Kingston and Surbiton election results: Sir Ed Davey blames Corbyn not Swinson for Lib Dem let down

By Josh Graham
December 13 2019, 09.30

Sir Ed Davey, MP for Kingston and Surbiton, blamed the fear of Jeremy Corbyn rather than Jo Swinson’s leadership for the Liberal Democrats’ disappointing performance.

Ex-Lib Dem leader Ms Swinson’s campaign was widely panned even before she lost her seat to the Scottish National Party in East Dunbartonshire by 149 votes, a short while after Sir Ed had retained his seat by increasing his majority over the Conservatives in Kingston and Surbiton to 10,489.

Sir Ed refused to comment on Ms Swinson’s future before her result was declared and subsequent resignation officially confirmed.

When asked if he would have run a better campaign than his colleague – who defeated him in the 2019 Liberal Democrat leadership election – he diverted blame onto Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

He said: “I think the issue more broadly in this campaign was the fear of Jeremy Corbyn.

“We heard that on the doorsteps, and we have seen it all over the country.”

He expressed his concern for the country’s future and explained that Mr Corbyn’s unpopularity was a double-edged sword in the election: not only boosting the Tory vote but also draining support from the Lib Dems.

Sir Ed said: “I do worry that our country now faces a bleak midwinter. A Brexit bleak midwinter.

“I will do my best to make sure that damage to our country is minimised.

“I think our First Past the Post system tends to push people one way or the other and it can be very, very difficult for a third party to break through, particularly when people are extremely worried by one particular outcome.

“I think the Conservative Party shouldn’t be revelling in some sort of Brexit coronation.

“This is more a rejection of Jeremy Corbyn than people being positive about Boris Johnson.”

Sir Ed was relieved the electorate’s reluctance to see Jeremy Corbyn in Downing Street didn’t derail his own campaign.

He said: “We were worried here in Kingston and Surbiton that people would have that same reaction. Fortunately I think people knew that Mr Corbyn’s candidate could not possibly win here and as a result they were able to trust it with me again.”

Sir Ed couldn’t hide his delight at being re-elected in Kingston and Surbiton where he first became an MP in 1997.

At the end of the Conservative and Lib Dem coalition government in 2015, Sir Ed, who had served as environment secretary from 2012-2015, lost his seat to the Conservatives before regaining it two years later.

He added: “I would obviously like to thank my amazing team, who have delivered a brilliant result here.

“We are going to have a party soon!

“I will return to Westminster with my second best ever majority here.

“I know what my constituents want and I will obviously be reflecting that in parliament.”

Sir Ed received 31,103 votes, ahead of Conservative candidate Aphra Brandreth, who registered 20,614.

Only in 2001 did Sir Ed record a bigger margin of victory than in 2019, winning by 15,676 votes.

Despite failing to meet expectations across the UK as a whole, winning only 11 seats, Sir Ed was pleased with the Lib Dem’s results in south west London.

Neighbouring constituencies Richmond Park and Twickenham were won by Lib Dem MPs Sarah Olney and Munira Wilson, respectively.

Sir Ed warned that although he feels the Lib Dems will eventually be able to translate their success in south west London into more impressive results on a wider scale, it will take a considerable period of time to become a reality. 

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