Ed Davey’s first big interview – hear what he has to say on Lib Dems’ relevance, Europe and climate protests

Following on from his first big speech, to ALDC Conference, yesterday, Ed Davey gave his first big interview on the Sunday media round, to Sky’s Sophy Ridge.

What, she asked, was the point of the Lib Dems?

We stand for key principles on civil liberties, social justice, the environment.

We are not getting that through to voters

We need to listen and understand why people don’t think that they are on their side.

He talked about how he started his listening exercise by doing a 3 hour lunch shift in a Stockport fish and chip shop. He argued that this listening exercise is the way we can make ourselves relevant to people.

Sophy Ridge asked what was our single radical policy to cut through to people.

If I’m doing a listening exercise it’s not about one shift in a fish and chip shop

Lib Dems have been sent a message in last 3 elections and it’s been very disappointing. 

I’m going to do listening exercise for months and months and will talk to people in their jobs and businesses who are carers

Then I can show how I understand people’s fears and hopes

He said that we are in an extrarordinary stage in our country’s history.

We need to understand how people are coping with that, how we can help them. What are their hopes beyond Covid? Do they want to go back to status ante or build something better

On the chances of a Brexit trade deal he said that the Government is being reckless and risky. We are in a recession that wasn’t forsenen due to Covid. In that context the idea of a no deal Brexit would be a disaster for people’s jobs. He said he thought it was noticeable last week when businesses were saying that the government hasn’t prepared the borders properly.

He was becoming more alarmed at the Government’s shambolic handling of Covid and its lack of preparations for any form of Brexit.

Sophy Ridge then asked if the Lib Dems could campaign to join the EU.

He tried to strike a balance between telling Remainers how pro-European we were and Brexiteers that we weren’t going to rain on their parade at least in the next few years.

Diane Abbot had said on the programme earlier that she supported the right of organisations like Extinction Rebellion to take the sort of direct action we’ve seen over the last few days. Ed highlighted how the Lib Dems have always been passionate about climate change and how as climate change secretary he had almost quadrupled renewable energy.

He said that we need to bring the country together to tackle climate emergency

I actually get that. I’ve written myself about how I think that XR’s tactics sometimes aren’t funny or clever. That was a post which prompted quite an argument.

I am not so sure, though, that the young people who take part in these demonstrations would necessarily agree. They have a very strong sense of  urgency about what is happening to the planet.

I am not going to criticise Ed for making a point very similar to one I made myself. I am sure that when he is listening to people, he will make sure he hears a diverse range of voices.

One of the themes of a panel discussion at ALDC conference yesterday was about being insurgent and asking the awkward questions, but doing so in a responsible and effective way. It’s a pretty fine balancing act that we need to make sure that we get right.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • “Sophy Ridge asked what was our single radical policy to cut through to people.

    ‘If I’m doing a listening exercise it’s not about one shift in a fish and chip shop
    Lib Dems have been sent a message in last 3 elections and it’s been very disappointing.
    I’m going to do listening exercise for months and months and will talk to people in their jobs and businesses who are carers
    Then I can show how I understand people’s fears and hopes'”

    So there isn’t one

    So when Ed listens to people and they say they hate immigrants or poor people or gay or trans people – in fact anyone who is a bit different is he just going to listen or stand up for something.

    This is worlds apart from what Paddy did in Beyond Westminster.

  • Nigel Jones 6th Sep '20 - 12:03pm

    Sophie’s question about whether Lib-Dems will campaign to join the EU was rather vague when she used the phrase ‘in the future’. Ed’s answer was that rejoining in a few years time was for the birds, but we want to work closely with the EU; that is fine, surely. Sophie, like so many people, want simple answers. Does this mean we need to find simpler ways of putting things ? Boris is tremendously simplistic and many people like it.
    I suggest the answer to her question is: No, we are not going to campaign to rejoin the EU at the moment; we will engage with people to help them see the advantages of working very closely with our European partners.

  • Paul Barker 6th Sep '20 - 12:04pm

    On the article above, The Party itself hasnt decided on a “Single Radical Policy” & I am not sure we should be rushing to choose one – Politics is going to look very different in 3 Months time.

    On Extinction Rebellion, yes there are some sincere people involved but essentially its Politics with all the boring & uncomfortable bits left out, Politics as Cosplay. Its all “Sound & Fury – signifying nothing.”

  • Why on earth did the LibDems elect a leader who seems to have no idea why the LibDems aren’t getting through to the British people and needs to immerse himself in working class culture to find out?

    The LibDems often have contradictory policies which the membership don’t even seem to understand the ramifications, let along the general public.

    There is a huge space for a freedom party based on minimal govn (and council) interference in people’s lives now the Conservatives have moved into the Big State zone with little rights for the populace when things go wrong (esp now all those EU safeguards are disappearing)… er, how about getting rid of most of the political class (not just the politicians but all the hanger-ons in quangos and quasi govn bodies)? Should be popular with the voters.

  • richard underhill.,. 6th Sep '20 - 12:30pm

    Quick quiz: who said? What destination? Why?
    “When I saw the statue of Liberty
    sink over the horizon
    I knew I was free”

  • richard underhill.,. 6th Sep '20 - 1:02pm

    Frank West 6th Sep ’20 – 12:24pm
    Do you want to create mass unemployment?
    How else can Ministers avoid responsibilities?

