Ed Davey ahead in Liberal Democrat leadership race

The Surbiton and Kingston MP and former energy secretary has emerged as the early frontrunner.

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Ed Davey is on course to win the looming Liberal Democrat leadership election, a YouGov poll for the Economic and Social Research Council-funded Party Members Project, run out of the University of Sussex and Queen Mary University has found.

YouGov asked members to choose between a field of Ed Davey, Layla Moran and Daisy Cooper, the new MP for St Albans, all of whom are widely tipped to stand. In that field, Davey wins outright in the first round, with 52 per cent of the vote against Moran’s 24 per cent and Cooper’s 9 per cent.

When asked to pick unprompted, Liberal Democrat members still show a strong preference for Davey, with 33 per cent of respondents declaring for him, compared to 13 per cent for Moran and 2 per cent for Cooper. But the major source of optimism for his rivals will be that 42 per cent say they cannot decide yet, which will be a boost not only to Moran and Cooper, but also to Christine Jardine, the MP for Edinburgh West who rumoured to be mulling a bid, and Wera Hobhouse, the MP for Bath, who told the New Statesman that she, too, may run for the vacant position.

Davey has a major advantage over the rest of the candidates in that as acting leader he has a greater opportunity to showcase his abilities. But he, as with the rest of the parliamentary party, was very keen on a long leadership election, for two reasons: firstly so the party could focus on the local elections in May and secondly so they could conduct their 2019 postmortem and see who emerges as Labour’s next leader first. Unexpected results in the local elections, or a surprise result in Labour’s race could yet see Davey come unstuck.

Stephen Bush is political editor of the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.