New Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson will succeed in stealing Tory Remain voters if Boris Johnson tries to force No Deal, a Cabinet minister warned today.
Justice Secretary David Gauke said taking a hard line on Brexit would leave the party 'significantly out of touch' with many of its traditional supporters.
Ms Swinson was last night elected as the first ever female leader of the Liberal Democrats after she inflicted a crushing defeat on her challenger Sir Ed Davey.
The 39-year-old mother-of-two succeeded Sir Vince Cable after she secured more than 47,000 votes in the contest with Sir Ed trailing far behind with just over 28,000.
Ms Swinson said her 'number one priority' as leader will be 'stopping Boris and stopping Brexit' - vowing to target disaffected Tory and Labour supporters.
Jo Swinson (pictured) was last night elected as the first ever female leader of the Liberal Democrats after she inflicted a crushing defeat on her challenger Sir Ed Davey
Justice Secretary David Gauke pictured above has said Jo Swinson's leadership could cause losses for the Tory party
Ms Swinson said this morning that she was involved in talks with MPs from other parties, including the Conservatives, about defecting.
'Our door is absolutely open to people who share our values,' Ms Swinson told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
'I am talking to people in different parties, including Conservatives.
'There is a reason why thousands of people are joining the Liberal Democrats, when the Conservatives have gone off to the right and Labour have gone off to the left and people who want to see a better politics, a better alternative than the - frankly depressing - choice of Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn, they can join us because there is a better way.'
Mr Gauke told the Times that Ms Swinson could take votes from the Tories in the event of No Deal.
He said: 'If we were to narrow our support to purely being those in favour of a no-deal Brexit, I think we would be significantly out of touch with a lot of people who have traditionally voted Conservative - those who live in London, the Home Counties, and various other relatively affluent parts of the country.'
Mr Gauke added that Ms Swinson 'should not be underestimated'.
He said if the party were to narrow its support to those in favour of a no deal Brexit then it would be 'out of touch with a lot of people who voted Conservative'.
He added: 'It's important the Conservative Party appeals to voters in the centre ground.'
Ms Swinson and Sir Ed, who both served as ministers in the coalition government, battled it out for seven weeks for the right to take over the leadership of the party following Sir Vince's decision earlier this year to stand down.
The winner of the contest becomes leader at a high point in the Lib Dems' recent history.
Ms Swinson, the East Dunbartonshire MP, was the favourite in the two-horse race to replace Sir Vince
Ms Swinson told activists after the announcement was made: 'Boris Johnson is likely to take the keys to Number 10 and set us on a path to a damaging No Deal Brexit.
'Stopping Boris, and stopping Brexit is my number one priority as leader.
When Ms Swinson, 39, was elected as an MP for the first time in 2005 she was, at the age of 25, the Baby of the House - the youngest parliamentarian in Westminster.
She served as an MP for 10 years, working as a junior minister in the coalition government from 2012, before losing her East Dunbartonshire seat to the SNP in 2015.
She won it back at the snap 2017 general election and then became the deputy leader of the Lib Dems after Tim Farron quit to make way for Sir Vince Cable in the wake of the party's poor showing at the ballot box.
She hit the headlines