Wera Hobhouse drops out of the Liberal Democrat leadership race – and endorses Layla Moran

The Bath MP's decision further confirms Moran's position as the candidate to beat in the party's leadership race.

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Wera Hobhouse has ended her campaign for the Liberal Democrat leadership and has thrown her weight behind Layla Moran, cementing the Oxford West and Abingdon MP’s status as the candidate to beat.

In a statement to her supporters, the Bath MP said that “we must accept that we are no longer the best vehicle” to deliver her aims of “pulling our party firmly to the centre-left, rebuilding our local government base, securing a progressive alliance, and moving effort and resources to our regions”.

In a coded rebuke to Ed Davey, the party’s deputy leader, MP for Kingston, and Moran’s sole rival for the leadership, Hobhouse warned against becoming a “London-centric” party. Moran described herself as “delighted” to have received Hobhouse’s endorsement.

Although both Davey and Moran have explicitly argued that the party should run as an unashamed party of the centre left, Davey has called for the Liberal Democrats to defend their achievements in the coalition government, while Moran has been more critical. 

Hobhouse, long considered an outsider for the position, impressed observers by setting out a distinctive and ideological coherent pitch for the party's future direction, shaping many of the early debates around the contest. She departs from the race with her internal standing increased: and with her preferred candidate for the leadership, Moran, in a strong position to win.

The result of the contest will be announced on 26 August. Hobhouse’s full statement to her supporters is below.

“There is nothing more lonely or frustrating than feeling unheard. That is why I set out to build a party, and a country, where every single person has an equal opportunity to thrive, regardless of their background or where they live.

“That means pulling our party firmly to the centre-left, rebuilding our local government base, securing a progressive alliance, and moving effort and resources to our regions. We cannot run as a London-centric party that lets our powerful regional voices go unheard and the Conservatives a free run.

“That continues to be what I believe in more than anything.

“I feel grateful for the energetic campaign that we built together, and I am proud that we asked the tough questions, dared to dream big and fought for what we believed in, the values we share and the vision we hold.

“That is always the right thing to do.

“But, if my supporters and I really believe in the need for a new direction, then we must accept when we are no longer the best vehicle to deliver that.

“That is why I am withdrawing from the Liberal Democrat leadership election and, this afternoon, I have offered to work with Layla Moran on behalf of our party and her vision for the country.

“I know this will be disappointing for those of you who joined our movement, but this leadership race is more important than any one candidate, and it is vital to the future of our country that we come together to defeat the Conservatives at the next general election. And you might expect me to say this but a revitalised and united Liberal Democrat party is needed now, more than ever. Our party has had knockbacks, but we always come together in the aftermath to ensure our values and beliefs endure. And that is what we must do now: It's time to refocus, organise, and take action.

“Millions of people across the country are relying on us to defeat the Conservatives' hurtful agenda, and let's be absolutely clear: The Liberal Democrats have the enthusiasm, courage and tenacity to do it. With this in mind, I am pleased to support Layla Moran and encourage those who joined my campaign to do so too. She represents a new generation with the talent to engage and inspire. She is now the only candidate who can break with our party's damaging legacy from the coalition and adopt a centre-left position to defeat the Conservatives at the next election. Thank you to everyone who supported our campaign, all my volunteers, staff, friends and family. I look forward to seeing you on the campaign trail very soon!”

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.

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