Jo Swinson was savaged by both Leavers and Remainer as she defended the Liberal Democrat’s policy to cancel Brexit by revoking Article 50 .
But the audience at a special episode of Question Time in Sheffield gave her answers short shrift accusing the party leader both of thinking voters were stupid and of ignoring the views of the 17.4m who voted for Brexit.
“You think we are stupid and don’t know what we voted for,” said one woman who voted Leave.
Ms Swinson said: “Not for one second do I think that that means that you or anyone like you is stupid – I think that means we disagree.
“I really want us to be in a situation in this country where we can disagree with each other, and that means that you want to leave and I don’t think that makes you a bad person and I want to Remain in the EU and I hope you think that doesn’t make me a bad person.
But the Leave-voting audience member hit back: “You can disagree with me but you lost, you don’t get to change it because you lost.”
Ms Swinson insisted she had not changed her view that leaving the EU being bad for the country.
While a Remain voter also railed against the party still claiming to be democratic, branding its name a “misnomer”.
The woman said: “The Liberal Democrats standing on a manifesto to unilaterally cancel Brexit and the electoral pact has absolutely cost you my vote.”
Ms Swinson added: “We are being very straightforward as a party that we want to stop Brexit You might agree with us. You might disagree with us. I don’t think you could accuse us of not being up front about wanting to stop Brexit we have been crystal clear about that from the very beginning.
Ms Swinson tonight suggested she might still become Prime Minister despite needing to gain more than 300 seats in a cringeworthy live TV clash.
The Lib Dem leader was hit with a tough question on a BBC Question Time leaders’ special over why she claimed she’d become PM.
But despite an audience member saying her claim was “ridiculous”, she claimed she had no regrets.
And although she said things are now tougher she left the door open to the idea she could still join 10 Downing Street.
Ms Swinson was tackled about her claim at the start of the campaign that she could realistically become PM.
“Do you regret how ridiculous that sounded?” an audience member asked.
Smiling ruefully, she claimed: “I don’t regret it.”
But she went on to say: “There is still three weeks left in this campaign.
“And all I would say to anybody that thinks that you can predict the outcome of the election in the middle of the campaign.
“Ask Theresa May how that worked out last time around!”
The audience also tackled the Lib Dem leader over her bid to scrap Brexit without another referendum.
Ms Swinson, who was a minister in the 2010-15 Tory/Lib Dem coalition, also left the door open to another coalition with the Conservatives, if Mr Johnson was removed as leader.
And she was challenged on her record as a minister when the Liberal Democrats were in coalition with the Tories.
Responding to an audience question, Ms Swinson said: “We also had plenty of fights with the Conservatives and we won some of those fights and we lost some of those fights and I am sorry that we did not win more of those fights in coalition.”
But the audience member said they were not happy with her answer – and it was too late to stop “harsh and uncaring benefit cuts”.
The Prime Minister and Labour leader were each due to be quizzed for 30 minutes by a BBC1 Question Time studio audience in Sheffield.
Lib Dem chief Jo Swinson and the SNP ’s Nicola Sturgeon were also confronted with voters’ questions, hosted by BBC presenter Fiona Bruce.
The leaders drew lots to decide the appearance order.
The format has proved tricky for No10 hopefuls in the past; in 2015 Ed Miliband stumbled off the stage after fielding questions for half an hour.
And in 2017 Theresa May was wounded after shouting at a nurse: “There is no magic money tree!”
The TV showdown comes after Labour launched its manifesto, and on the eve of the Conservatives’ unveiling their ballot box blueprint.