“Thank you!” – an open letter to Jo

Dear Jo,

As many others have pointed out in the last few days a bit of masochism never comes amiss if one is a Liberal Democrat. Pain and sorrow come with the territory.

When my 70-year old Mum cruelly lost her hard-worked council seat in 2014, courtesy of the Coalition, we got separated slightly from our colleagues after the count. We are not prone to emotion but, two dumpy ladies of 5ft nothing, we clung together as her result was announced and Labour activists surrounded us and screamed their glee. One of them trod on me in the hubbub.

Later, back home, as she limped past the radio (having overdone it spending much of her sixth decade delivering leaflets) we heard the voice of a “party insider” telling us we had only lost where we “failed to get our message across”.

There are plenty of party insiders at work now. They know it all of course, they warned about the revoke policy, the election timing etc etc. Perhaps they have also have comments on your famous one colour frocks.

For what it is worth, I found that, on the doorstep and in my community, people often liked you and when they were neutral or anti they at least knew who you were (not bad in such a short time frame). It was an honour to talk about you as a potential PM – which as leader of a national party you clearly were.

Times change, children grow up, the election round comes around again. “The whirligig of time brings in its revenges!”.
Whatever you do now is up to you and your loved ones and is none of your activists’ business. But please consider not following Farron, Hague, Davidson, Dugdale, Miliband and Miliband on the scrapheap of those who packed it in young.
We are proud of you as a Remainer, as a role model, a debater, as an accomplished speaker and dammit we liked the legendary earrings too.

Thank you,

Ruth

* Ruth Bright has been a councillor in Southwark and Parliamentary Candidate for Hampshire East

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46 Comments

  • I agree with this. Jo didn’t get everything right, but who does? And she always gave us 100%. She didn’t hide in fridges, run from Andrew Neil or send other colleagues into the big leaders debates. We should be proud of her, and wish her well.
    The only thing I will say is that I really hope she does NOT take a peerage. I have no idea is this is on the cards, but if it is, Jo please turn it down. You are better than that.

  • Jonathan Linin 18th Dec '19 - 7:46pm

    Yep, too good to lose. Not just for Liberalism, but also to fight against nationalism (Scottish & English !).

  • Tobias Sedlmeier 18th Dec '19 - 8:20pm

    “Perhaps they have also have comments on your famous one colour frocks.”
    “dammit we liked the legendary earrings too”

    I don’t remember anyone commenting on Tim Farron’s suits or accessories. Could we stop making comments on the appearance of women politicians and focus on their actual performance?

    There were plenty of dissenting voices at the time within the LibDems regarding ditching People’s Vote for revoke and regarding supporting the Tories (and the SNP) in having a general election (and thereby bouncing Labour into supporting it). Two grave miscalculations.

    Beyond those miscalculations the entire general election campaign that Swinson led was wrong as evidenced by the LibDem share in opinion polls falling every week during the campaign even though historically the pattern is for the share to rise during campaigns. During the campaign I heard 10 times as much from Swinson on gender self-ID than I did about agriculture.

    Meanwhile, Swinson was cheered on by the Amen chorus on this site and elsewhere, people to caught up in their own bubbles to see how things are playing with the electorate.

  • Yeovil Yokel 18th Dec '19 - 8:54pm

    It’s unfair to lump Tim Farron in amongst the list of political has-beens in your final paragraph – he’s still an inspiring and engaging figure within the Party, a source of lucid liberal thinking, and a first-class constituency MP – not to mention our only MP between Oxford and Edinburgh.

  • Scottish elections coming in 2021 – West of Scotland list, maybe?

  • Tobias – Jesus, talk about kicking someone when theyre down. She did her best, sure she made some mistakes, but she only had 5 months experience as leader. We did increased our vote share from 7.4 – 11.4% and we re now second in 100+ constituencies so its deffo not all bad. Wonder how well youd have done in the same circumstances ? Won us a majority would you ?

