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Rats in a Sack: Is it time for Ed Davey to show some flare?

The Lib Dem leader has been running a crack campaign – with the Euros approaching, might he recreate a football fan’s famous stunt?

Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images

If this election really is 1997 all over again, then who is its Paul Daniels, the compact conjuror who vowed to leave the country if Tony Blair was elected (in the event he stayed, and was rewarded by being hit in the face by a pizza flung by Sooty)?

Step forward Pimlico Plumbers founder Charlie Mullins. “If and when Labour gets in, then I’m done with the UK and I’m applying for residency in Spain and Dubai. My time in the UK will be done if Labour gets in,” he told Politico this week. He has joined Reform.

It’s been quite the political journey for Mullins. He was a business advisor and generous donor to the Conservative Party under David Cameron but drifted away under Theresa May (“I think we need a stronger leader, we need someone more powerful, you know”). He then became a vocal opponent of Brexit and backed the Liberal Democrats (“I ain’t going to beat about the bush, I’ve just tied up with Vince Cable and the Lib Dems”).

A year later he moved on to supporting Boris Johnson (“I suggest people look beyond the caricature public persona of Boris and realise there is a man of substance there”) before, a whole two months later, deciding he preferred the Lib Dems once more under Jo Swinson (“She is the complete opposite to Boris. He is trying to do everything he can to make Brexit happen. She has come in saying she is prepared to do everything she can for it not to happen”).

Now he’s not only backing Reform but urging Johnson to join him (“If Boris joins up then we’ll be in No 10… the best chance Boris has got of getting back into No 10 is to join Reform”). Will we miss him when he leaves the UK? Not a lot, as Paul Daniels used to say!

There was much coverage of Boris Johnson elevating 29-year-old Charlotte Owen to the House of Lords, but her colleague Ross Kempsell, who was just 31 himself, escaped the same scrutiny.

Now Kempsell is busying himself during the general election with his #LabourReceipts campaign, posting old videos on Twitter/X of senior Labour figures trumpeting positions which are no longer party policy. He isn’t working with his old colleagues at Conservative HQ, he insists, but running a one-man operation because he is “bored”.

If that’s true, perhaps Lord Kempsell should think about at some point doing the job he has been appointed to for life. Since joining the Lords in July of last year he has spoken once in Parliament, on the Budget in March this year. Even Owen has managed 10 times.

Lord Kempsell’s entire Wikipedia entry runs to 165 words.

To Tunbridge Wells, where for a brief moment it looked like its Conservative candidate might have been broadcaster Iain Dale, before comments emerged suggesting he didn’t much like the place and he returned to his job at LBC like he’d never quit, like George Costanza in Seinfeld.

The actual Tory candidate is now businessman Neil Mahapatra and, if Dale didn’t like the constituency, Mahapatra doesn’t appear hugely enthusiastic about the party he’s standing for. Asked by Kent Online why people should vote for him, he says: “Since 2019, the Conservative Party has disappointed; some poor policies, worse implementation, infighting. Announcements in the rain. We have let you down – I am so very sorry. But that’s NOT ME.”

What a powerful endorsement of Rishi Sunak’s vision!

“I am bloody loyal to the north-east, Tom.” – Conservative chair Richard Holden to ITV’s Tom Sheldrick, February 9

“A couple happy customers with coffee, sausage and bacon sarnies down at #TastyBuds just off Whitmore Way in #Basildon following a couple of hours of leafleting & canvassing this morning!” – Conservative chair Richard Holden, Twitter/X, June 8, three days after becoming the Tories’ candidate for Basildon and Billericay in Essex as the local constituency association was handed a shortlist of one by the party’s central office

“Keir Starmer is a human weathervane. He has more flip flops than the Costa del Sol, the promises he hasn’t junked yet are dripping in wokery, and he will float whichever way the tide takes him.” – Conservative chair Richard Holden, Daily Express, June 10

GB News sent hack George Bunn up to Ashfield this week to see how the election is going in Lee Anderson’s seat.

“Anecdotally speaking to people in Ashfield, GB News found there remains plenty of love for Farage, Anderson and Reform UK,” he writes on the channel’s website, quoting an anonymous voter as telling him: “I like [Lee] a lot. He speaks his mind and he’s a fighter.” Another, market stall holder Rachel Annable, says: “Lee, he comes in here a lot, he does his shopping. He speaks up for people in Ashfield.”

Lovely stuff – and presumably it was just space restrictions which prevented Bunn from mentioning just once in a 1,365-word article that Anderson also doubles as a presenter for GB News!

Lib Dem leader Ed Davey’s backstory is well-known. His father John died when Davey was four, and young Ed cared for his mother Nina before she died only 11 years later. Davey’s 16-year-old son John is learning disabled, non-verbal and needs constant support.

And how did the Daily Mail’s sketchwriter, Quentin Letts, react to this when Davey not-unreasonably referred to it at his party’s campaign launch (the document focuses much on repairing Britain’s dysfunctional care system)?

“Sir Ed wants us to feel sorry for him, so he keeps talking about being a carer and having been orphaned as a teenager. He did this again at the manifesto launch, describing his parents’ early deaths,” he wrote.

“At one point he choked back tears. He will consider this a presentational success. On me, alas, it merely had the effect of a slice of overly rich carrot cake. After you with that sick bowl, Perkins.”

Heartless, offensive, unfunny and topped with what is presumably a public school reference recognisable to about five people. It’s everything the Mail broke the bank for when they nabbed Letts from the Times!

Letts’ picture byline on the Mail’s website, by the way, is giving Sarah Vine’s some serious competition in the “clearly taken in 2004” stakes.

Davey’s antics – paddleboarding, cycling down hills, riding roller coasters – have been one of the few moments of levity in what’s been an otherwise grim election campaign.

So much so, in fact, that bookies Ladbrokes are offering odds on what further activities he will do before polling day, including 2/1 on him riding a bucking bronco, 6/1 on being fired out of a cannon and 12/1 on sparring with boxer Anthony Joshua.

But with the Euros starting tomorrow, might Davey be tempted to really catch the zeitgeist – and put a flare up his bottom, as one England fan infamously did in 2001? Your correspondent did ask Ladbrokes’ press office for odds on this particular stunt, but was alas told: “We do have to draw the line somewhere and that’s certainly past it, I’m afraid.”

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