The leader of the Liberal Democrats also accused the Tories of breaking the law by cutting international aid
In an exclusive interview with LFF, Ed Davey laid out his party’s plan to encourage tactical voting against the Tories at the next election, and pushing the party’s internationalist policy.
Speaking at his first in-person federal conference since becoming leader of the Liberal Democrats in 2020, Davey said his main focus right now was on getting the Tories out of power and aiming at swing seats.
Out of the seats currently held by the Lib Dems, Davey said the Tories are second in 10 and the SNP in 4, then in the next top 40 target seats all are Tory MPs bar two SNP and one Labour.
“Just from pure mathematics of it we’re fighting the Tories and we could be critical in getting the Tories out.
“Beating Tory MPs, that’s our whole strategy, and to beat the Tories in areas where frankly Labour have got no chance.”
Davey has said the Lib Dems would be targeting Labour voters in ‘blue wall’ swing seats in commuter belt areas, as a means to tactically remove Tory MPs.
“In aiming for the blue wall seats, there will be some Labour voters obviously and sometimes we approach them by saying Labour can’t win, only the Lib Dems can, so vote for us.
“However I want Labour inclined people to realised that we share a lot of values.”
However, one of the policies which Davey believes sets the Lib Dems apart from Labour is their commitment to internationalism.
He condemned Rishi Sunak’s government for ripping up the UK’s commitment to overseas aid spending of 0.7% of national income, which the Lib Dems fought to enshrine in law.
For Davey, internationalism sits at the heart of his party and is fundamental to his personal political thinking.
“Now I’m leader I want to make sure we are leading the debate on internationalism and pushing Labour to go further on it,” said Davey.
“Our internationalism is very strong and our position on Europe, on climate change and in particular on social justice in the world.
“The Tories have cut aid spending in a horrible way, we used to be one of the biggest aid donors to Ethiopia, we’ve now fallen dramatically out of the league. I think the Tories are breaking the law in their abdication of responsibility.
“While we are campaigning to help people who are less well off in the UK and struggling at the moment, I think it’s really important to show that we care about people who are really destitute around the world.”
YouGov’s weekly poll of voting intention for The Times put the Lib Dems at 9 per cent, down one point – just above the Green Party and Reform Party who are currently sitting at 6 per cent each. Labour were on 46 per cent, with the Tories at 27 per cent.
Davey said he would like their poll rates to be higher but that he prefers to look at election results than poll results, referring to three recent parliamentary by-elections and local council elections where the Lib Dems ‘defied the polls’.
“I would like our poll rating higher, but I’d say Labour’s poll rating isn’t necessarily a pro-Labour rating but an anti-Conservative one.
“This horrible Tory government is unpopular and we’re finding that anti-Conservative vote is coming to us, because people look at how can we can beat the Tories.”
Come the next general election, Davey is firm in the belief that his party can swing blue seats and defy current polling, as his party puts all gears in motion to persuade voters ahead of the next election.
“A lot of my MPs want to focus on what will happen after the general election, my job now is to focus on beating lots of Tory MPs.”
(Photo credit: Liberal Democrats / flickr)
Hannah Davenport is trade union reporter at Left Foot Forward
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