Sir Ed Davey says Lib Dems interest ‘best for a generation’ at campaign launch

Sir Ed Davey has said the Liberal Democrats are getting their best response from voters “for a generation” as he launched the party’s General Election campaign.

The party leader also criticised Chancellor Jeremy Hunt and other Conservative MPs for taking their constituents “for granted” as he spoke confidently about winning more seats on July 4.

Sir Ed unveiled the Lib Dems’ new battlebus, named Yellow Hammer 1, and met a large crowd of party supporters at the launch in Whittlesford, Cambridgeshire on Sunday.

He focused largely on health and the environment in a speech to the supporters, including hospitals “with dangerous crumbling roofs” and “sewage pouring into” wards, and promised to introduce a 10-year rolling repair programme for the NHS estate.

General Election campaign 2024
Sir Ed was joined by a large crowd of Liberal Democrats supporters at the launch (Jacob King/PA)

Asked what the Lib Dems’ targets were in the election, Sir Ed told the PA news agency: “I’m not putting a ceiling on our ambitions.

“All I’m doing is talking to voters with my teams across the country, and the Liberal Democrats are getting a great response – a better response than we’ve had for a generation.

“I was elected back in 1997 and this feels to me quite a bit like that.

“I don’t worry about the other parties, I’m just excited about our job and excited about change.”

(PA Graphics)

The Lib Dems are targeting traditionally Conservative heartlands in the so-called blue wall in southern England.

Buoyed by a series of by-election and local election victories within the so-called blue wall, the party is eyeing the constituencies of several Cabinet ministers including Mr Hunt.

Asked about Mr Hunt’s Godalming and Ash constituency, Sir Ed said he was “looking forward to that campaign” because the party had heard from many lifelong Tory voters.

Jeremy Hunt on economy
Jeremy Hunt has been an MP for South West Surrey since 2005 (Aaron Chown/PA)

He added: “I feel people like Jeremy Hunt have let them down, taken them for granted, assumed they’ll always vote Conservative.”

The Tories and Labour both made eye-catching pledges over the weekend, with the former promising mandatory national service if re-elected and the latter keen to allow 16 and 17-year-olds to vote.

(PA Graphics)

Asked about both policies, Sir Ed said: “The Liberal Democrats have long supported votes from 16 and I’m glad other parties are now catching up with us.

“All I’d say is as political reforms go, it’s an important one but it’s quite small.

“We need to transform our politics.

“As for this distraction of a policy by the Conservatives on national service, the hypocrisy is just breathtaking.

“What we need is full-time, professional, highly trained troops.

“We’ve got the best army in the world and we should be backing it.”