    Most men mostly dont have the balls to wear anything remotely different from the next man, save for a suit a slight change in the drab hue of our identikit suits, thats why we dont get comments on our appearance. Although I agree its not really relevant to how someone performances as a politician. Still youve actually highlighted a (rare) subject where men are at a disadvantage compared to women – clothing, women can wear all sorts of different types of clothes for work, men basically have the suit and thats our lot.

    Anyway, what should Jo do now ? Well before coming back for a second time, what about another book ?

  • If it’s wrong to kick someone while they’re down, it’s also wrong to hide denialism behind sympathy.

    It’s also wrong to sneer at “party insiders” who “know it all of course, they warned about the revoke policy, the election timing etc etc.” Clearly, many of them genuinely did. And, if perhaps they shouldn’t be awarded gongs for happening to make the right judgments, they certainly shouldn’t be pelted with brickbats, either!

  • I’m just going to point out the obvious fact that, just because a particular political strategy did not work particularly well (which could be for many reasons, often beyond anybody’s control, including a party leader’s) does not in the least imply that somebody else’s favored alternative strategy would have worked better. It might well have worked worse. One can hardly know without going back in time and re-running things, a manifest impossibility.

    Had the party gone for a less bold defence of its remain position, and had the results been the same, many of the same second-guessers would no doubt be telling us that Jo Swinson lacked the courage to come out bravely in favour of remain, thus losing disappointed remainers to the Tories and Labour. The wonderful thing about second-guessing is that it doesn’t require any proof that the second guess be better; it is enough that it is different. In other words, it’s simply a type of heckling, not a principled plan for a better performance.

  • Tobias Sedlmeier 19th Dec '19 - 2:43am

    “Had the party gone for a less bold defence of its remain position, and had the results been the same, many of the same second-guessers would no doubt be telling us that Jo Swinson lacked the courage to come out bravely in favour of remain, thus losing disappointed remainers to the Tories and Labour.”

    The LibDems were clearly in favour of remain. The LibDem policy of a people’s vote had been a winner at the European Elections only months earlier. The only reason for changing it was to differentiate from Labour who had also adopted people’s vote as policy. However, LibDems would always have been most pro-remain party – policy not only to have a people’s vote but, as a party, to campaign to remain. The idea that sticking with people’s vote as a policy would have resulted in the LibDems losing disappointed remainers to the Tories is simply absurd and I worry that someone appears to be seriously attempting to make such a claim.

    I’m sorry to be so blunt but we need people who can exercise their critical faculties and make inferences from evidence in front of us, including the pretty strong evidence of the election result, and the comparison between the general election performance and the LibDem share of the vote in European elections in June 2019. I despair at the response “We did increased our vote share from 7.4 – 11.4% and we re now second in 100+ constituencies so its deffo not all bad.” With attitudes like some of those posting here display, future electoral success, i.e. materially increasing the number of LibDem MPs elected, is extremely unlikely.

  • Innocent Bystander 19th Dec '19 - 8:27am

    I, too, admired Jo’s straightforward honesty and was very saddened to see her lose her seat.
    I do wish those of her critics who accuse her of destroying the remain cause by giving Johnson the election he wanted would be as democratic as her.
    The “people” (that does not include the members of a political party like most who post here), saw the situation as a bunch of remain MPs prepared to ignore the people and avoid the ballot box until they had “stitched up” a remain situation.
    The only honest way out of the quagmire was an election and Jo saw that and did the right thing. Bless her. Those fanatical remainers who would refute this need only read last Friday’s newspapers to see the reality of their claim that the people had all changed their minds and were remainers now.
    I doubt they will ever concede this and will spend the rest of their lives blaming everyone but themselves.

  • The warnings about our Brexit policy were there from the beginning. For example there was an article in Prospect Magazine during autumn conference week that sets out what turned out to be the implications very clearly. Rafael Behr also flagged some of these.

    They also flag that having always argued that our voting system is unfair and provides flawed mandates on the back of minority votes, we were contradicting ourselves in suddenly offering a majority of seats as a trump card over a majority of votes.

