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Sir Ed Davey’s Leadership: Reviving the Lib Dems Amidst Coalition Shadows and a Potential Labour Landslide

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Uncertainties remain regarding Sir Ed Davey's history with the coalition, and his future prospects appear unclear.

In the scenario of a dominant Labour victory, what strategies might the Liberal Democrats adopt? Will they oppose Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour Party, or will they collaborate with them?

Assistant political editor @SamCoatesSky

Monday, June 10, 2024, 10:

Similarly to Sir Keir Starmer, Sir Ed Davey took the reins of a deeply troubled party when he assumed leadership in 2020.

Similarly to Sir Keir, according to current polls and forecasts, Sir Ed has positioned his party on the verge of an impressive recovery, undoing the significant setbacks inherited from Nick Clegg's leadership in 2015 following a five-year coalition.

The election tactics designed for television might appear daring, yet Sir Ed's strategy has been careful and gradual.

The party's 2019 campaign was characterized by a strong focus on Brexit, but this element is conspicuously absent now. Unlike Jo Swinson's 2019 assertion of potentially becoming prime minister, Sir Ed is not making such claims; instead, the strategy is honed in on constituencies they believe are winnable.

Instead, we see a strategy of confidence from a group that has forsaken the policy of "equidistance" – maintaining an equal stance between Labour and the Conservatives, which previously resulted in a five-year coalition with the Conservatives until 2015 – and has transformed into an exclusively anti-Conservative entity, aligning more closely with the preferences of numerous activists.

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The party might soon see its number of seats increase fourfold. This surge could position it to reclaim its status as the third largest party in the Commons, overtaking the struggling Scottish National Party, a key target for the upcoming July 4th election.

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Despite Sir Ed's leadership in bringing the Lib Dems to their current position, significant unresolved issues remain regarding both their history and their future direction.

Initially, he outright avoids addressing historical issues. Sir Ed served as a minister and cabinet secretary during the coalition government from 2010 to 2015.

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He was part of an administration that slashed public spending by billions and put financial pressure on the NHS, resulting in harm that his party is now vowing to repair in this election.

During an interview today, I pressed him six times to clarify if he would reject or support the £40 billion in reductions declared by the coalition in 2010, yet he evaded the question each time. Will he admit that errors occurred?

Political groups often pledge certain actions during campaigns, similar to the situation with the Liberal Democrats and their tuition fee commitments in 2010. However, these promises can be disregarded, making historical actions a more reliable indicator of what they may actually do after elections.

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Another significant inquiry concerns what lies ahead.

After transforming the Lib Dems into a formidable opponent against the Tories, we are rapidly approaching a time when we could see the Tories dramatically lose their footing.

What is the role of the Liberal Democrats now? How will the influx of new Liberal Democrat MPs act? Will they challenge Sir Keir's Labour Party, a move Sir Ed has consistently refrained from making so far? Or will they collaborate with them?

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I inquired with Sir Ed about the future of the 114-page, fully detailed manifesto, considering that a major Labour victory would significantly diminish their impact in the upcoming parliament.

Learn more: Sunak and Starmer to field inquiries during Sky News leadership discussion How Ed Davey outmaneuvered Boris Johnson in political theatrics.

Sir Ed responded, somewhat dubiously, that a future Labour administration could adopt policies regarding the NHS from his party’s platform, similarly to how he asserted Gordon Brown embraced the concept of Bank of England independence in 1997 from their manifesto.

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It appears that under Sir Keir's leadership, a Labour government would not see a compelling political need to adopt policies from the Liberal Democrats. Instead, it's probable that the relationship between the two parties would slowly worsen.

At present, these concerns are secondary. Sir Ed has successfully intertwined his distinct narrative about looking after his disabled son and previously caring for his terminally ill mother during his teenage years with a platform aimed at attracting former Conservative voters.

This strategy might gain favor on the Fourth of July. He likely believes that whatever follows can be postponed.

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