Liberal Democrats set to unveil new leader

The Liberal Democrats will decide who is to become their fifth leader in five years this morning.

Sir Ed Davey and Layla Moran are both vying to become the party’s new leader after Jo Swinson dramatically lost her East Dunbartonshire seat in last December’s election.

Voting closed yesterday at 1pm and the winner of the contest is due to be announced at 11.30am on Thursday at a virtual event in central London.

The Liberal Democrats won just 11 seats last year, and after an internal inquiry into the party’s poor performance likened the campaign to a “high-speed car crash”, the next leader will be aiming to turn the party’s fortunes around.

Sir Ed, the MP for Kingston and Surbiton, is an experienced politician and former minister who first entered the Commons in 1997.

Sir Ed was a business minister under former Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg during the coalition years, and then moved to secretary of state for energy and climate change in 2012, promoting green energy policies.

He has temporarily co-led the party with Lib Dem peer Baroness Sal Brinton since Ms Swinson stepped down in 2019.

Sir Ed said the leadership election had put both candidates through their paces.

He said: “The next leader faces a huge job to rebuild the party, take on the Conservatives and get the party winning nationally again.

“This contest has put both candidates through our paces and made sure that the victor is battle-tested for this tough job ahead.”

Ms Moran, the MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, is battling Sir Ed for the top job in the two-horse race.

Having won her seat in 2017, Ms Moran has fewer years’ experience in the Commons in comparison to Sir Ed, but believes that she can bring a breath of fresh air to the party.

Before politics, Ms Moran was a maths and physics teacher and is currently the Liberal Democrats’ spokeswoman for education.

Ms Moran has said she believes she can offer the party a new start after numerous disappointing election results between 2010 and 2015, and has ruled out joining another coalition with the Conservatives.

She has also suggested that she would be prepared to work with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer on some issues.

Ms Moran said: “After a decade of decline, the Liberal Democrats are at a crossroads between revival or irrelevance.

“I’m urging members to seize this opportunity to renew the party, so we can transform the country. That starts by acknowledging our mistakes, listening to voters and showing them we are on their side.

“Our party has a chance to thrive, not just survive. Electing me as leader will send a clear signal that we are moving forward.”

Liberal Democrat members were able to vote for their preferred leader from when ballots went out on July 30 until Wednesday August 26.

Bath MP Wera Hobhouse announced she was entering the race in February, but has since withdrawn from the contest.