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Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson: My door is open to potential defectors

The party’s new leader played down the prospect of a pact with Labour even if Jeremy Corbyn’s party backed another EU referendum.

Jo Swinson is the Lib Dems’ first female leader (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
Jo Swinson is the Lib Dems’ first female leader (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

New Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson has said her door is open to members of rival parties who want to join her.

Ms Swinson also said the prospect of a Boris Johnson-led Conservative Party pushing for a no-deal Brexit could increase the chances of a second referendum.

She said she was involved in talks with MPs from other parties, including the Conservatives, about defecting.

“Our door is absolutely open to people who share our values,” Ms Swinson told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“I am talking to people in different parties, including Conservatives.

“There is a reason why thousands of people are joining the Liberal Democrats, when the Conservatives have gone off to the right and Labour have gone off to the left and people who want to see a better politics, a better alternative than the – frankly depressing – choice of Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn, they can join us because there is a better way.”

She acknowledged there might not yet be a majority in Parliament for a so-called People’s Vote on Brexit but the numbers in favour of another referendum would be bolstered by disaffected Tories under Mr Johnson.

Ms Swinson added: “With the gridlock, with the threat of no deal, I think there is the chance that there will now be more Conservative MPs, including some people who are – currently or soon-to-be – not in government who can back a People’s Vote as a way out.”

Jeremy Corbyn is a Brexiteer, he cannot be trusted on Brexit, that has become abundantly clear Jo Swinson

She suggested that opposition parties and Tory rebels could call for a referendum by taking control of Commons business in a similar way to the move in March to delay Brexit.

But she played down the prospect of a formal pact with Labour if Jeremy Corbyn’s party backed another referendum.

“There are plenty of people in the Labour Party that I can work with, that I do work with, that I am working with,” she said.

“But Jeremy Corbyn is a Brexiteer, he cannot be trusted on Brexit, that has become abundantly clear.”

Former minister Ms Swinson trounced ex-Cabinet member Sir Ed Davey in the battle to replace Sir Vince Cable and insisted she now had a realistic chance to be prime minister.

Ms Swinson, who had been the bookies’ favourite to take the party crown, beat Sir Ed by 47,997 votes to 28,021 in a ballot of party members which had a 72% turnout.

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