Ed Davey launches Lib Dem election campaign with ‘no ceiling on ambitions’

<span>Ed Davey with Pippa Heylings, the Lib Dem candidate for the South Cambridgeshire constituency, at the party’s launch event in Whittlesford.</span><span>Photograph: Jack Taylor/Getty Images</span>
Ed Davey with Pippa Heylings, the Lib Dem candidate for the South Cambridgeshire constituency, at the party’s launch event in Whittlesford.Photograph: Jack Taylor/Getty Images

Ed Davey has said the Liberal Democrats are “not putting a ceiling on our ambitions” as he launched the party’s general election campaign.

The party leader said the Lib Dems had been getting their best response from voters “for a generation” while out campaigning.

He also accused the chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, and other Conservative MPs of taking their constituents for granted as he spoke confidently about winning more seats on 4 July.

Davey unveiled the Lib Dems’ new battlebus, named Yellow Hammer One, and met a large crowd of supporters at the launch in Whittlesford, Cambridgeshire on Sunday.

Related: Lib Dems target ‘blue wall’ with blitz of 2m leaflets in Tory heartlands

He focused largely on health and the environment in a speech to supporters, including hospitals “with dangerous crumbling roofs” and “sewage pouring into” wards, and promised to introduce a 10-year rolling repair programme for the NHS estate.

Asked what the Lib Dems’ targets were in the election, Davey told the PA Media news agency: “I’m not putting a ceiling on our ambitions.

“All I’m doing is talking to voters with my teams across the country, and the Liberal Democrats are getting a great response – a better response than we’ve had for a generation.

“I was elected back in 1997 and this feels to me quite a bit like that. I don’t worry about the other parties; I’m just excited about our job and excited about change.”

The Lib Dems are targeting traditionally Conservative heartlands in the “blue wall” in southern England.

Buoyed up by a series of byelection and local election victories in the area, the party is eyeing up the constituencies of several cabinet ministers, including Hunt’s.

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Asked about Hunt’s Godalming and Ash constituency, Davey said he was “looking forward to that campaign” because the party had heard from many lifelong Tory voters.

He added: “I feel people like Jeremy Hunt have let them down, taken them for granted, assumed they’ll always vote Conservative.”

The Tories and Labour both made eye-catching pledges over the weekend, with the former promising mandatory national service if re-elected and the latter keen to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to vote.

Asked about both policies, Davey said: “The Liberal Democrats have long supported votes from 16 and I’m glad other parties are now catching up with us.

“All I’d say is as political reforms go, it’s an important one but it’s quite small. We need to transform our politics.

“As for this distraction of a policy by the Conservatives on national service, the hypocrisy is just breathtaking.

“What we need is full-time, professional, highly trained troops. We’ve got the best army in the world and we should be backing it.”

The party have previously pointed to local election results in May that suggested it was making gains in a series of traditionally Conservative constituencies.

Lib Dem officials believe the results – in which the party performed well – proved their strategy of ruthlessly targeting Tory wards in the seats they want to win is working.