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New Lib Dem Leader On Visit Praises Our ‘Amazing Council Team’ Power-Share

Published on: 3 Oct, 2020
Updated on: 3 Oct, 2020

Lib Dem leader Ed Davey at Julia Lampard Hair Salon in Guildford. Photo Jonathan Dwyer

By Julie Armstrong local democracy reporter

with video interview by Martin Giles

New Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey has praised Guildford’s “amazing council team” for their innovative power-sharing as he visited the town on Friday (October 2), his fourth stop in a national tour that may last a year.

A month after he won leadership of the hard-hit party, down to 11 MPs from 21 before last year’s election, Sir Ed said he is learning from the “imaginative” success of the borough’s Liberal Democrats.

“We’ve got an amazing council team,” he added. “Our local campaigners, including Guildford, have listened to the community and they’ve been entrusted with authority by the community and done a really good job.

“So we know we can do it, but nationally that’s not been the case in recent years. We’ve got to get beyond Westminster and out there and listen to people.”

Lib Dem councillors took most Guildford seats in 2019, but are now rotating leadership with the R4GV (Residents for Guildford & Villages) party, whose group has just one fewer seats.

Sir Ed said: “It shows how Liberal Democrats locally have been prepared to put partisan issues aside and work with other parties. That’s what they do in many places. We’re not a pressure group, we’re trying to put people first.”

He would not be drawn on whether national Liberal Democrats would enter coalition with the SNP, but he has made clear he does not support beak-up of the Union.

Avoiding questions on whether he shared the prime ministerial ambitions of his predecessor, Jo Swinson, who lost her seat, he went on: “I’m going to focus on making sure Liberal Democrats get more support. I’m not putting numbers on those sorts of ideas, Liberal Democrats have had a hard five years.”

But Sir Ed was confident Guildford’s Lib Dem parliamentary candidate Zoe Franklin could win the seat in 2023.

Last year, Ms Franklin boosted her vote share by 15.3% on the 2017 election, taking 39.2% of the votes, under six percentage points behind the Conservative winner, Angela Richardson.

“Next time, there is absolutely everything to play for,” Sir Ed said. “There are some interesting seats across Surrey.

“I think people are realising Surrey County Council, run by the Conservatives [58 of the 81 seats], is one of the weakest, inefficient and ineffective councils in the country, and if they follow that logic they’ll kick the Conservatives out. Look at their social services.”

He believed Surrey residents had been let down by their MPs on the health and jobs crises caused by Covid-19. And £9 million was being “wasted” on the government’s job-retention bonus which should have been inspired by the German Kurzarbeit scheme.

“That’s far more generous,” he said. “Tourism, hospitality, the events industry, a number of sectors are effectively being closed down by the government.

“People are angry about the government talking about viable and non-viable businesses. That term doesn’t make any sense, you’re only non-viable because of the pandemic rules. It’s a bit insulting.

“I’m not saying the rules are wrong, just that the government should not withdraw its support for these sectors.”

Asked about SNP MP Margaret Ferrier taking a Glasgow-to-London train while she had Covid symptoms, attending the Commons and returning after testing positive, Sir Ed said bluntly: “I’m surprised she’s not already resigned.”

He spent the Friday afternoon at Julia Lampard Hair Salon in Sydenham Road, talking to customers and seeing how the salon has adapted to coronavirus guidelines.

He said: “Julia Lampard had to close for a time but she used that to think about what she wanted to do. She kept her staff on and she’s gone beyond what restrictions are needed.

“It’s been a trial but she’s going to withstand Covid.”

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Responses to New Lib Dem Leader On Visit Praises Our ‘Amazing Council Team’ Power-Share

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    October 3, 2020 at 8:32 pm

    Well done Dragon. At the forefront of the news again.

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