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Lib Dem Leader Ed Davey Dodges Austerity Blame, Vows to Rescue NHS Amid Election Promises

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Lib Dem chief Ed Davey repeatedly declines to admit if austerity measures from the coalition years were wrong

The head of the Liberal Democrats rejects claims that the austerity measures they adopted with the Conservatives are responsible for the present challenges in the NHS.

Political journalist @Journoamrogers

Monday, June 10, 2024, 10:

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During a Sky News interview, Sir Ed Davey dodged the question about the correctness of austerity measures six separate times.

The head of the Liberal Democrats explicitly refuted claims that their joint austerity measures with the Conservatives are responsible for the ongoing problems in the NHS, pledging to rescue it should his party come to power on July 4.

During a discussion with Sky News' Deputy Political Editor Sam Coates, he pointed out that the significant challenges plaguing the healthcare system started during the Conservative rule in 2015, following the conclusion of the coalition government led by David Cameron and Nick Clegg.

When questioned if the NHS restructuring that occurred during his tenure was responsible for the ongoing difficulties in the health service, Sir Ed responded, "I believe the Conservatives have held power for the past nine years and they have not succeeded."

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Under the leadership of Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrats formed a coalition government with the Conservative Party, headed by David Cameron, following the 2010 election. This partnership lasted until the 2015 election, when Cameron's Conservatives achieved a narrow majority.

In that period, the alliance enforced cost-cutting measures, significantly reducing government spending in response to the financial crisis of 2008, affecting the NHS among other services.

Insight: The Liberal Democrats' New Manifesto Shows Reduced Ambitions Compared to Their Last

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An April report from the King’s Fund revealed that the health service has deteriorated since 2010 due to significantly smaller increases in funding, restricted capital investment budgets, and a lack of attention to workforce planning.

Several Liberal Democrat figures, such as ex-business secretary Sir Vince Cable and past leader Jo Swinson, have acknowledged their remorse over implementing austerity measures, admitting that this stance likely led to their significant loss of support during the 2015 election, where the party's representation in Parliament dwindled to only eight members.

During her 2018 speech at the conference, former junior minister Ms. Swinson addressed the Liberal Democrat attendees, remarking, "Working together with the Conservatives required concessions, and several of those concessions were disappointing. We could have achieved more."

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Proclamation to Rescue the National Health Service

Sir Ed has placed a commitment to "rescue" the NHS and overhaul social care at the core of his campaign platform, which was released today.

The head of the Liberal Democrats announced a proposal to invest £9 billion in improving the healthcare and social services sectors. This plan includes hiring an additional 8,000 general practitioners, ensuring patients can secure a GP appointment within a week, and enhancing the survival rates for cancer patients.

He described it as "a blueprint for rescuing the NHS."

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When questioned by Coates if commitments to mend the NHS and social care were merely addressing problems from the coalition era, Sir Ed contended that his party had advocated for initiatives supporting elderly and disabled care while in power, yet the Conservatives failed to uphold their pledges.

"He stated, 'When the Tories were alone in power, they drastically cut resources for some of our nation's poorest citizens, which was truly appalling.'"

Questions Remain Over Sir Ed Davey's Role in Previous Coalition Government

Assistant Political Editor

Similar to Sir Keir Starmer, Sir Ed Davey took over leadership of a deeply troubled party in 2020.

Similarly to Sir Keir, if the survey data and forecasts hold true, Sir Ed has positioned his party on the verge of an impressive resurgence, overcoming the significant setbacks inherited from Nick Clegg's leadership after a five-year coalition period in 2015.

The television-friendly election maneuvers might seem audacious, yet Sir Ed's strategy is careful and progressive.

The party has not taken an audacious stance on Brexit, a key element of its 2019 campaign strategy. Unlike Jo Swinson's 2019 approach, there's no suggestion from Sir Ed that he might become the prime minister post-election; instead, the focus is on constituencies where the party believes it has a chance of winning.

Instead, we're seeing a strategy of confidence from a party that has moved away from its previous stance of "equidistance" — which involved maintaining a comparable distance from both Labour and the Tories, resulting in a five-year coalition with the Tories that lasted until 2015 — and has transformed into a strictly anti-Tory entity, aligning more closely with the tendencies of many of its members.

The upcoming election on July 4th might see the party's representation in the Commons increase fourfold. This surge could position it to once again become the third largest party, overtaking the struggling Scottish National Party in what appears to be its most significant attainable objective for this election.

Sir Ed has managed to lead the Lib Dems to their current position, though he has not addressed several significant concerns about the party's history and its direction moving forward.

Discover further details on the inquiries posed to Sir Ed Davey here.

"I take great pride in the fact that we were able to hold them off for such an extended period."

For further reading: Chief of Scottish Tories to step down

Conservative Party chair avoids inquiries

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Pressed further on whether he supported the actions taken by the coalition, the leader of the Liberal Democrats responded, "Look, Sam, I've been battling the Conservatives daily, and during this campaign, I've stated unequivocally that we won't let the Conservatives return to power."

"They've run out of both ideas and justifications, and it's time they were removed from their positions. Casting a vote for the Liberal Democrats means supporting a strong advocate who will implement policies to save our NHS and remove the Conservatives from power."

In addition to the NHS, Sir Ed has prominently featured social care in his appeal to the electorate.

The head of the Liberal Democrats has openly shared his experiences of being a caregiver for his disabled son and, from his childhood, caring for his mother who was terminally ill.

He announced that his platform is the first ever from his party to feature a specific section on care. Promises in the manifesto include complimentary personal care for seniors and individuals with disabilities, as well as increased wages for care workers, which will be set at £2 more than the minimum wage.

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