    On style, Corbyn in his early days took a lot of criticism for his clothing choices, often being compared to geography teachers and the like. He clearly took the trouble to get style advice to sharpen up his image. If Corbyn could do it, our leader might have done the same.

  • Julian Tisi 19th Dec '19 - 9:26am

    Jo, your interview on Andrew Neil show us how tenacious, confident and courageous you have been – and will continue to be. I hope you choose to continue. Thank you for your leadership and for making us believe once again.

  • Tobias Sedlmeier 19th Dec '19 - 9:53am

    “I, too, admired Jo’s straightforward honesty and was very saddened to see her lose her seat.”

    What exactly what Swinson honest about any more than any other politician? It’s bizarre to see a poster refer to those of us who said LibDems should stick to supporting a people’s vote rather than repeal without a second referendum as fanatical remainers. It was Swinson who made LibDem policy that of a fanatical remainer.

  • Sopwith Morley 19th Dec '19 - 10:00am

    ” I don’t remember anyone commenting on Tim Farron’s suits or accessories. Could we stop making comments on the appearance of women politicians and focus on their actual performance? ”

    Considering her performance was woeful, perhaps focusing on her frocks is the lesser of the two evils. I am sure if Corbyn had spent the election wearing a green combat jacket and a black and white keffiyeh, there would have been more than a few comments. Do a simple search on Google ‘Jo Swinson images’, and all you will get are masses of images of her in a different colour of the same basic dress design.

    It shouldn’t matter, but people pick up on these sort of things, especially if it exposes what looks like a one dimensional thinker bereft of ideas, and it would equally apply to Corbyn or anybody else if he dressed exclusively as above.

  • Peter Martin 19th Dec '19 - 10:41am

    @ Tobias Sedlmeier

    “The LibDems were clearly in favour of remain.”

    That’s true. There’s no arguing with that 🙂

    But what else were they in favour of? You might know but, as the popular game show has it, if you asked 100 people at random to supply an answer most would be “Pointless”.

    Lib Dems were going to revoke on Day1. So what were you planning to do for the other 1800+ days?

  • Peter Martin 19th Dec '19 - 11:27am

    @ Tobias Sedlmaier,

    Sorry I just realised that we are probably more in agreement than I first thought. I should have read your other comments. You’re right. Jo Swinson was always going to be a liability with her voting record. It is simply not good enough to say she had to toe the line, to the extent she did, because of the coalition agreement.

    I’m sure I could find Tory MPs who were less compliant than she was in the period 2010 to 2015. Couldn’t she at least have abstained, now and again, rather than just trooping dutifully through the lobby as directed by the the Tory whips?

    https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/tim-farron-resigns-jo-swinson-new-leader-liberal-democrats-voting-record-wrong-choice-a7793056.html#r3z-addoor

  • @Peter Martin “I’m sure I could find Tory MPs who were less compliant than she was in the period 2010 to 2015. Couldn’t she at least have abstained, now and again, rather than just trooping dutifully through the lobby as directed by the the Tory whips?”

    Not a valid comparison. Could you find any Tory Ministers who were less compliant?

    I didn’t vote for Jo, and had no great love for her, but she was a Government Minister and that comes with a requirement to vote in support of the Government.

  • Whether we like it or not women come under far greater scrutiny for their appearance than men. We men have it fairly easy – a couple of dark suits, a few white/light blue shirts, a couple of ties, a decent haircut and we are good to go. A six week period where you are in the public eye like Jo Swinson must be a nightmare for a woman. And don’t think it’s just male critics, in my experience women are far more harsh. I don’t know how much support she had, but the Lib Dems should have supported her with every detail of her personal appearance. I’m not saying Jo looked bad, but it could have been better. Look at Sturgeon she was immaculate, the SNP must have invested a fortune in hairdressers, make up, clothes and shoes. If you want to win elections details are important and in some respects the party seem to let Jo Swinson down.

