Jo Swinson MP writes..The role I want to play in our party’s leadership

It feels like an age since I was knocking on doors in the pouring rain in the final hour before polls closed, then hearing the shock of the exit poll on the car radio heading home to a hairdryer and somewhat less bedraggled attire for the count.

Yet here we are just a few days later, embarking on an election for leader of the Liberal Democrats.

I went to see Tim on Wednesday afternoon to tell him I thought he should definitely stay on, and I was excited at the prospect of putting myself forward to be Deputy Leader.  I was stunned when he told me he would be resigning that evening.

Listening to Tim’s dignified statement, outlining the personal turmoil he felt during the election, I can’t fault him for deciding to step down, but I feel very sad that it came to this.  Tim has done so much for our party.  In the devastating aftermath of the 2015 election, to build a record membership and increase MPs by 50% in just 2 years is a massive achievement.  Just as important, is that we now have our most diverse Parliamentary Party ever.  We owe Tim a massive debt of gratitude.

Since his shock announcement, I have been overwhelmed by so many lovely messages from people I know, and from many members I have not yet met, encouraging me to stand for leader.  I am touched and flattered that you look to me – and I am determined to play a key role in our party’s leadership.

Being the leader of a political party is a unique and all-encompassing job, even more than the roles of MP and Minister that I have undertaken before.  It should not be done simply to achieve status, to make a point, or to please others.

When Theresa May called the snap election, my instincts immediately told me that I should stand to win back East Dunbartonshire: it felt right.  Every fibre of my being was up for it, my clarity of purpose was intense – to stop a divisive second independence referendum, to halt an extreme Brexit, and to get back to the job I have loved most out of all the things I’ve done.

When Tim resigned, my instincts told me that the best way I can serve the party at the moment is still as Deputy Leader.  Over the years I’ve learned I should trust my instincts.

My reflections and conversations about a range of factors have confirmed my conviction that the right role for me now is Deputy Leader.

Four weeks ago today, I ran a marathon.  Training for and running marathons teaches you a lot about planning, perseverance, and resilience. Creating lasting political change is a marathon, not a sprint.

Feminist that I am, I have of course wondered what a bloke in my position would do.  It’s obvious.  Most blokes in my shoes would run for leader like a shot.  It’s true that my many years of encouraging women to have the confidence to go for that exciting new role have taught me that women often don’t go for things when they should.  But just as often I have observed men going for the promotion when they shouldn’t.  Just because a man would do it, doesn’t make it the right thing to do.  I have consistently fought against stereotypes and structures that impose a choice on someone, rather than allowing them to make up their own mind.

At almost every juncture in our party’s history people have been willing to write off the Liberal Democrats – and they have been proved wrong. This election we were told we were a spent force on the verge of annihilation.  Instead we increased the number and diversity of our MPs.

British politics needs a progressive, liberal voice to speak for the millions of people across the country who share our values of tolerance, fairness and freedom. I am determined to continue to represent those values and I hope you will support me in doing so.

* Jo Swinson is Liberal Democrat MP for East Dunbartonshire, and was a Minister in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and Equalities Minister from 2012-15.

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  • Neil Fawcett 18th Jun '17 - 4:39pm

    I am very disappointed that you have decided not to stand, Jo, as you are the only potential candidate I feel enthusiasm for at this point.

    However it is entirely your decision to make, and if that’s your call, so be it.

    Still delighted that you are back in Parliament.

  • Fair play to you, Jo, and thanks for letting us all know. One of the things we liberals fight for is the right to self determination, and I hope nobody gives you grief for exercising yours xx

  • Hannah Thackeray 18th Jun '17 - 4:56pm

    Thank you for your honesty, Jo, and I completely respect your decision that this challenge isn’t for you at this moment in time. More than anything, I’m delighted to have you back in Westminster representing our party again.

  • Neil Mackinnon 18th Jun '17 - 5:05pm

    I agree with everything that Neil Fawcett has written above.

  • Steven Whaley 18th Jun '17 - 5:10pm

    My gut reaction to reading this article is one of great disappointment. That is not a criticism though. Fair play to you for ending the speculation at a relatively early stage. I hope that your decision will encourage others to make clear now whether or not they are to be candidates.

  • Thank you for your openness and candour, Jo. Like you and many members of the party, was very disappointed when Tim resigned. It must have taken some steal in his being to carry on with the election, knowing that his faith was being questioned as a political leader, when other leaders and MPs were being left alone.
    We are more diverse it is true, but there is still as you rightly say, a great deal to do to build the party. We need to reach out to women both inside and outside politics and to fashion our policies to do just that. I look forward to working with you on the next stage of our party’s regeneration.

