Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey: 'I'm going to speak up, that's the job of a politician'

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey has said his party is ready to “speak up” as he attempts to steer his party from the disastrous election results seen in 2019 to providing a “distinctive opposition” to the Government.

Ahead of the party’s spring conference this weekend, Sir Ed told The Yorkshire Post members were concerned about issues such as social care, and “not a lot of the sort of stuff that people at Westminster talk about”.

And he said: “It's what I would call the bread and butter issues and what we need to be showing is that we have fresh ideas, new ideas, on those issues.”

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Sir Ed did not hit out at Labour, who have been criticised by some for voting with the Government on many coronavirus measures, as he added: “All opposition parties have had to be constructive, because you can blame Boris Johnson for a lot of things, but you can't say that he caused Covid.”

Liberal Democrats leader Ed Davey arriving at BBC Broadcasting House in central London for his appearance on the BBC1 current affairs programme, The Andrew Marr Show. Photo: PA

But he said: “I've been actually quite alarmed about the way that Government has failed.”

And he said it had been him at the forefront of tough calls including urging Metropolitan Police commissioner Cressida Dick to resign after the policing of the Sarah Everard vigil in Clapham, and he has also been pushing the Government to commit to a date for a coronavirus inquiry.

“And I am going to speak up,” he said.

“It's the job of politicians to speak up, and now we are a distinctive party.

“We are more liberal than other parties, and when I see civil liberties trodden over in that way, I'm going to speak up.”

He said: “I think we are providing distinctive opposition,and I’ve given you some examples. And we are going to these [local] elections and the months and years ahead, I think in a stronger place.”

Sir Ed said his party’s conference would focus on a putting recovery from coronavirus first, and he added: “I just don't think that the Prime Minister knows what he wants to do. He doesn't seem to have any plan whatsoever.”

He said: “We think businesses, particularly small businesses, and the self employed, should be getting much more support to both survive and to grow.

“And it's not just businesses, local communities need that support, and we just think the Government is being nowhere near ambitious enough.”

Sir Ed said as the dust had settled on the Budget, it looked “increasingly like a holding statement, it doesn't look like a strategy. It goes nowhere near far enough”.

Although the party has only 11 MPs in the Commons, Sir Ed said it had “led the way” in areas such as green policy, where other parties he said were only now catching up.

“One of the things I'm proudest of is the work that Liberal Democrats, with myself very much involved, did to push the offshore wind industry, and with the amazing investment we got to Hull when Siemens and ABP Ports invested £310bn in the port there and in the wind turbine factory, creating over 1,000 jobs.

“Obviously that was in Yorkshire and it was a Liberal Democrats that made it happen.

“I had to fight the Conservatives when I was winning the money for a renewable power revolution for the Liberal Democrats. I was fighting George Osborne, fighting [Eric] Pickles and the current Prime Minister was writing in the Daily Telegraph that a wind turbine couldn't take the skin off a rice pudding.”

And he added: “The Tories can take literally no credit for the green power revolution that the UK is now seeing and enjoying and the prosperity that is creating.”

Locally, Sir Ed said he hoped that record would lead the Lib Dems to winning some council seats in the upcoming May local election.

“These are really weird elections,” he said. “But in Yorkshire, I think it's clear that Labour could lose control of Sheffield City Council, I think the Lib Dems could well make some further gains against Labour, including in Sheffield Hallam, which is obviously an important seat for us at the next general election.”

“I'd also point to Hull where Lib Dems are on the verge of ending a decade of Labour mismanagement. We've only four seats that need to change hands to make it a Lib Dem council.”