Frontrunner to replace Vince Cable as Lib Dem leader has 'major concerns' about his plans to elect a 'celebrity' leader

Dan Kitwood/Getty ImagesLayla Moran has been tipped as the next leader of the Liberal Democrats
  • Exclusive: Lib Dem leadership frontrunner Layla Moran speaks to Business Insider about the problems facing the party.
  • Moran attacks current leader Vince Cable’s plans to reform the party.
  • She says there are “major concerns” about allowing non-politicians to lead the party.
  • She does not rule out running for leader before 2020.

BRIGHTON – One of the frontrunners to replace Vince Cable as Liberal Democrat leader has told Business Insider that she has “major concerns” about his plans to reform the party.

Cable this month unveiled plans to allow non-MPs such as anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller, to lead the Liberal Democrats once he resigns, as expected next year.

However, Layla Moran, who is a favourite among activists to succeed him, told BI that she was worried about the prospect of outsiders leading the party.

Moran said that while she supported “really well-respected” non-MPs from inside the movement leading the party – like councillors, or parliamentarians from Scotland or Wales – she did not want a “celebrity” to get the job.

“I have concerns about a celebrity coming into the party and saying they’re going to lead us to the promised land,” she said. “If they weren’t a Lib Dem before, why the hell would they want to be now?”

I have concerns about a celebrity coming into the party and saying they’re going to lead us to the promised land. If they weren’t a Lib Dem before, why the hell would they want to be now?

“The party, in general, would be really sceptical if that happened.”

Asked whether she would support an MP formerly of another party taking control of the Lib Dems – like Labour’s Chuka Umunna, who is frequently tipped to walk away from his party – Moran said: “Absolutely not.”

She said: “I admire the stuff that Chuka has been doing on the People’s Vote but there is plenty that I completely disagree with him on. From what I am hearing in conference, that is one of the major concerns.”

Moran also poured cold water on recent suggestions that the party ought to change its name, saying it’s “the last thing we need to do.”

She added: “Our problems are well-defined and substantial but can be fixed. We should be focusing on that. Rebranding to me sounds like colouring the walls of the halls when we need to reinforce its foundations.”

Lib Dems need to “say less, more often”

Layla Moran Nick CleggDan Kitwood/GettyMoran agrees with former leader Nick Clegg that they should stop apologising for their role in coalition with the Conservatives

Moran also said her party has become “very bad” at communicating what it stands for.

“People on the doorstep say ‘what on Earth do you stand for?’ and I’ve got some sympathy for that,” she said.

She added: “Lib Dems are really good at making very detailed policies but very bad are communicating the core values that drive those policies. I’d like us to say less but more often. We need to focus on a few themes and go hard on them.

“It’s about core values stemming from the liberal and social democratic traditions. In this moment, frankly, we are rediscovering who we are. We need to take those values and update them for the future.”

Moran is currently second favourite in the betting markets to replace Cable, behind her colleague Jo Swinson MP. Swinson hit the headlines at this week’s Liberal Democrat conference for suggesting that the party should “own the failures” of their time in coalition with the Conservatives.

Every time that someone tries to explain what happened [in Coalition] I just get bored.

However, Moran appeared to take a different position, saying that the party should stop apologising for the past.

“Do we still have baggage? Of course we do,” she said. “But it’s not about policies, it’s about trust.

“I don’t think that to keep apologising for what we did in Coalition is necessarily going to fix it… Every time that someone tries to explain what happened [in Coalition] I just get bored.

“The electorate is bored of talking about the past. They are much more interested in the future.”

Moran rules out immediate leadership bid

Despite having been an MP for less than two years, Moran is tipped as a potential successor to Cable, who has confirmed that he plans to stand down before the next election. A source close to Cable told BI that the current leader – who said his party was “male and pale” in his conference speech – would prefer his successor to be a woman.

Moran said she was flattered by the support she has received from party members, but is “not giving it very much thought” and focusing on her role as the party’s education spokesperson.

“If you pushed me right now into giving an answer, I’d say no. I am so new in my seat and I am still finding my feet, and I’m really intent on changing the terms of debate around education,” she said.

However, she was happy to “leave the door open” to a future leadership bid, adding: “Can I speak for how I am going to feel a few years time? In 2020? No. Frankly, four years ago I didn’t expect to be an MP. So who knows?”

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