2019 Liberal Democrats leadership election

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2019 Liberal Democrats leadership election
← 2017 28 June – 22 July 2019 (2019-06-28 – 2019-07-22) 2020 →
Turnout72.0% (Increase16%)[a]
  Official portrait of Jo Swinson crop 2.jpg Official portrait of Sir Edward Davey crop 2.jpg
Candidate Jo Swinson Ed Davey
Popular vote 47,997 28,021
Percentage 62.8% 36.7%

Leader before election

Vince Cable

Elected Leader

Jo Swinson

The 2019 Liberal Democrats leadership election was held following the announcement of the resignation of Vince Cable as leader on 24 May 2019, after just under two years as leader of the Liberal Democrats in the United Kingdom. The two candidates to succeed Cable were Ed Davey and Jo Swinson.

The result was announced on 22 July 2019 with Swinson winning with over 62% of the vote.[1]


Vince Cable had previously stated his intention to stand down before the next general election. Shortly before the party's 2019 Spring Conference, he announced that he would ask the party to hold the leadership election in May 2019, after the 2019 local elections.[2][3] The party was expected to run a 9-week campaign starting after the European Parliament elections.[4]

On 24 May, the day after the European elections (but before the results were counted on 26 May) and the same day that Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party Theresa May announced her upcoming resignation, the Liberal Democrat leadership election was formally started.[5]

Election rules[edit]

The running of the leadership election was determined by Article 17 of the Liberal Democrat constitution.[6] Liberal Democrat leadership elections use the alternative vote (instant runoff) system, with all party members being entitled to vote under a one member, one vote system. As of 8 June the party membership was 105,480.[7]

Nominations closed on 7 June and the new leader was scheduled to take over on 23 July. Nominees were required to be an MP, have the backing of at least 10% of the Parliamentary party (i.e. one other MP), and be supported by at least 200 members spread across at least 20 different local parties.[5]

Cable had put a proposal to the party's Spring Conference to change the rules to allow non-MPs to seek the leadership; however, this was rejected. Thus the pool of potential candidates were the 11 MPs in the party at the time of the close of nominations.[8] A proposal to allow registered supporters, as well as members, to vote in the leadership contest was also rejected.[9]

Party members registered before the close of nominations were able to vote via postal or electronic ballots; these were issued on 28 June and 1 July respectively. Voting closed on 22 July and the winner announced that evening.[10][11]


In February 2019, eleven MPs from the Labour Party and Conservative Party resigned to form the centrist The Independent Group. Among potential leadership candidates, Jo Swinson was seen as most open to working with The Independent Group, while Ed Davey was least open.[12]

Layla Moran, having been elected in 2017, was seen as the candidate least related to the Cameron–Clegg coalition government.[12] Initially, most focus was on Swinson, Moran and Davey as likely contenders. However, Moran announced that she would not be entering the contest in mid-May.[13] After the May 2019 European Parliament elections, in which the Liberal Democrats performed extremely well, coming second and beating both the Conservative and Labour parties, Swinson and Davey were expected to be the candidates, with Swinson favoured by bookmakers.[14][15] Swinson called on supporters of Change UK and the Greens to work with the Liberal Democrats, but stopped short of calling for a formal alliance between the parties.[15] Stephen Bush, writing for the New Statesman, argued that the expected campaign issues—the legacy of the coalition and the threat of Change UK—were both largely rendered moot by the success of the Liberal Democrats in the local and European elections.[16]

Davey launched his campaign on 30 May with a focus on revoking the UK's withdrawal from the European Union and on environmental issues by "de-carbonising capitalism". He hinted at more interest in encouraging defections to the Liberal Democrats than pacts with other parties, like Change UK. He also defended the record of the coalition.[17] Swinson announced her campaign later that day too. Later that week, she said the party could be open to local electoral agreements to support other pro-Remain politicians, but that the Liberal Democrats were the "obvious rallying point" for those opposed to Brexit.[18]

Liberal Democrat Chief Whip Alistair Carmichael announced that the MPs, while they may make individual endorsements like Christine Jardine, will stay largely neutral in the election and two MPs will nominate each candidate in order to show that MPs will work with whoever becomes leader. Christine Jardine and Tom Brake nominated Swinson, and Wera Hobhouse and Jamie Stone nominated Davey. Carmichael and Cable remained neutral in the campaign.[19]


Roles in bold are currently held.

