Lib Dem leadership contest: a mistake and an apology from Ed Davey

Ed Davey has apologised for his choice of language when talking about how he’d like to see Boris Johnson defeated at the next general election.

Talking about how to defeat him in the Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency, would-be Lib Dem leader Ed Davey talked about a plan to, “decapitate that blond head in Uxbridge and South Ruislip”.

He’s since apologised, saying:

I recognise this wasn’t an acceptable choice of phrase and I’m sorry. This was careless use of language, meant in electoral sense and in no way literally. Whilst we should be robust in our opposition, we do have to carefully consider impact of our words and I failed to do that.

“Decapitate” is one of those words which has often been used previously in political contexts without being offensive, but where more recent tragic events make it a poor choice of words. Kudos to Ed Davey for getting his response right though – apologise soon and apologise fully (no half-baked ‘if someone perhaps thought this was offensive’… caveats).

What the choice of words has overshadowed is the context in which Ed Davey was talking – a willingness to have a cross-party Remain pact which unites behind one anti-Boris Johnson candidate:

Increasingly the question I’m getting is: ‘So how can we help you unseat Boris? What do you need?’ To be candid, we need more than money and a 20 per cent plus ranking in the polls. So I hereby float the idea of a Remain alliance to decapitate that blond head in Uxbridge and South Ruislip if Johnson calls a snap election to deliver Brexit.

Does that mean he supports seat pacts more widely, or is this an exceptional case, perhaps to be filed alongside not standing against Caroline Lucas but not an approach to be widely copied for other seats?

For the answer, listen to the next episode of Never Mind The Bar Charts, out later this week and in which my interview with Ed Davey covers just this question.

The 2019 Lib Dem leadership election is being covered by me both in podcast form with Stephen Tall in Never Mind The Bar Charts (subscribe here) and in email newsletter form with Liberal Democrat Newswire (sign up here).


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