Tory frontrunner Boris Johnson is “one of the most disgraceful politicians in British politics today”, according to a Liberal Democrat leadership contender.
Former energy secretary Sir Ed Davey also declared there was “no cap” on his party’s ambitions after beating both the Labour Party and the Conservative Party in the European elections, adding “we should be willing to try to win a majority”.
Speculation has mounted over possible defections to the Lib Dems following the splitting of six MPs from Change UK and continuing tensions within the two main parties over Brexit.
Sir Ed said the Lib Dems were now the “credible pro-remain voice opposing the extremism on the left and the right we’re seeing in British politics”, adding that “if MPs want to join the Liberal Democrats, so long as they subscribe to Liberal Democrat values, then they’d be extraordinarily welcome”.
Speaking to the Press Association, he said: “What has happened to the revival of the Liberal Democrat fortunes is a seismic shift.”
The prospect of a Johnson premiership he added could prove the catalyst for an exodus of some remain supporting Tory MPs.
He said: “Many people in the Conservative Party, decent liberal pro-European Conservatives, feel that his character, Boris’ character, is so flawed that whatever position he took frankly I’m not sure they feel they could trust him and given he is a divisive figure representing one part of the Conservative Party.
“It would seem to me that there must be a chance that a number of MPs, I’ve no idea how many or who frankly, would be considering their positions.”
The Tory leadership contest, he argued, had shown “how unpatriotic” the Conservative Party has become, adding: “They’re putting personal interest and party above country. No-one more so than Boris Johnson and they all know, they must all know that a no deal would damage families and people in our country up and down it.”
Turning his fire on the favourite to take the Tory crown, he claimed: “I think Boris Johnson is one of the most disgraceful politicians in British politics today. He is, tells more lies than the rest of Parliament put together. He deceives employers, his own party leadership, his own MPs now and the British public.
“It would be a national embarrassment were he to become the prime minister and the fact that so many Tories are putting their careers, because they’re trying to back the winner, says more about them and more about the sorry state of the Conservative Party, than it does about what is right for our country.”
He added: “I think if he became our prime minister there would be many people who outside of that populist grouping that he would speak to, many people who would feel our country had gone significantly backwards and actually entering quite a dangerous period.”
Sir Ed said there was “not a prayer” he would enter into any coalition with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and there was also “absolutely no way” of doing so with the Conservative leadership.
He added: “As a strong opposition party with serious numbers of MPs, we could change the face of British politics even without being in government.”
The MP for Kingston and Surbiton said the economic case to stop Brexit was “overwhelming” and he would ”fight til my dying breath to keep us in the EU”.
He said: “In this momentous mess that is Brexit, above all people can agree, the majority of MPs can agree that a no-deal Brexit would be disastrous and we need our parliamentary democracy to be able to prevent that.”
He added: “The Brexiteers have been deceiving people on an industrial scale because they’ve failed to explain to people that there are problems in our world that cannot be dealt with by one country alone. This is the most disgraceful deception.”
The chances of a second referendum or People’s Vote amid the Brexit impasse he said had “never been higher”, claiming that “quite a lot” of One Nation Tories were “ready to break cover and a Johnson premiership would possibly be the final nudge”.
Speaking about a possible government of national unity “if necessary”, he said: “Liberal Democrats and certainly under my leadership would work with anybody and everybody to make that happen.”
Sir Ed, who is vying for his party’s top job against current deputy leader Jo Swinson, also revealed he had “a little bit” of cannabis three or four times at university, and had not had any Class A drugs as he attacked the Tories’ “hypocrisy” over the issue.