Lib Dem leadership hopeful Ed Davey issues apology for 'decapitate' Boris Johnson remarks
Lib Dem leadership hopeful Sir Ed Davey has issued a grovelling apology after he said he wanted to "decapitate" Boris Johnson.
The former Cabinet minister said he was wrong to use the "careless" language after fellow Lib Dem leadership candidate Jo Swinson blasted him for the "violent" remarks.
Writing in the Times, Sir Ed suggested an alliance of anti-Brexit parties could work together to oust Mr Johnson from his Uxbridge seat if he calls a snap election after winning the Tory leadership contest.
"I hereby float the idea of a Remain alliance to decaptitate that blond head in Uxbridge and South Ruislip if Johnson calls a snap election to deliver Brexit," he said.
"Naturally as leader of the Lib Dems I would only agree to stand aside firstly with the consent of local Lib Dems and secondly if Remain parties can agree on a unifying candidate that cuts across party division."
But the comments provoked fury from the party's Deputy Leader Jo Swinson, who publicly rebuked her opponent for using "graphic, violent imagery".
"The language we use is important. We have to be able to have robust debate in our politics without resorting to graphic, violent imagery. We have to rediscover the ability to disagree well with each other", she said.
"This is not language I would use, and in the current climate I don't think we should speak in those terms.
"Boris will be a disaster for this country, but we can make that case without resorting to violent language."
Meanwhile, Conservative MP Henry Smith said Sir Ed's comments were "lurid" and "desperate".
He tweeted: "Decapitate that blond head?! Overturn the greatest UK referendum poll ever? Appalling language and sentiment. Not a liberal, not a democrat. Lurid. Desperate."
Sir Ed was eventually forced to clarify that he in "no way literally" wanted to decapitate the former Foreign Secretary.
"I recognise this wasn't an acceptable choice of phrase and I'm sorry," he tweeted. "That was careless use of language, meant in electoral sense and in no way literally. Whilst we should be robust in our opposition, we do have to carefully consider impact of our words and I failed to do that."
Both Ed Davey and Jo Swinson are vying to take over as Lib Dem leader when Sir Vince Cable steps down later this year. Party members are currently being balloted with the new leader set to be announced on 23 July.