Candidate Last political roles Announced Nominated by
Ed Davey
Ed Davey
MP for Kingston and Surbiton (1997–2015, since 2017)
Home Affairs Spokesperson (since 2017)
Energy Secretary (2012–2015)
Foreign Affairs Spokesperson (2007–2010)
30 May 2019[17] Wera Hobhouse and Jamie Stone
Jo Swinson
Jo Swinson
MP for East Dunbartonshire (2005–2015, 2017–2019)
Deputy Leader (2017–2019)
Foreign Affairs Spokesperson (2017–2019)
30 May 2019[20] Christine Jardine and Tom Brake


The following MPs were discussed in the media as potential leadership candidates, but they declined to stand:


Ed Davey[edit]

Endorsements for Ed Davey
Members of the European Parliament
Members of the Scottish Parliament
Former Members of Parliament

Jo Swinson[edit]

Endorsements for Jo Swinson
Members of Parliament
Members of the European Parliament
Members of the Scottish Parliament
Former Members of Parliament
Former peers
Directly elected mayors

Public hustings[edit]

Ed Davey and Jo Swinson were invited to take place in a series of hustings organised by the party. Each of the fourteen events was held in a different location across Britain.[62]

Date Region Venue Map
31 May 2019 London City of London Academy, London
1 June 2019 South East England United Church, Winchester
1 June 2019 Western Counties King Edward's School, Bath
7 June 2019 Scotland MacRobert Building, Aberdeen
8 June 2019 Scotland Stockbridge Parish Church, Edinburgh
8 June 2019 North East The Assembly Rooms, Newcastle upon Tyne
14 June 2019 North West St Thomas Centre, Manchester
15 June 2019 Yorkshire and the Humber DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel, Leeds
15 June 2019 East Midlands Jubilee Campus, Nottingham
17 June 2019 Online hustings
21 June 2019 Devon & Cornwall Duke of Cornwall Hotel, Plymouth
22 June 2019 Wales Metropole Hotel, Llandrindod Wells
27 June 2019 South East England Sofitel London Gatwick, Crawley
28 June 2019 East of England Sidgwick Site, Cambridge
29 June 2019 West Midlands Stratford upon Avon School, Stratford-upon-Avon
10 July 2019 London National Liberal Club, London

Opinion polling[edit]

Polling organisation/client Sample size Jo
Ed Davey Undecided
June/July Lib Dem Newswire 2,863
Lib Dem members
40% 20% 40%
60% 40%


Candidate Votes %
Green tickY Jo Swinson 47,997
Ed Davey 28,021
Spoilt ballots 411
Total 76,429 Turnout 72.1

The electorate numbered 106,075, meaning that 76,429 Liberal Democrat members cast a vote, and 29,646 did not.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Compared to voter turnout in 2015, as party members did not vote in 2017.


