Last Thursday, the Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable announced his departure date. The MP for Twickenham and former Business Secretary will stand down as party leader this May. Cable’s tenure of leadership has been short lived, having taken on the role unopposed in late 2017 following Tim Farron’s resignation.
Sir Vince’s departure will allow for my own party, the Liberal Democrats, to put forward a new face to attract supporters to the centre ground. Sadly, the Lib Dems have failed to make significant growth in the national polls under Cable’s leadership. This is despite an abysmal Conservative Party plunging the country further into a constitutional crisis with Brexit, and a Labour party that has shifted significantly to the left under a Eurosceptic leader who ignores his pro-European party members, despite their being a majority. For the Lib Dems to regrow to the support held prior to the coalition years, a new face is needed to convince the electorate that there is an alternative to our broken two-party system.
Reforms to permit non-MPs to stand for the leadership were rejected at last weekend’s York conference, meaning only Members of Parliament can stand. Any of the party’s eleven MPs could make a leadership bid, however, with Cable standing down and former leader Tim Farron highly unlikely to run, that leaves nine MPs who can stand. Of the selection pool there are three likely forerunners; Ed Davey, Jo Swinson and Layla Moran.
Former Energy Secretary Ed Davey has experience of holding ministerial office, like Vince Cable, and this could prove handy in a future leadership role. Similarly, Jo Swinson has experience in various offices, previously being a PPS to former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg. Swinson is also the current Deputy Leader of the party. Both Swinson and Davey have experience in the coalition, though this could be more of a hinderance rather than a benefit. The Lib Dems faced huge electoral backlash for their role in the coalition, so it is best that our next leader does not have the unfortunate lingering taint of the Cameron/Clegg government. Layla Moran is therefore the perfect fit.
Moran is the newly elected MP for Oxford West and Abbingdon, having only been an MP since the 2017 General Election. As a new MP, Layla had no role during the coalition years. This could help bring back voters who left the party after its decision to partner up with the Conservatives from 2010 through to 2015. A rising star in the party, Layla is a former teacher and her experience of this is evidenced in her ability to communicate effectively with others and explain things easily, whilst remaining a good listener. Although only being an MP for just short of two years, she has managed to make a name for herself in her campaign to end rough sleeping and homelessness, introducing the Vagrancy (Repeal) Bill to decriminalise rough sleeping. Layla is also currently the party’s youngest MP, which will prove handy in attracting young voters, like myself, to the party. Coupled with the Lib Dems’ anti-Brexit stance, something the youth are overwhelmingly in line with, this could mean the party are able to draw back younger voters that were lost with the failure to live up to tuition fee promises.
Although, it is worth noting a slight concern that Moran’s Oxford West and Abingdon seat is only held by a small majority of 816 votes. But her excellent performance as an MP is likely to make her seat safer that would appear prima facie. However, if party members feel an MP in a safer seat may be more appropriate, then Davey and Swinson would meet this criterion.
I also believe it is overdue that a woman be Lib Dem leader. The Conservatives have done it twice. The SNP, Greens, Plaid Cymru, DUP, SDLP, Sinn Fénn and UKIP have all, at some point, been led by a woman. The Lib Dems and Labour are the only major UK political parties to have not done so. It is time the party backs change with a woman in charge.
Whether Davey, Swinson or Moran take over the reins of leadership, all are fantastic and hard-working MPs that are sure to have my support. But, if the party wishes to bring back lost voters and gain new ones – in Cable’s words,‘to move from survival to success’ – change is needed. Layla Moran is best fit to provide that change.