We could hold balance of power at the next election, say Lib-Dems ahead of conference

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Targeting the Tories: Sir Ed Davey (PA Wire)
Targeting the Tories: Sir Ed Davey (PA Wire)

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey has sought to woo Labour voters by claiming leader Sir Keir Starmer could not win a parliamentary majority at the next election.

Sir Ed told the Evening Standard he was targeting a string of Tory seats in London and its commuter belt as the Lib-Dems look to build on their surprise win in the Chesham and Amersham by-election in June.

But he shied away from saying whether he would enter into a coalition with Labour if the Lib-Dems held the balance of power following an election, which could come as early as May 2023.

“I don’t think there is any chance of the Labour party getting a majority by themselves,” Sir Ed said. “So the only way you get the Tories out is if Liberal Democrats beat Tory MPs.”

Following the party’s disappointing performance at the 2019 election — when the Lib-Dems won just 11 seats, forcing former leader Jo Swinson to quit — Sir Ed said he was looking to pick up votes from Tory backers who might feel Boris Johnson is too focused on new supporters in the North and Midlands.

The Lib-Dems are focusing a lot of energy on Wimbledon, where the Conservative MP Stephen Hammond has a majority of just 628. Sir Ed revealed that Paul Kohler will stand again at the next election.

But the Lib-Dem leader said the party also had other seats in his sights including Carshalton and Wallington, Guildford and Esher and Walton, held by new Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary Dominic Raab.

Unease among Tory voters at Mr Johnson’s decision to raise National Insurance to pay for the health service and the crisis in social care, breaking a 2019 manifesto pledge, could play into the Lib-Dems’ hands, he predicted.

“The fact the Tory MPs have gone against their manifesto promise will hurt,” Sir Ed said.

“I think this general malaise and discontent with the Prime Minister will hurt them, so we are feeling a lot more positive about our chances in those seats than we have for a very long time. We feel the blue wall seats are vulnerable.”

Sir Ed will use his speech on Sunday to a small live audience at Canary Wharf to highlight his party’s priorities: education, improving support for carers and backing small businesses.

But he admitted that he will need more triumphs like Chesham and Amersham.

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