Kevin Foster needs reminding: “Charity envieth not”

Meme by Sadie Parker. Map shows likely post election map. Torbay tactical vote tbc. Likely to be LibDem

There has never been a general election like this one. The Conservative and Unionist (Tory) Party has made gaffe after blunder after miscalculation after error after outrage. Keir Starmer could sit at home and do nothing for the next three weeks and still find himself prime minister on Friday, July 5th, so amateur and awful is the campaign by the party that considers itself “the natural party of government”. Yet through it all, there is one man who has been running counter to the current: the Liberal Democrats (LibDems) leader Ed Davey. Whether it’s falling off of a paddle board in Lake Windermere, or enjoying a soaking at Frome’s Slip ‘n’ Slide water attraction, or cycling in Glastonbury, or taking his MPs on scary rides at Thorpe Park, or receiving yet another dunking on an aquatic obstacle course, Davey is having a blast.

There is method to Davey’s madness. Each stunt is designed to draw attention to a key policy, attention that our media would not normally give him, so fixated is it on a certain ultra-right-wing politician whose party is a private limited company that boasts one MP and two local councillors. You’d never know the LibDems won 104 extra seats in the latest local elections, taking their total to well over 3,100 in 69 councils across England and Wales, or that they are defending 15 seats in parliament…

And so to the Torbay constituency, where Davey engaged in the relatively tame sport of sailing. Torbay is only 79 on the LibDems target list, as the incumbent Kevin Foster won a majority of 17,751 there in 2019, yet there is a genuine chance of them winning here. Election guru Frank Lunz told the Tories a year ago that if they had a majority of 15,000 votes or less, they were in real trouble. Now that warning has been extended to 20,000 votes. On June 7, Peter Fenton came within nine votes of taking a council seat in Wellswood from the Tories who have held it forever. Incidentally, the victor was Hazel Foster, wife of the above-mentioned Tory (candidate) MP and former minister Kevin Foster. With a following wind of tactical voting, the LibDems could take his seat.

The Disabled Sailing Association

For his visit, the local LibDems candidate, Steve Darling, arranged for Davey to receive sailing lessons from the Disabled Sailing Association in Torquay, a charity run by the disabled for the disabled.

“It was only a few weeks ago that the Disabled Sailing Association in Torquay received the Kings Award for Voluntary Service and this was why I selected them for a visit from Ed Davey yesterday. It was great to see coverage of them on regional TV,” Darling posted on X

Davey has a disabled son and is heavily involved in his care. He was also a young carer, looking after both his terminally ill mother, who died when he was 15, and later his grandmother with whom he went to live (as his father had died of cancer when he was 4). It is unsurprising then that Davey chose Torbay to launch a new policy of free personal care for older or disabled people at home. Davey believes that this policy, combined with raising care workers’ pay and status, will help alleviate the hospital crisis and enable people to stay in their homes. It will be funded by reversing tax cuts given to big banks by the Conservatives, covering the estimated £2.7bn cost by 2028-29. Learning to sail with the Disabled Sailing Association was therefore the perfect tie-in for this policy announcement.

Kevin Foster’s epic sulk

Ed Davey was delighted to have spent time with the charity. He joked on X (formerly known as Twitter):

“Ahoy there! On the lookout for a Prime Minister to photobomb…

“A big thanks to the Disabled Sailing Association for a pleasant morning on the water. Their dedication to providing safe, enjoyable sailing experiences for disabled people is truly inspiring ⛵”

He was referring to the day a boatful of LibDems led by deputy leader Daisy Cooper and the Henley and Thame LibDem candidate, Freddie van Mierlo, sailed past prime minister Rishi Sunak brandishing their distinctive diamond-shaped, fluorescent orange placards as Sunak chatted to rowers on camera at the Leander Club.

Sadly, not everyone was pleased with Ed Davey’s sailing trip in Torquay. ITV was soon reporting that Kevin Foster had resigned as a member of the Disabled Sailing Association in protest at the charity having played host to Ed Davey. This seemed like an extraordinary overreaction, especially as the LibDems had made a donation to the charity and ensured it had lots of free publicity. Just a short while before, Foster had lauded the Disabled Sailing Association for winning the King’s Award. He even ran a fund for the charity in his name (listed on the donations page). Could it be true? Yes.

Foster would do well to remember the famous, poetic passage from 1 Corinthians 13:

meme by Sadie Parker

Dark night of the Tory soul

Such churlish behaviour is becoming increasingly common in Tory circles. Indeed, the Tory manifesto for this general election can be summed up as squeezing the poor, disabled, and vulnerable to give tax cuts to the rich. Although Ed Davey’s nemesis is not Kevin Foster but right-wing pundit Quentin Letts. He wrote of Davey’s campaign launch video, which spoke of his experience as a carer and garnered praise across the political spectrum:

“Simultaneous to his high jinks, Sir Ed wants us to feel sorry for him, so he keeps talking about being a carer and having been orphaned as a teenager. He did this again at the manifesto launch, describing his parents’ early deaths.

“At one point he choked back tears. He will consider this a presentational success. On me, alas, it merely had the effect of a slice of overly rich carrot cake. After you with that sick bowl, Perkins.” (Source: The Lib Dems’ launch was one of the most emotively manipulative pieces of saccharine hucksterism I’ve had thrust down my gullet, The Daily Mail, June 10, 2024)

The kindest thing any voter could do for the Tories in this general election is to vote them out of office. That may mean holding your nose and voting for a party you wouldn’t normally vote for to topple a Tory MP, or to prevent one from being elected. The Tories need to wander in the wilderness, rediscover their humanity, and figure out who they are, what they stand for, and what they have to offer the British people that we might want. They have lost their soul not merely in a political sense, but in a moral one, too. The Tories do not deserve to hold office in their present incarnation.

West Country Voices will keep you apprised of tactical voting options for constituencies in the South-West (Devon, Dorset, Cornwall, and Somerset), so look out for updates to the article below, in particular.