Rising star Layla Moran, the Oxford and Abingdon West MP who was elected in 2017, was quick to ask Scottish colleagues for constituency visits to meet members in what was seen as a sign of her “naked ambition” to lead the party.
Moran, the first MP of Palestinian origin and the first Lib Dem woman in the Commons from a minority background, is seen as a likely candidate for her party’s leadership.
Current leader Sir Vince Cable announced last week that he would trigger a leadership contest and stand down after English local elections in May.
It sets up a possible all-female contest that could deliver the first woman Lib Dem leader, with the East Dunbartonshire MP and deputy party leader Jo Swinson seen as the favourite to succeed Cable.
The former energy and climate change secretary Ed Davey has also been mentioned as a possible candidate.
“Layla Moran has been plotting her leadership bid since she was elected,” a Scottish Lib Dem insider said. “She was asking Scottish MPs to organise trips for her up to Scotland within months so she could meet members. When she was trying to come up here the naked ambition didn’t go over particularly well.” The source added that in Scotland, “everyone will back Jo”.
A second Scottish Lib Dem source confirmed that Moran had canvassed colleagues about making constituency visits, adding that some members were “a bit taken aback” by the approach.
Another senior Lib Dem said they believed Moran would run, but defended her attempt to build her profile in Scotland, and said she would make a positive addition if she joined the leadership election. “We had a coronation last time, and the party membership wants a contest,” the source said. “Layla is ambitious and this isn’t going to be a monolithic, open-and-closed leadership contest.”
Moran told Scotland on Sunday: “Since I became elected, I have received many invitations from local parties across the country. I always welcome the opportunity to meet with Liberal Democrat members, and as a newly elected MP I want to inspire others into following their passions and engaging with politics.”