  • Aston Mannerings 18th Jun '17 - 5:14pm

    WHYYYYYYYYYYYYY????? Aaaarrrrrggghhhh!!

  • Frances Alexander 18th Jun '17 - 5:17pm

    Dear Jo, I think you are very wise. As a feminist who has encouraged women to stand since I heard the abortion debate in 1967 and only heard men’s voices, I have encouraged women to stand everywhere. However, as leader, you would not get an easy run by the press, and you are still young. I see you growing into the role still.
    The party urgently needs, in my humble opinion, Macrom style inspiration to articulate our unique message, inspiration sufficiently powerful to make our unique message the news. Which of the Parliamentary party is up to it?

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 18th Jun '17 - 5:27pm

    Jo, I am sure you are right to trust your instincts. There is wisdom in knowing when the time is right, and when the time is not right. You may be right in saying that “most blokes in your shoes would run for leader like a shot”. But they would be likely to come to regret trying to have too much too soon.
    William Hague became leader of the Conservative Party at, I think, about the age you are now – the youngest leader of a major party in modern times. How he must later have regretted being in such a hurry, and not waiting another five or ten years. Had he waited, he would very likely eventually have been Prime Minister.
    Jo, you have the strength and wisdom to know that it is better to wait, and your time will come.

  • Russell Kent 18th Jun '17 - 5:34pm

    For me, exactly the right decision. A period as deputy leader, under an older, more experienced leader, would be a valuable learning experience.

    I would advocate Vince Cable as the leader, with Jo as deputy. Dream Team.

  • Eddie Sammon 18th Jun '17 - 5:35pm

    Nobody likes being pressured into a decision they aren’t comfortable with, so I think you’ve made the right choice. Your supporters will understand.

    Moving forward, I think Layla Moran and/or Wera Hobhouse should consider standing for leader. It doesn’t matter that they are new to the Commons, if they have the knowledge, ability and are in the right position then they should go for it, if they feel comfortable with it at this stage.

  • Mick Taylor 18th Jun '17 - 5:39pm

    I am very disappointed as I have no enthusiasm for any of the other likely candidates. If we elect a eurosceptic leader and acquiesce to a soft brexit, the I’ll probably stop campaigning for the party after 53 years as a member. I hope that there will be a leadership candidate unafraid to unequivocally oppose brexit. After all if we don’t oppose this lemming like rush to poverty who will?

  • Chris Randall 18th Jun '17 - 5:40pm

    It strange on Wednesday morning I considered that Jo being the Deputy Leader to Tim Farron Leader everything seemed well with the world. Then came the momentous decision Tim had resigned as I had only just heard the plans for a Deputy Leader so couldn’t understand the reasoning. So accepting Tim has gone I pray Alastair Carmichael stands to Jo Swindon’s Deputy.

  • Catriona Campbell 18th Jun '17 - 5:40pm

    Your statement is inspirational Jo, and I admire you greatly for the wisdom and integrity it represents.

  • paul barker 18th Jun '17 - 5:42pm

    I, too am disapointed that you wont be standing for Leader but Deputy Leader would be great too.
    Not wanting to put any pressure on anyone but it would be good if we had a Woman standing for Leader, its up to them of course.

  • Julian Tisi 18th Jun '17 - 5:47pm

    Jo, your choice of course and a lot to ask of anyone. But I for one am very sad if you won’t be standing. You’re just the leader we need.

  • Alastair has already said he won’t stand.

  • I think Jo has made the absolutely right decision and for the right reasons too. Nobody who has looked at the pressure leaders are under and the sacrifices they make on behalf of us would make a decision to stand lightly to or should be pressured by others to do so.
    It has to feel right at the time and Jo’s time will surely come. The prospect of a Cable/Swinson combo though seems a perfect blend of youth and experience and something all the party can get behind.

  • Eddie Sammon 18th Jun '17 - 5:52pm

    PS, Christine Jardine should consider standing for leader too. Years in the Commons are desirable, but not a pre-requisite. A female candidate would be good.

  • Clive Jones 18th Jun '17 - 5:54pm

    I think you have made a wise decision. It is obviously the right one for you and your family. I am pleased that you are back in Parliament. There will be a chance in the future for you to stand for the leadership, when its right for you and your family and right for the party.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 18th Jun '17 - 5:55pm

    Mick, I do hope you will continue to campaign for the party, whatever the result of the leadership contest may be. After all, you have been loyal to the party through difficult times before. Could I possibly ask you something : as a pacifist, are you not prepared to see the merit in a candidate who may be prepared to accept a soft brexit, but who did refuse to vote to bomb Syria?

