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Ed Davey rallies Lib Dems to ‘bring the blue wall tumbling down’ at conference

Ed Davey rallies Lib Dems to ‘bring the blue wall tumbling down’ at conference

Sir Ed Davey will challenge Liberal Democrat members to “bring the blue wall tumbling down” at the general election in his speech at the party’s spring conference.

The Lib Dems are using the gathering in York to prepare for a further push into traditional Conservative strongholds, particularly seeking to win over voters in the south and south-west of England.

Leader Sir Ed will rally members to “make this a once-in-a-generation election” as he argues his party is the only one to offer “transformational change” while the Tories and Labour are just “tinkering around the edges”.

He will make the crisis in the NHS central to his address on Sunday, setting out “big, bold reforms” to ensure people can see a GP, NHS dentist or pharmacist when they need to.

He will call for a health service “where community and primary healthcare services are the priority”, so people don’t end up in A&E for something that could have been treated in their local surgery, pharmacy, or even at home.

“Investing in public health, in prevention, in early access,” Sir Ed will say.

“Spending wisely to save lives and save money in the long-run, instead of just throwing cash at crisis after crisis, with nothing to show for it. Better for the NHS. Better for taxpayers. Better for patients.”

On beating Rishi Sunak’s Tories in the blue wall, he is expected to say: “The opportunity is before us, to make this a once-in-a-generation election. In so many parts of the country, only we can beat the Conservatives. And we must.

“So Liberal Democrats, my challenge to you is this: this year, let’s knock on five million doors. Five million knocks to bring the blue wall tumbling down. And get more brilliant Liberal Democrats elected to transform our country for the better.”

Rishi Sunak
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has ruled out a general election on May 2 (Leon Neal/PA)

The Prime Minister this week ruled out holding an election on May 2, having previously indicated he will send the country to the polls in the latter half of 2024.

But Sir Ed will urge Mr Sunak to “go to the palace” and call a national vote immediately, saying “the country can’t wait a moment longer to see the back of this terrible Conservative Government”.

He will argue the case for having more Lib Dem MPs in Parliament, saying: “The mess our country is in demands not a plan to tweak things, but a plan to transform everything.

“Tinkering around the edges won’t come close to solving anything. And yet that’s what both the Conservatives and Labour are offering. They’re both trying to cloak themselves in the costume of change, but they’re both really saying ‘keep things the same’. That’s why our role at this election is so critical.

“Because only the Liberal Democrats are putting forward the transformational change this moment demands. Only the Liberal Democrats are offering a truly fair deal. On issue after issue, problem after problem, the Liberal Democrat approach is so different from the other parties.

“Because we don’t just want to change things on the surface – paper over the cracks, but leave the foundations to crumble underneath. We want to change the whole system.”

Sir Ed Davey visits the Godalming and Ash constituency
Sir Ed Davey in The Star pub in the village of Witley, Surrey during his visit to the Godalming and Ash constituency of Chancellor Jeremy Hunt (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

The Lib Dems won 11 seats at the 2019 general election, but have since gained formerly Conservative constituencies across southern England in a series of by-elections.

These have included Chesham and Amersham in Buckinghamshire, Frome in Somerset, Tiverton and Honiton in Devon, and North Shropshire.

Arriving in York on Friday, Sir Ed expressed optimism about nabbing Tory seats “across the southwest of England and across the whole blue wall where it’s a Liberal Democrat-Conservative fight”.

He told the PA news agency: “The response we’re getting is phenomenal. Lifelong Conservatives switching to the Liberal Democrats, which gives us great, great belief that we can beat many Conservative MPs whenever the election comes.”

The Lib Dems’ campaigns on reducing NHS waiting lists, investing in the care sector and cutting sewage discharges into rivers “are resonating on the doorstep”, he said.

With polls suggesting Labour is on course to win the election, Sir Ed played down the possibility of a power-sharing pact in the case of a hung Parliament.

“I don’t believe in pacts or deals before an election,” he said.

Sir Ed has the seats of some of the top Conservative cabinet ministers in his sights, including Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s Godalming and Ash and Communities Secretary Michael Gove’s Surrey Heath.

But some polls suggest the far-right Reform UK party has overtaken the Lib Dems in popularity across the UK.