Author Archives: Jo Swinson MP

Jo Swinson MP writes…I want to stamp out homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying in schools

Regardless of sexuality, all pupils should feel safe and accepted at school, but for far too many young people, bullying is a sad reality of their daily lives.  In particular, a survey conducted by Stonewall in 2012 found that more than half of young lesbian, gay and bisexual people said they experienced homophobic bullying at school, while over two-thirds reported that they heard homophobic language often or frequently.  Only three in ten said their school responds quickly to homophobic bullying when it occurs.

These statistics reveal the scale of the problem and that, while some are doing a fantastic job, not …

Posted in News | Tagged and | 23 Comments

Jo Swinson MP writes… Liberal Democrat aim of transparent company ownership becomes a reality

Today the Prime Minister announced the very welcome news that the UK will have an open public register of beneficial ownership – something Liberal Democrats have long campaigned for. By making business more transparent, so that anyone can find out who really owns and controls a company, we strengthen the image of the UK as a clean and trusted place to do business.

As it stands UK companies currently have a register which lists who directly holds their shares but you can’t always tell who the ultimate beneficial owner is. With no duty for companies to hold this information individuals can …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 7 Comments

Conference: Jo Swinson on payday lenders

Jo Swinson GlasgowSpeaking to Scottish Liberal Democrat autumn conference in Glasgow today, Scottish Liberal Democrat MP and Minister of State for Business and Consumer Affairs Jo Swinson set out how she was taking steps to build a stronger economy and a fairer society by tackling unscrupulous payday lenders.

In her speech to conference, Jo Swinson said:

Since becoming the Minister responsible last year, I’ve tackled this issue head on.

Last December we published research on the problems and options for action.

In March we saw the Office of Fair Trading announce a crackdown amidst evidence of the widespread failure of the industry to treat customers fairly.

Posted in Conference | Tagged and | 9 Comments

Jo Swinson MP writes…Consumers need to be protected from the predatory behaviour of payday lenders

Every MP has seen tragic cases of constituents struggling with debt problems.

Like Mrs S, whose daughter was granted hundreds of pounds of loans, despite not being in employment and suffering from mental health problems. That young woman is now in arrears with 2 different payday lenders. She is being charged high default fees and her situation is getting worse each day.

The Coalition Government is determined to make sure that consumers are properly protected and that payday lenders stop taking advantage of vulnerable people. The evidence of the scale of unscrupulous behaviour by payday lenders and the impact on …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 5 Comments

Allegations regarding the conduct of Lord Rennard: a statement from Jo Swinson MP

My focus throughout has been to protect the women who confided in me and, our shared objective, to prevent other women experiencing this kind of behaviour. All the time I was careful to respect their wish for privacy and, for that matter, their right not to be harassed by the press .

I took action and ensured that others took action. I told the women who had confided in me what I had done to try to put a stop to any inappropriate behaviour, and encouraged them to let me know if they became aware of any further incidents.

I …

Posted in Party policy and internal matters | Comments Off

Jo Swinson MP writes…Equality is about more than ticking boxes

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) would never have become a valued and respected national institution if it was allowed to continue on the path it was on. Labour’s tired old way of working was turning equalities into a burden. When people heard the word equality they also heard bureaucracy and red-tape. Instead of being about fairness it was more about frustration.

If Labour’s method of ticking boxes and filling out forms led to equality, then why did they leave behind a society with so much inequality across the board? Twenty percent wage gaps between women and men, nonexistent social …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 40 Comments

Jo Swinson MP writes: Quality of Life – A New Purpose for Politics

Decade on decade, the UK has been getting richer. For the most part, people today are materially considerably better off than they were back in the 1970s; however, statistics stretching back all those years show that our satisfaction with our lives has barely improved. We have more money and we’re pumping out more carbon emissions – but we don’t appear to be getting much pay-off for our own wellbeing.
 
Fortunately, the Liberal Democrats have recognised this problem.
 
