Lib Dem leader accuses PM of ‘failing’ country in ‘one of our darkest hours’
Written by on 28 September 2020
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey has accused Boris Johnson of “failing” the British public in “one of our darkest hours”.
In his first party conference speech since taking charge, Sir Ed attacked the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, saying they “have just not risen to this challenge”.
He said the pandemic was “showing the best of the British people”, adding: “People’s resilience, kindness and hard work make me absolutely sure we can get through this.
“But it’s those qualities – demonstrated every day by people across Britain – that are in sharp contrast to how government ministers have responded to the pandemic.”
The Lib Dem leader said the prime minister “refuses to take even the slightest responsibility for the chaos and harm his government has caused”.
“Johnson’s hero, Winston Churchill, said that the price of greatness is responsibility. It seems that’s a price this prime minister isn’t willing to pay,” Sir Ed added.
He also spoke of being a carer as a son, grandson and father in what was a highly personal speech.
He promised to be “the voice of the nine million carers in our country”.
Drawing upon the experiences of his own life, the 54-year-old father-of-two offered his understanding of the struggles of other carers and declared: “It’s you I’m fighting for.”
In August, the former cabinet minister became the Lib Dems’ fourth permanent leader to be elected in little more than five years.
It followed the party’s hugely disappointing general election result last year, when they won just 11 seats – one down on their 2017 result.
Sir Ed spoke of how he nursed his mother during her battle against bone cancer by taking her “tumblers of morphine for her agonising pain – before going off to school”.
“Coming home to look after her, helping her on and off the toilet,” he added.
“Taking life day by day, because there was nothing else you could do.
“And at the end, visiting her on a totally unsuitable dementia ward in my school uniform, alone by her bedside when she died.”
After the death of his mother, when he was 15, Sir Ed first went to live with his two older brothers before moving in with his maternal grandparents.
He also spoke in his conference address of caring for his grandmother prior to her death – and also how he and his wife Emily now care for his son John, who has a neurological condition.
Sir Ed said: “John is 12. He can’t walk by himself. He was nine when he first managed to say ‘daddy’.
“John needs 24/7 care – and probably always will.
“And that’s my biggest challenge: John will be on this planet long after Emily and I have gone.
“So we worry. No one can possibly love him like we do, hold him like we hold him.
“And our fears are shared by so many parents. Many not as fortunate as Emily and me.”
Sir Ed also repeated his message to his party, following three “deeply disappointing” election results in a row, that “too many people think we’re out of touch with what they want”.
He said: “The answer is to listen to what people are really telling us. And to change.”
Sir Ed called on his party to get more Liberal Democrats elected to English councils, the London Assembly, the Senedd in Wales and the Scottish Parliament in next May’s elections.
With opinion polls showing rising support for Scottish independence, Sir Ed said of the latter: “Elections often determine the future of our country, but these Scottish elections could well determine if our country has a future.
“Once again, the forces of nationalism threaten to tear our family of nations apart.
“So it is imperative that we get brilliant Liberal Democrat MSPs elected to Holyrood in May.”