'We can win again,' says Liberal Democrat acting leader Ed Davey

Liberal Democrat acting leader Sir Ed Davey has said his party had a “whole set of new ideas” as he insisted that while the party may be down after December’s General Election, they were not out.

Speaking to The Yorkshire Post this week, before the party’s Spring conference in York was called off due to coronavirus, Sir Ed outlined big policy areas - education, social care, and climate change - as he insisted “we can win again” despite an election result where the then party leader Jo Swinson lost her seat.

Sir Ed, who stepped in when Ms Swinson lost - and had previously run against her for the leadership job - is expected to run again, and Oxford West and Abingdon MP Layla Moran has already thrown her hat into the ring.

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As acting leader he was due to give the keynote speech at the party’s Spring conference in York this weekend.

Liberal Democrat Acting Leader Sir Ed Davey. Photo: Simon Hulme

The Lib Dems - in a coalition with the Green Party - have control of York City Council, but Sir Ed said this was not the reason for planning the conference in Yorkshire, insisting the party continued to focus on winning seats in Westminster just as much as building a local base.

He said: “They're not mutually exclusive. There's no doubt that local government is a fundamental part of what a Liberal Democrat is and we believe in pushing power down to the local level and devolution in Yorkshire, we want stronger local government.

“And we've been talking about it for years. To me it’s fundamental to our philosophy.”

He said: “My wife's a local councillor and she always likes reminding me that she's more powerful than I am. So the local government angle for the strategy of the party going forward, for me, is fundamental.

“It also happens to be the case that where we're successful in local government, we often then go on to win the parliamentary seat. That doesn't always follow and sometimes we win parliamentary seats without winning the council.

“But I'm conscious that I only won my seat in 1997 because we won the council in 1994. And if you look at almost every seat that we now hold, we've got strength in local government.

“So they're absolutely not exclusive, they come together.”

And he was keen to not write off the Lib Dems prospects of winning more seats in the House of Commons in the next election, despite sticking to a pro-European message.

He said: “The message is that we can win again. And we can win again by staying true to our principles, and I’m going to tell the party we will remain a Pro-European party.”

But asked about whether Ms Moran, who announced she would run for Lib Dem leadership on Sunday, was right to say that taking a revoke Article 50 position on was a mistake, he said: “I just think people shouldn't jump to an analysis until we've had the independent review.”

Sir Ed pointed to areas such as education, mental health, and social care where he felt the party performed strongly and would chime with voters.

“I want the Lib Dems to be the champions of care,” he said. “Because the other parties don’t seem to grapple with it.”

He also said they had been ahead on environment, before the climate crisis brought the issue to the fore.

“I believe in doing the right thing and then making it popular. Paddy Ashdown and Simon Hughes were the only ones talking about the environment, [the importance] is now at the highest it’s ever been,” he said.

“People in Yorkshire have seen the floods, they want to see action.

“I've been developing ideas around what I think is fundamental, about how you reform the way our markets work, particularly our financial markets and the City of London, the banks and the pension funds, and so on, because they’re not required to take climate change into account, and they should be.

“There's financial risk and managing risk for investors and consumers, but climate change risk is, I think, more significant.”