The speech made by Ed Davey, the Leader of the Liberal Democrats, in the House of Commons on 21 April 2022.
I will start by going back to the excellent speech by the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant). In his concluding remarks, he talked about the economic crisis facing our country and our constituents. He is right to bring that context to the debate today, because it speaks about the need to have a Government with a leader who can command respect.
With inflation at 7%—its highest rate for 30 years—and rising still, with families facing the deepest fall in their living standards since the 1950s, with the pain of energy bills and rising food prices compounded by the Government’s unfair tax rises, we know that our constituents are facing real hardship. It is not just a cost of living crisis; it is a cost of living emergency. At such a time, the country needs a Government that will be focused on tackling that economic emergency. Crucially, it needs a Government that it can trust—with, as the hon. Gentleman said, moral authority.
I do not believe this Prime Minister and this Government have that. I believe that the Prime Minister’s behaviour has been profoundly damaging to that trust. He broke the very laws he himself introduced: laws he was telling everyone else to follow, laws that he rightly said were essential to save lives and protect our NHS, laws that forced countless families to make enormous sacrifices.
I believe it is time that Conservative MPs listened to the British people, the people who kept to the rules and made those sacrifices. For example, a small business owner in Bramhall said:
“Whilst I had to sit and watch the business I had built up for thirty-five years collapse because my customers and I obeyed the rules, the Prime Minister decided he would ignore them. My family and I will never forgive him and those that treated us like fools.”
The hon. Member for Cheadle (Mary Robinson) would do well to reflect on her constituent’s words when she continues to support this lawbreaking Prime Minister. Or there is this message to the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Caroline Ansell) from a constituent of hers, who attended his father’s funeral just four days after the Prime Minister’s birthday party:
“We sat apart. We didn’t hug each other. We weren’t allowed to have a wake to celebrate his life. I just came home and cried that he was gone… When the next election comes around, I will remember.”
A constituent of the hon. Member for Lewes (Maria Caulfield) said:
“My parents were unable to attend my uncle’s funeral. This pain will remain with them. The conduct and subsequent untruths of the Prime Minister are disgraceful and only add insult to their hurt.”
That is the key point. It is not just the fact that the Prime Minister broke his own laws, but that he thought he could get away with it by taking the British people for fools. He stood at the Dispatch Box and told this House and the country, repeatedly, that there was no party—that all guidance and rules were followed at all times in No. 10. The fact that he thought he could get away with such absurd claims—claims that, let us be honest, we all knew were false at the time, and that the police have now confirmed were false—speaks volumes. It says clearly that this Prime Minister takes the British people for granted. He thinks the rules that apply to the rest of us simply do not apply to him.
As a constituent of the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond) says:
“The Prime Minister seems a man without shame and devoted to one principle only: staying in Number Ten. He is a disgrace to the office of Prime Minister and an insult to the millions of the electorate who played by the book.”
Stephen Hammond (Wimbledon) (Con)
I would be grateful to understand where that quote comes from, because I do not recognise it.
If he has not written to the hon. Gentleman, I will make sure that he does.
The fact that Conservative MPs have let the Prime Minister get away with all this until now speaks volumes about them. They could have kicked this Prime Minister out of Downing Street 10 months ago and begun to restore the public’s trust and confidence in the Government and in our democracy. Instead, Conservative MPs have so far—
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Unless I misheard the right hon. Gentleman, he has just said that I wrote something—[Interruption.]
Order. He says he did not, so that clears that mess up.
Instead, Conservative MPs have so far ducked their responsibility, only eroding that public trust and confidence even further.
The Solicitor General, for example, once said that his red line for resignation from the Government was if there was a “scintilla of a suggestion” of unlawful action. Well, the Prime Minister has been fined by the police, yet the hon. and learned Member for Cheltenham (Alex Chalk) is still drawing his Government salary. By keeping the Prime Minister in his job, Conservative MPs have made themselves guilty by association. They should know that if they vote to kick the can down the road again, if they vote to bend the rules to let one of their own off the hook again, if they do not hold this Prime Minister to account for his law-breaking and lies by voting him out, their constituents will hold them to account at the ballot box.
Perhaps the hon. Member for Winchester (Steve Brine) should listen to the vet in his constituency who says:
“If I broke the rules and lied about it, I would get struck off. So why hasn’t the Prime Minister been?”
Lifelong Conservative voters in Guildford are saying they cannot vote for the Conservatives any more. Conservative Members complain about elections; the problem is that if they will not hold this Prime Minister to account, the electorate will have to hold this Prime Minister to account.
A constituent of the right hon. Member for Wokingham (John Redwood) tells me that his MP—
Order. We are mentioning a load of Members and Members’ constituents. I hope the Members were notified that they were going to be namechecked.
I am sorry but I have not notified them. [Interruption.]
Shh. So I would suggest that we do not name any more unless the Members are aware of it. It is only fair that we do that.
I take your ruling, Mr Speaker. I was quoting from their constituents. That was the point, so that their voices could be heard in this House.
The past 24 hours have shown that the Government are in total disarray. Conservative MPs are clearly too ashamed to back the Prime Minister but still too complicit to sack him. The people each of us represent know the truth. They know the Prime Minister deliberately misled them and deliberately misled this House. It is an insult to their constituents, especially bereaved families in their seats, and it will be another Conservative stain on our democracy. If Conservative Members fail to sack this Prime Minister, they will leave the British people no choice. In the council elections on 5 May, let alone the next general election, it will become the patriotic duty of every voter to send this Conservative Government a message that enough is enough by voting against them. The Prime Minister has held this House, and the whole country, in contempt for far too long. Now it must be this House’s turn to hold him in contempt.