Lib Dems hope Ed Davey’s ‘fun’ campaign antics will attract voters to their policies

6 Min Read
Lib Dems hope Ed Davey's 'fun' campaign antics will attract voters to their policies

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey falls into water while paddle boarding on Lake Windermere (Alamy)

4 minutes reading

The Liberal Democrats hope that putting leader Ed Davey in the spotlight, including by performing comedy stunts, will pique the interest of voters otherwise apathetic to Westminster politics.

Davey has emerged as one of the most high-profile elements of the campaign since Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called the July 4 general election almost two weeks ago.

The former minister has been photographed falling from a paddleboard into Lake Windermere and hurtling down a water slide as part of his bid to increase the number of Liberal Democrat seats in the House of Commons. On Tuesday he was pictured removing blocks from a large, blue Jenga tower – the bricks representing Tory-held constituencies.

Although ironic, party figures say it is a deliberate attempt to inject some excitement into the six-week general election campaign by showing Davey he is ‘having fun in the meantime’. The hope is that the stunts, while intended to be fun, will also draw attention to the party’s broader policy platform — especially among voters who have thus far shown little interest in the election and politics in general.

Party sources believe this approach will get Westminster and the public talking more about the party’s plans than if policies had been promised in set speeches or other more traditional campaign moments.

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For example, last week Davey was photographed on a water slide in Somerset while speaking about the party’s plans to improve metal healthcare provision for children.

Housing charity Shelter later used an image of the event in a social media post about the Lib Dems’ pledge for a national target to build 150,000 social homes a year by the end of the next parliament.

However, the strategy is not entirely focused on stunts.

In the past 24 hours, Davey has received praise from across the political spectrum for a sit-down interview with ITV in which he spoke movingly about the combination of his job as a senior politician and caring for his disabled son.

An election campaign is generally seen as a race to become the next prime minister. Opinion polls show Labour’s Keir Starmer is very likely to enter Downing Street next month, with the Tories trailing by large double-digit margins. Numerous polls published on Monday have crystallized the size of the mountain Sunak’s beleaguered Tories face in a bid to avoid defeat on July 4.

The Liberal Democrats, meanwhile, are averaging around 10 percent in the polls. The party hopes to more than double the 15 seats in the House of Representatives it held before the election, largely by targeting Conservative-controlled seats in the south of England. They are targeting so-called ‘blue wall’ areas such as Wimbledon in south London, Cheltenham and Winchester.

According to a YouGov MRP poll released on Monday, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt could be one of the high-profile Tory candidates to lose to Davey’s party in his new seat of Godalming and Ash in Surrey.

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Although Davey’s approach to the opening weeks of the campaign was positively received, it was not long ago that the LibDem leader’s position came under significant pressure.

At the start of the year there were calls for Davey to resign following revelations about his time as minister responsible for postal affairs during the Post Office Horizon scandal.

At the time, the Liberal Democrats hoped the scandal would not do too much damage to their electoral prospects in the long run, but opinion polls from Opinion for The observer suggested Davey’s personal ratings had taken a hit.

In February he apologized for ‘not seeing'[ing] by the lies of the Post Office” and “it took five months to meet Alan Bates, the man who did so much to expose this”.

“The Horizon Post Office scandal is the greatest miscarriage of justice of our time, and I am deeply sorry for the families whose lives have been ruined by it,” he wrote.

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