  1. ^ "Lib Dems: Jo Swinson elected new leader". BBC News. 22 July 2019. Retrieved 22 July 2019.
  2. ^ "Cable to quit as Lib Dem leader in May". BBC News. 14 March 2019. Retrieved 14 March 2019 – via www.bbc.co.uk.
  3. ^ http://www.libdems.org.uk (14 March 2019). "The next chapter". Liberal Democrats. Retrieved 4 May 2019.
  4. ^ Newsnight, BBC Two, 3 May 2019
  5. ^ a b "Liberal Democrats start leadership contest". BBC News. 24 May 2019. Retrieved 25 May 2019.
  6. ^ "Our Constitution". Libdems.org.uk. 14 February 2014. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  7. ^ http://www.libdems.org.uk (8 June 2019). "Lib Dem membership is now the highest it's ever been!". Liberal Democrats. Retrieved 19 June 2019.
  8. ^ Williams, Jay (16 March 2019). "Vince Cable set to quit as Lib Dem leader: Who will take over?". Here Is The City. Retrieved 4 May 2019.
  9. ^ PoliticsHome.com (17 March 2019). "Lib Dems reject Vince Cable's proposals to shake up leadership rules". PoliticsHome.com. Retrieved 4 May 2019.
  10. ^ "What happens in a Lib Dem leadership election?". Liberal Democrat Voice. Retrieved 14 June 2019.
  11. ^ http://www.libdems.org.uk (24 May 2019). "Leadership Election". Liberal Democrats. Archived from the original on 18 July 2019. Retrieved 15 July 2019.
  12. ^ a b Payne, Adam; Bienkov, Adam (30 March 2019). "The Independent Group is considering an electoral alliance with the Liberal Democrats". Business Insider. Retrieved 30 March 2019.
  13. ^ a b Briant, Nathan (14 May 2019). "MP Moran will not be the Lib Dems' next leader". Bicester Advertiser. Retrieved 14 May 2019.
  14. ^ Mikhailova, Anna (27 May 2019). "Jo Swinson and Ed Davey to battle for Lib Dem leadership". The Telegraph – via www.telegraph.co.uk.
  15. ^ a b Hughes, Laura (27 May 2019). "Liberal Democrats seek ways to capitalise on surge in support". Financial Times. Retrieved 1 June 2019.
  16. ^ "Ed Davey is officially running to be Liberal Democrat leader. Here's why it's going to be a very odd contest". www.newstatesman.com.
  17. ^ a b Elgot, Jessica (30 May 2019). "'We have to stop no-deal': Ed Davey kicks off Lib Dem leadership bid". The Guardian.
  18. ^ Mason, Rowena (31 May 2019). "Lib Dems are obvious remainer rallying point, says Jo Swinson". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 1 June 2019.
  19. ^ "Alistair Carmichael MP writes…How Lib Dem MPs will approach the leadership election". Liberal Democrat Voice. Retrieved 31 May 2019.
  20. ^ Question Time [@bbcquestiontime] (30 May 2019). ".@joswinson announces on #bbcqt that she will run to become the next leader of the Liberal Democrats" (Tweet). Retrieved 30 May 2019 – via Twitter.
  21. ^ a b Jankowicz, Mia (30 May 2019). "Who's who in the Liberal Democrat leadership contest". The New European. Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  22. ^ by Daniel O'Donoghue (21 May 2019). "Alistair Carmichael rules out Lib Dem leadership bid". Press and Journal. Retrieved 27 May 2019.
  23. ^ a b Glaze, Ben (15 March 2019). "Jo Swinson backed for party leadership after Vince Cable announces plan to quit". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 4 May 2019.
  24. ^ Syal, Rajeev (14 March 2019). "Sir Vince Cable to stand down as Lib Dem leader in May". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  25. ^ Elgot, Jessica (27 May 2019). "Remain forces pact would have helped Lib Dems beat Brexit party, says Cable". The Guardian – via www.theguardian.com.
  26. ^ a b "Ed Davey for Lib Dem Leader: Supporters". edforleader.org.
  27. ^ Mohammed, Shaffaq. "Ed Davey for Lib Dem Leader: Supporters". edforleader.org. I'm backing Ed because he has always helped Liberal Democrats across the country to win – and his plan for Green Investment can rejuvenate areas in Yorkshire and the Humber while limiting our impact on the environment
  28. ^ McArthur, Liam. "Ed Davey for Lib Dem Leader: Supporters". edforleader.org. Over many years, Ed has led the way on making the case for radical action on the environment. He is right to argue strongly for the environment to be at the very heart of our party’s agenda going forward
  29. ^ Olney, Sarah. "Ed Davey for Lib Dem Leader: Supporters". edforleader.org. I'm backing Ed because of his campaigning energy and commitment to Liberal causes, from equality to Climate Change, will show the country that the Liberal Democrats are back in the game.
