Lib Dem leader Ed Davey launches ‘Tory Removal Service’Published39 minutes agocommentsCommentsShareclose panelShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingRelated TopicsPost Office InquiryMedia caption, Lib Dems unveil “Ed Davey’s Tory removals”By Alex Forsyth & Chas GeigerBBC Politics The Liberal Democrats are the “Tory Removal Service”, Sir Ed Davey has said as he began 2024 campaigning in seats in Surrey held by senior ministers. The party leader drove a poster van displaying the message through Guildford, a Lib Dem election target. He is also visiting the constituencies represented by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt and Communities Secretary Michael Gove.The Lib Dems have won four seats from the Tories in by-elections since 2019, three of them in the south of England. These were in Chesham and Amersham in Buckinghamshire, Tiverton and Honiton in Devon, and Somerton and Frome in Somerset, increasing the party’s number of MPs to 11.Mr Gove held Surrey Heath with a majority of 18,349 over his Lib Dem opponent at the last general election, but the Lib Dems are seeking to build on a series of gains in recent local polls. They took control of Surrey Heath Council in May 2023, and have also become the largest party on Waverley Borough Council in Mr Hunt’s area. General election talk will dominate 2024Kuenssberg: Five facts from a political year of gains and lossesDavey pounds Tories in election warm-up speechA leaflet accompanying the poster describes the Lib Dems as the “Blue Wall’s Premium Conservative MP unseating service”, including repairing NHS waiting times, ending raw sewage discharges, and tackling cost-of-living issues. Sir Ed also called for the general election to be held in May, adding “let’s make it moving day for this Conservative government”. He said the party would put forward legislation next week restoring the Fixed Term Parliaments Act – introduced by the coalition government in 2011, but repealed by Boris Johnson’s administration in 2022 – which would force a general election on 2 May.Sunak ‘clinging on’ He told an audience of cheering activists – some of whom were carrying cardboard removal boxes – that Rishi Sunak would block the idea because he “knows he’s going to lose”. Sir Ed said: “Four historic by-election wins and sweeping gains in last May’s local elections show that voters across the country are turning to us for change. “We shouldn’t have to wait any longer. It shouldn’t be up to Rishi Sunak to cling on for another 12 months, desperately hoping for something to turn up and causing even more damage as he tries to keep his fractured party behind him.”The Lib Dems have embraced the “blue wall” slogan – focusing heavily on Conservative seats, predominantly though not exclusively in the south and south west of England that they think they can win at the next election.The strategy has paid off in recent by-elections, but some in the party have suggested targeting disgruntled Tory voters alone is not enough.In November, several senior party figures wrote to The Guardian, calling for the party to be bolder in highlighting its policies on Europe, the environment, political reform and public services. So far, Sir Ed’s approach has been rewarded with the party scooping up Conservative parliamentary and council seats.But with a general election looming this year, it may be that opposition parties of all colours come under stronger pressure to spell out what people should vote for, as well as against.In 2019, Mr Hunt held his South West Surrey constituency with a 8,817 majority over his Lib Dem rival. Following boundary changes, he is expected to contest the new seat of Godalming and Ash at the next election, expected this year.Postmasters ‘regret’ Other Lib Dem target seats in Surrey include Esher and Walton, Woking, Dorking and Horley, and Epsom and Ewell. The Liberal Democrats have been recording around 11% in recent opinion polls, compared with around 9% for Reform UK, whose leader Richard Tice has been setting out his own new year pitch to voters.On Thursday, both Mr Sunak and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer will follow suit. Answering questions in Guildford, Sir Ed also said he regretted not asking “tougher questions” of Post Office managers when he was postal affairs minister in the coalition government from 2010 to 2012. Asked why he refused to meet Alan Bates, a postmaster who led the campaign to expose the Post Office Horizon IT scandal, he said: “It is a national scandal… dreadful and it’s been going on for so long. The Conservative government really needs to sort out the compensation. “I regret not having asked the Post Office managers even tougher questions than I did.”Between 1999 and 2015, more than 700 sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses were wrongly prosecuted for false accounting, theft and fraud, on the basis of faulty information from Horizon, a new computer system. Some went to prison. Many were financially ruined. Some have since died.Asked why he accepted the Post Office’s assertions at face value, Sir Ed replied: “I asked really tough questions of Post Office managers and indeed the officials. I wish I’d gone further.” He congratulated Mr Bates for his campaign, he added. Related TopicsConservative PartyPost Office InquiryLiberal DemocratsEd DaveyMore on this storyGeneral election talk will dominate 2024Published31 December 2023Kuenssberg: Five facts from a political year of gains and lossesPublished16 December 2023Davey pounds Tories in election warm-up speechPublished26 September 2023