I served as the Member of Parliament for Kingston and Surbiton from 1997 to 2015, and from June 2017 until the snap election was called in early November 2019. I was then re-elected on 12 December in the General Election 2019, after which I became an Acting Leader of the Party and also Spokesperson for the Economy & Social Justice. I have been campaigning on key issues including stopping a harmful Brexit, Climate Emergency, and for local police and train services. I was elected to be the Leader of the Party in August 2020.
An economist by training, I was a business consultant before I was elected for the first time in 1997. It was my concerns about our environment that first got me politically active. I was Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change in 2012-15, and in 2016 I set up a consultancy working primarily in the energy and climate change field. I chair a Community Energy Co-operative Company called Mongoose Energy.
I was honoured to receive a knighthood from the Queen in the 2016 New Year Honours.
I was born in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, the youngest of three sons. Although my childhood was happy and we had no financial hardships, my father, John George, a solicitor, died when I was four and my mother, Nina Joan (nee Stanbrook), a teacher, died when I was fifteen, and this obviously had a profound impact on our family. After my mother died, I lived first with my brothers, Henry and Charles, then with my mother's parents. I became very close to my maternal grandmother, "Nanna", who passed away in a Kingston care home a few years ago.
I’ve lived in Surbiton since 1996, where my wife Emily and I are bringing up our two young children, John and Ellie. John has an undiagnosed neurological condition which means he can’t walk or talk.
I went to Nottingham High School (1974-84), as have MPs from both other parties, including Kenneth Clarke, Geoff Hoon and Ed Balls. I enjoyed my time there, with plenty of extra-curricular activities - from the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme to the Community Service Group, from the Drama Society to playing the cello (badly) in the orchestra. Politics did not play a big part in my time there, though I helped found the Middle School Debating Society and ended up head boy.
After school, I took a 'gap year' when I worked in a pork pie factory and for Boots plc, learnt basic Spanish at a college in Salamanca before hitchhiking round Spain and then working as a holiday courier on a campsite in the Alsace.
I took a first class honours degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Jesus College, Oxford (1985-1988). Although I was not involved in any of the political societies at Oxford, I was active in a campaigning environmental group and was elected President of the College's Junior Common Room. I helped organise Tactical Voting 87 in Oxford during the 1987 General Election, though I still had not joined any political party.
After university, I became the Economics Researcher to the Liberal Democrats in Parliament, working in the Commons from 1989 to 1993, primarily for Alan Beith and Paddy Ashdown. I joined the party after starting work for them, partly because I was by then convinced the Lib Dems were the strongest mainstream party on the environment, partly because I realised I was really a “classic” Liberal and partly because Paddy Ashdown genuinely inspired me.
After becoming the party's Senior Economics Advisor, I was closely involved in developing policies such as the penny on income tax for education and making the Bank of England independent. I was also in charge of costing the election manifesto in 1992. During this time, I studied in the evenings at Birkbeck College, London University, gaining an MSc in Economics.
In 1993, I left Parliament to work for a management consultancy firm called Omega Partners where I specialised in postal services. With Omega Partners, I visited 28 countries and worked on projects for Post Offices in countries such as Belgium, South Africa, Sweden and Taiwan. My work ranged from strategic market analysis to business forecasting. During my time at Omega, I remained an active Liberal Democrat, serving on the Federal Policy Committee and various other policy groups.
After three recounts, a majority of 56 was declared in the 1997 General Election
In March 1995 I was selected to fight for Kingston and Surbiton. The Liberal Democrats' success in local Council elections plus boundary changes meant that we were strongly placed to challenge the incumbent Conservative in the General Election. The seat was won at the 1997 General Election after three recounts in an Election which saw the Conservative MP in the area defeated for the first time in history.
In the 2001 General Election, the seat was held, with the largest swing in the country, seeing the majority increase from 56 to 15,676. It fell back to 8,966 in the 2005 General Election, partly because the Labour vote crept back up. In 2010 I was again re-elected with a majority of 7,560. In 2015, along with many Liberal Democrat MPs, I lost my seat to the Conservative candidate. In the snap election of 2017, I retook the seat with a majority of 4,124.
Once elected in 1997, I was appointed as the Economics Affairs Spokesman by Paddy Ashdown, working closely with Malcolm Bruce in the Treasury team. I was promoted by Charles Kennedy to be the Deputy in the Treasury under Matthew Taylor, with responsibility for public spending and taxation policy.
