- The current favourite to be the next Liberal Democrat leader says his party should work with Keir Starmer to defeat Boris Johnson at the next election.
- Ed Davey ruled out any sort of deal with the Conservatives, telling Business Insider: “They’re far too right-wing and I don’t want anything to do with them.”
- He said the Lib Dems would like to work tactically with Labour at the next election.
- Davey described Starmer as “very smart” and said:, “I don’t think a Starmer leadership at the next election is going to be firing its guns on us in the way Corbyn was.”
- Davey is the current frontrunner to succeed Jo Swinson as Lib Dem leader.
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The current frontrunner to become the next leader of the Liberal Democrats says the party must work tactically with Labour Party leader Keir Starmer to defeat Boris Johnson at the next general election.
Ed Davey told Business Insider that he was an “anti-Conservative” who would reject ever forming a coalition government with the Conservatives at the next general election in 2024, saying: “They’re far too right-wing and I don’t want anything to do with them.”
Davey sought to draw a line under his party’s time in coalition with David Cameron’s Conservatives, which he admitted had created “animosity” with Labour and other parties on the left.
“Under my leadership, there will be no deal of any sort with the Conservatives,” he said.
“I’m an anti-Conservative politician and I’ve fought them all of my life. I wouldn’t ask Liberal Democrats to agree to any arrangement with the Conservative party.”
Davey, the Member of Parliament for Kingston and Surbiton and a former Cabinet minister, said his aim would be to work with the Labour Party to kick out the Conservatives by encouraging tactical voting in seats nationwide.
He said Starmer, who has improved Labour’s ratings in the opinion polls since succeeding Jeremy Corbyn, was a “very smart” leader who would realise he would have to work with the Liberal Democrats to become prime minister.
“I don’t think a Starmer leadership at the next election is going to be firing its guns on us in the way Corbyn was,” Davey said.
“It’s in their interest for us to beat the Tories and we can beat them in a whole range of seats. We are second to the Conservatives in 80. Starmer will know that he needs us to beat the Tories. Why would he have a go at us?
“He’s a smart guy. He’s really smart.”
He ruled out a formal pact with Labour but said that under his leadership the party’s first priority would be beating the Conservatives, including through tactical voting.
“People are starting to see the bigger picture,” Davey said.
“The right-wing got its act together on tactical voting at the last election while the centre-left, progressive parties just messed it up. If we can reverse that, we can defeat the Tories – and that’s what I’m about.”
He added: “You can see common ground developing as they move from the Corbynista left to the centre-left.
“We are beginning to see the outlines of a number of areas where we can clearly work together… I would hope that if he continues to bring the Labour Party to a social-democratic, centre-left position, then there will be room to work.
“That’s what happened with Ashdown [Paddy, former leader of the Liberal Democrats] and Tony Blair.”
Davey is the frontrunner in the race to succeed Jo Swinson as leader, with rival Layla Moran trailing in nominations from members, local parties, and the party’s MPs and MEPs. The winner will be announced at the end of August.
Moran, the party’s education spokesperson, told Business Insider she would make the Liberal Democrats “more radical than Labour” as leader.
The Liberal Democrats, which went into the December election fighting to stop Brexit, failed to capitalise on strong polling earlier in the year, ending up with one fewer seat in the House of Commons and Swinson losing her seat.
Davey said he believed he was leading the race to be its next leader because members believed he was best-placed to “get the party winning again.”
“I’ve got a sense that’s why I have momentum now,” he told Business Insider.
“People have been looking at the contenders and their real question is ‘who can get the party winning again?’ so we can beat the Tories. People are responding positively to my vision and my experience.”
He said that as leader, he would make the Liberal Democrats “fighting fit to win again” after a disappointing performance at the December election, with “a clear message” focused primarily on three areas: green economic policies, education, and reforming social care.
“I am obsessed with making sure people know who the Liberal Democrats are,” he said.
“I’ve got a laser-beam-like focus on doing that.
“When people go into the polls at the next election with me as leader, they will know why they should vote Liberal Democrats and who they are. That would my first big challenge as leader and I am up for it.”
Johnson’s handling of care homes during COVID-19 has been ‘despicable’
Davey takes a strong interest in social care, having cared for his terminally-ill mother at the age of 12 until she passed away three years later. He also later cared for his grandmother. “It had a massive influence on my life,” he said.
He said he wanted to make the Liberal Democrats the party of social care, describing Prime Minister Johnson’s handling of care homes during the COVID-19 crisis as “despicable” and “negligence on a dramatic scale.”
Davey has called for a public inquiry into the government’s approach to care homes after PPE shortages and revelations that hospital patients were admitted to homes without first being tested for coronavirus.
“It must be set up now and it has to have a clear time table and it should have free reign to look at every single aspect.”
He said the inquiry should be completed before the next general election, telling Business Insider: “We cannot allow what happened with Blair and the Iraq War.
“It’s absolutely essential and Boris Johnson and his cabal have to held to account for the betrayal of people in care homes. It’s just unacceptable and one of the most appalling examples of bad government I have seen in my lifetime.”