  • @Peter Martin
    To be fair she was subject to ministerial responsibility – also she was fairly young at the time. I said it elsewhere that pushing her forward at that time before she was ready (I suspect because of the need to show some younger and female faces), has not done her any favours in the long run. I hope next time someone like that gets more chance to mature into a high profile role rather than mature in a high profile role.

    Liberal policies are the right ones, people aren’t going to stop being liberal, but they can stop being assets to liberalism if they’re not nurtured in the right way.

  • Good point Richard S. I wanted Jo for leader on 2017, had that happened she would have had 2 years experience in the role before the election and most probably would have performed better.

    Also her defence of her voting record was not robust as it should have been – in the coalition we agreed with the Tories that they would enact some of our policies if we enacted some of their policies, so for every bedroom tax there was a raising of the tax threshold to 10,000 – most “nasty” Tory policies she voted for could be countered with a good Lib Dem policy as a trade off and this was why she voted for them, not because she was a yellow Tory, but because she was carrying out our side of the deal to get some of our policies on the statute, this was not put across. Of course added to that should have been a “and we were in a dire financial situation because of the way Labour had handled the country’s finances up to 2008”.

    I heard Sal on I think it was Any Questions a few weeks before the election and I was impressed with her . . . right up until the Tory mentioned that “they” raised the income tax allowance to 10,000 and her response was . . . nothing ! She should have immediately interrupted him and pointed out it was a Lib Dem policy NOT a Tory one. We are far too meek when it comes to defending the coalition, we dont seem to point out why we voted for some bad Tory policies and let the Tories take credit for our policies that became law.

    Sometimes we re just too nice, Clegg being the prime example of this – we had Cameron over a barrel in 2010 – he was desperate for power, a prerequisite for us should have been STV and an elected house of Lords, those or no deal, but no we had a referendum on AV and some weak Lords reforms that went nowhere.

  • Matthew Severn 19th Dec '19 - 3:09pm

    Tim Farron isnt on the scrapheap though, is he. He is an active constituency MP and was re-elected last week and is the only LibDem in the North of England.

  • Inevitably, Lib Dem Voice is full of comments anticipating our official review of this General Election. All comments are perfectly valid if often in conflict with one another. At this stage, I will simply join those who hope that Jo Swinson stays active in our party and is not tempted either by a peerage or another career. She articulated extremely well what was agreed as party policy running up to the election. Unfortunately for her, as a defender of a marginal seat, she could not withstand the consolidation of an already ongoing surge of Scottish nationalism. Arguably, it was a surge of English nationalism that was responsible for many of our disappointing results south of the border

  • In 2016 almost half of the UK electorate who voted chose ‘Remain’ (16+ million); in the EU elections around 12 million voted LibDem. Where did they go? In the GE this party got less than one quarter of leave voters (3.6 million) even though we were constantly told that ‘This was the ONLY party of ‘Remain’. On results I view Jo Swinson’s tenure as a disaster. Should she take the blame alone? No, but she was ‘in charge’.

    Instead of policies, all through her tenure, LDV was full of photo’s, umpteen interviews, etc. with defectors ( most of whose history showed them to be anything but LibDems). Existing MPs were largely ignored; who chose that strategy?

    Apart from ‘revoke’ where were the policies? As Peter Martin wrote, “What were you planning to do for the other 1800+ days? Supporting Boris Johnson’s December election was a great mistake but again, during the campaign, there were umpteen photo calls with ‘celebs’ supporting the party but almost nothing of substance on policies.

  • David Garlick 19th Dec '19 - 4:14pm

    Just sent a donation to the Scottish Lib Dems to help fight SNP and their ‘charming’ leader. Please do the same

  • @ JH “Sometimes we’re just too nice”.

    As someone who first joined the Liberal Party in 1962, I think I’m entitled to say there was nothing ‘nice’ (or liberal) about the bedroom tax, the welfare cuts, the local government cuts, the NHS ‘Reforms’ and the cuts to legal aid….. or a Home Office that banned library books for prisoners etc. etc., etc.,……. nor did the electorate think so in 2015.

