Steerpike

Was Ed Davey ‘a bit right-wing’ for a Tory coalition partner?

Was Ed Davey 'a bit right-wing' for a Tory coalition partner?
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The Lib Dem leadership showdown between Layla Moran and Ed Davey has become something of an ideological battle over the soul of the party. Moran is explicitly courting disgruntled left-wingers, telling Business Insider that under her leadership the party would be 'even more radical than Labour' and is pledging to match the Corbynite promise of free broadband. Meanwhile, Davey is pitching himself as the pragmatist's choice. He has, in the past, defended the coalition (even if he strenuously avoided mentioning the dreaded 'c' word since the general election). Though lately he has been keen to burnish his progressive credentials by talking the language of radical BLM campaigners. 

Only Mr S can't help but wonder whether an old interview from one of Davey's coalition colleagues could now come back to haunt him. Back in 2014, former Tory MP (now Lord) Greg Barker, who served under Davey at the department of energy, told the New Statesman that Davey was 'a bit right-wing for me', adding: 'He’s rather laissez-faire. I would favour slightly more radical market interventions.' 

A spokesperson for Ed Davey disputes the idea he is a 'bit right-wing': 

Ed’s campaign is going from strength to strength, with nearly 60% of member nominations and leading Liberal Democrats such as Tim Farron, Christine Jardine and Shirley Williams backing him to be the next leader. It is inevitable that with this kind of momentum, increasingly desperate claims will be made. Ed's entire career is a record of taking on the Tories and winning – from his seat in Kingston to in government where he tripled renewable energy, made the UK a world leader in offshore wind and cut people's energy bills.

It seems Barker has had something of a conversion since that interview. He tells Steerpike: 

When Ed came into the Department in 2012 there was a real change in atmosphere and a much more partisan divide replaced the previously blurred Coalition party lines. He never let anyone doubt for a minute he was first and foremost a Liberal Democrat and seemed to relish any opportunity to pick a fight with Number 10.
Written bySteerpike

Steerpike is The Spectator's gossip columnist, serving up the latest tittle tattle from Westminster and beyond. Email tips to steerpike@spectator.co.uk.

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