Ed Davey to rule out a coalition with Boris

The Financial Times today reports that Ed Davey will use his conference speech on Sunday to position the party as an unambiguously anti-Tory force. He will vow never help to help put Boris Johnson back into Downing Street.

When asked if the Lib Dems would facilitate a Tory government at the next election, Davey replied: “No.”

Davey defended the decision to hold a virtual conference, arguing that planning was done well in advance before it became apparent what the coronavirus situation would be.

According to the report, Davey will claim the Lib Dems will pose a “big threat” to the Boris Johnson, particularly in southern blue wall Conservative constituencies, following the Lib Dem by-election win in Chesham and Amersham in June.

In the interview with the Financial Times, Davey said the Lib Dems could again become a “significant” force in British politics, building on strong local election results in “blue wall” areas in May. He said:

I was genuinely staggered on the doorsteps by how many people said that they won’t vote Conservative until Johnson goes…

The sorts of liberal Conservatives we were talking to were unhappy about the foreign aid cuts, they don’t think he’s handled the pandemic well and were not impressed by his style of government. They don’t think he is a decent man, they think he is a populist who plays to the mob…

We can take a lot of seats from the Tories in the next election and we are a big threat to the Tories in their heartland.

Ed Davey had earlier ruled out formal alliances with the Labour and Green parties. He said the party’s focus now was on regaining public support.

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29 Comments

  • ….Ed Davey to rule out a coalition with Boris…..

    Hardly a headline story…I’m remined of the closing lines of the old nursery rhyme…”Nobody asked you, sir”, she said

  • Peter Watson 17th Sep '21 - 12:33pm

    This does not look remotely like “positioning the party as an unambiguously anti-Tory force”. Indeed, that would be difficult, to say the least, given that the strategy is all about winning over Tories who don’t like Johnson.
    It looks much more like positioning the Lib Dems as a David Cameron-style wing of the Conservative Party. And as Johnson pays attention to the North of England and talks about levelling up (however empty the rhetoric may turn out to be), it’s disappointing that Lib Dem strategy seeks to undermine what that could potentially deliver for the rest of the country by outflanking the Tories as the small-c conservative party for the Home Counties.
    Such an anti-Johnson strategy could be blown out of the water by the actions of the other parties: the Tories could change leader or Johnson may woo their traditional supporters, and Labour might rediscover an interest in politics. Given that threat, it’s depressing that the Lib Dems are still failing to communicate a clear message about the party’s identity and its raison d’être. Unless that clear message is that it’s a light-blue party for the comfortably-off, and that’s even more depressing! 🙁

  • Kyle Harrison 17th Sep '21 - 1:42pm

    I live in Richmond, SW London. Plenty of affluent people with big houses and nice cars vote Lib Dem. And I think that tells you a lot about the Lib Dems really. They’re basically the Tories but more cosmopolitan. The Liberals used to get most of their support in Tory areas, the Lib Dems are largely the same. There was the brief period when Iraq happened when the Lib Dems started winning disaffected Labour voters but largely they win in usually Tory areas. I think the Lib Dems could scalp some Tories at the next election but it depends on how upset some people are with the Tory govt. Boris is the Brexit man, for some. But in truth he isn’t very different to Cameron in his liberal instincts, he’s big on climate change, he’s socially liberal, he has the most ethnically diverse cabinet ever… I think the next election will come down to how much the Tories can pivot between being conservative on issues like immigration while simultaneously being more liberal on other issues. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a reduced Tory majority, but a Tory victory nonetheless. The Lib Dems, if they really want to pivot to disgruntled Tories could oppose tax rises and pledge to cut spending instead but that would mean a real rightward shift.

  • Jenny Barnes 17th Sep '21 - 2:27pm

    ” Boris is…. big on climate change, ”
    oh ho ho ho ho ho
    Oh my aching sides
    Of course he is. Approves a new oilfield, coal mine, encourages aviation and tourism , doesn’t do anything on fuel tax…

    He’s big on promises. That’s all.

  • Just a word re Coalition.
    The Firth Park result in Sheffield was almost a sensation. One might have expected the Green’s to be the mover in this area of 51% Social Housing. But no.
    Why, well they went into COALITION with Labour to run the Council.
    Coalition usually spells the death knell of the smaller partner in such an arrangement once it becomes unpopular. Now where have I heard that before.

  • Kyle Harrison 17th Sep ’21 – 1:42pm:
    Boris is the Brexit man, for some. But in truth he isn’t very different to Cameron in his liberal instincts, he’s big on climate change, he’s socially liberal, he has the most ethnically diverse cabinet ever…

    Indeed; Johnson has admitted to being a “liberal cosmopolitan”…

    ‘Boris Johnson: The liberal cosmopolitan case to Vote Leave’ [May 2016]:
    http://www.voteleavetakecontrol.org/boris_johnson_the_liberal_cosmopolitan_case_to_vote_leave.html

    I am pleased that this campaign has so far been relatively free of personal abuse – and long may it so remain – but the other day someone insulted me in terms that were redolent of 1920s Soviet Russia. He said that I had no right to vote Leave, because I was in fact a “liberal cosmopolitan”.