  • Ah David but to be “nice” and to ensure we don’t upset the people we work with we must make hard choices. I mean if poor Mr Clegg and Co had kicked up a fuss their colleagues would have been upset and that just wouldn’t be “nice”. I’m afraid Clegg and Co where more concerned about upsetting their Tory colleagues (people like them) than upsetting people they knew little about. After all they’d given them “same sex marriage” without of cause realising that poor people can’t afford to get married no matter what your sexuality . They gave them a Green Bank which got privatised, they gave them triple lock which the Tories claimed. I’m afraid the leadership was terribly nice but dim and just tagged along with people like them.

  • @David Raw “As someone who first joined the Liberal Party in 1962, I think I’m entitled”

    There’s nothing nice or radical about sitting on your purity and letting governments of either major party’s stripe govern unmoderated, when you can be in government and making a difference.

  • David Raw – please go back and read my post that you quoted from, I already covered your point there, you must have missed it.

  • frankie – quite and not insisting on PR in return for a coalition was a major blunder, how different things would be now, Cleggs legacy would have been giving the UK a fair voting system, we d have 80 odd Lib Dems in Parliament now and only 288 Tories.

  • Peter Martin 19th Dec '19 - 7:45pm

    @ TCO @malc

    “..she was a Government Minister and that comes with a requirement to vote in support of the Government.”

    So what’s the worst that could have happened if she’d rebelled? She could have got herself sacked at the moment of her choosing.

    There would be two good reasons for doing this. If she had genuinely felt that coalition policy was wrong she would have been making a moral stand against it. A slightly less good reason, but still valid, would have been to have it recorded on her CV that she wasn’t a Tory stooge. It would have been a good career move in the long run.

    It could have led to her keeping her seat in 2015. It could have made at least a few hundred votes difference in 2019. It would have made all those awkward questions from Andrew Neil so much easier to answer.

  • @ JH “please go back and read my post that you quoted from, I already covered your point there, you must have missed it.”.

    No, I didn’t miss what there was of it.

  • @ Ruth Bright Thanks, Ruth, but, I don’t give a …….. about the stick from those in denial. After sixty years as a party member, Councillor, Cabinet member for Social Care, Parliamentary candidate and party employee campaigning for what I believed was social justice this is what I see …..

    As Chair of a Scottish Foodbank,…. the outcome of 2010-15 legislation… 6,000 referrals last year….. a third children, a third low wages, a third on inadequate and punitive universal credit. The trigger…….legislation post 2010….. I’m sorry but Ms Swinson wasn’t seen to deal effectively with those issues and it hurt her back home.

    Facts : April 2018 – March 2019, at least 159,849 emergency food parcels given out by 84 independent food banks in Scotland plus the Trussell Trust network’s distribution of 210,605 emergency food parcels. Further evidence …….

    “Foodbank set up to help those in need – Kirkintilloch Herald – https://www.kirkintilloch-herald.co.uk › news › 9 Dec 2013 – A foodbank has been launched in East Dunbartonshire to help families struggling to put food on the table and those in crisis.

    East Dunbartonshire Foodbank – The Trussell Trust – ALISS
    https://www.aliss.org › services › east-dunbartonshire-foodbank 17 Sep 2018 –
    East Dunbartonshire Foodbank – Food & Nutrition, Foodbank – “The foodbank was there when we really needed it, it was an absolute lifeline”……..

    https://www.kirkintilloch-herald.co.uk › news › “shocking-668-children-in- East Dunbartonshire rely on food help by Foodbank … 13 Nov 2018 -“Local SNP MSP Gil Paterson has slammed the UK government’s cuts to welfare, after new figures revealed food bank use in East Dunbartonshire”.

