Liberal Democrat candidates focus on referendums and Brexit at party’s leadership husting

Liberal Democrat leadership candidates Jo Swinson and Ed Davey take part in a hustings event in Edinburgh yesterday. Photograph: Ian Georgeson
Liberal Democrat leadership candidates Jo Swinson and Ed Davey take part in a hustings event in Edinburgh yesterday. Photograph: Ian Georgeson
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A crackdown on the use of referendums to settle powderkeg political issues has been called for by Liberal Democrat leadership frontrunner Jo Swinson.

The East Dunbartonshire MP spoke out in a leadership hustings in Edinburgh yesterday alongside Ed Davey her only rival for the position.

The former environment secretary claimed a “government of national unity” could be brought about to enable a People’s Vote on Brexit, as he addressed several hundred party members in Stockbridge Church.

The Lib Dems have been thrust back to the centre ground of UK politics on the back of their clear anti-Brexit message which saw them finish second in the recent EU elections.

Swinson opposes a second referendum on Scottish independence and admitted that a People’s Vote on Brexit may be the last of its kind.

“For people who say the don’t fancy another referendum, I have to say I kind of have my sympathies with that a little bit,” she said.

“I think we need basically one more referendum ever in the country.

“We need a significant discussion after this as a nation about how we use referendums, about why they’re used to settle and how they are conducted.”

Both candidates also slammed recent suggestions by Tory leadership hopefuls that Parliament could effectively be shut down, through a prorogation, while the Government of the day pushes through Brexit.

Davey said MPs across all parties are talking of staging a vote of confidence to bring down the Government.

“If the Palace sent for some backbencher, a Tory backbencher – a Dominic Grieve, a Justin Greening – could they form a government of backbench Tory MPs, backbench Labour MPs and a number us in other parts of the opposition.

“Not to form a coalition, but to form a temporary government of national unity to pass the legislation for a Peoples’ Vote.”