    That rocked me, at first, and then I decided that as insults go, I didn’t mind it at all – because it was probably true.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 17th Sep '21 - 4:16pm

    This is weird!

    Johnson is called right wing by many but is on the left with spending for some, though not money spent on those who need it the most!

    Now some on here advocate or think , the Liberal Democrats ought to or are mostly, a party of the centre right!

    All nonsense as to this party. None I know, likes Cameron. Not on his record or actions. I prefer the economics of Johnson’s got to the Cameron govts!

    If the party does not push the agenda of and for the poorest, and say and do more on Covid, if it is defensive re: conferences on the internet rather than in person, if it does not shout out loud that we ought to see this as still a crisis of health, poverty, if it doesn’t stand against the elites that are in power and their corrupt cronyism, socialism for the rich, austerity for the poor, condemned by the party more, it might as well not exist!

    And to those who think they know what this party ought to be, join it or stop lecturing it!

  • Russell Simpson 17th Sep '21 - 4:26pm

    I’m not sure I’d vote for a third party that rules out a coalition. If the libdems were definitely king makers after an election ( so not 2010) then there is a choice to be made. Up till the election I think the libdems should say “let’s see what the country “decides”. Tricky with fptp I know but I wouldn’t count anything out.

  • Russell Simpson 17th Sep '21 - 4:43pm

    See John Rentoul piece just now in the indy. Exactly.

  • Alex Macfie 17th Sep '21 - 5:58pm

    We ruled out coalition with the Tories before the 1997GE. It didn’t exactly harm us then.

  • Brad Barrows 17th Sep '21 - 6:37pm

    I will not vote Liberal Democrat if I believe there is any chance of another Lib Dem/ Tory coalition government. Period. Unless the party rules out that possibility in completely unambiguous terms, I will not take the risk. I felt sick, betrayed and angry in 2010 – never again.

  • @Russell – You raise an interesting point, but it works both ways. I’m not sure if I want a king maker. If my vote and all the others cause a party to fail to acquire enough votes, then I may not be happy to see some shady deals pave the way for that party to enter government. Where does democracy come into such a deal?

  • Paul Barker 17th Sep '21 - 7:00pm

    I feel that we should be ruling out Coalition with anybody. There is no reason to believe that a second coalition would hurt us any less than the first. We could keep up this rollercoaster of Recovery-Coalition-Collapse-Recovery for ever without ever having any real impact.
    If we are serious then we should be aiming to become the Second Party. That would need us to be Polling consistently in the High Twenties, ie about 3 times the Vote we are getting now. I think that is possible but it will take at least another Decade & we will have to resist the temptation to “Get things done” in Cleggs words.

    Of course if Labour were to go for Electoral Reform as something They wanted, not as a carrot to be waved in front of our noses – that would be different. It doesn’t seem likely to me.

  • John Bicknell 17th Sep '21 - 7:29pm

    Theakes: with regards to the Sheffield result, I suspect it has a lot to do with the local row over Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown. There has been a lot of coverage of it on the local news, and the reported reaction of viewers has been very negative towards Labour’s stance, and much more in line with the stance taken by Shafiq Mohammed and Ed Davey, who have received considerable positive coverage.

  • John Marriott 17th Sep '21 - 8:47pm

    My advice to Sir Ed is never to say never.

  • James Fowler 17th Sep '21 - 8:55pm

    I’m glad that Ed Davey has ruled out coalition with Boris Johnson’s Tory Party. At present they’re not a suitable match for a Liberal party. Meanwhile, I think that the strategy to squeeze the Tories in the Home Counties by offering a liberal, cosmopolitan, reasonable alternative is spot on, and there’s no-one better than Ed Davey to do it. What’s more, it turns up the heat on the Conservatives in places that Labour will never win. If that isn’t direct enough action to facilitate a Labour victory then why not… join the Labour Party?

  • Peter Watson 18th Sep '21 - 12:26am

    Coincidentally, this week, Britain Elects (https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/elections/2021/08/election-win-calculator) “predicts” (in the loosest sense of the word) that based on current polling, the Lib Dems would have 13 seats which would combine with the Tories’ 316 to give a majority.
    The headline simply refers to ruling out coalition, but does “not facilitating a Tory government” and “vowing never to help put Boris Johnson back into Downing Street” mean that Davey is already unreservedly committing the party to any arrangement that would avoid a minority Tory government in such a situation?

