JO Swinson is expected to be named as the new Liberal Democrat leader this afternoon to become the first female head of her party.

However, supporters of her rival, Sir Ed Davey, have been buoyed by claims that postal votes have been split evenly. While no votes have yet been counted among the party’s 107,000 members – this will take place on Monday – postal ballots have been checked to make sure people have not also voted electronically. The result is due to be announced in central London at 4pm.

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Last week, party sources insisted the London MP was generally regarded as having won the series of party hustings, which have taken place across the country, and that internal polling suggested he had even nosed ahead. Sir Ed himself told The Herald he was confident the result would be “very, very close”.

However, one MP declared: “Jo is going to win. It’s not just people inside the party but many outside say they want her to win. She will pick up the mantle of Remain.”

The backbencher said the MP for East Dunbartonshire would “bring something new to the table," stressing: "She is vibrant and articulate. She has strength and commitment and there is always a feeling that she will achieve.”

A Scottish colleague also pointed out that it was important, after Charles Kennedy and Sir Menzies Campbell, that the UK party had a Scottish leader. “The fight to save the Union is so important and it’s something Jo understands instinctively. She will take the battle to Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP.”

Another party insider also made the point that having the 39-year-old Glasgow-born mother of two young children as their leader meant she would provide the party with something different from Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn and, if he should win his own leadership battle, the Conservatives’ Boris Johnson.

“Can you imagine how it would look if there were a general election and in the TV debate there is Corbyn, Boris and Jo? The public would look at the three candidates and see something in Jo, they don’t in Corbyn or Johnson. She would greatly appeal to younger voters and her leadership would boost our fortunes enormously.”

The two candidates have show little difference on policy in the hustings. Ms Swinson, who was a Business Minister in the Lib-Con Coalition Government, has been keen to stress the party’s Remain credentials while Sir Ed, a former Energy and Climate Change Secretary, has placed his battle to “decarbonise capitalism” front and centre of his campaign.

Whoever does wear the Lib Dem crown, they will take over as the party is on the up.

On August 1 the result will be announced in the Brecon and Radnor by-election, a previous Lib Dem seat, held latterly by the Tories. There is a wide expectation on the ground that the Lib Dems will regain it, reducing the Conservatives’ working majority to just three.

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A Lib Dem victory is likely to make the pro-Remain parties repeat their pact to stand just one anti-Brexit candidate in certain seats.

Having been polling for long periods post the Coalition Government in single figures, the party's fortunes have improved after coming out so strongly for a second referendum and backing Britain staying in the EU.

The Lib Dems’ clear, unequivocal stance opposing Brexit has resulted in a poll rating around 20 per cent as well as significant gains in not only the local elections in England but also in the European elections.

Chuka Umunna, the former Labour and Change UK MP, defected to the party last month and there is a wide expectation – based on what Jo, Sir Ed and others call constructive conversations – that more will follow; possibly to be announced at the party’s autumn conference in Bournemouth.

If, as many surmise Mr Johnson calls a general election next May, then several senior figures in the party believe the Lib Dems have a good chance of making major gains and ousting the SNP as Westminster's third party.