Lib Dems suspend leadership contest until 2021

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The Liberal Democrats have suspended their leadership contest for a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The party had been due to elect a successor to Jo Swinson in July. The contest will now begin in May 2021.

MP Sir Ed Davey and party president Mark Pack will remain as acting leaders in the meantime.

Mr Pack said the decision was in the national interest, with the UK facing possibly its "biggest crisis since 1945".

The party has been without a permanent leader since Ms Swinson lost her seat in December's election.

Potential contenders to succeed her included Sir Ed, the former cabinet minister who was runner-up in the party's last leadership election, and MPs Layla Moran, Christine Jardine and Daisy Cooper.

The Liberal Democrats' Federal Board took the decision to postpone the contest on Thursday so that the party could concentrate solely on the current crisis.

Mr Pack said the decision to delay by a year took into account a possible second wave of infections next winter and the country having to remain in a virtual lockdown.

The new date, he said, would also avoid a clash with English local and mayoral elections, which were due to take place in May but which have been put back a year. The result of the leadership contest will be announced in the summer of 2021.

"Throughout our history, we have always put the national interest first," Mr Pack wrote. "We know that coronavirus will have many implications for our society, public services, economy and day-to-day lives.

"It will also have important implications for how we operate as a political party.

"In particular, even when current lockdown restrictions are relaxed, we still be living in a world where for months, if not years, to come it is possible lockdowns will have to be reintroduced at short notice.

"That risk will hang over us all until we have a vaccine or effective and widespread treatment."