Ed Davey calls for Starmer and Sunak to commit to cross-party talks on social care crisis

By John Mercury March 17, 2024

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey has called for Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer to include a “cast iron commitment” to cross party talks on social care in their election manifestos.

In a speech at the party’s spring conference in York, he said the prime minister and Labour leader should bring their ideas “to the table” as the crisis in care needs a “long term solution” lasting beyond one term in parliament.

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Sir Ed said: “Like so many big challenges, fixing social care will take a different kind of politics.

“Because it needs a long-term agreement. One that will stand the test of time – and last beyond one parliament and one party’s turn in government.

“That’s why we are calling on all parties to include in their manifestos a cast-iron commitment to finally hold cross-party talks on social care.”

Sir Ed, who is a carer for his disabled teenage son, said finding a solution to care has been “kicked down the road for far too long”, with people facing “catastrophic costs” and forced to sell their own homes “just because they or their loved ones need care”.

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Fears for social care sector

In a direct message to his political rivals, he said: “Rishi Sunak, Keir Starmer… come to the table. Bring your ideas.

“Let’s finally sort this out.”

In the Conservatives’ 2019 manifesto, then-prime minister Boris Johnson said that “nobody needing care should be forced to sell their home to pay for it”.

He later announced plans to cap the costs of social care, but they were delayed by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt in the November 2022 budget.

Both the Conservatives and Labour have been largely quiet on the matter, with the looming general election dominated by issues like the economy, NHS and immigration.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey during a visit to Brookside Primary School, Ashbourne, Stockport. Picture date: Friday January 12, 2024.
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey. Pic: PA

Sir Ed used much of his speech to goad the prime minister into calling an election now, saying the date of the next vote “is the only thing left that Rishi Sunak controls any more”.

“He certainly doesn’t control his party, certainly not his cabinet, certainly not the healthcare crisis or the economy,” he said.

“In fact, the prime minister sounds like he’s given up.”

He agued his party was the only one to offer “transformational change”, while the Tories and Labour were just “tinkering around the edges”.

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As well as talking about social care, Sir Ed used his speech to discuss issues the party has been heavily campaigning on like the NHS, sewage in the rivers and the need for electoral reform.

The party leader also touched on what he would do about Brexit – an issue he’s been reluctant to be drawn on in the past.

He said he wants to set the UK “on the path back to the Single Market”.

“Our plan to repair the damage the Conservatives have done and, in time, to restore Britain’s place at the heart of Europe. Where we belong,” he said.

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The Lib Dems are hoping to make gains in traditional Conservative strongholds at the election, particularly seeking to win over voters in the South and southwest of England – the so-called “blue wall”.

The party has struggled at general elections since its coalition with the Conservatives in 2010, winning only 11 seats at the last election in 2019.

But it has since gained formerly Tory constituencies across southern England in a series of by-elections, including Chesham and Amersham in Buckinghamshire, Frome in Somerset, Tiverton and Honiton in Devon, and North Shropshire.

Sir Ed’s speech came as the prime minister faced reports that some Conservative MPs are plotting to replace him before the election, and criticism over his handling of the emergence of alleged racist remarks about Labour’s Diane Abbott by major Tory donor Frank Hester.

But earlier cabinet minister Marker Harper dismissed rumours of a mutiny, telling Sky News the prime minister will lead the country into the next election and his decisions “will pay off”.

The election must be held by January 2025 at the latest, but Mr Sunak has said his “working assumption” is that it will happen in the second half of this year.


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