A survey of readers asking their preference to succeed Sir Ming Campbell as leader of the Liberal Democrats reveals that Nick Clegg is way out on front.

82% of PinkNews.co.uk readers who took part in the poll favour the MP for Sheffield Hallam.

His opponent Chris Huhne was chosen by 12% of participating readers as their choice.

An estimated 65,000 Lib Dem members were sent ballot papers on November 21st, and they must be returned by tomorrow.

The winner is expected to be announced on Tuesday.

Nick Clegg and Chris Huhne are both Westminster School-educated former MEPs with near-identical views nearly all the key issues.

Both became MPs as part of the Lib Dems strong showing in the 2005 elections. Both are English and will appeal to voters in key south and south east seats where the resurgent Tories are a major threat.

Indeed, Chris Huhne, currently his party’s spokesman on environment issues, has a majority of just 568 in his Hampshire seat.

At 53, he is the more senior candidate. He ran against Sir Menzies Campbell in the last leadership election in early 2006, coming second, and is a former journalist and successful businessman.

Yet for all that his 40-year-old opponent is the favourite to win, though the gap between them has narrowed as undecided voters plump for one of the candidates.

Both candidates gave exclusive interviews to PinkNews.co.uk during the campaign.