Ed Davey today became the first Liberal Democrat to formally launch a bid for the party’s leadership, in a race that is likely to see him up against Jo Swinson, though not Layla Moran.
He very nearly, but in the end didn’t, run in the 2017 contest that saw Vince Cable become leader.
No surprise the Brexit featured heavily in Ed Davey’s opening media comments for this contest:
We are going to fight Brexit, but we are going to do it in a democratic way so the people of Britain have the final choice.
No surprise, though those are of course words that you could just as easily imagine come from Jo Swinson or indeed nearly all other Liberal Democrats.
Which is why one of the things to look for is how Davey and Swinson look to distinguish themselves from each other in a contest where they agree on so many things. Chris Huhne’s efforts to find a gap between himself and Nick Clegg in their similar leadership contest – a race between two candidates without that much substantive policy difference between them – didn’t end well.
Differences may well emerge over attitudes towards other parties (Davey has been cooler on these), over party reforms (Davey again has been notably cooler on this topic in the last six months) and possibly over the environment (will Davey stick with some of his policy positions which, as minister, on topics such as nuclear power put him at odds with many party activists?).
Despite those previous environmental controversies, Davey clearly sees the topic as a strength for himself, saying:
I’m talking about de-carbonising capitalism, making capitalism turn green so Britain is a world green finance capital. That means being tough on our banks, on the stock exchange, on the pension funds, so they take account of climate risk.
The great news for people is not only will that tackle climate change, it will provide jobs and prosperity for communities and cities who have been left behind, and it is also good for health as it cleans up air pollution too.
The possibly similarities between Davey and Swinson on many topics led Stephen Tall to wonder in our latest podcast whether or not this will be a boring contest. I suspect he’s wrong as on issues of party strategy, party reforms and attitudes towards the party’s time in coalition, even if not so much on policy, there are plenty of hints that some big differences may emerge.