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 Lib Dem 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.