  • Steve Comer 18th Jun '17 - 6:00pm

    Sad news – I’m sure she could have won. I really don’t want a contest between grey men in suits!

  • Tony Baines 18th Jun '17 - 6:05pm

    Do we really need a leadership election at the moment? Hope that you MPs might be able to get together and sort something out that works for the short/medium term. Am not anti democracy but haven’t we all had enough elections for a while? Would also give a chance for our new MPs to settle down.

    Also what about broadening out the leadership so that people outside parliament can get involved? Maybe we could share the burden a bit without things getting too confused?

    The world around us is changing but our leadership structure seems to have been the same for a long time. Why not just take a moment to consider things before we rush into another election (know there could possibly be a GE but we can have a fallback plan).

  • Trevor Stables 18th Jun '17 - 6:13pm

    I totally echo Neil Fawcett’s view. We now run the risk of turning people off with a choice that is not what most of us want. Are we destined to being the very last Party in the UK to have a woman leader??
    Moments of Opportunity come rarely, we have to grab them with both hands.

  • David Becket 18th Jun '17 - 6:14pm

    @Tony Baines
    Well said

  • Giuliano Mai 18th Jun '17 - 6:16pm

    Jo, If recent events have taught us anything it is that principle and conviction are a rare and valuable currency in the current political discourse. Your reasoning is perfectly articulated, your constituents have a brilliant MP and our party has a valuable parliamentarian. Well done.

  • John Chandler 18th Jun '17 - 6:17pm

    A great shame you won’t be standing this time, but I respect your decision and love the marathon analogy. The deputy role (to stretch the metaphor) is in some ways that last 18 mile long run in training before the race.

    I think you are the right person for the leadership, and the fact you’re prepared to take the time and not rush in before you feel ready only proves the point. Here’s looking forward to the future.

  • Yeovil Yokel 18th Jun '17 - 6:18pm

    Russell Kent – completely concur: Vince would be a stable and authoritative figure in an unstable HoC, particularly during the next couple of years whilst the Remainers push back against Brexit and when we might be facing yet another General Election. He’s probably the one Lib Dem the Tories and their media allies respect. Ideally he could mentor Jo and absorb a lot of the debilitating flak which would otherwise come her way whilst she grows into the role. As you say, a Dream Team.
    Slightly off-topic, but I won’t be voting for Norman, much as I like and respect him. He’d surely be compromised as an anti-Brexit Leader by having to defend a small majority in a heavily Leave-voting constituency. Plus, to paraphrase Field Marshall Montgomery’s terse summary of Eisenhower: “Nice chap, no leader”.

  • Helen Tedcastle 18th Jun '17 - 6:21pm

    Wise words Jo. I think you will make a formidable Deputy Leader. I agree with John Pugh and others that a Cable/Swinson leadership team would be just the ticket to move the party forward.

  • Saif AL-Saadoon 18th Jun '17 - 6:27pm

    I fully understand your decision and I respect you for knowing your station at this moment of unforeseen circumstances.
    If you become Deputy to Vince Cable; then in the successes of the Party to come, we can celebrate the saying that behind every great man there is a Woman. Good luck.

  • Bernard Aris 18th Jun '17 - 6:28pm

    Dear Mrs. Swinson,

    Being a feminist myself (in the tradition of that Liberal MP mister Pankhurst, and of course John Stuart Mill; feminism comes natural to Social Liberals in Britain and the Netherlands, who from early, around 1870, on worked closely together) I’m sorry to read your decision, but because women come from Venus, they don’t just barge into any fight they see, like us Mars-descended types do. 😉

    Congratulations on winning your seat back, along with a clutch of other fantastic LibDem women (and men).
    One of the recently elected D66 MP’s here in the Netherlands, Mrs. Ingrid van Engelshoven, is also a marathon runner and an Education specialist (Education Alderman in The Hague city for 7 years); she tells me (and everybody else) that getting things reformed in Dutch education is like first preparing and then running a marathon; both phases need good preparation and planning. So I appreciate what you’re saying there.

    And I fully share your praise for what Tim, from a position of being marginalised, has achieved for our party.

  • Peter Brand 18th Jun '17 - 6:32pm

    You are wise not to stand for the leadership yet. The time when we can have a leader who supported the Tories’ introduction of tuition fees is still some way off.
    I think you’d make a good deputy leader.
    I disagree with your views on one important matter you include in your article, but I’ve been told not to mention it here in case it takes the thread down a rabbit hole. I look forward to trying to discuss it next time it comes up,

  • Cameron Miller 18th Jun '17 - 6:33pm

    To comment that you fight stereotypes in the same paragraph as you stating what “most blokes would do” is backwards. Could there not be the imposition upon those very men from social norms to go for jobs beyond their reach because it’s the ‘correct’ thing to do?

