5 Jul 2024

‘We’ll have a much stronger voice and a lot more influence,’ says Lib Dem deputy Daisy Cooper

Social Affairs Editor and Presenter

Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey has thanked his supporters for helping the party get its “best result for over 100 years”.

We spoke to Lib Dems deputy leader Daisy Cooper, who won her St Albans seat with an increased majority.

Daisy Cooper: This is a record level result for Liberal Democrats and the best result ever for our party. We’re incredibly humbled that so many people put their faith and trust in us by voting for us in this election, but we’re also incredibly excited. And what I can say to every single person who voted for us, and so many more around the country, our message to the entire country is that we are going to put the NHS and social care front and centre of everything we do in the next parliament.

Jackie Long: It is interesting that you mentioned those couple of issues, because people were divided about the campaign. A series of stunts every day. It clearly worked in terms of the profile, perhaps, but a significant proportion of voters undoubtedly voting for you to get the Tories out.

Daisy Cooper: What we heard on the doorstep was there were huge numbers of people who were voting for us positively because they liked the fact that we had a plan to save our NHS, to take real action on the cost of living and to protect our local environment. But absolutely, we know that there were people who were voting tactically in this election because fundamentally people were sick to the back teeth of this Conservative government and where we were the key challengers, they were prepared to vote for us, and look at the result. We now have a record level of Liberal Democrat MPs.

Jackie Long: What do you do about the fact now you’re mainly a party of southern England, winning Tory seats with an anti-Tory campaign, ‘get them out’, how do you keep those people on board?

Daisy Cooper: We’ve had some fantastic results around the home counties, but we’re also back in the West Country as well. We’ve got seats like Westmorland and Hazel Grove, not far from Manchester, and we’ve got two seats in Scotland, so we absolutely have seats…

Jackie Long: But how do you keep them on board?

Daisy Cooper: Because every single Liberal Democrat MP is going to be a champion for their local area. That’s what we’re known for. We’re known for putting our constituents first. We’re known for putting our constituencies first and we’ll campaign to protect local health services wherever they are within the UK.

Jackie Long: And a lot of people point to the fact no VAT on private school fees makes a lot of sense.

Daisy Cooper: We have said as a matter of principle that we don’t support that policy because we simply believe that you should not put VAT on education. But we have very ambitious plans for our schools here in England. We want there to be free school meals, more funding per head, fixing the SEND crisis as well. So we’ve got a very ambitious set of proposals for fixing the crisis in our schools without having to take that particular measure.

Jackie Long: But how do you put pressure on a Labour government to do all of those things?

Daisy Cooper: If you look at the last parliament where we were a very small parliamentary party, we were leading and winning the battle of ideas. So we were the first party to call for the windfall tax, and then that was copied by Labour and then the Conservatives. First party to call for the energy price hike to be scrapped, copied by Labour and the Conservatives. And likewise, with our proposals to tackle the sewage scandal as well. So we managed to do that with just 15 MPs. Now we have 70. So I’m in no doubt that we are going to have a much stronger voice and a lot more influence.

Jackie Long: Less concerned now about how the electoral system works? Reform got way more votes than you, less than a 15th of the seats. An electoral system you’ve railed against for years working for you now.

Daisy Cooper: We are always concerned about this electoral system because it isn’t a fair electoral system.

Jackie Long: It’s worked well for you this time.

Daisy Cooper: But only because we’ve decided we have to play within the rules, and that’s what we did. But, fundamentally, it’s still unfair as a point of principle, as a point of our democracy, we do believe that every single vote should matter. Every single vote should count in a general election. And under this very unfair system, that isn’t the case.

Jackie Long: But it’s an unfair system that has worked very well for you this time. Given that, does that drop this down your list of priorities now?

Daisy Cooper: No, of course it doesn’t. It’s been in our manifesto in every single election for decades and decades and decades, and it will remain in our manifesto for as long as we have to campaign for it.

Jackie Long: We look at Reform and a huge number of independents now. A very, very fractured opposition. Is that a problem?

Daisy Cooper: Time will tell, won’t it? But what I can say, for the Liberal Democrats, is that we will be a very united party in parliament and we will campaign to fix our NHS, to fix our social care system, tackle the cost of living crisis and put an end to the sewage dumping scandal.

Jackie Long: But how do you work as an opposition, given the very disparate nature of the opposition now?

Daisy Cooper: Time will tell how that works out. But fundamentally, we are a much larger party. We’re now the third largest party in British politics. We will have a much stronger voice, and we will be campaigning on those issues that the public have told us are important, like the NHS.