Jo Swinson has announced she will stand for the Liberal Democrat leadership, pledging to lead a movement to tackle “nationalism and populism”.
The party’s deputy leader said she was the right person to lead the “liberal movement” as she entered the contest to succeed Sir Vince Cable.
The leadership contest comes as the Lib Dems received an opinion poll boost, with a YouGov study suggesting they are currently the most popular party in the UK.
A new Lib Dem leader will be in place on 23 July after Sir Vince announced his decision to stand down earlier this year, and Ms Swinson will face competition from former cabinet minister Sir Ed Davey.
Ms Swinson, who also served as a minister in the coalition government, will officially launch her campaign on Friday but is already the bookmakers’ favourite.
She used an appearance on BBC’s Question Time to confirm the leadership bid, saying: “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.”
The party came second in the European elections and the YouGov poll for The Times suggested its popularity has increased even further.
The Lib Dems were on 24 per cent, ahead of the Brexit Party on 22 per cent and the Tories and Labour neck and neck on 19 per cent.
It is the first time the Lib Dems have been in the top spot in a question on how people will vote in a general election since the height of Nick Clegg’s popularity in 2010.
But YouGov’s Chris Curtis cautioned against the Lib Dems getting too carried away with the bounce they have enjoyed since the European elections.
He said: “The Cleggmania of 2010 faded fast, with the party falling back in the final weeks of the campaign and ending up with just 1 per cent more of the vote than they had won five years prior.”
Ms Swinson’s rival for the leadership launched his campaign with a plan to call on the Queen to stop a no-deal Brexit.
Sir Ed said he would propose a “cross-party humble address to Her Majesty, requiring the Prime Minister to revoke Article 50 if we got to the cliff edge.
“I hope Jeremy Corbyn will join me in that address.” He added.
A humble address is a direct communication from the House of Commons to the Queen, calling on the Government to comply with a request.
If approved, humble addresses are considered to be binding on the House.
Sir Ed, the party's home affairs spokesman, said: “Under my leadership, the Lib Dems will continue to lead the fight to stop Brexit, nothing is more urgent in British politics today.”
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