Jo Swinson becomes Liberal Democrats’ first female leader after landslide win

By Shaun Connolly and David Hughes, PA Political Staff

Jo Swinson has won a landslide victory to become the first woman leader of the Liberal Democrats.

The former minister trounced ex-cabinet member Sir Ed Davey in the battle to replace Sir Vince Cable and insisted she now had a realistic chance to be Prime Minister.

Ms Swinson, who had been the bookies’ favourite to take the party crown, beat Sir Ed by 47,997 votes to 28,021 in a ballot of party members which had a 72% turnout.

The East Dunbartonshire MP, who has served as Sir Vince’s deputy since June 2017, said she was “delighted, honoured, absolutely over the moon” to become the party’s first female leader.

She pledged to do “whatever it takes to stop Brexit” and promised to lead not only the party but also the “bigger, open liberal movement our country so desperately needs”.

Ms Swinson said: “Tomorrow, Boris Johnson is likely to take the keys to Number 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.

“That job starts with winning the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election to bring Jane Dodds to Parliament, cut Johnson’s wafer-thin majority and take us a step closer to stopping Brexit.”

Kingston and Surbiton MP Sir Ed served as energy secretary in the coalition government under David Cameron.

Ms Swinson triumphed at a time when the Lib Dems are enjoying a revival due to their outspoken opposition to Brexit.

The party has 12 MPs – bolstered by Chuka Umunna’s decision to join last month – and came second in the European elections, winning 20% of the vote share.

The Lib Dems also enjoyed a surge at the local elections in response to their anti-Brexit stance.