For over two years, a working group has been studying the evidence to see whether Government can actually do anything to set us on a …

Posted in Conference and Op-eds | Tagged | 5 Comments

Jo Swinson MP writes: Determination, courage and kindness in response to riots shows true British society

Everyone across our country has been horrified at the scenes unfolding on our TV screens, and, for some, outside their homes and workplaces.

Watching from Glasgow, I was certainly relieved that the riots did not spread to Scotland, but I think it is unhelpful for anyone, especially the First Minister, to express any feeling of superiority about that. My constituents are feeling solidarity with the victims of the violence, and with everyone who is afraid in their own community as a result of the riots, not gloating that this hasn’t been happening in Scotland.

The question that everyone is …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 7 Comments

Jo Swinson MP writes: Making inroads into our looks-obsessed culture

Last year, Lynne Featherstone MP and I launched the Campaign for Body Confidence. Since then, we have been raising the profile of the urgent need to address increasing body dissatisfaction in the UK. Everyone should be able, whatever their size, shape, age or skin colour, to feel good about their body.

The bombardment of super-skinny flawless models advertising everything from face cream to cars is puts an overwhelming pressure on women, men and children to conform to impossible and unrealistic beauty ‘ideals’. This is damaging our sense of wellbeing and leading to increasing unhappiness, anxiety, low self-esteem, depression and eating …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 13 Comments

Jo Swinson MP writes on tuition fees

Today the Government has outlined its response to the Browne review, and the future of higher education funding. This is arguably the most challenging issue for Liberal Democrats in the coalition so far.

Our party has long prided itself on its commitment to education as the great leveller; the best way to create social mobility and equality of opportunity in society. The flagship “penny on income tax for education” was one of the reasons I joined the party in 1997. My first conference speech was in a debate about student funding, as we passed our policy …

Posted in Op-eds | 140 Comments

Opinion: No to All-Men Shortlists‏

At our 2001 party conference I donned a shocking pink t-shirt emblazoned with the slogan “I am not a token woman” and spoke in opposition to all-women shortlists.

Eight years on, I am still opposed to the use of single gender shortlists, but I wonder if I was then taking aim at the wrong target.

Research done by the party in advance of Nick Clegg’s recent appearance before the Speaker’s Conference showed, as I argued back in 2001, no evidence that our party discriminates against women in candidate selections.

Far from it: analysis of 237 selections shows that two thirds of the time where a woman is on the shortlist, a woman is selected.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 57 Comments

Perez Hilton has blogged about a Lib Dem policy paper

Last Wednesday I tweeted the unlikely words: “Never thought I’d say this, but Perez Hilton has blogged about a Lib Dem policy paper http://bit.ly/Dkfe5”.

It’s fair to say that the Real Women policy paper proposals on body image have stirred up quite a bit of debate: in the press, on TV & radio, in the blogosphere and, I also hope, in the pub, around the dinner table and over a cup of coffee.

Lots of women (and a few men) have got in touch to say they’re glad someone is finally trying to tackle the huge pressure on women to look slim, smooth and perfect.

Some have blogged their concerns about the policy, and I hope to answer some of the questions that have been raised.

Is there really a body image problem?

Yes, and it starts young.

Posted in Op-eds and Party policy and internal matters | Tagged | 32 Comments

Jo Swinson writes… Experiences of a Female MP: Overcoming the Ultimate Old Boys Club

On 8th April, 2009, Jo Swinson MP delievered the Elizabeth Wallace Memorial Lecture at Glasgow University, hosted by the Glasgow Association of University Women. It was entitled ‘Experiences of a Female MP: Overcoming the Ultimate Old Boys Club’, and Jo has kindly agreed for it to be published on Liberal Democrat Voice.


Let me take you on a tour of Parliament

A couple of months after I was elected, I went on the official tour of the Houses of Parliament, as I figured I really ought to know a bit more about the institution I had been elected to serve in. Being shown around the building by an expert tour guide with a vast knowledge of Parliament’s history and heritage was absolutely fascinating; in fact I would recommend the tour to anyone (and it can be booked for free through your local MP).