  • David Raw – I said “in the coalition we agreed with the Tories that they would enact some of our policies if we enacted some of their policies, so for every bedroom tax there was a raising of the tax threshold to 10,000 – most “nasty” Tory policies she voted for could be countered with a good Lib Dem policy as a trade off and this was why she voted for them, not because she was a yellow Tory, but because she was carrying out our side of the deal to get some of our policies on the statute”

    you said “As someone who first joined the Liberal Party in 1962, I think I’m entitled to say there was nothing ‘nice’ (or liberal) about the bedroom tax, the welfare cuts, the local government cuts, the NHS ‘Reforms’ and the cuts to legal aid….. or a Home Office that banned library books for prisoners etc. etc., etc.,……. nor did the electorate think so in 2015.”

    I think its clear that I covered your response in my post.

  • Sopwith Morley,

    Personally I liked Jo’s dresses. If you do Google Images of Jo – https://www.google.com/search?q=jo+swinson&client=firefox-b-ab&sxsrf=ACYBGNRNzl587027rVtnt7PTNWkkvh4Mnw:1576798976602&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiwrYf38cLmAhXMTsAKHS6IAEoQ_AUoAXoECBAQAw&biw=1680&bih=917 there are images of her in trousers, a t-shirt, a tracksuit, and even jackets. I don’t think she had different colours of the same design of dress, just lots of different coloured dresses with high collar lines. I wonder if having two children affected her wearing such dresses. (I just wondered why she was wearing a wide leather bracelet on her arm.)

    Expats,

    In the 2019 EU Parliament election we received 3,367,284 votes (19.8%). The Brexit Party received 5,248,533 votes (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2019_European_Parliament_election_in_the_United_Kingdom).In the 2019 general election we received 3,696,423 votes (11.6%).

    Ruth Bright,

    You are right the party has failed to address the issue of our Coalition legacy. Now many members, myself included, say we should have a leader not tainted by the Coalition.

    I think our 2019 manifesto might include money to re-open the closed SureStart centres. It didn’t include reversing the cuts to legal aid or all the cuts to benefits which I think we should be promising to reverse. If we don’t have the policies to reverse them people would be right to believe that we still support those cuts.

  • Sopwith Morley 20th Dec '19 - 7:46am

    @ expats 19th Dec ’19 – 3:57pm
    “In 2016 almost half of the UK electorate who voted chose ‘Remain’ (16+ million); in the EU elections around 12 million voted LibDem. ”

    In the EU elections 3.3m voted LibDem, not sure where you get the 12 million from

  • Sopwith Morley 20th Dec '19 - 8:01am

    @ MICHAEL BG

    “Personally I liked Jo’s dresses.”

    I don’t have an opinion one way or the other, but neither do I have any interest in dancing programmes, talent programmes or the endless programmes about fashion that populate the TV channels. However millions of people do, millions of people define and lead their lives on the basis of fashion and what is fashionable in our materialistic world.
    Apart from working hard and being a good mother, my daughter in law’s main obsession in life is fashion, of politics she has little interest. However superficial as it might be, it is a nailed on certainty that if politics drifted into her life and she was presented with three female party leaders to vote for, she would immediately rank them by their appearance, in exactly the same way many men and especially ex veterans poured scorn on Michael Foot for wearing what was called a ‘donkey jacket’ at the centotaph.

    It is all about first impressions and perceptions.

  • @ JH As Tommy Docherty once said when he managed Preston North End,
    “I thought we did well to score nil”.

  • What the likes of David Raw and the other anti-coalitionists fail to appreciate, is that the choice was as follows:

    – a Tory government doing all the stuff we’ve seen since 2015, or
    – a Tory government moderated by Lib Dems, doing some good things

    It’s as simple as that – and I’m proud that my party had the cojones to step up and get things done.

  • David Raw – your last comment has no relevance on our previous comments, you missed my points I repeated them, you ignored them, cant really debate if thats your attitude.

  • TCO – I disagree with some of what we did and some of how we handled the Coalition, but I do in the main agree with your last post, its a pity, however that we dont seem to be able defend our part in the Coalition very well.

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