BURNLEY MP Gordon Birtwistle has thrown his hat into the ring to become the next deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Commons.

Mr Birtwistle will contest a vote among the party’s 56 MPs later this month following the appointment of current deputy, Simon Hughes, as the minister of state for justice.

If successful, he said he would use the position to ‘do the best for Burnley and the north of England’.

Mr Birtwistle, also a councillor for Coal Clough with Deerplay, was elected to Parliament in May 2010 after three failed bids in 1992, 1997 and 2005.

He served as Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to Danny Alexander, chief secretary to the Treasury, from 2010 to 2012, before taking up a role as the government’s Apprenticeship Ambassador to Business last year.

The 70-year-old said: “There is a vacancy and I have put my name forward.

“It’s up to the rest of the MPs to decide who they think is the best candidate.

“A lot depends on who the other candidates are, and whether they attract the support of backbenchers.

“If I win, I win. If I lose, I’ll get over it.”

Mr Birtwistle joined the Lib Dems, then the SDP-Liberal Alliance, in 1982. He was a Labour member in the 1960s and 1970s.

Nomination papers for the vacancy were released by the party yesterday, and must be submitted by next Tuesday, with a secret ballot of its MPs the following Tuesday.

Mr Birtwistle said: “The closer I am to the decision-makers, the better it benefits Burnley.

“As PPS to Danny Alexander, I secured investment for Burnley General Hospital, Burnley Bridge Business Park, and the former Michelin site.

“I’ve had five signatures from back-benchers to complete my nomination. I’ve put my case to about half of the MPs and they’ve all said: ‘Go for it’.”