Welsh Liberal Democrat members to have say on next leader

Welsh Liberal Democrat members to have say on next leader

Layla Moran and Ed Davey Image copyright PA Media/ BBC
Image caption Candidates Sir Ed Davey and Layla Moran both praised Wales' Education Minister Kirsty Williams, the party's only MS

The Liberal Democrats will hold a virtual meeting with its members in Wales on Saturday to help decide the next leader of the party.

MPs Sir Ed Davey and Layla Moran are the two candidates, with results to be announced on 27 August.

The Liberal Democrats lost their only Welsh MP at the last General Election and the party only has one Senedd seat.

That is held by Member of the Senedd (MS) for Brecon and Radnorshire Kirsty Williams, the education minister.

The hustings will be held online and available for all to watch, although only Welsh Liberal Democrat members will be allowed to submit questions to the candidates.

Senedd elections 'a top priority'

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Sir Ed says he would provide a vision "based around the green economy" if he was to become leader

Having served as deputy leader under Jo Swinson, Sir Ed Davey has been one of the party's acting leaders since Ms Swinson stepped down after losing her Commons seat in December.

Speaking to BBC Wales ahead of the hustings, Sir Ed said his "vision is based around a greener economy, a fairer society and a more caring country".

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He added that next May's Senedd elections would be a "top priority" for his leadership as he predicted gains for the party on the back of Kirsty Williams's "amazing record" in government.

"She's shown what Liberal Democrats can do… we've shown we can be trusted with the future of our children and indeed the future of Wales," he said.

Image caption Kirsty Williams's "amazing record" as Wales education minister shows the party can be trusted with "the future of our children", says Sir Ed

Asked if he was worried about being associated with the Lib Dems' poor General Election performance given his senior position at the time, the Kingston and Surbiton MP said he hoped members in Wales would recognise he commissioned a review into the party's election strategy "which pulled no punches".

The party's campaign was based on stopping Brexit, and while Sir Ed said the Liberal Democrats would remain "pro-European" with him as leader, he also hopes to show voters the party is not "a one trick pony".

"We've also got these very strong messages on green jobs for young people, reviving the Welsh economy and the UK economy by ensuring we're investing in the future," he explained, pointing to his support for tidal lagoons around Wales and the Welsh aerospace industry.

'We need to change'

Image copyright UK Parliament
Image caption Layla Moran says there is a need to recognise that many people in Wales feel that the party "aren't really on their side"

Layla Moran said that after 10 years of decline and two "brutal" elections, her message at the hustings would be that "we need to change as a party".

"We need to recognise that there are a lot of voters in Wales in particular who feel that the Lib Dems aren't really on their side, that we don't really speak for them."

She said the party had become too London-centric, and she recognised that activists in Wales were left "demoralised" by the last general election and the decision to strike a deal with Plaid Cymru and the Greens to allow one party a free run in certain seats with the aim of securing a pro-remain MP.

The MP for Oxford West and Abingdon also praised Kirsty Williams for her "incredible work" and said that ensuring she retains her seat in May's election is a "top, top priority".

And though she'd like to see more Lib Dem MSs elected, "anything other than decline at this point is good".

"We need to accept that we are starting from a low base but the trajectory under my leadership is going to be up not down," she explained.

Post-Brexit, Ms Moran said the party needed to focus now on "bread and butter issues that people really care about like education, the environment and the economy".

'Two very strong candidates'

Image copyright Jonathan Brady/PA Wire
Image caption Jane Dodds won the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election in August, but lost the seat in the General Election

Both Kirsty Williams and the party's leader in Wales, Jane Dodds, are remaining neutral during the leadership race.

Ms Dodds became the Lib Dems' only Welsh MP when she won the Brecon and Radnorshire byelectionby-election last August.

However she lost the seat four months later.

Speaking ahead of the hustings, Ms Dodds said: "I am really proud that we have two very strong candidates standing to lead our party.

"Both Layla and Ed have the energy and drive to take us forward, rebuild our party from the grassroots and get us winning again across the UK."

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