Ed Davey/ Layla Moran

Liberal Democrat leadership candidates Ed Davey and Layla Moran have insisted they can rebuild their party as the contest enters its final days.

In a BBC debate, they set out plans to tackle the coronavirus recession through the green economy and by encouraging “mass retraining”.

The two MPs criticised the government on education, arguing that schools need more support to reopen after lockdown.

The results of the contest will be announced on 27 August.

The leadership election was triggered when Jo Swinson stepped down following a poor performance by the party in the 2019 general election.

Asked how she could improve her party’s fortunes, Ms Moran said her lack of experience in Parliament – she has only been an MP since 2017 – would be an asset “at a time when people don’t trust politicians”.

She also pointed to her success of overturning “a massive majority” in her Oxford constituency adding “we did that by amassing a group of people from all sides of the political spectrum”.

Current acting co-leader Sir Ed said he had learnt from his experience of working with former leader Paddy Ashdown to build up the Liberal Democrats in the 1990s.

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Media captionEd Davey is asked about the Lib Dem party polling falling by half since he became acting party co-leader.

He added that he would use the party’s local government base “as a springboard for results in the future”.

As leader he said the economy would be his “number one priority” and pointed to his background as an economist.

Asked how they would help tackle unemployment amid the pandemic, both candidates said they would promote green jobs and introduce a universal basic income.

Sir Ed set out his plans for a £150bn investment that he said would create hundreds and thousands of jobs, such as heat insulation installers, over three years.

Ms Moran agreed that promoting the green agenda was “the right thing to do for our economy”.

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Media captionLayla Moran: “We need to win back the trust of the electorate, show we have learned from the mistakes of the past.”

She also said she wanted to see a programme of “mass retraining” to help those, who needed to, to change career as a result of the pandemic.

Both MPs championed the idea of a universal basic income, a scheme which would provide every individual in the country with a cash payment at regular intervals, without any requirement to work or qualify for it.

Ms Moran suggested the income should be around £80 per week, while her leadership rival argued the figure should be slightly lower on £40-60 per week.

On the subject of schools reopening following the coronavirus lockdown, both said they wanted to see children back in the classrooms.

However Ms Moran, herself a former Maths teacher, said Gavin Williamson should stand down as education secretary and urged the prime minister to “put someone in who knows what they are doing, for the sake of our children”.

Sir Ed called for extra funding to help schools safely reopen.


During the debate, the candidates were asked how they would instil confidence in the party’s BAME supporters.

Ms Moran admitted to feeling “shame” that the party does not have any black MPs. She said she wanted to see changes to the Equality Act that would allow political parties to have all-black shortlists when picking their candidates.

Sir Ed also said he wanted to increase the numbers of black Liberal Democrat candidates and pointed to his record in his Kingston and Surbiton constituency of reaching out to ethnic minority communities.

During the 2019 election the Liberal Democrats campaigned to stop Brexit.

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Jo Swinson lost her seat in the 2019 election and resigned as leader of the Liberal Democrats

While both candidates defined themselves as pro-European, they said they would not be calling for the UK to rejoin the EU in the near future.

Towards the end of the debate Ms Moran was asked about her arrest after slapping her partner in 2013. She said she had acted “defensively” and added that the charges had been dropped.

Sir Ed was asked about his record in the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition government when he served as energy secretary under David Cameron.

He acknowledged that they had “had tough decisions to make” and added that “all governments make mistakes”. He argued that the Liberal Democrats had offset the “Tory agenda” and said the Liberal Democrats would reverse some coalition policies such as the bedroom tax, if they got into power.

Liberal Democrat members have been able to vote for their preferred leader since ballots went out on 30 July. The ballot closes on 26 August and the results will be announced the following day.

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