In early 2000, I took over from Simon Hughes as the Liberal Democrat Spokesman on London, closely working with Susan Kramer's campaign. I served on the Treasury Select Committee from 1999 to 2001. I also sat on several Standing Committees, including every Finance Bill of the Parliament, the Bank of England and the Government Resources and Accounts Bills, as well as the Government for London Bill.
At the start of the 2001 Parliament, Charles Kennedy promoted me into the Shadow Cabinet as the Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, a post that I served until 2002.
In October 2002 I was appointed to shadow the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister with responsibility for Local Government and the Regions. This has seen my lead a national campaign to scrap the unfair council tax, as well as championing the cause of more affordable housing. I've worked on a variety of bills including reforms of housing, local government, regional government, the planning system and fire services.
Following re-election in 2005, I was appointed as Shadow Education and Skills Secretary by Charles Kennedy, I post that I held until the election of Menzies Campbell as new leader of the Liberal Democrats in March 2006. During that month I was put in charge of the Trade and Industry Brief, as well as being tasked to undertake a review of Liberal Democrat campaigning techniques, becoming the Chair of the Liberal Democrats’ Campaign and Communications Committee, which oversees preparations for elections.
In December of 2006, I became Chief of Staff to the Leader of the Liberal Demcorats, Sir Menzies Campbell, and I oversaw preparations for an election which we genuinely then expected would be in Autumn 2007. When Nick Clegg became the Leader, he appointed me Liberal Democrat Shadow Foreign Secretary.
In May 2010 I was appointed Minister for Employment Relations, Consumer and Postal Affairs in the Coalition Government, working with Vince Cable as my Secretary of State. Vince gave me huge degrees of freedom and allowed me to push a whole range of both Coalition policies and my own priorities.
My main achievements as a Junior Business Minister were:
- On Employment, establishing the policy detail for flexible parental leave, abolishing the default age of retirement and stopping a Conservative push to let employers to “sack at will”
- On Royal Mail & Post Offices, drafting and piloting the legislation through Parliament, to sell-off Royal Mail, with the largest ever employee share ownership scheme, and with the Post Office separated, kept in public ownership with an option for mutualisation and a Post Office modernisation programme to end the previous Conservative and Labour closure programmes
- On Trade and the EU, establishing a “Likeminded Group for Growth” within the EU, bringing economically liberal Member States together, through which we successfully pushed measures to drive forward the Single Market in Services, Energy and Digital and concluded the EU-Korea Free Trade Agreement
- On Competition, established the policy to reform competition law and merge the CCC and OFT into the new Competition and Markets Authority
On a trade mission to China
In February 2012 I was promoted to the Cabinet as Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change. My proudest achievements as Secretary of State included:
- Leading the policy and implementing a new legal framework to enable a massive increase in renewable electricity in the UK – which more than trebled under Liberal Democrat Ministers
- Within renewable electricity, focusing on the development of Britain’s offshore wind potential, including an ambitious push for the supply chain to be more UK-based with successes such as Siemens and ABP Ports investment in Hull
- Securing a major EU-wide agreement for new climate change targets for 2030 in October 2014, by establishing and leading the “Green Growth Group” within the EU, bringing together Member States who shared the then UK’s ambition to take strong action against climate change
- Radical reform of competition in the UK’s retail supply of gas and electricity – reducing barriers to entry and making switching suppliers easier and faster – which has resulted in a huge increase in the number of suppliers and a dramatic reduction in the market share of the Big 6, and a much better deal for consumers
- A range of smaller policy initiatives including Britain’s first ever Community Energy Strategy, a regulation to force private sector landlords to bring properties up to a minimum energy efficiency level, initiatives on district heating and water source heat pumps, promotion of Tidal Lagoons, ensuring the Capacity Market I established was technology neutral and allowed new electricity storage technologies to compete
- Developing a range of policies to promote every form of energy security (electricity, gas diversification, transport fuels, nuclear security) and getting the EU to adopt a tough policy on energy security, to reduce EU dependence on imports from Russia
- Getting the price of the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station was lower than the Conservatives would have been happy to accept, and ensuring, in that price, the cost of future decommissioning was included and that the risk of cost overruns, delays and non-completion were all transferred to EDF (thus, if HPC isn’t completed, we don’t pay a penny)
Two years out of PARLIAMENT (2015-2017)
I set up a consultancy business called Energy Destinations, with a focus on work in the renewable energy, community energy and clean tech sectors.