  • We shouldn’t take a position on rejoining the EU until we know how leaving works out. We should set 5 or so tests to determine its success and then use this to make a decision on whether we rerun the referendum.

    We should be distinctive from Labour on this issue so abandoning a referendum position makes zero sense but adopting a referendum before we know the fallout from Brexit would open us up.

    I’m not convinced by Ed yet but note he’s not yet committed us to a position. That’s important.

  • Alas, any fallout from Brexit will be blamed on Covid, with a few digs at EU intransigence making things worse, so the matter is dead for decades to come, best hope if you want FOM back is moving to Scotland and hope that the SNP hand out Scottish passports to all residents when they get independence.

  • “If I’m doing a listening exercise it’s not about one shift in a fish and chip shop.” Has he only just started listening? What was he doing for the previous nine months when there were no policies then either?

  • “He talked about how he started his listening exercise by doing a 3 hour lunch shift in a Stockport fish and chip shop”

    Did he say “we know what it’s like to take a battering”


  • Antony Watts 7th Sep '20 - 9:54am

    Suggest to grab one hot topic and run with it. CO2 emissions of transport would be a good one. We need to switch to 10m BEVs by 2030, that requires huge investment in national charging network., a project that cannot left to the “market”, it must be a leadership thing not a market follower, Thus must be publically financed and organised.

    Run with that.

  • Sue Sutherland 7th Sep '20 - 12:36pm

    I didn’t attend the ALDC conference but I’m not sure how we can be both insurgent and ask the awkward questions in a responsible and effective way. This is the sort of thing that ties us up in knots for fear we will offend somebody by our awkward questions and stops our insurgence in case someone thinks we aren’t responsible. This is why no one takes much notice of our highly polished policies. It’s because they are so responsible and reasonable they are turgid.
    We’ve elected a responsible leader. He’s not going to do any thing daft, so let’s give him the freedom to be outrageous if that’s what’s needed. I am truly outraged about what is going on in government at the moment. No one cares that thousands of children don’t have enough to eat. No one cares that we are being lied to. No one cares that Bumbling Boris and his menacing sidekick pretended they had a Brexit deal when they didn’t.
    We have a right wing government led by charlatans. How far do they have to go before we decide to stand up to them, no matter what.

  • Robin Grayson FGS 7th Sep '20 - 2:02pm

    The best way forward for our party in the North of England is for our Leader to appoint a northern born and bred activist with a northern accent in a large northern city as his LD MINISTER FOR THE NORTH to take soundings daily ‘up north’ and beat the drum loudly ‘up north’ and ‘down south’, at every opportunity. Take our northern cities seriously and get results. Trying to do this largely remotely from HQ is like trying to wallpaper the lobby through the letterbox and hoping to get it right. No way, just open the door and get on with it.

  • richard underhill.,. 8th Sep '20 - 4:27pm

    Ed Davey was interviewed on Monday together with another Ed, a Tory, and two female journalists.
    If anyone feared they would be getting a loose cannon they can relax, but I would like to offer another opportunity here.
    The EU is considering sanctions on Belarus, which the UK should encourage if Boris Johnson speaks to President Macron again. Th UK should also offer to help, for instance against money laundering, perhaps the Foreign Secretary could be asked to do that.
    There is PMQ on Wednesday.
    Lukashenko has done one good thing, which was to co-operate with Boris Yeltsin after President Gorbachev was kidnapped in a hard-line coup.

  • Clive Sneddon 13th Sep '20 - 4:02pm

    We have a policy on Right to Basic Services approved in the Autumn 2019 Federal Conference, which gives a right to food, water, warm homes and internet access. Part of this such as on the need to insulate existing buildings and provide homes for those who cannot afford to buy was already party policy, and requires local government to have the power and funding to get on with it, as it was able to do before Thatcher. As a cut through policy it shows we care and have solutions to tackle problems. It is of a piece with providing an electric recharging network for electric vehicles across the UK. We need a comparably practical policy for working with Europe. If the Leavers don’t like the EU treaties or the implicit construction of a United States of Europe by stealth, why not propose a new treaty written by the UK, proposing to cooperate with any state that wants to cooperate with us on whatever subjects were agreed by individual participating states. This would be a one purpose treaty, with a single purpose of cooperation, not Nato’s of mutual defence which no leaver has ever objected to. Since cooperation could be on a very wide variety of issues, and the states that wanted to cooperate on one would not necessarily be the ones that wanted to cooperate on another, it would need a NATO style secretariat to allow coordination. There is no legislation involved, so nothing for leavers to complain at, but it would allow cooperation on green issues or on international crime or on research and student exchanges to continue. In principle such a treaty could be global in scope, to which any country could sign up. That would make it a candidate for a UN Convention, though it might also be worth looking at a Council of Europe Convention. It allows the party to park indefinitely the question of rejoining the EU while offering the possibility of working together with EU states on matters of mutual interest. The EU would have to allow its member states to make their own decisions about joining or not, but the fact that France and Germany together proposed a Convention on Multilateralism in the UN in 2019 suggests it would.

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