Ed Davey says he would 'totally' welcome former Change UK MPs if he becomes Lib Dems leader

ISABEL INFANTES/AFP/Getty ImagesLib Dem leadership candidates Jo Swinson (front left) and Ed Davey.
  • Ed Davey says MPs who quit Change UK would be “absolutely welcome” to join the Liberal Democrats.
  • The Lib Dem leadership candidate said his party needs to be a “home for the politically homeless.”
  • Davey said that he hoped to meet with MPs who quit Change UK this week.
  • Davey said that he could be the next prime minister and predicted “dramatic upheaval” in British politics.
  • He is up against Jo Swinson to succeed Sir Vince Cable as leader of the Liberal Democrats.

LONDON – Ed Davey would “absolutely welcome” former Change UK MPs in the Liberal Democrats and revealed that he hoped to speak to potential recruits during his campaign to be Lib Dem leader.

In an interview with Business Insider, Davey said that if elected the new leader of the Liberal Democrats, he would “totally” accept MPs who walked away from the flailing new centrist party, Change UK, earlier this week.

Six MPs including interim leader Heidi Allen and spokesperson Chuka Umunna quit Change UK after the party endured a difficult launch and failed to win a seat at last month’s European Parliament elections.

“They haven’t told us what they want to do and I haven’t had a chance to speak to many of them. I hope to do so,” Davey told Business Insider this week after getting his campaign to succeed Sir Vince Cable underway.

“But fundamentally, if individuals want to come and join the Liberal Democrats, and sign up to our values, and then I would absolutely welcome them. Totally… We do need to be a political home for the politically homeless.”

Davey, the former Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, predicted a “dramatic upheaval in the not so distant future” in British politics, which could lead to either him or his Lib Dem leadership rival, Jo Swinson, becoming prime minister.

The Lib Dems are in the process of choosing a new leader after enjoying a largely unexpected resurgence.

The unambiguously anti-Brexit party gained over 700 seats at last month’s local elections and went on to finish second in the European elections, hovering up swathes of Remain voters from both the Conservatives and Labour.

However, the Lib Dems have just twelve MPs in Westminster, and would require a stunning performance at the next general election at the very least to have any chance of being the largest party and forming a government.

Nonetheless, Davey refused to “put a cap on ambition” and said that the former Labour and Conservative voters who backed the Lib Dems in recent elections would stick with the party – and soon joined by thousands more.

“The question is not where that support is coming from. The question now is will that vote stick with us,” he said.

“My conclusion from canvassing, talking to activists who have done even more canvassing, and the data we have, is that the Tory Remain vote will stick with us, and a lot of the Labour Remain vote will stick with us too.

“We’ve got a really exciting platform and I think Lib Dems members could be choosing a future prime minister.”

He suggested that the Lib Dems might soon recruit MPs from the two main political parties, telling Business Insider would the next leader would “have to negotiate with MPs leaving the Conservative party and MPs leaving Labour.”

Ed DaveyDinendra Haria/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Davey launched his leadership bid in central London last week with the headline pledges of stopping Brexit and making the Lib Dems overtake the Green Party as the UK’s leading party on fighting climate change.

Davey said that he wanted voters to “instinctively” think of the Lib Dems as a pro-green party. Last week he revealed his policy of ending all domestic flights in the UK.

Lib Dem members including senior MP Layla Moran, who Business Insider interviewed this week, said that up to now there had few clear points of difference between Davey and Swinson when it came to views on policy.

Moran said: “Genuinely, I’m not sure who I will back, or that I necessarily will unless there is a compelling reason to.”

Davey said that the bigger differences were in “personality,” and that on issues like Brexit he could “reach the hearts of people” in a way that figures who led the official Remain campaign in 2016 “failed miserably” in doing.

He said: “The Remain campaign was one of the most hopeless campaigns I’ve ever seen.

“People running it did not take advice from people like me.”

Speaking to Business Insider on the 75th anniversary of D-Day, Davey said that if he led the Remain campaign in a new Brexit referendum, he would run on “the emotional argument of peace.”

“People say you’re being silly talking about war,” he said.

“But I’m sorry, 3,600 people in our country died in the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

“And while I am not saying that if Brexit happens it will happen again, I do believe that staying in the EU is the best way to secure peace and the Good Friday Agreement underpinning it.

“We should think very, very carefully before we put hard-won peace at risk.

“This isn’t just jobs and money, vital though those are. You have to explain to people that it’s about bigger things.”

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