Lib Dem leader Ed Davey pledges to build on party's Yorkshire council success in bid to rebuild after election defeats

Liberal Democrats leader Sir Ed Davey has promised to build on his party’s grassroots success to map out a route back to winning national votes in the coming years.

Sir Ed, who won the party’s leadership election last month, spoke to The Yorkshire Post to coincide with the party’s annual conference held over the weekend.

And while he accepted the Lib Dems had not performed nationally, he insisted councils such as City of York and other authorities around the region had strong Lib Dem roots.

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Sir Ed said the party would stand candidates in the upcoming mayoral elections in West and South Yorkshire, but in the context of devolution he said: “I want to make stronger local government in itself. We will have a candidate, we will take it very seriously.”

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey in St Albans city centre in Hertfordshire where he met shop owners and vendors and discussed how they are coping with the latest Covid19 restrictions. Photo: PA

And responding to reports the Government had shelved its plans to shake up councils and force regions into unitary authorities, Sir Ed added: “I cannot think of a worse time to do it.”

But he said his conference this weekend was focussed on being realistic about where the party is, while carving out why there was still a place for them in Westminster. He said: “When people understand who we are as a party, we will be back.”

It comes as Sir Ed will give his first Liberal Democrat conference speech as party leader today. He is expected to pledge to become the voice of Britain’s carers, and to call out the Government for failing to deal with the pandemic.

He is expected to say: “We have endured three deeply disappointing general elections, in five tough years. At the national level at least, too many people think we’re out of touch with what they want. The answer is to listen to what people are really telling us. And to change.”

But in a deeply personal speech he will also talk about being a teenage carer for his mother as she battled bone cancer after his father died when he was four, as well as the challenges of caring for his disabled son, John.

He will tell parents of disabled children and young people caring for their parents: “I understand what you’re going through, and I promise you this: I will be your voice.”

He is expected say: “Caring for people’s health doesn’t stop at the hospital exit, or the GP’s surgery door.

“You can only truly protect our NHS, if you protect our care homes too.

“You can only truly speak up for doctors and nurses, if in the same breath, you stand up for carers.

“For young carers and professional carers, paid and unpaid, in care homes and in people’s homes.

“This is personal for me. You see, I’ve been a carer for much of my life.

“First as a teenager, when I nursed my mum during her long battle against bone cancer.

“My dad had died when I was four. My mum was my whole world.

“So on one level, it was easy caring for mum: I loved her. But it was also incredibly tough.

“Taking her tumblers of morphine for her agonising pain – before going off to school.

“Coming home to look after her, helping her on and off the toilet.

“Taking life, day by day.

“Because there was nothing else you could do.

“And at the end, visiting her on a totally unsuitable dementia ward in my school uniform, alone by her bedside, when she died.”

Sir Ed will also speak of caring for his grandmother, and the challenge of getting her into a good, affordable home to “make her last few years as comfortable as we could”.

He will say: "And now, as a father. As my wife and I care for our son John every day.

"John is 12. He can’t walk by himself. He was 9 when he first managed to say “Daddy”.

"John needs 24/7 care – and probably always will.

"And that’s my biggest challenge: John will be on this planet long after Emily and I have gone.

"So we worry. No one can possibly love him like we do. Hold him like we hold him.

"And our fears are shared by so many parents. Many not as fortunate as Emily and me."