runaway favourite to take the Lib Dem reins if and when Nick Clegg decides to fall on his sword or is pushed onto it.
After catastrophic European election results where the Liberals lost all but one of their MEPS - including the North West's Chris Davies after 16 years in the role - there have been calls and leaks from within his own party for Mr Clegg to step aside.
Mr Farron has remained publically supportive of Mr Clegg, telling the Gazette it would be 'wrong for the party to turn its back on him, and praising his 'bravery' for going head-to-head with UKIP on the thorny issue of Europe.
And Mr Farron told the BBC 1 Sunday Politics show at the weekend: "This idea that's been put about by these people who are calling for a leadership election is just about the silliest idea I've heard I think in my political career. It's just not serious politics.
"There will be lots of people bruised by the results. The results have been disappointing. There were lots of people out there who did not deserve to lose. All the same across the country...we have seen the Lib Dems do well. Our job is to build those fortresses," he said.
Support for Mr Farron remains high in Westmorland and Lonsdale after the Lib Dems took 15 SLDC seats from a possible 17 and remain unopposed on Kendal Town Council.
Despite some media commentators putting Business Secretary Vince Cable, 71, as the MP most likely to unite all quarters of the embattled party, the Lib Dem president is clearly seen by bookies as the people's choice.
Some commentators suspect Mr Farron is biding his time to take charge after next year's general election rather than intervening now to right a ship already headed for the rocks nationally.
One local Lib Dem party insider told the Gazette: "I don't think (a leadership bid) will happen before Tim is re-elected."
A number of national betting chains have Farron out front ahead of Mr Cable and Danny Alexander, current Chief Secretary to the Treasurer.
Betfair have Farron at odds of 13/8 meaning someone would win £13 for every £8 betted, while WilliamHill have him at 6/4.
Just two months ago, Mr Farron was given overwhelming odds to retain his Westmorland and Lonsdale seat in 2015.
MORE TOP STORIES:
Ladbrokes were offering 1/20 that the Liberal Democrat president would win in May 2015.
Mr Farron won the last election in 2010 by a landslide - securing a massive 12,264 majority and over 60 per cent of the vote across Westmorland and Lonsdale.
That compared to the Conservative candidate of the time, Gareth McKeever, who polled 18,632 votes compared to Mr Farron’s 30,896.
Voting was closer in 2005 when Mr Farron unseated sitting Tory Tim Collins in a ‘photo finish’ by just 267 votes.
Of his chances in 2015, Mr Farron has said: “Odds fluctuate, but what they do tell us that it is a clear choice between the Lib Dems and Tories here in the South Lakes.
“Right through to the next election, I will do what I have always done, work hard for our community and campaign for more investment, well paid jobs and health services.