Lib Dem leader Davey to focus on NHS as party conference wraps up

Sir Ed Davey will pledge to ‘fix our economy with care’ in his rallying cry to delegates as he wraps up the party conference in Bournemouth.

Nina Lloyd
Monday 25 September 2023 22:30 BST
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey will wrap up the four-day event in Bournemouth (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey will wrap up the four-day event in Bournemouth (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Sir Ed Davey will say “voting Conservative is bad for your health” as he closes what could be the last Liberal Democrat conference before a general election with a speech centred on the NHS.

The party leader will pledge to “fix our economy with care” in his rallying cry to delegates as he wraps up the four-day event in Bournemouth on Tuesday.

In what could become a catchphrase during the long campaign ahead of a likely general election next year, he will say: “Perhaps there should be a warning on the ballot paper, like there are on cigarette packets: Voting Conservative is bad for your health.”

The Lib Dem strategy will be to target traditionally Tory seats, where the party, buoyed by a series of by-election and local election successes, hopes it stands a chance of making significant gains.

Britain isn't working, because the Conservatives aren't working. They're more like a bad TV soap opera than a functioning government

Sir Ed Davey, Liberal Democrat leader

Its focus is on local health services and the environment, which the party believes are crucial to woo voters in places such as southern England.

But questions persist over the party’s stance on national issues such as Brexit, with Sir Ed heckled on Sunday after insisting to activists during a Q&A session that he was “campaigning hard on Europe”.

“No, you’re not,” one audience member replied.

Sir Ed has said people on the doorstep just “aren’t talking about Europe”, but senior figures – including former leader Sir Vince Cable – have argued the party should not lose sight of the issue.

An ultimate goal to return to membership status within the bloc is currently official policy, but the leader has appeared reluctant to speak publicly about this and says it is currently off the table.

Sir Ed will tell delegates the Lib Dems are “the strongest campaigning force in British politics” as he seeks to boost party morale, describing conference as the moment the “starting gun” is fired on electioneering.

“I am so proud that we Liberal Democrats have consistently led the way in highlighting the crises in the NHS and proposing solutions,” he will say.

“Reversing cuts to GP numbers and guaranteeing an appointment when you need one, tackling life-threatening ambulance delays, and improving access to NHS dentists.

“Health and care both are key parts of our plan for the economy. The Conservatives broke our economy with their carelessness. Liberal Democrats will fix our economy with care.”

He is expected to add: “Britain isn’t working, because the Conservatives aren’t working. They’re more like a bad TV soap opera than a functioning government.

“The factions and the feuds. The personal vendettas. The shock exits and unwelcome returns. The total lack of connection to reality. Each episode worse than the last. Well it’s time to change the channel… The British people are desperate to see the back of this appalling, out-of-touch Conservative Government, and we are the ones who can make it happen.”

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