Wonderful as it was to see the finery of the House of Lords, the grandeur of the chilly and cavernous Westminster Hall, and the macabre interest of looking at the death warrant of Charles I, none of these were my favourite part of the tour.

The best bit, in my opinion, is hearing the tale of one fairly unremarkable marble statue in St Stephen’s Hall, that of the second Viscount Falkland. The tour guide draws attention to a hairline fracture in the sword that Falkland is plunging into the marble plinth at his feet.

This is where on 27th April 1909 one brave suffragette, Miss Margery Humes, chained herself to the statue to protest to MPs about votes for women. In order to remove her, the sword had to be broken, and the repair is still visible today. It took another decade for women to win the right to vote, and it wasn’t until twenty years later, in 1929, that women could vote on the same terms as men.

Since then we’ve had twenty General Elections, and women now make up `20% of our MPs. In some ways, I think this is fantastic progress. When my 95-year old grandmother was born, women could not vote. Within her lifetime she has seen women win the vote, win elections, and hold key offices of state including Prime Minister.

At the same time, the pace of change can feel frustratingly slow. Parliament often seems stuck in a time warp – in more ways than one – and especially when you look at the gender representation. It affects the culture and the atmosphere: aggressive, confrontational, petty point-scoring. I’m not saying that no women MPs engage in this kind of behaviour in the House of Commons, but the puerile nature of some debates and question sessions is worryingly reminiscent of unruly boys in a boarding school. The etymology is revealing: puer is the Latin word for boy.


A wonderfully rewarding job

That said, the job of an MP is a fabulous one. Being able to devote your life to the causes you feel passionately about, and stand up for people in the area you live is a great motivation for getting out of bed in the morning!

Contrary to popular belief, being an MP is not all about making speeches. There’s an element of public speaking, but mostly to small groups in the constituency, and it gets much easier (and less stressful!) with practice. Most of my time is actually spent listening to the views of local people and trying to work out solutions to problems in the constituency, and then taking up those issues in Parliament.

Even Parliament is much more consensual and constructive than is portayed by the media. Sitting on a Select Committee means working across party lines, hearing evidence from experts and making recommendations to Government. PMQs aside, many sessions in the House of Commons chamber allow genuine, interesting debate instead of political theatre.

The skills of negotiating, empathising with people, and bringing people together are ones that come naturally to many women. While the timings of key events like votes or Committee debates are determined by others, as an MP you are essentially your own boss, which means much of your diary can be organised around your life and commitments. You can plan your Parliamentary and constituency appointments such that you guarantee time for the non-work stuff, whether it’s visiting your 95-year old grandmother or attending your child’s school parents’ evening.

Those involved in politics need to do better at “selling” the job of an MP, if we are to attract under-represented groups who currently think it isn’t for them. I very much hope that one of the outcomes of the Speaker’s Conference will be for Parliament to undertake specific outreach work to encourage people to consider standing for election.

Most women MPs I speak to would not have stood were it not for someone else suggesting the idea.

Posted in Op-eds and Parliament | Tagged | 8 Comments

Campaign for Gender Balance Awards: best Lib Dem blog?

The nominations deadline for the Campaign for Gender Blog Awards is 1 February, so you still have time to tell us your favourites.

Last week I highlighted the nominations we’ve received so far for best non-Lib Dem blog  and best Lib Dem blog post.  While with those we’ve received a wide range of different nominations, the best Lib Dem blog category is much more competitive amongst relatively few nominees.  As such, rather than list every single one, I thought I would restrict this article to blogs that have received multiple nominations.

The nominations we receive for this category …

Posted in Online politics | 4 Comments

Campaign for Gender Balance Awards: best blog post?

The nominations deadline for the Campaign for Gender Blog Awards is 1 February, so you still have time to nominate your facvourites.

We’re particularly keen to hear your suggestions for the best blog post. Of the three categories, this is the one we have had the fewest nominations for, and while it is a less eclectic list than the best non-Lib Dem blog category it is still a very open contest. Nominations received so far are listed below.