  30. ^ Lynne, Liz. "Ed Davey for Lib Dem Leader: Supporters". edforleader.org. I've known Ed since before he was an MP, and his grasp of policy, and how to communicate it, is second to none. That's why I'm backing Ed.
  31. ^ @mark4ceredigion (24 June 2019). "Pleased to be backing @EdwardJDavey in the @LibDems Leadership Election" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  32. ^ Barker, Liz. "Ed Davey for Lib Dem Leader: Supporters". edforleader.org. We need a leader who builds diverse teams which win, and inspire innovative solutions to the challenges of our age. I'm proud to support Ed Davey – a great Liberal Democrat
  33. ^ Benjamin, Floella. "Ed Davey for Lib Dem Leader: Supporters". edforleader.org. Endorsement video.
  34. ^ Chidgey, David. "Ed Davey for Lib Dem Leader: Supporters". edforleader.org. Endorsement video.
  35. ^ Dholakia, Navnit. "Ed Davey for Lib Dem Leader: Supporters". edforleader.org. Endorsement video.
  36. ^ Foster, Don. "Ed Davey for Lib Dem Leader: Supporters". edforleader.org. Ed is a thoroughly likeable and warm person who has the breadth of experience, the liberal vision and, as a great communicator, is promoting the kind of policies, particularly on climate change, this country so desperately needs.
  37. ^ Harris, Angie. "Ed Davey for Lib Dem Leader: Supporters". edforleader.org. Endorsement video.
  38. ^ Jolly, Judith. "Ed Davey for Lib Dem Leader: Supporters". edforleader.org. I have known Ed for a long time and trust him with the leadership of my party. His three year experience as Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change will be invaluable as we face the huge climate crisis, and give us unbeatable credibility.
  39. ^ @SarahLudford (30 May 2019). "Proud to be one of the @LibDems women backing #EdForLeader!" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  40. ^ Oates, Jonny. "Ed Davey for Lib Dem Leader: Supporters". edforleader.org. Endorsement video.
  41. ^ a b Roberts, Roger. "Ed Davey for Lib Dem Leader: Supporters". edforleader.org. Endorsement video.
  42. ^ Scriven, Paul. "Ed Davey for Lib Dem Leader: Supporters". edforleader.org. Endorsement video.
  43. ^ Storey, Mike. "Ed Davey for Lib Dem Leader: Supporters". edforleader.org. Endorsement video.
  44. ^ Wallace, William. "Ed Davey for Lib Dem Leader: Supporters". edforleader.org. Ed is experienced, energetic and engaged. His record in Kingston shows that he’s an inspired campaigner. His record on climate change in government shows that he knows how to get things done.
  45. ^ Brake, Tom (29 June 2019). "Our next Leader". www.libdems.org.uk. Retrieved 29 June 2019.
  46. ^ @Wera_Hobhouse (1 June 2019). "#LibDemLeadership #libdemsurge. In Bath to hear our excellent two candidates. I am supporting #joinjo. She has the qualities I am looking for to lead ⁦@LibDems⁩ – vision, courage, compassion" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  47. ^ @cajardineMP (1 June 2019). "Protecting The UK is one reason I decided to #joinjo" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  48. ^ Antony Hook MEP on Vimeo
  49. ^ Martin Horwood on Vimeo
  50. ^ Barbara Gibson on Vimeo
  51. ^ Alex CH on Vimeo
  52. ^ @willie_rennie (7 June 2019). "I'm backing @joswinson to be Leader of the @LibDems #JoinJo" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  53. ^ @julianhuppert (31 May 2019). "I've worked with both @joswinson and @EdwardJDavey. They're both great people – but I'm in no doubt which one I think would make a better leader for our party at these crucial times – it has to be Jo! #joinjo" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  54. ^ John Leech on Vimeo
  55. ^ Tessa Munt on Vimeo
  56. ^ Olly on Vimeo
  57. ^ @joswinson (1 June 2019). "Very proud to have Shirley Williams' support in the @LibDems leadership election. She has been an inspiration to me and countless other liberals for so long. #JoinJo" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  58. ^ Peter Taylor on Vimeo
  59. ^ Mayor Dave Hodgson on Vimeo
  60. ^ https://www.vimeo.com/video/345189583
  61. ^ "Jo Swinson's political instincts give her the edge in this crucial Liberal Democrat leadership election". The Independent. 27 June 2019. Retrieved 30 June 2019.
  62. ^ "Leadership Election 2019: Hustings". www.libdems.org.uk. 24 May 2019. Retrieved 29 June 2019.

External links[edit]