Liberal Democrat MPs have been paying tribute to Sir Ming Campbell after it was announced today that he has resigned after one year, seven months and thirteen days as party leader.

Stephen Williams, the MP for Bristol West, who is an out gay man, expressed anger at the way 66-year-old Sir Ming has been treated over his age.

“I am very sad about his resignation,” he told PinkNews.co.uk

“I think he has been treated appallingly by sections of the media.

“If he was a different race or even a different sexuality, some of the comments made would be unacceptable, even illegal.

“Having said that, he has put the interests of the party above his own pride.”

Mr Williams, a frontbench spokesman on education for the Lib Dems, paid tribute to the strong support Sir Ming gave to gay rights legislation during his time as leader.

“He was absolutely sound on gay rights, which might not fit in with his image, but he was very supportive.

“Over the goods and services regulations earlier this year, when there were one or two colleagues that were wobbling, he was clear that the Liberal Democrats would support them.”

Party President Simon Hughes announced the departure of their leader at 18:30.

“Ming Campbell has this evening submitted his resignation as the Leader of the Liberal Democrats with immediate effect,” he said.

“Over the past two years, Ming has given stability and purpose to our party.

“He has hugely professionalised the working of our party and led its very successful preparations for the next general election.

“Ming has made this decision – as all his political decisions – in the interest of his party and Liberal Democracy throughout Britain.

“Every Liberal Democrat owes Ming a huge debt of gratitude.

“Vince Cable, our deputy leader will take over as party leader until a new leader is elected according to our rules.

“The detailed election timetable will be announced tomorrow.”

Acting leader of the party and Sir Menzies’ deputy Vince Cable paid tribute to Sir Ming this evening.

“During his time as Leader, Ming has earned the respect, affection and gratitude of the party,” he said.

“This was reflected in the warmth with which his speech was received by the party conference three weeks ago.

“The key message of that speech was that the Liberal Democrats are the only party with the distinctive, positive vision of a fairer and greener Britain.

“Throughout his political life Ming has campaigned for liberal values and social justice and we will ensure that we build on that legacy.”

The election for Sir Ming’s successor is expected to be held on 17th December.

A Liberal Democrat source told PinkNews.co.uk that there are only two serious contenders for the leadership: frontbench spokesmen Chris Huhne and Nick Clegg.

At the party’s conference last month, Sir Ming’s wife Lady Elspeth took Mr Clegg to task for telling the BBC that he would “probably” stand for the leadership when a vacany arose.