Sir Ed Davey elected as new Liberal Democrats leader

27 August 2020, 11:36

Sir Ed Davey won a large majority of votes to become the Lib Dems fifth leader in half a decade
Sir Ed Davey won a large majority of votes to become the Lib Dems fifth leader in half a decade. Picture: PA
Rachael Kennedy

By Rachael Kennedy

Sir Ed Davey has been elected the new leader of the Liberal Democrats, following on from Jo Swinson as the party's fifth leader in five years.

The MP for Kingston and Surbiton secured 42,756 votes in the ballot, giving him a large lead on the 24,564 votes won by his rival, Layla Moran.

Turnout was calculated at 57.6%.

Sir Ed, who served as secretary of state for energy and climate change in 2012, said the party needed to "wake up and smell the coffee" as he accepted his new leadership role on Thursday.

Speaking at the event in central London, he said: "Nationally, our party has lost touch with too many voters.

"Yes, we are powerful advocates locally. Our campaigners listen to local people, work hard for communities and deliver results."

Referencing the poor result of December's general election, where former leader Mrs Swinson was ousted from her seat and the number of Lib Dem MPs was nearly halved, Sir Ed said the party would need to "face the facts" at a national level.

He said: "Nationally, voters have been sending us a message. But we have not been listening.

"It is time for us to start listening. As leader I am telling you: I have got that message. I am listening now."

Sir Ed has co-led the party alongside Baroness Sal Brinton since Mrs Swinson stepped down in 2019, later highlighting in his campaign that the next elected leader would face a "huge job" to rebuild and face a Conservative majority.

Speaking at the start of the campaign in July, the 54-year-old criticised the government's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, telling LBC's Iain Dale the country could be "in a much better place" had recommendations been followed.

He said an inquiry was also needed "as soon as possible" to learn lessons from the outbreak and to try and avoid further surges of COVID-19.

"Other countries have already set up inquiries and managed to do it and they've got quite tight timetables because they want to make sure they do learn the lessons," he said.

"They do learn from the mistakes as quickly as possible because there could be a second wave."

On Thursday, Sir Ed praised his fellow leadership candidate Layla Moran for fighting a "passionate campaign" as he thanked her for her "energy".

He added: "Since becoming an MP, you have inspired so many people, particularly young people.

"Your future is bright and I look forward to you playing a big role in my team."

Ms Moran, meanwhile, congratulated her rival as she said she was "looking forward" to working with him and campaigning for a brighter future.

She added: "Thanks to my amazing team, supporters, and the entire Lib Dem membership!"

The MP for Oxford West and Abingdon has fewer years experience in politics than her opponent, having previously worked as a maths and physics teacher before winning her Commons seat in 2017.

She is now the Lib Dems' spokeswoman for education.

Several other MPs also tweeted their congratulations on Sir Ed's posting after the announcement on Thursday morning, including the Lib Dems' Christine Jardine and Daisy Cooper.

Ms Jardine tweeted that the "hard work starts now," while Ms Cooper said she was excited to "push for a more open liberal Britain".

The Green Party's Caroline Lucas later added her praise, tweeting: "Look forward to working together & with all opposition parties to hold this appalling government to account & to reform our archaic undemocratic electoral system for good."