THERE’s a lot to keep track of these days. Every day brings new rules and fresh debates around distancing in schools, talking in hairdressers or panting in gyms. There’s only so much information a person can take in, and in this context no-one can be blamed for forgetting about Ed Davey.

“Which one is he again?” you may ask. “Is he the evangelical Christian one? The one who was on Strictly? The one who looks weird eating bacon sandwiches? Help me out here.”

Ed Davey is only too happy to help you out. He will spare you the trouble of googling and tell you who he is and what he stands for. There is no reason to double-check! You’ve got enough on your plate.

Edward J Davey is currently the acting leader of the Liberal Democrats. Remember them? Remember 10 years ago, when everyone agreed with Nick and no-one had heard of “Brexit” or “Covid-19”? Ah, those were the days. Don’t concern yourself with the intervening decade. That’s all in the past now.

“Just as Paddy Ashdown did in the 1990s, I reject the idea of equidistance,” tweeted Ed this week, after his LibDem leadership candidacy was confirmed. “I’m an anti-Conservative politician and have spent my life fighting the Tories, and winning. That’s how I would lead the party.”

Well, that sounds marvellous! What a record of achievement, what a bold stance. Heck, is there any point having a leadership election when this guy is in the mix? Step aside, Keir Starmer, there’s a new opposition leader in town!

Here we have a winner who has trounced the Tories in every election since, let me just check … 1997. Wow. This guy must really be something special to have managed such a run of … oh wait, sorry. It appears he lost his seat to a Tory in 2015. How strange. I wonder why.

But still, that’s a lot of years of winning. He must have backed a lot of anti-Conservative policies. Let’s see … hmm, he seems to be big on free trade, deregulation and privatisation. When he was a junior minister in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills he seemed keen on cutting red tape for employers. Wait a minute. When he was what? Ed Davey is that guy?

That guy who went on to become energy secretary in the coalition government? Maybe I’m suffering from lockdown brain here but wasn’t that a coalition between the LibDems and the … wait, it’ll come to me … Conservative party?

The National:

READ MORE: LibDem who was in Tory cabinet claims he's spent a lifetime fighting Tories

Now, it may be an unpopular stance, but I’m not one for shouting “YOU WERE IN THE COALITION THOUGH!” any time a high-profile LibDem opens their mouth to speak. Like it or not, the evidence does support the party’s claim – made at the time and ever since – to have limited the damage the Tories wanted to do.

Sure, plenty of left-leaning LibDem voters might have been dismayed by the link-up, imagining their votes would be used to nudge Labour to the right rather than the Tories to the left, but others may have been aware they were voting for a party that was “equidistant” from both and willing to collaborate with either. Who knows what Ed Davey thought he was voting for when he voted (presumably) for himself, or what he thought he was signing up for when he joined the government.

Coalition is about compromise, and voters in most other European countries view it as a perfectly normal state of affairs, rather than an unforgivable betrayal by any small party that chooses to get into bed with a larger one. Let’s be honest, no-one voting for the LibDems in 2010 actually believed they’d be able to form even a minority government, let alone achieve a shock landslide and have the chance to implement their manifesto pledges in full. That would have been silly. Even sillier than anyone believing Jo Swinson was headed to Number 10 last December.

But what’s sillier still is Ed Davey thinking he can completely rewrite history and present himself an anti-Conservative despite not just being part of the coalition government but being a proponent of many “liberal” economic policies that sound an awful lot like Conservative ones.

One suspects his audacious rebranding attempt has a lot to do with the fact that his opponent, Layla Moran, made the ingenious strategic move of not getting elected until 2017. It is probably a source of concern to Davey that Moran, if she wished, could run on a platform of “I WASN’T IN THE COALITION THOUGH!”

Perhaps Davey watched from between his fingers as Swinson issued grovelling public apologies for backing the benefits cap and the bedroom tax, and vowed to avoid a similar fate. He had two options going forward – say he wasn’t sorry and he would do it all again, or simply pretend he couldn’t possibly have been involved, because he’s anti-Conservative.

He’s been centre-right, now he’s centre-left – what should we expect if he becomes the LibDem leader? Will he shake it all about? If he does I’m going to start confusing him with Ed Balls again.

Perhaps he should go the whole hog and change his name, too.