General Election 2024: How Ed Davey seized political stunts crown from Boris Johnson

After launching his party's general election manifesto, Sir Ed Davey jumped on a rollercoaster and rode on a big swing.

His aim: to show the Liberal Democrats are on a rollercoaster ride to gaining seats, with a big swing to the party from the Tories.

Sir Ed's visit to Thorpe Park, in Surrey, was just the latest in a gallery of wacky and often silly election stunts and photo-ops that have gained him priceless publicity.

In this election campaign he's confirmed his status as the king of the photo-ops. Remind you of anyone? Yes, he's snatched that title from Boris Johnson.

Being the third party in an election - or fourth, given that the Lib Dems won fewer seats than the SNP in 2019 - can be a frustrating experience.

Inevitably, it's the two big parties that dominate column inches in the newspapers and airtime on radio and TV. So attention-grabbing requires cunning and imagination.

And Sir Ed has certainly shown just that. The result is that he and his party have not been squeezed out or flattened by the Tory and Labour juggernauts in election coverage.

To be fair, there have been some serious messages too.

His speech without notes at his manifesto launch was slick. And a TV election broadcast about caring for his disabled son was emotional and powerful.

But it's for his eccentric stunts in this campaign that Sir Ed will probably be remembered.

He's been drenched in Lake Windermere, soaked on a water slide, served up a game of tennis and taken a bumpy cycle ride.

He claims his stunts aren't just for fun, but to make a political point. For example, he made a splash in Lake Windermere to highlight his party's campaign against sewage in the UK's rivers, lakes and coastlines.

Read more:
Lib Dems pledge to rejoin EU's single market
Why Lib Dems manifesto is less ambitious than before

We got a foretaste of Sir Ed's clever stunts when the Lib Dems celebrated some of their spectacular by-election wins: knocking down a blue wall, firing a confetti cannon and driving a "Tory removal van".

Boris Johnson became the king of political stunts during his years as London mayor, in the Brexit campaign in 2016 and his 2019 general election campaign.

Who can forget the zip wire farce, kissing a giant fish, knocking down a wall and wearing boxing gloves to "get Brexit done"?

But the crown has now passed to Sir Ed, though that other extrovert political campaigner, Nigel Farage, is a close second, after posing for photos in a D-Day jeep last week.

Just don't mention the milkshake.

Sir Ed, however, should be applauded not only for brightening up the campaign and giving us all a good laugh, but also for using his often-silly stunts to convey a serious political message. Well done!

And there are still 24 days left for more stunts and photo-ops before polling day.