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By Ben Guerin
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Liberal Democrat leadership race: Wera Hobhouse drops out and backs Layla Moran

Ms Hobhouse said her campaign had ‘tough questions’ and ‘dared to dream big’. (PA)

3 min read

Wera Hobhouse has dropped out of the Liberal Democrat leadership race and thrown her weight behind fellow contender Layla Moran.

The Bath MP said that while her pitch for the top job had tried to “dream big”, she was “no longer the best vehicle" to deliver change.

And she endorsed Ms Moran in what now looks like a straight fight between her and the party’s current acting leader Ed Davey.

The move comes just a day before nominations formally open in the leadership contest.

Ms Hobhouse was the first to confirm that she wanted to succeed Jo Swinson as leader, telling PoliticsHome in February that the party needed a “clean break” from its 2010-2015 coalition with the Conservatives - and could no longer stay “halfway between left and right” if it wants to survive.

But, in a statement issued on Tuesday, the party’s environment spokesperson confirmed she was dropping out.

“There is nothing more lonely or frustrating than feeling unheard,” Ms Hobhouse said.

“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.”

And she added: “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.”

Spelling out her reasons for backing Ms Moran, the Bath MP said “millions” of people across the country were relying on the Lib Dems “to defeat the Conservatives’ hurtful agenda”.

And she insisted the party still had “enthusiasm, courage and tenacity" despite a bruising general election result that saw the party’s recently-elected leader Jo Swinson beaten at the ballot box.

“With this in mind, I am pleased to support Layla Moran and encourage those who joined my campaign to do so too,” Ms Hobhouse said.

“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.”

That will be seen as a dig at Sir Ed, who served as energy secretary in the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition government.

Ms Moran, who has been the MP for Oxford West and Abingdon since 2017 and currently acts as the party’s education spokesperson, said she was “delighted to have Wera’s support for my campaign to lead the Liberal Democrats and build a fairer, greener, more compassionate country”.

And she added: “Wera is a tireless and dedicated campaigner with a clear vision for the future. She has a strong track record of standing up for progressive and liberal values, and she has made a vital contribution to our debate on issues such as protecting the environment, championing local government and empowering the regions.

“I look forward to working side by side as we move forward together as a strong, renewed and united party.”

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