Election latest: Reform candidate disowns party amid racism row – and backs Tories | Politics News

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By Matthew Thompson, political correspondent

The finish line is in sight. Most of us, politicians and journalists alike, have been on the road for weeks.

Batteries are running low. And yet, Sir Ed Davey’s enthusiasm for hurling himself into the nearest body of water remains undimmed. The Lib Dems have a strategy, and they’re sticking to it.

Which therefore begs the question: is that strategy actually working?

Such things are hard to measure. But polling data, as well as admittedly less scientific chats with the voting public, suggest it isn’t exactly doing him any harm.

“I mean, it’s entertaining,” says Charlotte, watching Sir Ed prance around with a water noodle in the Cheltenham Lido.

“I don’t know how much it really affects my political view, but he’s likeable. He seems more relatable.”

“I suppose it’s a bit of fun really,” says Joan, another onlooker. I ask her whether she rates the Lib Dems’ chances of winning here, and she replies: “I’d like to think so, but I think possibly not.”

According to Ipsos, a pollster that tracks party leader popularity, Sir Ed’s personal satisfaction ratings have risen seven points since early June. 30% of people are satisfied with him, whilst 35% are not.

If a net satisfaction rating of -5 seems low, it’s worth comparing it to others, with Sir Keir Starmer (-19) and Rishi Sunak (-55) lagging far behind.

The Lib Dems as a party also seem to be performing well, with seat predictions uniformly suggesting considerable gains on the 15 MPs they had before the election. Although this could easily be a function of Tory unpopularity as much as enthusiasm for the Lib Dems.

And speaking to journalists in Cheltenham today, a key Lib Dem target, Sir Ed said the party has expanded the number of seats it thinks are winnable, particularly in the South West of England.

His own constituency visits have suggested a similar pattern, with a trend towards visiting seats that would require larger swings to the Lib Dems.

So the mood on the big yellow bus is about as buoyant as Ed Davey in his customary life jacket. The stunts will keep coming.

But as politicians are fond of repeating, there’s only one poll that counts. And there are still four days to go.

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