Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey vows to steal Tory and Labour votes at local elections in campaign launch

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey has vowed to steal votes from Labour and the Conservatives at the local elections - as he launched his campaign by driving a tractor through blue hay bales.

Sir Ed made his entrance on a farm in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire on a yellow tractor while wearing a wax jacket as he made his party's intentions clear - they want to smash the Conservative 'blue wall'.

He was then driven down the high street to a group of Lib Dem supporters, where he promised to fight for people struggling with the cost of living, to reverse cuts to essential public services and to reform the NHS.

"We're finding that lifelong Conservatives are saying they've had enough, that they're never going to vote Conservative again and they're switching to the Liberal Democrats," he said.

He accused the Conservatives of being "out of touch, out of ideas and out of excuses".

"Let's all send a message to these Conservatives. It's time that they were out of government," he added.

"And that's why so many people across the country are turning to the Liberal Democrats.

"They know that the Liberal Democrats work hard for their communities here, their concerns, and never take them for granted."

Sir Ed also said those who normally vote Labour are switching to the Lib Dems and he believes his party is going to make "many, many more gains".

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Speaking to Sky News moments after the launch, Sir Ed said he had been speaking to lifelong Conservatives "who are pretty angry" with the party, which makes him believe the Lib Dems stand a good chance of local election gains.

And he claimed voters would not simply choose the Lib Dems because they're disheartened with the Tories or Labour, saying their policies are "very popular" and they have proven they stand up for their local communities.

Sir Ed added recent Lib Dem wins at byelections show they do not just do well at local elections but can do so in general elections as well.

"People are seeing the Liberal Democrat vote is a powerful vote in many parts of the country," he said.

Conservative Party chairman Greg Hands hit back at the Lib Dems as he said they are "charging more for council tax, band for band, than the Conservatives while delivering worse local services".

"The Liberal Democrats should focus on local people's priorities instead of waging war on motorists, cutting weekly bin services, and wasting taxpayers' money on vanity projects," he said.

"Only the Conservatives can be trusted to deliver for your local area. Filling potholes. Cutting crime. Collecting your bins on time. All while keeping your council tax low."

In June last year, Lib Dem Richard Foord won the Tiverton and Honiton by-election, overturning a 24,000 Tory majority.

This followed Conservative MP Neil Parish's resignation after he admitted twice watching pornography on his mobile phone while in parliament.

The Conservatives also lost their majority in December 2021, when Lib Dem Helen Morgan was elected in North Shropshire. The by-election here was caused by the resignation of Owen Paterson amid a lobbying scandal.

And in June 2021, Lib Dem Sarah Green secured an historic win in Chesham and Amersham, previously a Conservative stronghold since its creation in 1974. The by-election was triggered by the death of former Tory cabinet minister dame Cheryl Gillan.