- Most Lib Dems “would absolutely love it” if former Change UK MPs joined their party, according to Layla Moran.
- Six MPs including Chuka Umunna and Heidi Allen quit Change UK on Tuesday after the new anti-Brexit party suffered internal rows and failed to make an impact in the European elections.
- Lib Dem MP Moran told Business Insider that she would be “more than happy to have them on board” and said “those in the fray I’ve got massive respect for as parliamentarians.”
- Moran said she had not decided who to back in the Lib Dem leadership contest out of Jo Swinson and Ed Davy having ruled herself out last month – and that she might not endorse a candidate at all.
- But she said that it is “inconceivable” that the next leader would enter a coalition government with either Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour or a Conservative party led by a Brexiteer like Boris Johnson.
LONDON – The Liberal Democrats would “absolutely love” to accept defectors from Change UK, one of the Lib Dems’ leading figures has told Business Insider.
More than half of the members of the flailing new centrist party quit this week, with several of them tipped to move over to join the Lib Dems.
Lib Dem MP Layla Moran, told Business Inisder on Wednesday that defections by those such as the former Labour MP Chuka Ummuna, and the former Change UK leader Heidi Allen, would “really bolster” her party.
Moran, who was widely tipped to succeed departing Lib Dem leader Vince Cable, but withdrew from the race last month, said that “it makes sense for MPs who share our values wholeheartedly” to join the party.
“First Past The Post is a killer and I think it is inconceivable that parties in the centre-ground don’t coalesce together into one form or another,” she said.
Moran said she would be “more than happy to have them on board” if they “share our Liberal Democrat values,” adding: “I’m really positive about the idea and those in the fray I’ve got massive respect for as parliamentarians.”
The Liberal Democrats are currently on a high, winning over 700 seats at last month’s local elections, coming second in the European elections, and even leading in one national poll in recent weeks.
The surge in their support came after voters rejected the newly-formed pro-European party Change UK, which was created earlier this year by 11 former Labour and Conservative MPs. The party failed to win a single seat in the European Parliament and look close to collapse after six MPs dramatically quit Change UK on Tuesday.
Change UK sources believe that up to three of the departing members – Chuka Umunna, Heidi Allen, and Sarah Wollaston – could eventually join the Liberal Democrats.
However, the MP for Oxford West and Abingdon warned her party against recruiting former Change UK MPs too quickly, telling Business Insider that they would first need to build “trust” with Lib Dem party members.
“I know these people and get on well with them on a personal level,” Moran said.
“But what would do well with our members is for them to work together with us on issues beyond Brexit, and demonstrate with action that their values do match ours. I know in my heart that they do.
“But the worst thing that could happen is it happening too quickly as you would run the risk of losing more people on the way and causing unnecessary friction.
The worst thing thing that could happen is it happening too quickly as you would run the risk of losing more people on the way and causing unnecessary friction.
“Let’s take it slow and make sure it is right for everybody. You have to build trust over time.”
Moran told Business Insider that she had yet to decide who to back in the contest to succeed Sir Vince Cable as Lib Dem leader – and suggested that she may decide not endorse to a candidate.
The two MPs in the running to succeed Cable are Jo Swinson and Ed Davey.
“Hand on heart – I’d be quite happy for either of them to be leader – and there are a lot of members who feel the same way. Genuinely, I’m not sure who I will back, or that I necessarily will unless there is a compelling reason to.”
Moran said that she was keen to find “points of difference in terms of substance” between Swinson and Davey, describing their pitches as “not that dissimilar” based on what they had said so far in the contest.
“We are waiting and seeing how this campaign plays out and if it comes clear that I’d much rather one lead the party than the other, then I’ll assess my position at that point.
“If it does, it will come quite late. And it’s not for a bad reason – it’s because they’re both really good.”
Moran, the party’s education spokesperson, decided not to run for leader despite being encouraged to do so by many Lib Dem members. She said she wanted to focus on her constituency, having only been elected two years ago.
She told Business Insider that she had “definitely no regrets” about ruling herself out of the race.
“Having stared into the abyss of what it actually means for your life to be the leader of a political party, I’m just full of admiration and respect for anyone who wants to do it,” she said.
Moran had strong views on what Swinson or Davey should do to build on the party’s recent success in local and European Parliament elections, when one of them is elected Lib Dem leader next month.
She said that they must produce a short but clear list of policies other than opposition to Brexit, in order to persuade former Labour and Conservative voters who backed the Lib Dems in recent elections to stick around.
“We are very good at talking about a whole host of things but then people ask ‘but what do you actually stand for?'”
“What needs to come next is the policy areas that are going to keep people on board and make them see what our values are,” she said, highlighting education, climate change, and the NHS.
I just don’t see how we could tie ourselves to either of us those parties with those leaders.
“That’s not just some loosely-termed progressive, liberal movement – but what it actually means for the real lives of people on the ground.”
She said it was “inconceivable” that the party would enter a coalition government with either Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour or a Conservative party led by a Brexiteer like current leadership front runner Boris Johnson at the next election.
“What’s in it for the Lib Dem member and vote? I really do think there’d be more downsides than upsides,” she said.
“After Brexit, it’s a whole new world. But until that is resolved, I just don’t see how we could tie ourselves to either of us those parties with those leaders.”
However, she suggested that the Lib Dems could work with the next government on an issue by issue basis.
“I am naturally centre-left so the areas of education there are things on which I could work quite closely with Labour on… For example, on trying in Parliament to abolish SATs, I would be the first one through the gates.”
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