Lib Dems 'confident' of gains in Cambridgeshire

Lib Dem campaigners
The Liberal Democrats are targeting three seats in Cambridgeshire at the general election on 4 July [Seb Noble/BBC]

The Liberal Democrat leader said he was "increasingly confident" the party would make gains in Cambridgeshire at the forthcoming general election.

Sir Ed Davey visited South Cambridgeshire to unveil the party's election battle bus which will tour the country during the campaign.

It is their top target seat in the East of England at the election - where the Conservatives have won under the old boundaries by fewer than 3,000 votes.

He claimed voting Liberal Democrat was the "only option" for people in the area who wanted to remove the Tories.

Sir Ed said: "We are finding that lifelong Conservatives are switching to us.

"This is a really important seat for us and we are feeling increasingly confident because of what people are telling us on the doorstep."

Ed Davey and Pippa Heylings in front of bus
The Lib Dems unveiled their election battle bus Yellow Hammer 1 during a campaign event in South Cambridgeshire [Seb Noble/BBC]

He said the party had hopes of taking Ely and East Cambridgeshire - and the new seat of St Neots and Mid-Cambridgeshire.

Elsewhere in the region, seats including Harpenden & Berkhamsted and Chelmsford are also on the Lib Dems' radar.

Sir Ed said the NHS, the economy, and the environment were top of the list for campaign issues.

"I think if you want to save the NHS here you vote Liberal Democrat," he argued.

He said the party had "led the way" on trying to stop sewage pollution in rivers and called for water companies illegally doing it to be taxed - with the money raised put into improved infrastructure.

Lib Dem bus
The party talks a lot about breaking through the blue wall [Seb Noble/BBC]

Analysis

Andrew Sinclair, BBC Political Editor, East of England

The Liberal Democrats are talking a lot about the blue wall.

These are traditional Conservative seats where they hope Tory voters have had enough of the present government, can’t bring themselves to vote Labour - and see the Lib Dems as an acceptable alternative.

Most of the East of England is a blue wall, and for the first time in 14 years the party is feeling confident, particularly in areas where it has local councillors and where a lot of new housing has gone up, changing the demographic make-up of seats.

But Labour is also starting to do well in the blue wall: look at the local election results and recent successes in the Mid Bedfordshire and Wellingborough by-elections.

There is a danger the Lib Dems could get squeezed in this election, unless they can convince voters that they are a distinctive alternative."

'Holistic plan'

On proposals to construct East West Rail through South Cambridgeshire, Sir Ed said the Lib Dems were opposed to diesel trains being used on the new line.

"We have always said it should be electrified with climate change such a crisis," he said.

"We need to go to zero carbon forms of transport and this is an opportunity."

He acknowledged the challenge of building affordable homes and protecting the environment in South Cambridgeshire - where a lack of water has raised concerns about future development plans.

"We need a community-led approach to house building and planning where the plans take account of the water infrastructure, the social infrastructure, schools, hospitals and GP's," he added.

"It needs to be holistic plan."

Sir Ed also stressed that any future local MPs would work a seven day week - despite staff on the Lib Dem-led South Cambridgeshire District Council some staff at trialling a four-day working week.

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