Jo Swinson: I’m not finished making change in the world

I know that many readers will be wondering how Jo Swinson is getting on.

Her leadership, which offered so much promise, came to an abrupt end at the General Election.

She has written an article for the Sunday Times today in which she describes how she learned to deal with a sudden mid-life career change.

Given what she has been through in the past few months, it is really uplifting and optimistic.

In looking for what to do next, it wasn’t a surprise that she looked for guidance in books:

I longed for simplicity in reinventing myself. But most big career changes aren’t simple, says Herminia Ibarra, a professor of organisational behaviour. Having studied people transitioning from bankers to novelists, and psychologists to monks, Ibarra concludes that people rarely set out with a clear and simple plan that they execute. More common is the test-and-learn approach.

Reading her book, Working Identity, gave me confidence to explore the possibilities. I mixed paid speaking engagements and consultancy with volunteering and board experience. Networking was crucial and people were kind with advice. I learnt that by helping others with your own expertise, you can complete the circle of kindness. It is a feature seen in business more than politics.

Jo was an early adopter of Twitter and won an LDV award back in the day for using it, but she’s mostly stayed away:

Some things, such as avidly reading Twitter for the latest news, put me in the headspace of my old job. Breaking that habit helped me focus on the future.

One thing you will never find me trying, but is also very typically Jo:

When a friend told me she went open-air swimming, my initial reaction was incredulity. Then I figured, why not give it a go? So one January morning I found myself squeezing into a borrowed wetsuit and wading into a 2C lake. I loved it. I’ve even found myself changing al fresco into my swimming costume in appalling weather and high winds.

And, as always, her Dad, Peter is a key inspiration:

Two years ago my dad died. He had battled through two types of blood cancer, meningitis, sepsis and years of uncertainty. He had been celebrating the end of chemotherapy, looking forward to a return to normality. He got back out on his bike and enjoyed a 13-mile ride, though he said he had struggled with the hills. Later that week he was admitted to hospital with difficulty breathing. He talked to me through his oxygen mask about how he was going to look into getting an electric bike when he recovered, to help him with the slopes. Even just a few days before he died my dad was working out how to adapt so he could live as full a life as possible. We all have the ability to change. That’s the inspiration I carry with me.

And one thing that we can look forward to:

I’m not finished making change in the world. I don’t yet know what the next chapter of my story looks like, but I trust I can make it good.

It’s good to see Jo at her gutsy, curious, empathetic and determined best.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • I can identify with how Jo thinks and feels about her Dad. It was 42 years ago last Sunday that I lost my Dad….. suddenly, without warning.

    Hardly a day goes by when I don’t think about him so I know how Jo feels. Today we parcelled up Dad’s wartime RAF gear and uniform to send to my eldest grandson. In these Covid days it’s right to think about family, continuity and mortality, though Dad would probably say ‘stop being so soft and get on with it’ – even though he was an old softy himself.

    Jo’s got oodles of time and she’s had a huge learning curve. I hope some time in the future she’ll re-emerge, brighter and better and wiser in some form or other.

  • Michael Bukola 24th May '20 - 11:54pm

    Reverting from a life less ordinary within a party political environment can be a difficult transition after losing your seat, whether that is in Parliament or in local government. It takes resilience to come back, especially if you’ve lost more than once. There is a difficult balancing act of personal aspiration and quality of life.

    As we come to the end of Mental Health Awareness week, we do well to remember the impact of a career change on depression and anxiety as a result of change in lifestyle and routine.

  • Innocent Bystander 25th May '20 - 12:25am

    I haven’t offered any opinions recently although I enjoy reading these threads but I have to add my wholehearted agreement with your words. I am relieved to hear that Jo has the confidence to deploy her considerable talents in new fields. Her obvious intelligence, eloquence, courage and empathy will make a major difference in whatever enterprises she next tackles. I have been increasingly annoyed at the personal scapegoating over the election result. Firstly, the country needed an election before the bond between people and parliament became irretrievably severed. Secondly, of course she was aiming to be PM and finally, although ‘Revoke’ was an impossible policy to defend, it was a worthwhile, once in a lifetime gamble. If all those millions who marched for, and championed, Remain actually wanted what they claimed to want, then Jo gave them their opportunity.
    They reverted to two party politics, as usual, but she gave them a chance.
    And what was the alternative pitch to voters? More of the same old stuff? What other reason was there to vote for LibDem?
    She was also far and away the best PM material of those on offer and it took the work of many people, over many years, in a real team effort, to do this damage to this party and it is not the fault of one woman.
    This blog is full of endless blame directed at the party leadership. It’s the members to blame. If a country gets the leadership it deserves then that applies to political parties.
    So carry on Jo! You did your best and it was good!

  • John Marriott 25th May '20 - 9:33am

    Will Jo Swinson be joining the ranks of those able politucians,who have given up on top level politics to seek fulfilment elsewhere? I wonder whether Amber Rudd might be in the same boat? People like Andrew Phillips QC, Ludovic Kennedy, Alex Carlile and Chris Patten come to mind, possibly, in more recent times, Michael Portillo (the Mark 2 version), Tristram Hunt, James Purcell and, dare I say it, Sir Nick and Sir Danny! And what happened to Michael Moore?

    Given her age and her obvious desire to do best by her family, who knows? Perhaps, in a few years time, she might be in for a comeback.

  • There are no second acts in British politics (well a few, but not many). There are, fortunately, many ways of having a positive impact on society which don’t depend on a fickle electorate.

  • @Innocent Bystander

    Well said.

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