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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
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Lola Christina Alao,William Mata and Nuray Bulbul

Sir Ed Davey's best 2024 general election campaign moments: from paddleboarding to baking

The Liberal Democrats’ leader Sir Ed Davey has made his second visit to Hampshire during the 2024 general election campaign.

On Tuesday (June 18), Sir Ed joined his party's candidate for Eastleigh, Liz Jarvis, at the Crowd Hill Farm, in Fair Oak.Sir Ed told those present that as part of his strategy of clamping down on water firms that discharge sewage, he would hire 100 new water quality inspectors.

But the abiding memory of his visit was the fun stuff he got up to — a common theme of his election campaign.

Sir Ed Davey falls into the water at an agility course in Warwickshire (Getty Images)

For example, he fell into the water while attempting an agility course in Warwickshire earlier this month.

So what did he get up to in Hampshire and what are the other memorable moments of his 2024 general election campaign?

Here are some of the highlights.

Throwing a frisbee and playing Jenga on a visit to Fair Oak in Hampshire

Sir Ed Davey throws a frisbee at Crowd Hill Farm in Hampshire on June 18 (AFP via Getty Images)

Sir Ed played Jenga with blue blocks representing the Conservative Party's seats during his visit to Crowd Hill Farm.

He also had fun throwing a frisbee.

His party is proposing £10 million a year to increase the number of water quality inspectors and unannounced inspections.

Baking with primary school children

Sir Ed took part in a baking lesson with primary school children on May 31.

The Liberal Democrat leader was at High Beeches Primary School in Harpenden, Hertfordshire, and licked a spoon alongside pupils at a half-term holiday club.

Hitchin and Harpenden constituency has a slender Tory majority with Bim Afolami and is a Lib Dem target seat for the July 4 election. Sir Ed posed for photos alongside youngsters after announcing a policy to extend free school meals to all primary schoolchildren.

“The Liberal Democrats are very progressive politicians,” he said. “That’s who we always have been. It’s who we are. We believe in social justice … If we can get some Liberal Democrat MPs in the next parliament, many more of them, these are the things we’ll provide for.”

Sir Ed licks a spoon at the holiday club at High Beeches Primary School in Harpenden, Hertfordshire (Yui Mok/PA Wire)

Going down a waterslide in Somerset 

Sir Ed joins Frome and East Somerset Lib Dem hopeful Anna Sabine in sliding down the Slip n Slide waterslide in Beckington, just outside Frome, Somerset (Sky News)

Sir Ed joined Frome and East Somerset Lib Dem hopeful Anna Sabine to slide down the Slip n Slide waterslide in Beckington, just outside Frome. 

He slid down three times on May 30, before opting for a yellow bodyboard for a final run.

"I don't particularly like his party, but there's something surprisingly heart-warming about watching Ed Davey going down a waterslide," one user said on X.

Speaking on the deeper reasons behind the stunt, Sir Ed said “We have got hundreds and thousands of children and young people waiting for treatment for their mental health and it is actually appalling and if you talk to their parents/talk to their parents, they are worried not just about their health now but what it's going to do to their education in the future, their future life chances, their future opportunities.

“And they want a party to say how are we going to fix that.

“So we’ve come up — talking to experts — with this set of ideas to ensure every school is going to have a qualified mental health professional to work with the staff so we can gather early intervention and make sure these young people get the treatment to deserve when they need it.”

He said it would be funded with a higher “digital service tax” on companies such as Amazon, Google, and big social media companies.

Riding a bicycle down a steep hill in Knighton, Wales

Sir Ed rides a bike during a visit to Knighton, Wales (Jacob King / PA Wire)

The Lib Dem leader rode a bike while on the campaign trail on May 29. He was joined by Jane Dodds, the leader of the Welsh Lib Dems and David Chadwick, the party’s candidate for the area who were also riding bikes. 

The Brecon, Radnor and Cwm Tawe seat — newly created for the 2024 election — covers Knighton, and is a key battleground for the Liberal Democrats.

Addressing his supporters, Sir Ed said the people of Wales had been “taken for granted” for too long by the Tories.

“Families across Wales are working hard, they are looking after their families, loved ones, they’re playing by the rules,” he said.

“But they’re finding it increasingly hard to make ends meet.”

Sir Ed also expressed his confidence that the party could make gains in Wales.

Paddleboarding on Lake Windermere

Sir Ed Davey falls into the water while paddleboarding on Lake Windermere (PA Wire)

Sir Ed fell into the water (not once, not twice, but three times) while paddleboarding on Lake Windermere on May 28.

He visited the Lake District with local candidate and former party leader Tim Farron.

He admitted one of his plunges into the water was intentional but he "just kept falling in" after that. Sir Ed added that there was a "serious message" behind the stunt.

Sir Ed said local environmental experts should be part of water companies’ boards to ensure sewage spills are taken seriously. He accused Conservative ministers of “sitting on their hands”.

“I think my belief is that politicians need to take the concerns and interests of voters seriously but I'm not sure they need to take themselves seriously all the time and I'm quite happy to have some fun,” he said.

The Lib Dems have pledged that if they win the election, local environment experts within the community would sit on utility firms’ boards as non-executive directors to “improve public accountability and transparency”.

The party has also unveiled plans to abolish Ofwat and introduce a new water regulator to tackle the sewage crisis. It also wants to ban bonuses for water company chief executives.

The announcement came after United Utilities was criticised over the news of a massive sewage spill at Windermere in February.

“These disgraced firms are destroying our treasured lakes and rivers with their filthy sewage dumping — hitting human health, harming our precious environment and damaging the local tourism economy all at the same time,” Sir Ed said.

“Enough is enough. It’s time to get tough on the water industry and a key part of that change must be new ways to hold these firms to account, putting power in the hands of the local communities suffering from this scandal.

“Local environmental experts on company boards could hold water bosses’ feet to the fire and local people would finally have a say in how their water company is run.”

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