Ed Davey struggles to hold Lib Dems together in conference speech today as furious activists demand all-out bid to reverse Brexit and a pledge to build 380,000 houses a year
Ed Davey will try to paper over cracks in the Lib Dems today as activists demand more effort to reverse Brexit and a commitment to build hundreds of thousands of houses.
Sir Ed will try to focus on the NHS in a keynote speech to party conference potentially less than a year before an election in which he wants to seize dozens of Tory ‘Blue Wall’ seats.
But the leader has not enjoyed a trouble-free gathering in Bournemouth, with splits emerging over how open the Lib Dems should be about pursuing closer ties to the EU.
Sir Ed was given a bloody nose when members thwarted his bid to abandon a target for building 380,000 new homes a year – something that could harm their prospect in shire constituencies.
There are also persistent questions over what kind of deal the Lib Dems might do to prop Labour up in power in the case of a hung Parliament, with many supporters wanting Sir Ed to make the price a switch to proportional representation voting.
Ed Davey will try to paper over cracks in the Lib Dems today as activists demand more effort to reverse Brexit and a commitment to build millions of houses
Sir Ed (pictured in the conference hall yesterday) has not enjoyed a trouble-free gathering in Bournemouth, with splits emerging over how open the Lib Dems should be about pursuing closer ties to the EU
On Sunday the Lib Dem leader was heckled 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.
Plans to abandon a pledge to build 380,000 new homes a year in England were scuppered by rebel activists after the Young Liberals put forward an amendment to keep the 2019 commitment.
Following a rowdy debate at the event in Bournemouth, the party approved a motion committing it to the target to set a ‘clear direction of travel’ for addressing the housing crisis.
Sir Ed Davey said it was a ‘rite of passage’ for Lib Dem leaders to face members voting against them at conference as he spoke after the overwhelming defeat.
The leader will tell activists 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.
Sir Ed has been trying to raise the Lib Dems’ profile with a series of eye-catching photo ops
‘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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