Sir Ed Davey has been elected the new Liberal Democrat leader and immediately admitted the party “must change” after losing touch with “too many voters”.
Following a month-long ballot of party members, Sir Ed secured 42,756 votes to beat fellow MP Layla Moran (24,564 votes) to the leadership.
A former cabinet minister from the Lib Dem-Conservative coalition government, Sir Ed had been the Lib Dems‘ acting leader since last year’s general election.
The 54-year-old, a father of two, now becomes the party’s fourth permanent leader to be elected in little more than five years.
Sir Ed called on the Lib Dems to “wake up and smell the coffee” as he outlined the challenge they face in trying to reconnect with the wider UK electorate, following their poor performance in December’s election.
“We have to wake up and smell the coffee,” the Kingston and Surbiton MP told party members, after being announced as the new Lib Dem leader on Thursday.
“Nationally, our party has lost touch with too many voters.
“Yes, we are powerful advocates locally. Our campaigners listen to local people, work hard for communities and deliver results.
“But at the national level, we have to face the facts of three disappointing general election results.
“The truth is voters don’t believe that the Liberal Democrats want to help ordinary people get on in life.
“Voters don’t believe we share their values. And voters don’t believe we are on the side of people like them.
“Nationally, voters have been sending us a message. But we have not been listening.
“It is time for us to start listening. As leader I am telling you: I have got that message. I am listening now.”
Sir Ed paid tribute to the “passionate campaign” of his leadership rival Ms Moran, the Oxford West and Abingdon MP, and promised her a “big role in my team”.
The Lib Dems had been without a permanent leader since December’s general election, in which previous leader Jo Swinson lost her seat in the House of Commons.
The election was a huge disappointment for the Lib Dems, with the party winning just 11 seats – one seat down on their 2017 result.
This was despite high hopes – and impressive polling – for the anti-Brexit party ahead of the election campaign, at the start of which Ms Swinson declared herself to be a “candidate for prime minister”.
However, the Lib Dems struggled through the election campaign and an internal inquiry into the party’s performance – conducted after election night – likened their efforts to a “high-speed car crash”.
None of the former Labour or Conservative MPs who made high-profile defections to the Lib Dems ahead of the election kept their seats in the House of Commons.
Sir Ed will now face a challenge in reviving the Lib Dems’ fortunes ahead of local elections; expected to be held next May following their postponement from this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Recent opinion polling has consistently put the Lib Dems below 10% – massively behind the Conservatives and Labour.
Who is Sir Ed Davey?
Edward Jonathan Davey was born in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, on Christmas Day 1965.
His father, John, died when he was four and his mother, Nina Joan, died when he was 15.
After the death of his mother, he first went to live with his two older brothers before moving in with his maternal grandparents.
He attended Nottingham High School – which also counts fellow ex-cabinet ministers Ken Clarke, Geoff Hoon and Ed Balls among its former students – before taking a gap year during which he worked in a pork pie factory and for Boots before hitchhiking around Spain.
He then studied Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Oxford University and went on to work for the Lib Dems as a researcher in parliament.
A new job at a management consultancy firm saw him leave Westminster in 1993.
But he was back in parliament in 1997 when he won the Kingston and Surbiton seat for the Lib Dems at that year’s general election.
He retained the seat at the 2001, 2005 and 2010 general elections.
When the Lib Dems formed a government with the Conservatives in 2010, he first became a junior business minister before being promoted to the cabinet – as energy and climate change secretary – in 2012.
He lost his seat in the House of Commons at the 2015 general election and was knighted in 2016 for “political and public service”.
In his time away from parliament, he set up a consultancy business focused on renewable energy and also took on a number of jobs related to the energy sector, including for a lobbying company.
He returned to parliament after winning back the Kingston and Surbiton seat at the 2017 general election.
In July 2019, he unsuccessfully ran for the Lib Dem leadership after being beaten by Ms Swinson.
However, following Ms Swinson’s loss of her parliamentary seat less than five months later – at the 2019 general election – Sir Ed, who had been serving as deputy leader, was made the party’s acting leader.
He has now been elected the Lib Dems’ new permanent leader.
Sir Ed lives in Surbiton, south west London, with his wife, Emily, and their two children, John and Ellie.
John has an undiagnosed neurological condition which means he can’t walk or talk.