Voting opens as Palestinian-British MP bids to win party leadership

Layla Moran hopes to become leader of the Liberal Democrats after a disastrous election result last year

Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran at the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, London.
Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran at the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, London.

Voting opened on Thursday in the leadership battle for a British political party that pits a Palestinian-British MP against a former cabinet minister.

Layla Moran, 37, is challenging Ed Davey, the acting leader, to head the Liberal Democrats, the fourth-biggest party in the UK parliament with only 11 of the 650 MPs after a disastrous showing at national elections in December.

The party was part of Britain’s coalition government from 2010 to 2015 with the ruling Conservative Party, but its popularity has plunged. Former leader Jo Swinson lost her seat in last year’s election, prompting the ballot of 117,000 members to find a successor.

Ms Moran, born to a British diplomat father and Palestinian mother from Jerusalem, cast herself as a leader who can make a clean break from the years of the unpopular coalition.

The centrist party’s reputation was tarnished during the coalition years after it dropped its central policy on abolishing tuition fees for university students while in a Government led by former Conservative prime minister David Cameron. Mr Davey had been a climate change minister.

Ms Moran, a former teacher, was elected to parliament for the first time in 2017, becoming the first MP of Palestinian descent. She has been an outspoken critic of US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan, describing it as a “scam” and an “insult”.

Mr Davey is seen as the slight favourite in the race and received backing in an open letter published on Thursday from a group of 167 party figures, including five of the 11 MPs. The postal vote for the next leader closes on August 26.

Updated: July 30, 2020 04:38 PM


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