Jo Swinson becomes first woman to be elected leader of Liberal Democrats

The former deputy leader saw off a challenge from Sir Ed Davey in the race to succeed Vince Cable

Andrew Woodcock,Ashley Cowburn
Monday 22 July 2019 17:23 BST
Jo Swinson says she is 'absolutely over the moon' at result 'as the first woman to lead our party'

Jo Swinson has been elected as the first woman leader of the Liberal Democrats, defeating Sir Ed Davey in the race to replace Sir Vince Cable.

Ms Swinson – who had served as Cable’s deputy – took more than 47,997 votes against Sir Ed’s 28,021 in a landslide victory for the former coalition minister.

She said she was “delighted, honoured, over the moon” to be elected by the party’s 106,000-strong membership at a moment when Lib Dems have scored notable successes in local and European elections and are hovering at around 20 per cent in the polls.

And she vowed: “I will do whatever it takes to stop Brexit.”

The 76,429 votes cast – a turnout of 72 per cent – was the highest ever total in a Liberal Democrat leadership contest, said party president Sal Brinton.

At 39-years-old, East Dunbartonshire MP Ms Swinson is the youngest ever leader of the Liberal Democrats and the first party leader to be born in the 1980s.

She told cheering supporters gathered in central London: “I stand before you today not just as the leader of the Liberal Democrats, but as a candidate for prime minister.

“There is no limit to my ambition for our party, our movement and our country. I am ready to take our party into a general election and win it.”

Denouncing the probable new Conservative leader Boris Johnson as “not fit to be prime minister”, Ms Swinson urged pro-European MPs from other parties to defect to the Lib Dems.

“If you believe our country deserves better, that we can stop Brexit, that we can stop Johnson, Farage and Corbyn, work with us, join us,” she said. “My door is always open.”

And in a message to voters, she said: “If you think that our country is headed in the wrong direction and you want to change that, you need to act too. Shouting at the television is not enough, you need to join us.”

Jo Swinson named new Liberal Democrat leader

Referring to the result of the Tory leadership contest – due on Tuesday – Ms Swinson added: “Tomorrow, Boris Johnson is likely to take the keys to No 10 and set us on a path to a damaging no-deal Brexit. Stopping Boris, and stopping Brexit is my number one priority as leader.”

Responding to her victory in the contest, Nick Clegg, the former leader of the party and deputy prime minister said: “In the up and down history of the Lib Dems, there can be few times when opportunities abound as much as they do today. And Jo Swinson has all the gifts to take full advantage of them.”

“The Brexit crisis has revealed a profound split between openness and insularity in Britain – and Jo has expressed the hopes of millions in speaking up for an open, tolerant Britain. Her voice will only grow in importance in the years ahead,” he added.

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