A Liberal Democrat leadership contestant has said the party needs to distance itself from the Tories – and claimed that interim leader Ed Davey is still tarnished by the coalition years.
MP Wera Hobhouse claimed that Davey still has a ‘heart which beats with the Tories’ as the contestants start to set out their stall.
Hobhouse, who herself defected from the Tories to the Lib Dems in 2005, is calling for the party to ‘break from the coalition years’, and promised to be the best candidate to do that.
She explained: ‘It’s not to say that the coalition was all bad – equal marriage and pupil premium are just two of the many life-changing ideas implemented by Lib Dems – but some serious mistakes were made. We have acknowledged that – now it is time to well and truly move on.
‘The Liberal Democrats are not halfway between the Conservatives and Labour. We are a progressive, centre-left party, and we must fight for our values and beliefs from there.
‘I was a councillor in Rochdale during the coalition and I saw its impact. We need a new direction; we must let go of the coalition and aspirations to return. We must get back to our liberal roots, serving our local communities, which is what we have always done best.
‘That’s where I will take the Liberal Democrats as leader.’
And in a video call appealing to members to elect her to the role, the Mirror claims she highlighted interim leader Ed Davey’s role in the coalition government when he acted as a junior business minister before becoming a cabinet minister until David Cameron’s leadership.
She said: ‘This leadership contest is a probably good opportunity to be very clear … where we want to be as a party.
‘This is a little bit going to be this ideological struggle – whether we want to be a centre-right or a centre-left party.
‘Sometimes I wonder whether the reluctance, still, from our acting (leader) Ed Davey comes from a history of having worked with the Tory party for five years – and ultimately that’s where his heart beats.’
A spokesman for Davey told the newspaper: ‘Ed is a centre-left, progressive politician who is a lifelong Liberal Democrat and has fought the Tories his entire career, including in government where he beat them on climate change and more than trebled renewable energy.
‘We are more than happy to debate the respective records of the candidates, as we believe the vision, experience and judgement that Ed has is what the party needs in these challenging times.’
Layla Moran is also running in the leadership race. A spokesperson for her campaign commented: ‘The Lib Dems need to move forward, not look back.
‘That’s why Layla has set out a positive vision for improving education, building a fairer economy, and a green recovery.
‘In her own seat, Layla has won support from both Conservative voters and those on the centre-left – she is the leader the party needs.’