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Lib Dems become UK’s third largest party again after ‘record-breaking night’

05 Jul 2024 4 minute read
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey with his party’s General Election campaign battlebus. Photo Jacob King/PA Wire

Incoming Liberal Democrat MPs have taken a record number of seats for the party in the General Election.

Sir Ed Davey’s party has ousted four Cabinet ministers and denied the Tories success in constituencies once held by former prime ministers Lord Cameron, Lady May and Boris Johnson.

With 641 results declared, the Lib Dems’ tally stood at 71, beating the party’s previous record of 62 under Charles Kennedy’s leadership in 2005.

It far exceeds the party’s result at the last general election in 2019, when it secured 11 seats.

In Wales, Lib Dem David Chadwick sealed victory in Brecon, Radnor and Cwm Tawe where Tory Fay Jones lost her seat after one term in parliament.

Set to take their seats on opposition benches as the UK’s third largest party – a position the Lib Dems have not held since 2015, missing out to the SNP – Sir Ed told voters his MPs “will now work hard to keep that trust with a focus on the issues that matter most to them, most of all the NHS and care”.

Humbled

The party leader added: “This is a record-breaking night for the Liberal Democrats. We have swept to victory in seats from Land’s End to John O’ Groats.

“I am humbled by the trust that millions of people across the country have put in us.”

He earlier celebrated his party’s vote at an election party in central London, dancing and singing to Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline.

On the campaign trail, Sir Ed toured the country in his party’s battle bus, named Yellow Hammer 1, at one point touring 1,343 miles from Great Britain’s southwestern-most corner in Cornwall to its northeastern-most in the Scottish Highlands.

Senedd Party Leader Jane Dodds pledged that Welsh Liberal Democrats will hold the Labour Government to account in both Westminster and the Welsh Parliament.

Among the biggest blows which the Lib Dems inflicted on the Conservatives was in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, where Max Wilkinson won against Justice Secretary Alex Chalk.

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan lost in Chichester, Sussex, to Jess Brown-Fuller while Science Secretary Michelle Donelan lost to Brian Mathew in Melksham and Devizes.

Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer became a casualty to the Liberal Democrat candidate Charlotte Cane.

Henley and Thame, Maidenhead and Witney are also now Liberal Democrat seats.

One seat the Liberal Democrats failed to clinch was Godalming and Ash, where party sources suggested victory over Chancellor Jeremy Hunt would be “quite the moment”.

He will remain an MP in the Surrey constituency after its voters elected him with a majority of 891.

Reflecting on the Conservative Party’s performance, the Chancellor said: “A message to my children, who I sincerely hope are asleep now.

“This may seem like a tough day for our family as we move out of Downing Street, but it isn’t.

“We are incredibly lucky to live in a country where decisions like this are made not by bombs or bullets, but by thousands of ordinary citizens peacefully placing crosses in boxes and bits of paper.

“Brave Ukrainians are dying every day to defend their right to do what we did yesterday and we must never take that for granted.

“Don’t be sad, this is the magic of democracy.”

The Liberal Democrats have taken around 12.3% of the overall vote to secure more than 70 seats.

The SNP, which took 48 seats in 2019 as the UK’s third largest party, had secured just eight seats.

Reform UK on 14.3% of the vote has taken just four.

Its leader Nigel Farage – now an MP in the Essex seaside constituency of Clacton – said overnight: “Believe you me, the appetite for electoral reform is going to be enormous after this election, and that’s one of the many things that I’m going to be up front, out there, campaigning for.

“I might even work with the Lib Dems on that.”


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