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Lib Dem leader hails Torquay by-election 'earthquake'

Tuesday, 11 June 2024 15:58

By Guy Henderson - Local Democracy Reporter

Ed Davey and Steve Darling with Mr Darling's guide dog Jennie (Image courtesy: Guy Henderson)

'We've shown that we can do it'

Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey has described last week’s Torbay by-election result which saw the Conservatives beat the Lib Dems by just nine votes as ‘an earthquake’.

Visiting the constituency to back Lib Dem candidate Steve Darling’s general election campaign, he said the result meant the race is on for the bay’s parliamentary seat in the poll on 4 July.

“We’ve shown that we can do it,” he said.

He also said that Lib Dems would impose a sewage tax on water companies as part of a drive for cleaner seas and rivers.

Mr Davey spent half an hour at sea off Torquay as a guest of the Disabled Sailing Association, before coming ashore to praise the group’s work and answer questions from the press.

He made pledges on increasing wages in the care industry and introducing new strategies for social housing, as well as outlining how the Lib Dems would make water companies more accountable over sewage discharges.

Then he turned his attention to the Wellswood by-election in which Conservative Hazel Foster by Lib Dem Peter Fenton by nine votes after two recounts in a seat the Tories have held for more than a quarter of a century.

“It’s a real game changer,” he said. “Just as people remember in 1997 when we beat the Conservatives here, Adrian Sanders only won by 12 votes - it was really close - and Labour trailed in a poor third.

“Labour supporters lending their votes got Adrian elected then.

“What happened last week here was an earthquake. In what ought to be a Tory stronghold there was a 19 per cent swing to the Liberal Democrats. To win the parliamentary seat on 4 July, we need a 17 per cent swing, so we’ve shown that we can do it.

“Steve Darling would be a local champion in the mode of Adrian Sanders - and he can win.”

Mr Davey said that sewage in the sea and on beaches around the coast is ‘one of the scandals of our time’ and said the Lib Dems had a programme to toughen up regulation.

‘We want a new range of much tougher powers to hold the water companies to account,” he said.

“If they are not going to fix it, there should be a sewage tax on their profits. We think water should be clean.”

Torbay’s other general election candidates are Kevin Foster (Con), Paul Moor (Workers Party), Gordon Scott (Reform UK), Charlie West (Green) and Chris Wongsosaputro (Lab).


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