THE leader of the Liberal Democrats has wagered a pint of cider that one of his Somerset candidates will win a larger majority than him at the general election.

Sir Ed Davey visited Glastonbury on Tuesday afternoon (June 11), partaking in a bicycle ride around the base of Glastonbury Tor and sharing an ice cream with Sarah Dyke, who is standing in the Glastonbury and Somerton constituency.

Ms Dyke triumphed in the Somerton and Frome by-election almost a year ago, ending up with a larger parliamentary majority than her party leader.

The two made a light-hearted bet during the visit, with whoever ends up with the larger majority buying the other “a good pint of Somerset cider” once the dust has settled.

Mr Davey (who is standing in the Kingston and Surbiton constituency) retained his seat at the 2019 general election with a majority of 10,489, while Ms Dyke achieved a 29 per cent swing in the by-election to win David Warburton’s former seat by 11,008 votes.

When asked whether she could end up with a larger majority than Mr Davey this time around, Ms Dyke responded jovially: “I’m going to him give him a good run for his money!”

Mr Davey replied: “That’s a great competition – shall we shake on that? Whoever wins buys the other a good pint of Somerset cider.”

Ed Davey returned to Somerset after visiting Frome last week.Ed Davey returned to Somerset after visiting Frome last week. (Image: Daniel Mumby)

Glastonbury has historically seen large support for the Green Party, with nine of the 16 town councillors being Greens – including former Jon Cousins, who is standing for the party against Ms Dyke.

The Greens finished third in the Somerton and Frome by-election, ahead of both Labour and Reform UK – but Mr Davey was swift to dismiss any notion that they could prevent a Lib Dem victory this time around.

He said: “I think many people approaching this election really want to see the Conservatives beaten, and they know in Glastonbury and Somerton that if they want to do that, they vote Liberal Democrat.

“I’ve been really encouraged and really grateful for the number of people who were previously thinking of voting Labour or Green, who know that would be a wasted vote here, who are willing to lend us their vote here so we can beat the Conservatives.”

Ms Dyke concurred: “We’ve had a really good response on the doorstep.

“It’s very similar to the by-election last year, where a lot of people who were considering voting Green are very aware of how important that tactical vote is.

“The Greens and Labour got ten and three per cent of the vote respectively – very many of them came to me. They’re saying exactly the same thing to be now – that they will be lending me their vote.

“They also know I’ve got a very good track record on the environment, having been the lead member for the environment and change on Somerset Council and South Somerset District Council previous to that.”

Somerset is currently being gripped by the phosphates crisis, with 18,000 new homes being held in limbo while developers and Somerset Council work to secure additional mitigation to prevent damage to the Somerset Levels and Moors.

Mr Davey said that his party would seek to address environmental issues like the sewage discharge scandal in tandem with delivering more social housing where it was most acutely needed.

He said: “Our focus on tackling sewage and sorting out water quality – I think that’s what people want to hear if they’re going to sort out the house-building challenge.

“Unless we look after our environment – our rivers, our lakes, our seas – and deal with these issues, we won’t be able to go forward.

“We really want to build more homes. We’ve got a costed programme of capital investment into social housing in particular, so it can be community-led.

“Where our approach has been tried, it’s worked. It’s meant we’ve had the social infrastructure, the GPs and the schools as well as the housing, along with water infrastructure.”

Shortly before Christmas, the council received £9.6m of central government funding to help unlock solutions to the phosphate crisis, including creating new wetlands and trialling technology to take more phosphates out of Somerset’s various rivers closer to their source.

Ms Dyke said: “We have got a grant that is helping to get those 18,000 homes built.

“Obviously what we have got a real lack of is social housing here in Somerset. We want to be pushing those through to make sure we deliver those homes and get roofs over people’s heads.

“But we’ve also got to protect our precious landscape. On Sunday, I was out with Dr Andrew Clegg, one of our citizen scientists – I was out in Langport doing some phosphate testing with him.

“He’s now got about a year’s worth of material that is really helping the water companies look at the levels of phosphates in our rivers.”

One of Ms Dyke’s most prominent campaigns in parliament has been the restoration of rail services to the Somerton and Langport area, building on the work of the Langport Transport Group.

She challenged prime minister Rishi Sunak at prime minister’s questions in late-March, demanding an update on the outline business case, and filed a petition signed by hundreds of her constituents shortly before parliament was dissolved.

Mr Davey said: “One thing I’ve noticed with Sarah since was elected less than a year ago is what an amazing champion she’s been for her constituents and for Somerset.

“She’s spoken so often in the House. She’s always giving ministers a hard time, and I’m absolutely certain that she will do that if people elect here for Glastonbury and Somerton, and she will have my complete backing.

“It’s fantastic to see a local MP really champion their area, and if we had a lot more local champions in parliament, a lot more would get done.

“People remember in this area when we had Liberal Democrat MPs in this area – whether it’s Paddy Ashdown, David Heath or Tessa Munt – and they remember that they were people who not just championed this area but got things done.”

Ms Dyke added: “I’m really proud that I’ve been able to highlight the really important work that the Langport Transport Group has done to get the bid in – it went in back in July 2022, and we haven’t got any results yet.

“It’s not just about getting the railway station, it’s about all of our public transport. That’s why I put together the Rural Transport Bill, to be able to align all our public transport so we get buses and trains working and aligning and connecting with each other.

“That’s the way we get people out of their cars and into public transport.”

The full list of candidates standing in the Glastonbury and Somerton constituency is as follows:

Tom Carter (Reform UK)

Jon Cousins (Green Party)

Sarah Dyke (Liberal Democrat)

Hal Hooberman (Labour)

Faye Purbrick (Conservative)