Every bonkers Lib Dem stunt from ‘smashing the blue wall’ to giant cannon

Lib-dem leader Sir Ed Davey has lit a blue “cannon” with a big yellow match to mark the party’s by-election victory in Somerton and Frome this morning, the latest entry in a growing list of campaign stunts devised by the party.

Sir Ed said: “I’m really starting to like by-elections. The Lib Dems are back in the West Country!”

Standing next to Sarah Dyke, the newly-elected Lib Dem MP for the constituency, he blew a big confetti cannon which read “Get the clowns out of No10”, celebrating his party’s achievement in the former Conservative safe seat.

The Lib Dems, who famously struggle to receive media attention, doubled down on their old tricks and developed an effective strategy to deal with the problem: practical jokes and visual metaphors.

While some viewers have described the stunts as “bizarre” and “cringeworthy”, this hasn’t deterred the hardworking Lib Dem media team from coming up with new ways to make headlines, using every means at their disposal – including hammers, tractors and heavy artillery.

Despite mixed reactions to these stunts, one thing is certain: when Sir Ed is around, no seat is truly safe.

After the 2021 Amersham and Chesham by-election, the Lib Dem leader took matters into his own hands, knocking down a literal blue wall erected by his media team.

His weapon of choice? An orange hammer. He delivered the message in terms that could be understood even by less political-savvy among us: Tory seats, we’re coming for you.

To celebrate their victory in Tiverton and Honiton last year, Sir Ed even unveiled a literal door, his message prescient in its simplicity: “Show Boris Johnson the door.”

Given the recent by-election successes, some could argue this mix of humour and mischief is paying off, with the party delivering on its campaign objectives one low-budget stunt at a time.

Another example is the Tory Bubble, which made headlines after the North Shropshire by-election in 2021. Sir Ed popped a giant blue balloon, his wit sharper than a pin: “Burst Boris Johnson’s bubble.”

So far, Sir Ed has willingly lent himself to most of these jokes, even if they involve riding heavy machinery to smash down a stack of hay bales painted Tory blue, which is exactly what he did at a pre-election campaign event in Hertfordshire earlier this year.

Journalists and the public observe in amusement, commending the effort of the Lib Dem media team while acknowledging the sometimes too-evident “cringe factor” that some of these stunts exude.

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It appears, however, that Sir Ed is just contributing to a long-standing tradition established by his predecessors.

Back in 2015, then-leader Nick Clegg tried to build momentum for his campaign by taking to a zip-wire, leading to headlines along the lines of: “Can Nick Clegg pull off his high wire act?” Looking at the stunt with the benefit of hindsight, it is safe to say the answer was a resounding no.

Even Paddy Ashdown, the late Lib Dem leader, was not immune to such tricks. He famously “ate his hat” in an episode of BBC Question Time in 2015 after he used the phrase in the pre-election period, promising to eat his hat if the polls were right in estimating 47 losses for the Lib Dems.

The party went on to lose 49 seats and, in true Lib Dem fashion, the veteran politician proceeded to eat an edible version of his hat on live television.

In the meantime, celebrations continue in Somerton and Frome, where Liberal Democrat candidate Sarah Dyke won with a majority of 11,008.

Speaking after her win, Ms Dyke said: “Tonight has been a stunning and historic victory for the Liberal Democrats, and it shows once and for all, the Liberal Democrats are back in the West Country.”

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