The Covid-19 pandemic has already delayed the Liberal Democrat leadership election from this May to next summer. Now it has winnowed the field: Christine Jardine, the MP for Edinburgh West, will not stand to succeed Jo Swinson as planned.
Jardine, whose candidacy was first revealed by the New Statesman in January, has told her constituency party and parliamentary colleagues that she is no longer in the running. In a message to Scottish Liberal Democrat members on Facebook this afternoon, she attributed the decision to having spent more time with her family during lockdown.
“After considering all the suggestions and requests, I have opted not to go for the leadership,” Jardine wrote. “Perhaps it’s lockdown but I realise my personal and family life has taken quite a hit in the past three years, and perhaps the people around me deserve a wee bit more of my time. I also don’t have a burning desire to be leader. I got into this to make a difference and I don’t have to be leader to do that.”
Jardine, while never a likely winner, was a grassroots favourite. As such, her departure from the field is good news for Ed Davey and Layla Moran, the two frontrunners. It also means the race is now likely to be contested exclusively by MPs from the south of England – as well as Davey and Moran, Bath MP Wera Hobhouse has declared and St Albans MP Daisy Cooper, elected for the first time in December, is likely to follow.
The decision might also hint at broader shifts in our politics to come. At 59, Jardine is still far from old by the standards of the Commons, and is only in her second Parliament. If she is reconsidering her priorities and ambitions, then others from across the House will certainly follow.