Lib Dems leader Ed Davey urges party to help oust the 'ugly' Tories from power in next election

Liberal Democrat Sir Ed Davey and Boris Johnson. Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey has described the Conservative party as an "ugly, ugly sight" under Boris Johnson, as he said the Lib Dems could take away from the Prime Minister's majority at the next election.

In his keynote address to his party’s annual conference, Sir Ed said the Tories could only be ousted from power if the Lib Dems take seats from them at the next general election.

He said the Lib Dems’ win in the recent Chesham and Amersham by-election, where they overturned a 16,000 Conservative majority, showed they could take seats in the so-called Tory “blue wall” across southern England.

Sir Ed Davey celebrates the Lib Dem by-election victory in the Tory ‘blue wall’ seat of Chesham and Amersham Credit: Steve Parsons/PA

Speaking to around 150 activists in London’s Canary Wharf, he said part of the reason for their victory was a “groundswell of frustration and discontent” among voters who felt ignored and taken for granted by the Tories.

“They just don’t feel that Boris Johnson represents them. Or shares their values," he said in his first live address since becoming leader last year.

Sir Ed Davey after giving his keynote address at One Canada Square in east London. Credit: PA

“Wherever you look in this shocking government, the truth is, that over the last few years Boris Johnson has remade the Conservative Party in his own image.

“And it is an ugly, ugly sight. His casual disregard for facts or truth. His trail of broken promises from ‘No border in the Irish Sea’ to ‘No tax rise’. And his total lack of shame or decency.

“Boris Johnson is not a Prime Minister worthy of our great United Kingdom.”

“Make no mistake: the electoral arithmetic is clear. These Conservatives can’t be defeated next time unless we Liberal Democrats win Tory seats,” he said. “Boris Johnson will stay in Downing Street unless we throw him out. This is a heavy responsibility but frankly it’s all the motivation I need.”

In his main policy initiative, Sir Ed called on the government to heed the advice of its former education catch-up tsar Sir Kevan Collins who quit after ministers refused to back his plans for a multi-billion pound recovery programme.

The Lib Dem leader said there should be a £15 billion catch-up programme over three years, with £5 billion going directly into the pockets of parents through catch-up vouchers.

He suggested the scheme could be “the world’s biggest ever parent-listening exercise” with schools and governments having to take account of their views.

Sir Ed also used his speech to call for a £15 billion Covid catch-up plan for education with vouchers worth £200-a-year issued directly to parents to spend on their children’s learning.