Pundits’ predictions of Lib Dem official opposition is ‘idle speculation’

Sir Ed Davey has dismissed as “idle speculation” suggestions he could become the Leader of the Opposition.

The Liberal Democrat leader’s opponent from Reform UK, Nigel Farage, labelled himself “leader of the opposition” at a press conference last Friday, despite his party only having had a single seat, Ashfield in Nottinghamshire, in the Commons before its dissolution.

A Times headline on Monday suggested “Lib Dems are shaping up as the real opposition” while The Telegraph’s Patrick O’Flynn warned “the Tories’ doomsday scenario is worse than they could’ve imagined” with a rising “spectre of a Liberal Democrat opposition”.

After taking part in wheelbarrow races at Yeovil Town FC’s stadium in Somerset, the same county as the annual Watchet Wheelbarrow Race, Sir Ed said: “I’m focused on this election.

Sir Ed Davey negotiates an obstacle course made out of cones pushing a bright yellow wheelbarrow at speed
Sir Ed Davey took part in a wheelbarrow race at Huish Park, home of Yeovil Town FC, around 40 miles from Watchet in Somerset where an annual race takes place (Will Durrant/PA)

“Lots of people make idle speculations and hypotheticals, and I don’t, my focus is during this election campaign getting over our ideas on healthcare, on the economy, on sewage, on the environment, on political reform, fixing our broken political system.

“And the more Liberal Democrats can do that, show that we’ve got great local champions like Adam (Dance, the Lib Dems’ candidate) here in Yeovil, the more likely it is that we will be very influential in the next Parliament.

“I believe that we can and need to be. The country’s in a mess.

“The Tories have left the country in a terrible mess and we’re determined to get rid of as many Tory MPs as possible.

When asked about what “influence” would look like, Sir Ed added: “The election hasn’t happened. A lot of people are saying it’s going to be this or going to be that.

“Well, we don’t know and they shouldn’t be taking the British people for granted.

“The polls haven’t even opened yet, a few postal votes are landing on doormats but apart from that no one’s voted, and I want to use the next two weeks or more to get across Liberal Democrat ideas and I think so far that’s been going really well, and it’s very, very encouraging.

“And if you want to know what Liberal Democrat MPs will do in the next Parliament is very easy, read our manifesto.

“We’ve been pushing For A Fair Deal, that’s what it says on the front and we set out in quite a lot of detail fully costed the sorts of things we would do.

“When you fight on a manifesto, it’s not just for the election, it’s for the whole of the Parliament and our focus is on health and care, our focus on things like free school meals, insulating people’s homes, boosting renewable energy to get people’s energy bills down, that’s we’ve made absolutely clear.”

Speaking earlier on Monday, at Broadsands Beach near Paignton, Devon, where he built sandcastles with children and their parents, Sir Ed said: “We don’t share any values with Reform, I think people know that.

“And they’ve got a right to stand, that’s fine, but I think if you look at the analysis of it they’re not going to win many seats, if any at all frankly.

“And people know that we can win seats, we’ve got MPs at the moment, we’ve won historic by-elections in the last parliament, Reform didn’t.”

On the campaign trail in Worksop, Nottinghamshire, Sir Keir Starmer said on Saturday that voters would decide who would replace him as Leader of the Opposition, if anyone.

The Labour leader said: “Well, I don’t think it’s for Nigel Farage to declare himself Leader of the Opposition.

“I’m actually Leader to the Opposition just at the moment. I’m hoping to change that.”

In Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales, Mr Farage on Monday unveiled his party’s proposals in a “contract”.

He said: “Although this election is for our party, and for me, the first important step on the road to 2029, our ambition is to establish a bridgehead in Parliament, and to become a real opposition to a Labour government.”

Up against the Liberal Democrats’ Adam Dance in Yeovil are independent candidate Steve Ashton, Reform UK’s Laura Bailhache, Conservative incumbent Marcus Fysh, Labour’s Rebecca Montacute and Serena Wootton of the Green Party.