  • And finally a position which all can understand.
    I hope he will stick to this even if it means a minority
    Conservative government. I mean look how much fun the oppositiion had turning the last but one minority government in to a zombie government, laughing and skipping into the divisions with the help of a speaker who disgraced his position.
    Let’s all hope given the serious concerns that need addressing that we can have another impotent conservative government. And we can all enjoy the skipping and hopping of the progressive opposition……whilst the world burns because the Lib Dems refuse a coalition with the evil tories and everyone’s children can hate us……and rightly so.

  • Alex Macfie 18th Sep '21 - 7:29am

    expats: On the contrary, it’s what everyone asks us. And with sections of the Labour Left always looking for an opportunity to bring up the Coalition and imply that our party leader is itching to get back into that Government limo, it makes sense to make our position clear early on. This is the most illiberal Tory government ever; Johnson is NOT a “social liberal”, he’s a licencialist who believes only in the right of Boris Johnson to do as he pleases without consequences. This is reflected in his personal life as well as his record in public life. There are times when it is appropriate for us to be “equidistant”. Now is not one of those times.

  • Russell Simpson 18th Sep '21 - 9:35am

    @Peter
    If you don’t want the libdems to be king makers than I’m not sure what their point would be. In the rest of the world where PR dominates there is almost always coalition government. To me, what happens in Germany, NZ and yes Italy and Israel is the perfect example of democracy in action. If we can’t trust our politicians to behave honourably in coalition negotiations then we may as well give up.

  • @Theakes. Surely the Greens usually do best in areas of ‘progressive’ middle class voters not council estates? You know, the sort of ‘Core Vote’ areas that are supposed to be reserved for the Lib Dems (according to our ‘strategy’ of recent years).

    As for the Firth Park by election the Greens dropped from around 9% to 6% so they were never ‘players’ here. The stupendous LD increase came in more or less equal part from the fall in both Labour and Conservative votes. Firth Park, where I went to secondary school, is 51% Council Housing and is part of Blunketts old Brightside constituency which has the lowest % of graduates per head of population in the country whilst Sheffield Hallam has the highest.

  • Alongside this is the significant – but rather under-reported by the press – position adopted over the summer that the price of supporting a Labour admin/government would be PR. That puts a key building block of a reforming progressive alliance in place.

  • nvelope2003 19th Sep '21 - 9:58am

    Talking of coalitions immediately sends the message that we do not expect to win so will deter prospective voters from supporting us.

  • Brad Barrows 19th Sep '21 - 12:07pm

    @nvelope2003
    Being realistic, I doubt that anyone votes Liberal Democrat believing that a Liberal Democrat majority government is anywhere within the realms of possibility. They either vote for the Party as a matter of principle, irrespective of whether the vote is likely to help secure the election of a MP, or they vote for the Party in the hope of preventing another Party from getting elected. Talk of coalitions will not deter ‘principled’ voters who will support the Party even though they realise it will not win, but it could both attract and repel potential voters who may support the Party got tactical reasons. The leadership must consider whether the possibility of gaining extra voters who are reassured to vote Lib Dem by the Party ruling out any potential coalition with the Tories is worth the risk of losing potential voters who vote Lib Dem as a way of trying to stop the Labour Party getting into power.

  • Brad Barrows: I know that it is unlikely that the Liberal Democrats will win the General Election, although a few people do think so if Opinion Polls are to be believed but they do win in some constituencies or we would not have any MPs so we should not discourage anyone from voting for us. I never cease to be surprised how ill informed so many people are about almost everything despite 150 years of compulsory education.

  • William Francis 20th Sep '21 - 9:26pm

    @Kyle Harrison

    So the Liberal Democrats really are cosmopolitan Tories because rich people living in a London borough that they recently won ( with the second-highest council tax rate in London), vote for them?

    I guess the mostly non-rich people of our 71-year-old safe seat Orkney and Shetland don’t count much in your analysis. Or the people of the southwest for that matter.

  • Peter Watson 20th Sep '21 - 11:51pm

    @William Francis “I guess the mostly non-rich people of our 71-year-old safe seat Orkney and Shetland don’t count much in your analysis.”
    I don’t know Orkney and Shetland, but this graphic of UK political constituencies ranked from the most deprived in the top left to the least deprived in the bottom right (https://twitter.com/undertheraedar/status/1390632762105806856?lang=en and http://automaticknowledge.org/images/uk-deprivation-constituency-2021-v1-border.png), suggests that the constituency is well over to the right-hand side, in the 25% least deprived constituencies and in good company with other Lib Dem seats and targets.
    Elsewhere (https://twitter.com/i/status/1205430939242893312) the same author has animated a similar graphic that shows an alarming shift to the right (as in right-hand side!! 😉 ) by Lib Dem MPs since 2001.

  • Peter Hirst 21st Sep '21 - 1:18pm

    Ruling out a coalition with the Conservatives is sensible. It provides clarity and helps potential supporters join us. Everything else should be up for grabs.

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