The bookies’ favourite in the race to succeed Tim Farron as the Liberal Democrat leader has ruled herself out of the top job.
Former business minister Jo Swinson announced she will fight for the deputy leadership instead, saying it is “the right role for me now”.
The party is facing its second hunt for a new leader in two years following the dramatic resignation of Mr Farron over the conflict between his faith and political career.
Ms Swinson said that while most men in her position would “run for leader like a shot”, it did not make such a move the right thing to do.
The East Dunbartonshire MP said: “I have been overwhelmed by so many lovely messages from people I know, and from many members I have not yet met, encouraging me to stand for leader. I am touched and flattered that you look to me and I am determined to play a key role in our party’s leadership.
“Being the leader of a political party is a unique and all-encompassing job, even more than the roles of MP and minister that I have undertaken before. It should not be done simply to achieve status, to make a point, or to please others.
“Feminist that I am, I have of course wondered what a bloke in my position would do. It’s obvious. Most blokes in my shoes would run for leader like a shot. It’s true that my many years of encouraging women to have the confidence to go for that exciting new role have taught me that women often don’t go for things when they should.
“But just as often I have observed men going for the promotion when they shouldn’t. Just because a man would do it, doesn’t make it the right thing to do. I have consistently fought against stereotypes and structures that impose a choice on someone, rather than allowing them to make up their own mind.”
Mr Farron, a committed Christian who was repeatedly questioned during the election campaign as to whether he believed gay sex was a sin, said his religion had made him a “subject of suspicion”.