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Liberal Democrats appoint acting leaders after Jo Swinson defeat

Jo Swinson said the result was ‘hugely disappointing’ in her seat and across the country.

Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson reacts as she loses her East Dumbartonshire constituency, during the count at the Leisuredome, Bishopbriggs (Jane Barlow/PA)
Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson reacts as she loses her East Dumbartonshire constituency, during the count at the Leisuredome, Bishopbriggs (Jane Barlow/PA)

By Harriet Line, PA Deputy Political Editor

The Liberal Democrats have appointed the party’s deputy leader Sir Ed Davey and president Baroness Sal Brinton as joint leaders after Jo Swinson’s election defeat.

A leadership election will take place in the new year, the party announced, after a damaging night which saw its leader lose her seat to the Scottish National Party.

Ms Swinson said the result was “hugely disappointing” in her seat and across the country, as Boris Johnson romped to victory with a comfortable Conservative majority.

She said in a statement released just hours after her defeat: “I am proud that in this campaign, the Liberal Democrats have stood up for openness, generosity and hope. We were honest about what we believe in and what we were trying to achieve.

“This is clearly a setback for liberal values. But there are millions of people across the country who believe in them. By coming together to fight for them, we can create a positive future.”

Baroness Brinton added: “In the weeks ahead we will elect a new leader and our party will continue to be the rallying point for anyone who believes in a country where everyone has the chance to get on in life.”

Under the party’s constitution, the leader must be an MP – so Ms Swinson ceased to be leader when she lost her seat.

The party’s staunchly Remain stance failed to gain traction with the electorate, and a number of the party’s leading lights paid a heavy price as they lost their bids to win seats.

Chuka Umunna, Sarah Wollaston, Luciana Berger and Sam Gyimah were among prominent figures who will not be returning to Westminster – along with Ms Swinson.

She lost her Dunbartonshire East constituency to the SNP’s Amy Callaghan, who won by just 149 votes.

Ms Callaghan received 19,672 votes to Ms Swinson’s 19,523.

In a speech after the result was announced, Ms Swinson said: “Let me say now, for millions of people in our country these results will bring dread and dismay and people are looking for hope.”

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Liberal Democrat candidate Chuka Umunna missed out on a seat (Yui Mok/PA)

Less than an hour earlier, it had been announced that Mr Umunna, who had been tipped as a future Lib Dem leader, would not become MP for Westminster.

He was standing in the constituency having moved from his previous seat of Streatham.

The seat was won by Conservative Nickie Aiken, who received 17,049 votes, while Mr Umunna received 13,096.

Originally a Labour MP who stood for the party leadership in 2015, Mr Umunna pulled out of the race due to increased scrutiny of his family.

In February, he defected to become a founding member of the Independent Group, before joining the Lib Dems in the summer.

Elsewhere in London, Mr Gyimah, a former Conservative universities minister, was standing for the Lib Dems in Kensington, but came third.

The seat was won by Tory candidate Felicity Buchan with 16,768 votes, while Mr Gyimah received 9,312.

In second place was Labour candidate Emma Dent Coad who had 16,618 votes.

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Liberal Democrat candidate Luciana Berger (Jacob King/PA)

Luciana Berger failed to win the constituency of Finchley and Golders Green.

The seat was won by Conservative candidate Mike Freer with 24,162 votes to Ms Berger’s 17,600.

Like Mr Umunna, Ms Berger had previously been a Labour MP, resigning to become a co-founder of the Independent Group, and then joining the Lib Dems in September.

In Totnes, another recent Lib Dem recruit, Sarah Wollaston, failed to hold on to her seat.

The constituency was held by the Conservatives.

Dr Wollaston was the Conservative MP for the seat, she switched to the Independent Group before joining the Liberal Democrats in August.

The Tory candidate in this election, Anthony Mangall, held the constituency with 27,751 votes, while as Lib Dem candidate, Dr Wollaston received 15,027.

PA

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