As I was a former Minister, every client and commission of my consultancy required prior approval from the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments – ACOBA – and they published their approval letter, with details of every commission I took, with any conditions they applied to that work.
You can therefore read all the work I did between May 2015 and May 2017 at:
This includes both my paid and unpaid work, my commercial and my charity work.
Since returning to Parliament, I have resigned from most of these commissions. However, I am doing a small amount of work, equal to 1.5 days a month for 3 clients – Mongoose Energy, Herbert Smith Freehills and Next Energy Capital – and I am keeping on my charity interests. These are declared in my entry in the Register of Members’ Interests, which you can find here:
I am giving away all the shares in Energy Destinations to a new company called the John Alban Davey Foundation, whose sole purpose is to receive monies and disburse as necessary for the health, education and well-being of my disabled son, John Alban Davey.
In June 2017 I was re-elected as MP for Kingston and Surbiton, and appointed as Shadow Home Secretary for the Liberal Democrats.
In my role as Shadow Home Secretary, I campaignined on a number of key issues including for the government to guarantee the rights of EU citizens to stay in the UK. In Parliament, I also been worked with charities such as Shelter and St Mungo's to develop a new law — the Homelessness (End of Life Care) Bill which would give terminally-ill homeless people the extra help they need.
In the July 2019, I ran against Jo Swinson in the Liberal Democrat leadership election (unfortunately I lost). In September 2019 I was appointed as Deputy Leader of the Party, and as Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer. I have been fighting to stop a harmful Brexit, pushing for a proper response to the Climate Emergency, and helping Liberal Democrats get elected across the country.
As MP for Kingston and Surbiton, I have taken up a range of issues for individuals and the wider community.
Primarily for individual constituents, I have offered two advice surgeries a week – between seven and eight times more than my Conservative predecessors managed.
For the wider community, I have waged a series of high profile campaigns over the years on issues ranging from saving Surbiton Hospital to increasing Kingston’s share of London’s police officers, from re-zoning Kingston and Surbiton train stations to opposing a proposed Tesco by the Tolworth roundabout off the A3.
While it’s impossible to win every campaign, working together with others we achieved a number of notable victories for the local community over the years including:
- Winning a new Accident & Emergency Unit at Kingston Hospital
- A reduction in the speed limit on the A3 Kingston by-pass to 50mph, saving lives
- Improving the formula for Kingston in the Metropolitan Police Authority’s Resource Allocation Formula (more officers!)
- Winning extra capital investment for local schools, so our record high primary school class sizes fell to under 30
- Stopping the mothballing of Surbiton Hospital
- Improving safety at local train stations with my “Safer Stations Initiative”
- Stopping Thames Water build on the environmentally significant filter beds by the River Thames
- Stopping Ministers reallocating Kingston Council to an east London category for “Additional Cost Adjustment” (which would have meant less grant and higher council tax)
- Saving an old people's day centre, Alfriston in Surbiton from closing
- Winning a new medical centre for Chessington
- Preventing the closure of Kingston’s Magistrates’ Courts
- Expanding the maternity unit at Kingston Hospital
- Helping Kingston to become Britain’s first “Business Improvement District”
- Getting one of the former Eurostar’s Waterloo platforms converted for domestic use
- Helping achieve a new Post Office for Tolworth Broadway
- Opposing Tesco’s proposed megastore by the Tolworth A3 roundabout, that threatened extra air pollution and congestion
- Stopping South West Trains permanently closing an entrance/exit to New Malden train station
- Winning cash from Whitehall to build new primary schools locally and expand existing ones, to meet increased demand
- Getting a school bus for pupils of Hinchley Wood School who live in Chessington and Hook
I believe it’s vital that a local MP actively campaigns for his or her constituency.
- I published a paper "Making MPs Work for Our Money" (Centre for Reform, 2000) arguing for major reform of how Parliament scrutinises the budget.
- I support Notts County FC (having preferred the Magpies' strip to Nottingham Forest's aged 4), but have naturally also adopted Kingstonian FC, victors in two recent FA Umbro Trophy Cup Finals.
- I received awards from the Royal Humane Society and the Chief Constable of the British Transport Police in 1994, after rescuing a woman from the path of an oncoming train at Clapham Junction.
- My career in the Liberal Democrats began just 6 months after I graduated from university, when I answered an advert in the Guardian Newspaper for an Economic Researcher.