  • Shaun Cunningham 18th Jun '17 - 6:53pm

    So who is going to step forward then. Perhaps Mr Lamb, a Brexit supporter who voted for article 50, no way, or Mr Davy who supports the killing of thousands of badgers for no reason, again no way. I fear we are heading for one depressing leadership election. This is the last thing this party needs.

  • Mark Inskip 18th Jun '17 - 6:57pm

    I completely respect your decision but at the same time I’m disappointed not to have the opportunity (at least for now) to vote for you as party leader. One of the highlights of Thursday night/Friday morning after Polling Day was hearing that you had won back East Dunbartonshire.

    Best of luck with your bid to be Deputy Leader!

  • Richard Arrowsmith 18th Jun '17 - 7:09pm

    Mario Cumo said

    ‘if you believe You should be president of the USA the decision to stand is not a choice its a duty’

    Your country needs you

  • Lorenzo Cherin 18th Jun '17 - 7:14pm

    Jo would be a terrific leader.

    My view is she would thus far ,be treated awfully by the media who would twist her comments on gender and the agenda she has most been working in and on.

    Some time on foreign affairs would be just what she needs to give her the substantive policy experience needed . Or to move from coalition association.

    A part of me likes the idea of less obviously political experience though, the Sarah effect in Richmond by election, the ” So let’s support Layla,”mantra ,one I feel able to shout , as much almost as the,” For leadership , its Lamb , “which I shall be doing !

    But today is about saying ,

    ” Definitely Swinson, deputy sheriff !”

  • Mark Senior 18th Jun '17 - 7:14pm

    As a Liberal/Lib Dem member off and on ( currently off mostly for reasons of inertia ) for over 50 years , I would hope that Jo will reconsider her decision . UK Politics , not just the liberal wing of it ) needs a new broom and IMHO Jo is the best person to provide that .

  • Yeovil Yokel 18th Jun '17 - 7:18pm

    Shaun Cunningham – Norman Lamb abstained in the Article 50 vote, no Lib Dem MP’s voted for it.

  • Thomas Shakespeare 18th Jun '17 - 7:28pm

    You’ll be a fantastic deputy leader Jo – the best the party has ever had. Sad that you aren’t standing for leader, but hopefully one day.

  • Richard Underhill 18th Jun '17 - 7:30pm

    “Friends of Jo Swinson” have been quoted in the press as saying that Vince Cable should be leader for a couple of years because of his age. He said something similar himself when Ming Campbell stood down from the leadership. Jo should answer for these “friends”. Vince is what we need now in the House of Commons and he has a nearby constituency and respect as a heavyweight. Gordon Brown is no longer an MP.
    The electorates are different, so the Deputy Leader could be announced before the leader. Someone needs to stand up to Theresa May and be economically credible, unlike Jeremy Corbyn.

  • Whilst disappointed you are not standing for leader Jo, understand you feel you’d rather me Deputy Leader at this point-nothing can be taken for granted but sure your time will come. Of course thus far Jackie Ballard is the only woman who has stood for the leadership but as far as parliamentarians go some progress has been made on diversity,if still long way to go(no LGBT candidates elected this time).

    I disagree with Tony (I’m not a Lib Dem member (have been supporter for some time), but may consider it) I don’t think this is the time for a coronation , would rather the leader is tested and the party may even get some publicity from it. Obviously views on Brexit/Economy paramount but would like to see other ideas raised too.

  • Respect Jo’s decision, but am very very disappointed.

  • James Graham 18th Jun '17 - 8:16pm

    I would guess that Jo was under a fair bit of pressure to stand since she was the female MP with the greatest chance of winning the election. Indeed Mark Pack’s survey showed that she would of got about 57% of the 1st preference votes.
    However I totally respect her decision to not stand and also shows that she is not going to be pushed into a role that she does not want to do. Also the vastly greater media scrutiny that the leader comes under is not for everybody.
    Hopefully we do not end up with only 1 candidate for the job since despite Vince’s many qualities we need a leader who will commit to at least a 7 year term and I do not think that he is likely to be up for that length of time at the helm. I’m not sure that he would of stood again to be a MP if the election had happened in 2020 or 2021 for example.
    Why 7 years, well since we have every possibility of having an election in 2019 at the end of the Brexit negotiations it would be for the next 5 years after that. If we have a leader who is not willing to credibly say 100% that they are looking serve another 5 years as leader it is going to make life very difficult for us as a party.
    Personally I hope the Norman stands again, I think that he would be a very good leader and one who has the necessary pragmatic approach to Brexit which is required. Yes we are party of remain but about 30% of our supporters voted leave and that is what the majority of the people in the UK voted for.

