Lib Dem leader says they have ‘fantastic chance’ of winning Frome after waterslide splash


The Liberal Democrats have a “fantastic chance” of winning in Frome and East Somerset in the general election, party leader Sir Ed Davey has said after sliding down a waterslide in the constituency.

Mr Davey had several goes sliding down the 95m Ultimate Slip N Slide waterslide in Beckington on Thursday May 30 with Anna Sabine, Liberal Democrat candidate for Frome and East Somerset. It is the latest in a line of increasingly eye-catching campaign stunts by the party leader, who fell off a paddleboard into Windermere in the Lake District on Tuesday, and rode a bicycle down a steep hill in Knighton in Wales on Wednesday.

The Liberal Democrats won Somerton and Frome in a byelection last year — but it has now been broken up under boundary changes. Sarah Dyke, who the area elected last year is now set to stand in the new Glastonbury in Somerset constituency. Asked if this meant the Liberal Democrats were abandoning Frome, Mr Davey said: “Not at all.”

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READ MORE: Lib Dem leader Ed Davey goes down waterslide in Somerset on General Election campaign

He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “We’ve got a fantastic candidate, Anna Sabine. She is just immense. The response we are getting in Frome from people is so positive. They have seen what electing a Liberal Democrat MP means.

“Sarah Dyke was a fantastic MP for Frome but the boundary changes and a proposal inspired by the Conservatives who wanted the boundaries changed meant that the seat of Somerton and Frome was split up so Sarah had to choose and, because of where she lives and all the rest of it, she’s gone for Glastonbury and Somerton and Anna Sabine has been chosen for Frome and East Somerset. And I think both of them have a fantastic chance of beating their Conservative opponents at the next election.”

Mr Davey is also confident that the seat will not suffer from a splitting of the progressive vote. He said: “We are finding that lots of Green voters in Frome know they can’t win, they’ve seen the Liberal Democrat success, and they’re willing to lend us their vote to stop the Conservatives winning it back.

Ed Davey greets supporters outside Badger Hill in Frome after the waterslide stunt -Credit:John Wimperis
Ed Davey greets supporters outside Badger Hill in Frome after the waterslide stunt -Credit:John Wimperis

“And in places like Radstock, former mining communities who have traditionally often voted Labour but never had a Labour MP. They now know that they’ve got the chance of beating the Conservatives at long last. They have Jacob Rees-Mogg for their MP — they are desperate to get rid of the Conservatives.

“And they now know the Liberal Democrats — with our success in Frome, with our success in Bath — that they are now hearing from us in a way that maybe they hadn’t heard in the past. And we are finding that lots of Labour voters in those areas are switching to the Liberal Democrats to beat the Conservatives.”

The area around Radstock did have a Labour MP, Dan Norris, when it was in the Wansdyke constituency. But he lost the seat to Conservative Mr Rees-Mogg in 2010 when it was changed to North East Somerset. Now, Mr Norris and Rees-Mogg are set to go up against each other again, but for the North East Somerset and Hanham constituency which no longer includes Radstock.

Ed Davey with Liberal Democrat Bath MP Wera Hobhouse in Frome -Credit:John Wimperis
Ed Davey with Liberal Democrat Bath MP Wera Hobhouse in Frome -Credit:John Wimperis

Throughout the general election campaign, the Liberal Democrat’s have painted the Conservatives and their main opponents and Mr Davey has repeatedly ruled out working with them after the election. So does he regret going into a coalition government with them in 2010?

Mr Davey said: “I fought the Conservatives every day of my political life. I fought and beat them in Kingston and Surbiton. I’ll continue to fight and beat them in Kingston and Surbiton and in government I fought them every day — and we stopped them doing some of their appalling things.

“Look what they did after 2015, how they ruined the country. I’m proud of what Liberal Democrats achieved: whether it's on mental health, whether it's on looking after the most disadvantaged children with the pupil premium, and whether it's on renewable energy.”

But does fighting the Tories with campaign stunts such as sliding down a waterslide mean he runs the risk of not being taken seriously? Mr Davey told reporters: “My belief is that politicians need to take the concerns and interests of voters seriously, but I’m not sure they need to take themselves seriously all the time.”

Ed Davey and Anna Sabine at Ultimate Slip N Slide in Beckington. Mr Davey called the yellow bodyboard he went down the waterslide on 'Yellowhammer Two,' after the Lib Dem battle bus 'Yellowhammer One' -Credit:John Wimperis
Ed Davey and Anna Sabine at Ultimate Slip N Slide in Beckington. Mr Davey called the yellow bodyboard he went down the waterslide on 'Yellowhammer Two,' after the Lib Dem battle bus 'Yellowhammer One' -Credit:John Wimperis

He added that there was a “serious side” behind the fun though. He wants to attract media coverage for the party to talk about its plan to get a qualified mental health professional in every school for early intervention on mental health, which the Liberal Democrats would want to fund by increasing the “digital service tax” on companies such as Amazon, Google, and big social media companies.

He said: “We have got hundreds and thousands of children and young people waiting for treatment for their mental health and it is actually appalling.”

Meanwhile Ms Sabine said that on a local level she would be campaigning on bus provision, access to dentists, and the health of local high streets. She said: “Bus provision — particularly in rural areas — makes a big difference to whether people can get around or not.”

She added: “We’ve got some really interesting high streets in Frome, Midsomer Norton, Radstock — totally different kinds of high streets but with similar challenges.”

Lib Dem leader Ed Davey and Frome and East Somerset candidate Anna Sabine at Ultimate Slip n Slide near Frome -Credit:John Wimperis
Lib Dem leader Ed Davey and Frome and East Somerset candidate Anna Sabine at Ultimate Slip n Slide near Frome -Credit:John Wimperis

Asked how confident she was that she could win the seat, she said: “We’re not complacent but its looking — from all the figures and stats and polls — like a close Lib Dem-Tory seat. So we are working really really hard and we are encouraging Green and Labour voters to join us, lend us their vote if they want to keep the Conservatives out in Frome and East Somerset.”

Also standing for Frome and East Somerset is Martin Dimery (Green), Gavin Heathcote (Independent), Robin Moss (Labour), David Swain (Reform UK), and Lucy Trimnell (Conservative).

Ultimate Slip N Slide — located on Eastcote Farm just off the A36/A361 roundabout on Warminster Road into Beckington — first opened last summer and is open this summer until September 8. It is open 10am-5pm every day through the kids holidays and costs £12 for an hour session on the waterslide.