Advertisement

Who is Sir Ed Davey? Lib Dem leader facing calls to quit over Post Office scandal

Who is Sir Ed Davey? Lib Dem leader facing calls to quit over Post Office scandal

Sir Ed Davey, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, is facing fresh calls to quit over the Post Office Horizon scandal.

The MP for Kingston and Surbiton is accused of failing to do enough in response to what has now emerged as the biggest miscarriage of justice in British history.

He was one of several ministers responsible for the Post Office from 2010-12 when the Lib Dems were in a coalition government with the Tories. During this time he refused to meet the whistle-blower Alan Bates and said: "I do not believe a meeting would serve any useful purpose.”

Sir Ed is also now facing a challenge for the West London constituency. Kingston Independent Residents Group councillor and former postal worker Yvonne Tracey branded him a “hypocrite” for not resigning as leader, having called for many other people to step down from prominent positions for other scandals.

The 58-year-old has been acting leader since the 2019 general election, after which former leader Jo Swinson stood down when she lost her seat, and was formally elected in 2020. A defender of the Lib Dems' record in coalition with the Conservatives, Sir Ed is generally considered on the right of the party, with a belief in market-based solutions to social issues.

With 15 MPs, the centrist Lib Dems are the fourth-largest party in the House of Commons, after the Conservatives, Labour and the Scottish National Party.

But who is the Lib Dem leader, and what has he achieved in his political career so far?

Ed Davey commands the fourth largest bloc of MPs in the House of Commons (Stefan Rousseau / PA Wire)
Ed Davey commands the fourth largest bloc of MPs in the House of Commons (Stefan Rousseau / PA Wire)

Election at first attempt

Before beginning his parliamentary career, Sir Ed worked as an economics researcher for Liberal Democrat MP Alan Beith, among others. He also worked in management consultancy for several years in the 1990s.

MPs often need a few attempts to be elected to the House of Commons for the first time, but Sir Ed was elected in 1997 at the first time of asking, defeating Conservative Richard Tracey in Surbiton, who had held the seat for 14 years.

Lib Dem spokesperson

Sir Ed was given several frontbench roles by the Lib Dem leadership, including becoming the party's spokesperson on Treasury affairs. He was made a whip in 1998, meaning that he had responsibility for party discipline on voting issues. He served in several more Lib Dem roles over the next decade, including working as chief of staff to party leader Sir Menzies Campbell.

Ed Davey was energy secretary during the Coalition Government (Stefan Wermuth / Reuters)
Ed Davey was energy secretary during the Coalition Government (Stefan Wermuth / Reuters)

Coalition with the Conservatives

When the Liberal Democrats entered Government in 2010 as the junior partner in a coalition with the Conservatives, Sir Ed was given a junior ministerial role as parliamentary under-secretary of state in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

He came in for criticism in 2011 for his part in the privatisation of Royal Mail, after a majority stake was floated on the London Stock Exchange that year, ending nearly 500 years of state ownership.

In 2012 Sir Ed was promoted to secretary of state for energy and climate change.

He was one of several ministers responsible for the Post Office from 2010-12. During this time he refused to meet the whistle-blower Alan Bates and said: "I do not believe a meeting would serve any useful purpose.”

Layla Moran ran unsuccessfully against Ed Davey to be the Lib Dem leader (Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)
Layla Moran ran unsuccessfully against Ed Davey to be the Lib Dem leader (Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)

2015 election

Sir Ed lost his seat in the 2015 general election, when the Lib Dems returned their worst-ever performance, losing 48 MPs.

2017 re-election

Sir Ed regained his Surbiton seat in 2017 and was made the party’s Home Office spokesperson. He was later given his former role of Treasury spokesperson again.

He was a prominent anti-Brexit campaigner even after the vote to leave the EU, speaking in favour of a second referendum at a People's Vote rally.

Ed Davey after being elected leader of the Lib Dems (Stefan Rousseau / PA Wire)
Ed Davey after being elected leader of the Lib Dems (Stefan Rousseau / PA Wire)

2019 Lib Dem leadership vote

After Sir Vince Cable said he would step down in 2019, Sir Ed took part in a leadership contest with Jo Swinson.

Ms Swinson emerged victorious but lost her seat a few months later at the December 2019 general election and stood down as leader.

Sir Ed stood in as interim co-leader with Mark Pack until a new vote was taken.

New Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson after her victory in the leadership contest, as Ed Davey and her husband, Duncan Hames, applaud (Tolga Akmen / AFP / Getty Images)
New Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson after her victory in the leadership contest, as Ed Davey and her husband, Duncan Hames, applaud (Tolga Akmen / AFP / Getty Images)

2020 leadership contest

Sir Ed was one of four MPs to stand for the Lib Dem leadership in 2020, alongside Layla Moran, Wera Hobhouse, and Christine Jardine. Ms Jardine stood down in April, endorsing Ms Moran while Ms Hobhouse withdrew in June, backing Sir Ed.

The results were announced on August 27, with Sir Ed winning 63.5 per cent of the vote.

Why was Ed Davey knighted?

Ed Davey was knighted in the 2016 new year honours for “political and public service”. He also received a Royal Humane Society bravery award in 1995 for rescuing a woman who fell on the tracks at Clapham Junction.

In 2012, Davey was sworn in as a member of the Privy Council, which gave him the title the Right Honourable.