In an interview with The New European, Ed Davey has talked about his carers campaign and why it’s so important:
Care has defined much of his life: at 12 years old, he and his brother started to care for his mother, Nina, until she died when he was 15. He and his wife Emily’s eldest son John, 13, has an undiagnosed neurological position the symptoms of which are he can’t walk or talk and has learning difficulties, requiring 24-hour care. Care is a passion born of experience so he understandably bristles a little when I suggest all parties come into government promising to fix the system only to kick it into the long grass once the enormity of it hits.
“Can I just challenge that a little bit, Matt?,” he says. “I was sitting around the cabinet table when we came up with a Care Act, when brilliant Liberal Democrat colleagues like Paul Burstow and Norman Lamb worked incredibly hard with Nick Clegg and the rest of us to try to tackle this.
“And not only did we have the Care Act, we had a proposal from the Dilnot Commission to socialise care costs, and if that had been implemented as per the 2015 Act a million people would now be getting care who aren’t. But guess what? The Tories, left to their own devices, didn’t implement something they told parliament they would.” Andrew Dilnot, an economist, had proposed a more generous means-testing threshold, a cap on care costs and a reduction of the postcode lottery for services.
He also covered the liberal approach to tackling coronavirus:
“Liberal Democrats have the strongest political philosophy of any party…
“I think that you’re probably a libertarian if you, in a public health crisis like a pandemic, where tens of thousands of people are dying, that your interpretation of liberty is such that you can do what you like even if it hurts other people,” he says.
“Go and read John Stuart Mill On Liberty. [It] talks very clearly, very eloquently, there’s no doubt about it, you’re free until your freedom restricts someone else and hurts someone else. And you cannot define freedom in a crisis, a health crisis like we’ve got, a global pandemic, you can’t define freedom as the freedom to go spread the virus.”
He points out that the Lib Dems have been critical of some aspects of lockdown policy, such as when restrictions were lifted last year but pubs were forced to close at 10pm, turfing drinkers out on to the streets all at once.
“The liberal says: deal with the pandemic and then you can get back to more freedom. The quickest way to real liberalism, real freedom, real liberty being restored is by dealing with this hostile virus.”
As for Europe:
“Well, listen, let me be crystal clear: we are the pro-European party in British politics. We’ll always believe that EU membership is overwhelmingly in the interests of the British people,” he says.
“The judgement you have to make, though, is: what’s the key thing for the country now? And what I’m saying to people, and I think the party’s policy, passed in September, is really clear, the priority is the pandemic. The priority is putting recovery first.
“Johnson’s trade deal… is the worst trade deal in history. It’s the first trade deal to make trade more difficult. We’re seeing the damage it’s doing to people’s jobs, how it’s hitting our economy, the red tape is the biggest increase in red tape in Britain’s history… it’s just shocking, and we’re clear – Britain would be better now if we could get back into the single market and back into the customs union. That’s what should happen now.”
Does that mean backing the UK joining the European Economic Area?
“Well… I’m clear the key thing we need is to be back in the single market, back in the customs union. Because our economy is seriously hit. We’ve got the deepest recession in 300 years and the Conservatives’ solution to this is to introduce the worst trade deal ever.”
He is, he says, “very strongly committed to” to freedom of movement. “These are the sorts of things that would really fire up our economy.”