East Dunbartonshire MP Jo Swinson: “I will stand to become leader of Lib Dems”

editorial image

East Dunbartonshire MP Jo Swinson has confirmed she is to run to become the next leader of the Liberal Democrats.

Her decision comes as a poll of 1,763 UK adults by YouGov for the Times, on which party they would back if a general election was held now, was topped by the Lib Dems on 24%, ahead of the Brexit Party on 22%.

Ms Swinson, the party’s deputy leader told BBC Question Time last night the UK was “crying out” for a movement “to challenge the forces of nationalism and populism”.

Ms Swinson is the bookies favourite but faces competition from former energy secretary Sir Ed Davey, who has declared his intention to stand.

Current leader Sir Vince Cable will step down on July 23 and nominations to replace him close on 7 June.

Jo Swinson first won her home constituency in 2005 when she was just 25 years old, and by her early thirties, she was pacing the inner sanctums of the Coalition government.

But in 2015, East Dunbartonshire voters opted for the former broadcaster, the SNP’s John Nicolson, However, when the snap general election was called in 2017, she won back the seat.

The pro-EU Lib Dems came second in the UK’s European elections last week, taking 20.3% of the vote. However, in Ms Swinson’s own constituency, the SNP polled most votes, taking a 34% shared of the vote compared to the Lib Dems 24.7%.

Ms Swinson, a former equalities minister, was thought likely to stand when former leader Tim Farron quit in 2017 but ruled herself out and went for the deputy position instead.

Asked if she would be running, the former equalities minister told BBC Question Time: “Yes, I am going to stand to be leader of the Liberal Democrats.

“I will set out my plans but I happen to think that this country is crying out for a liberal movement that will challenge the forces of nationalism and populism and the Liberal Democrats need to be at the heart of that movement and I’m the person to lead it.”

In the YouGov poll, the Conservatives and Labour were tied on 19% and the Greens on 8%. The poll, conducted on 28 and 29 May, also found that nearly 70% of voters believed Brexit was the most important issue facing the UK.

Candidates for the Lib Dem leadership must be an MP supported by at least 200 members spread across at least 20 different local parties.

They must also have the backing of 10% of the parliamentary party - currently, the party has 11 MPs.

Lib Dem members will then have the final say on who becomes leader.