Once again, the three most popular blog posts in terms of received nominations are guaranteed on the shortlist, with each member of the judges panel (myself, Ros Taylor, Ros Harper, Baroness Jane Bonham-Carter, Olly Grender and James Graham), allowed to add another entry of their own choice if they wish. So even if your favourite blog has already been nominated, nominating it yourself will still improve its chances of getting onto the shortlist.

We have received nominations for the following:

Posted in Online politics | Tagged and | 9 Comments

Campaign for Gender Balance Awards: best non-Lib Dem blog?

Ros Taylor launched the Campaign for Gender Balance blog awards last month on Lib Dem Voice. Since then we have dozens of nominations – thanks to everyone who has made nominations so far! Nominations don’t close until 1 February so if you haven’t submitted yours yet, you still have time.

As these awards are meant primarily to be a celebration of women bloggers, I thought it would be good to publish a list of the nominations we’ve received already. By far the most eclectic category has been the award for best non-Lib Dem blog. As you will see below, our list ranges from councillors, MPs and Assembly Members from other political parties, actors, journalists, civil servants, artists, mums and even a 101 year old sex therapist (retired)!

Indeed, the list is so eclectic, we could do with some help narrowing it all down. The three most popular blogs in terms of received nominations are guaranteed on the shortlist, with each member of the judges panel (myself, Ros Taylor, Ros Harper, Baroness Jane Bonham-Carter, Olly Grender and token man James Graham), allowed to add another entry of their own choice if they wish. So even if your favourite blog has already been nominated, nominating it yourself will still improve its chances of getting onto the shortlist.

Without further ado, here are the list of nominees received so far:

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 9 Comments

Opinion: What to do about excess packaging

The media and public clamour surrounding excess packaging is growing. The Women’s Institute and The Independent are both running national campaigns against packaging, while companies like Lush Cosmetics have begun to see the economic sense of letting consumers buy the products they want, without unnecessary cardboard or plastic accompaniment.

The Government has failed to take the lead on curbing excess packaging, paying lip-service to the issue without offering strong, effective policies. The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ (DEFRA) Waste Strategy, published in May this year, passed up a golden opportunity to get serious about packaging, merely offering a handful of proposals limited in scope and ambition.

On Wednesday, 19th September (at 9am, for the early birds among you!) I will propose a motion to conference entitled Taking Action to Tackle Excess Packaging (full text below). The measures covered in the motion will set the Liberal Democrats on the front foot in the packaging debate. It combines straightforward solutions with innovative policies to provide a clear, effective approach on preventing excess packaging and reducing packaging overall.

The motion takes steps to strengthen and support Trading Standards offices, with whom the role of policing excess packagers lies. The creation of a new national body, to tackle large-scale producers of excess packaging in conjunction with local Trading Standards offices, is proposed. Some cases of excess packaging may be beyond the scope of regional Trading Standards offices, and in these cases a broader, more strategic, view is appropriate.

Posted in Conference and Op-eds | Tagged | 3 Comments



Recent Comments

  • User AvatarStevan Rose 21st Sep - 4:53pm
    This is a fake by-election designed as a publicity coup for UKIP and their first elected MP. We should not be taking part, just as...
  • User AvatarGareth 21st Sep - 4:52pm
    Just to say this has nothing to do with the Conference Committee.
  • User Avatarmack 21st Sep - 4:45pm
    It is completely disingenuous to suggest that Labour are trying to renege on the pledge made by Ed Miliband, Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling for...
  • User AvatarLittle Jackie Paper 21st Sep - 4:29pm
    From Ashdown's remarks - 'We have got to start taking this issue out of the hands of the elite in Westminster who have shown for...
  • User AvatarJayne Mansfield 21st Sep - 4:15pm
    Sorry the above is as garbled as ever.
  • User AvatarJayne Mansfield 21st Sep - 4:12pm
    @ Rebecca Hanson, Rebecca as someone who was brought up in the mining communities of South Yorkshire, I would only ask that you propose to...