Lib Dem leader Ed Davey says stunts make people smile but promises to take voters seriously

The Liberal Democrats are trying to paint themselves as serious and credible alternative to the Conservative Party, despite a flurry of silly stunts.

So far this week we’ve seen Sir Ed Davey falling off a paddle board into a lake, freewheeling down a steep hill on a bicycle and throwing himself head first down a giant inflatable water slide in the pouring rain.

The question you might well be asking is, "why?!"

The Liberal Democrats are trying to paint themselves as a serious and credible alternative to the Conservative Party, particularly in areas like Somerset - the setting for their latest stunt - where they are hoping to make significant gains on July 4.

During an interview in which he wanted to talk about children’s mental health, I asked Sir Ed whether he thought the gimmicks were in danger of overshadowing any serious message and making him look...a bit silly.

The Liberal Democrat Leader riding a bike during a visit to Knighton, Wales, while on the General Election campaign trail. Credit: PA

"Well no," he replied. "I think this shows that politicians don't always have to take themselves seriously. And I think this brings a smile to people - we're in half-term after all."

He told me what really mattered was that he took the concerns of voters seriously, and one of those concerns, he said, was children’s mental health.

"Thousands of children are being left in limbo, forced to suffer intolerably long waits for mental health treatment. They are being failed by this Conservative government who have neglected the NHS and abandoned parents and children."

The Liberal Democrats, he said, would put a dedicated mental health professional in every primary and secondary school in England.

The Labour leader Keir Starmer has proposed a similar plan to introduce "mental heath hubs" for schools, and the Conservatives say they are already rolling out "support teams" to schools and colleges in England.

But how would the Liberal Democrat plan work? I asked Sir Ed where he was planning to recruit tens of thousands of mental health experts from, to work in an education sector which already has a recruitment and retention crisis on its hands.

Sir Ed falls into the water while paddleboarding on Lake Windermere. Credit: PA

His answer was to offer training to existing teachers who have expressed an interest in mental health, or to retrain adult mental health professionals to work with children.

Sir Ed claims the plan would be funded by trebling taxes for search engine and social media companies who, he believes, are part of the problem.

The Liberal Democrats are not one of the two main parties, and they know they need to do more to get themselves noticed in this election.

They appear to have made a strategic calculation that sometimes, it’s worth doing something silly, if it helps to get their more serious messages heard.

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