JO Swinson’s route to succeed Sir Vince Cable as the Liberal Democrat leader appears to have become easier after her colleague Layla Moran announced she would not be standing in the forthcoming contest.

The decision by the Oxford West and Abingdon MP means that the deputy leader’s potential rivals for the Lib Dem crown look likely to be Sir Ed Davey, the former Energy Secretary in the Con-Lib Coalition Government, and Tom Brake, the party’s Brexit spokesman.

Ms Moran, 36, regarded by many as a rising star in the Lib Dem parliamentary team, has written to party members in her constituency announcing she will not be putting her name forward when Sir Vince steps down as leader, expected in the next few weeks.

She explained: “I am grateful to the large number of constituents, supporters, party members and elected representatives who have encouraged me to throw my hat into the ring in the forthcoming Liberal Democrat Leadership contest.

“As a relatively new MP, however, my first priority has to be to serve my constituents to the best of my ability.”

Ms Moran added: “For this reason, I wrote to local party members earlier this week to let them know that I would not be standing for the leadership this time.”

Her departure ahead of the formal contest leaves Glasgow-born Ms Swinson, 39, a former Business Minister, who represents East Dunbartonshire, as the clear 4/7 favourite to take over from Sir Vince, 76, and become the Lib Dems’ first woman leader.

Thus far, the Scot has insisted her current focus has been on winning more seats in the English local elections and in the forthcoming European elections.

The result in the local elections when the party won 704 seats means whoever the new leader is will take over at a time of rising fortunes for the party; seen by many as the leading advocate of Remain.