19 June 2024

Lib Dem deputy visits ‘knife-edge’ constituency which Jeremy Hunt is contesting

19 June 2024

Jeremy Hunt “has to go”, the Liberal Democrats’ deputy leader has said on the campaign trail in Surrey.

Daisy Cooper visited Farncombe in the Godalming and Ash constituency on Wednesday, where her party has launched a push to claim a high-profile scalp in the General Election on Thursday July 4.

The Conservative Chancellor has admitted he faces a “knife-edge” battle to win the new seat, created after a boundary review.

His 2019 election majority was 8,817 in the former South West Surrey constituency which included Farncombe.

Ms Cooper said: “For too long, the Conservatives have been taking our country for granted.

“They’re out of touch, they’re incompetent and people have had enough.

“Right around our country and in swathes of the ‘blue wall’, people are telling us they’re working hard, they’re raising their families, they’re caring for their loved ones but they’re really struggling to make ends meet, and when they turn to our public services for help they suddenly find that everything is broken, and nothing works.

“So there are many parts of the country where Liberal Democrats are the best placed to beat the Conservatives, and we know that it’s time to get rid of this Conservative Government.

“The Conservatives have to go. The Conservative Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has to go.”

At a press conference on Friday last week, Reform UK leader Nigel Farage said he “would have thought” Mr Hunt would be “very, very at home” with the Liberal Democrats.

Ms Cooper said she would “absolutely not” welcome the Chancellor into the Liberal Democrats’ ranks.

“The fact of the matter is that Jeremy Hunt has endorsed the plans of Liz Truss,” she said.

“He said that he’s been trying to pursue more of her policies.

“So, absolutely not, the Liberal Democrats are trying to beat Jeremy Hunt in this election because he and his party have been responsible for an appalling cost-of-living crisis and for sending people’s mortgage bills spiralling and for food prices being sky high.”

Her party’s leader Sir Ed Davey sat around the same Cabinet table as Mr Hunt during the coalition years, before 2015.

“During those coalition years, the Liberal Democrats fought the Conservatives every single day,” Ms Cooper said.

“We won some battles but we didn’t win all of them.”

Ms Cooper listed same-sex marriage, free school meals and the pensions triple lock among the party’s success.

She was also asked which issues voters had raised on the doorsteps in Home Counties constituencies like Godalming and Ash.

Ms Cooper said: “They’re fed up of seeing their local health services driven into the ground. They’re fed up of seeing their local hospital left to crumble.

“They’re fed up of seeing their mortgages go up, their food bills go up and they’re really sick to the back teeth of the fact the Conservatives have allowed water companies to pump sewage into their beautiful rivers and lakes.”

Boundary changes mean Mr Hunt is standing in the newly created seat, which would have had a Conservative majority of 10,720 if it had been fought on those boundaries at the 2019 election.

In a reference to then-cabinet minister Michael Portillo’s Enfield Southgate election loss in 1997, Mr Hunt was asked whether he faced a new “Portillo moment”.

He told broadcasters: “This is a very marginal constituency. I’ve always treated it as a marginal constituency.

“I’m fighting for every vote. I think that I can win the seat. But I don’t take anything for granted.

“It is on a knife edge. And that’s what I’m knocking on doors for, six hours every day, meeting lots of people, making the arguments.”

Contesting Godalming and Ash are Conservative Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, the Liberal Democrats’ Paul Follows, Reform UK’s Graham Drage, Ruby Tucker of The Green Party, Labour’s James Walsh and Harriet Williams of the Women’s Equality Party.

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