Davey: The Tories and SNP are both out of excuses and out of time

Both the Tories and SNP are “out of time” and should be out of power at Westminster and Holyrood, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey declared.

With a general election due to be held sometime this year, he urged his party’s supporters to make it a “once in a generation” ballot, by electing a “whole new generation of Liberal Democrat MPs”.

His plea came as he insisted his party could take the UK’s “broken” health service and fix it “with care”.

Sir Ed said the “scandal” of delayed discharge – where patients who are medically well enough to leave hospital have to stay while waiting for arrangements for their care to be made – could be ended by hiring more carers.

He called for a “higher minimum wage for all carers across the UK”, as he also urged the UK Government to write off benefits overpayments made to those who claim Carers Allowance while looking after a loved one.

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His comments came as he addressed the Scottish Liberal Democrat spring conference in Hamilton, South Lanarkshire – marking his first campaign visit north of the border since John Swinney took over from Humza Yousaf as First Minister and SNP leader.

And the Liberal Democrat leader used his speech to hit out at both the Tory Government at Westminster and the SNP administration at Holyrood.

Both Governments, Sir Ed said, had shown people “that they cannot be trusted with the economy, their health, the environment or our place in the world”.

Sir Ed Davey likened John Swinney taking over as Scottish First Minister and SNP leader to ‘rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic’ (Jane Barlow/PA)
Sir Ed Davey likened John Swinney taking over as Scottish First Minister and SNP leader to ‘rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic’ (Jane Barlow/PA)

He told supporters that people “have had enough” of both the SNP and the Conservatives – branding them “two tired old parties” that are “out of touch, out of excuses and out of time”.

He told his party: “It’s up to us to get them out of office.”

Sir Ed continued: “I firmly believe that we can make this a once-in-a-generation election, electing a whole new generation of Liberal Democrat MPs”.

He said: “Scotland needs change. The UK needs change.

“And simply installing a new prime minister, or a new first minister, just won’t cut it.

“I would accuse the SNP of rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic. But that would imply that they’re any good at building and launching a seagoing vessel in the first place.”

That remark was a jibe at the failure of the state-owned Ferguson Marine shipyard on the Clyde to build two new ferries to serve the islands off Scotland’s west coast – with the vessels now several years late and massively overbudget.

His speech came after the Liberal Democrats enjoyed “staggering” by-election victories in England last year in which they defeated they Tories, with these results followed by this month’s council elections in England which saw the party win more councillors than the Conservatives.

Sir Ed said his party had not beaten the Tories into third in local election for 28 years, telling the PA news agency: “We are really back.”

He said in parts of Scotland his party was now the opposition to the SNP, as well as challenging the Conservatives in part of England.

Sir Ed Davey celebrates local elections
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey is greeted by supporters as he arrives to join local Lib Dem campaigners at a celebratory rally in Winchester, following the results in local government elections (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

“We feel we are on a roll,” he said.

“The momentum in whole parts of the country is with us. We are increasingly excited about our chances.

“We see the biggest opportunity we have had for years.”

He said the party had increased “quite significantly” the number of seats where it is focusing resources ahead of the general election.

The Liberal Democrat leader added: “Our biggest constraint is we don’t have financial resources (of the Conservatives).

“But we are getting some generous support from people and that is enabling us to be competitive in many more seats. It’s really exciting.”

He went on to liken the new Scottish First Minister John Swinney to Rishi Sunak, who became Prime Minister after “disastrous” terms in office from Liz Truss and Boris Johnson.

He said at the time many thought Mr Sunak, a former chancellor, would be a “safe pair of hands”, but said he had been an “absolute disaster” as Prime Minister.

Sir Ed said: “Mr Swinney may have come in after Humza Yousaf, and people might think he is going to be a safe pair of hands. But be careful – he might turn out not to be quite the sure-footed person some people might think.

“And he has the whole record of the SNP completely on his hands.”

Speaking about the SNP, the Liberal Democrat leader said: “If they are judged on their record, on things like the health service and schools and justice, they will go down.

“It looks to me, from my reading of the polls, that people have found them out and realised they have been focused on so much, obsessed by the constitutional question, that they have taken their eye off the ball on things that matter to ordinary people.”