Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey sat down with the Free Press ahead of the Chesham and Amersham by-election on June 17.

In addition to talking up local Liberal Democrat candidate, and businesswoman, Sarah Green, he also discussed Covid, pausing HS2, and planning reforms.

Voters will soon head to the polls to elect a new MP for Chesham and Amersham, following the death of Dame Cheryl Gillan, who died on April 4, after a long illness, aged 68.

Here’s what he had to say:

BFP: Chesham and Amersham has historically been one of the safer Tory seats in Bucks. How confident are you of a Lib Dem win?

ED: “I think there’s a real chance. Clearly there is a mountain to climb, but the fact that we took control of Amersham Town Council last month from a standing start suggests there is latent support.

“Although it has traditionally been a Conservative seat, I think that’s meant the Conservatives have taken the people of Chesham and Amersham for granted.

“What I’ve found during the campaign…is people are surprised they’re having people knock on their doors and asking their views.

“They’re surprised they’re hearing from political parties, and I think some people who have just voted Conservative out of habit are saying, ‘We don’t have to vote Conservative, there’s a real alternative – and it’s the Liberal Democrats’.

“They like what we’ve been saying on planning, and potholes have been a big issue – and they like what they’re hearing about Sarah Green.

“I think this is all up for grabs. Yes, it will be a shock if we win, but it’s something we have been building towards, and as other parties realise we are the party to beat, we’re getting support from all sides.”

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BFP: How would a Lib Dem victory impact issues surrounding HS2 and high street recovery after Covid for local people?

ED: “On HS2…what needs to happen is the tunnelling should be paused.

“It seems HS2 has some information it has not shared with the people of Chesham and Amersham – which may well contradict its promise of 2019 – that the tunnelling would not impact the water table, water quality.

“Sarah Green…said the tunnelling should be paused until that information is shared, debated and any mitigation measures are looked into.

“Local Liberal Democrat activists, before this by-election, had been campaigning against the way HS2 management had been riding roughshod over local opinion.

“I talked to activists in the Chesham party who had been campaigning against a proposed roundabout which HS2 said was absolutely vital; turned out it wasn’t, and they stopped a big roundabout that was unnecessary being built.

“If you have powerful voices who are independent and won’t just take the government whip, they can stand up to HS2 and the government.

“High streets are being affected by the pandemic, by business rates, by Amazon…and Liberal Democrats have been doing a huge amount of campaigning, before and during the pandemic, to try to support small businesses, and the self-employed, who are being hit by this tragedy.

“Having a strong voice, like Sarah Green, to stand up for the shops, retailers and businesses…would be really powerful.

“The Liberal Democrats have strong policies on reforming business rates, which would absolutely benefit those businesses struggling at the moment.

“We’ve argued, over the last year, the government have forgotten about three million people…from pandemic support schemes…and a lot will be in places like Chesham and Amersham.”

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BFP: Sarah Green’s Conservative rival has suggested turning the Chilterns into a national park. They both live in the constituency and are businesspeople – what separates them?

ED: “Sarah is a young businesswoman who, I think, has got the environment at heart.

“She’s a real independent voice, she will stand up for the people of Chesham and Amersham, and I think her Conservative opponent will basically do what he’s told.

“I think [that constituency] want an independent voice and if they want that they should vote for Sarah Green.

“Planning reforms before Parliament are an imminent threat to this constituency…that’s happening now, and while a national park is an interesting idea, rolled out just before people go to the polls in a by-election suggests the Conservatives are worried.

“A national park takes years to get through and these planning reforms are here. People need to look at what’s before them…and going round the Chalfonts, it’s clear they will be built over by the time any national park legislation could go through.

“Voting for Sarah Green and the Liberal Democrats will send a powerful message to the Conservative government that they must stop these planning reforms.”

He added: “The next general election outcome will be decided by how well the Liberal Democrats do against the Conservatives.”

Other candidates include Carolyne Culver (Green Party), Brendan Donnelly (Rejoin EU), Peter Fleet (Conservative), Carla Gregory (Breakthrough Party), Adrian Oliver (Freedom Alliance), Natasa Pantelic (Labour), Alex Wilson (Reform UK).