On August 27th, Ed Davey was elected as the new Lib Dem leader, strongly defeating his rival, fellow MP Layla Moran. Following his victory, Ed declared that the party had “lost touch with too many voters” nationally. The comment was a sober reflection on the Liberal Democrats’ dismal result in the 2019 General Election, in which former leader Jo Swinson lost her seat in Parliament.
Research conducted by Redfield & Wilton Strategies this week has found that a clear majority (57%) of respondents to our poll did not follow at all the Lib Dem leadership election, with a further 21% saying they followed it “somewhat.” Importantly, a significant plurality (36%) of those who voted for the Lib Dems in the 2019 election did not follow this election at all.
Only 7% of respondents followed the election “closely” and 15% “a fair amount.” Those who voted for the Labour Party in December were generally more likely to have followed the election “a fair amount” (20%) than those who voted Conservative (10%).
Ed Davey has been a member of the Liberal Democrats for 30 years and was first elected as an MP in 1997. His victory, last week, was the second attempt by Davey to win the Lib Dem leadership, after losing to Jo Swinson last year. Our research indicates that the UK public has a generally limited opinion, if any, of the new leader. Indeed, just under half (49%) of respondents neither approve nor disapprove of the selection of Ed Davey as the Lib Dem’s new leader, with another 22% saying they ‘don’t know’ whether they approve or disapprove.
On the other hand, 21% of respondents approve of his victory against just 7% who disapproving, signalling generally good news for the new leader. A significant plurality (46%) of those who voted for the party in 2019 approve of his selection with just 2% who disapprove.
In this election, Ed secured 63.5% of the votes against 36.5% for his contender, Ms Moran. In the aftermath of his victory, Ed applauded his rival for a “passionate campaign” and promised her an important role in his team. We found that a clear plurality of 2019 Liberal Democrat voters (45%) agree that the Liberal Democrats were wise to elect Ed Davey as their leader rather than Layla Moran.
Regarding the UK public more generally, respondents generally neither agree nor disagree that the Lib Dems were wise to elect Ed Davey rather than Layla Moran as their leader, with only 26% agreeing and 6% who disagreeing. It reflects overall our findings throughout the poll that Britons have a limited opinion of the Lib Dem’s leadership contest. Monitoring of Ed Davey’s approval ratings in the coming months will help determine whether the British public start to take greater note of Britain’s fourth largest party.
 Note: Sample size for this sub-group is 171.