  • Ben Jephcott 18th Jun '17 - 8:50pm

    Well done Jo, a wise decision I think. You’ll make a great deputy leader and I look forward to the contest with Layla Moran some time in the next decade.

  • @ Jo Swinson
    “……my instincts immediately told me that I should stand to win back East Dunbartonshire: it felt right. Every fibre of my being was up for it, my clarity of purpose was intense…”
    “When Tim resigned, my instincts told me that the best way I can serve the party at the moment is still as Deputy Leader. Over the years I’ve learned I should trust my instincts.”

    Very interesting use of language.
    If there is anyone still on this site who still believes that the neo cortex drives decision making , think again.
    They say one of the most difficult leadership qualities to teach is judgement.
    My opinion of someone I’ve never met has just been greatly enhanced.
    I truly hope she is been totally honest here, because if she is, there is a real chance there is at least one person in a senior position who totally understands the importance of aiming their offering directly at the Limbic systems of the voters!

  • Irrespective of their abilities, Vince as leader and Jo as deputy is a terrible idea. The whole time will be spent in discussions over whether it will be this autumn/spring/summer/recess when Vince stands down in favour of his younger successor.

  • Yeovil Yokel 18th Jun '17 - 9:39pm

    Hywel – “The whole time will be spent in discussions over whether it will be this autumn/spring/summer/recess when Vince stands down in favour of his younger successor.” I doubt it – assuming he stands, Vince would be well aware of the game plan, he would probably serve for 2 – 3 years, health permitting, and he would liaise with his colleagues well in advance of his departure. If he stands I think he would be motivated by the interests of the Party and the country, not self-glorification, and he wouldn’t stand in the way of a keen and promising successor when they feel ready to take up the baton.
    This also pre-supposes that the Deputy automatically inherits the Leader’s job when the latter resigns – would it work like that or would there be another leadership contest?
    Finally, Hywel, who would you suggest as an alternative to Vince? – surely anyone else would be more likely to covet the job and therefore deny Jo the opportunity to become Leader to beyond the time when she may still want to do it or even to still have a parliamentary seat to qualify her for standing? Any recruitment process is a compromise, you rarely find someone perfectly suited for a particular job, and I can’t think of anyone better than Vince from the 11 MP’s available for doing this job at this particular moment with the HoC in its present state.

  • I must respect Jo’s decision. It is hers, and hers alone to make. I am wondering, however, how much longer this party, that I have supported for 30 years, can survive. I really rate Vince and Norman, but as older, male, white, middle class men, they can offer nothing to differentiate us from the other parties. Nor can they bring in more members. If Vince had been Prime Minister our country would not be in the god-awful mess it is now. He is the best contemporary political economist of our time. I guess we can only hope that the press doesn’t treat him in the way they did Ming.

  • Philip Rolle 18th Jun '17 - 10:29pm

    The lesson since 2007 is that political parties are apt to choose poor leaders. Perhaps those who volunteer should be rejected and those who rule themselves out should be dragged to the throne.

  • Yeovil Yokel 18th Jun '17 - 10:41pm

    Arithmetical error alert: if there are 12 MP’s, and Tim has resigned, and Jo and Alistair have ruled themselves out of contention, then that of course leaves 8 potential leadership candidates apart from Vince. In practice there will be between 2 – 4.

  • Seriously? Can all senior people in the party considering issue a statement just trim it to the most basic point required. Tim could just have said “I’m resigning” Jo could have just said “I’m not running for leader but will run for deputy.”

    Both of the statements made are not at all helpful. Tim’s actually didn’t clarify what his position was but gave enough to his critics to make more assumptions about his views and throw more dirt at him.

    Jo choses to include:
    “Most blokes in my shoes would run for leader like a shot”
    Well after 2017 we had 8 MPs with one standing down as leader (7 potential successors), generously interpreting “most” would make it over 50% so that would have given us 4 candidates. We had 2. Excluding Tim, we have Six men with prior parliamentary experience, applying the above rule 4 will be running, how confident is anyone that this will happen?
    “women often don’t go for things when they should. But just as often I have observed men going for the promotion when they shouldn’t”
    One name: Andrea Leadsom
    And to follow up with:
    “I have consistently fought against stereotypes”

    I would have supported Jo for leader in 2015 had she retained her seat and would probably have supported her for leader in 2017 from an initial first glance of the eligible possible candidates, but this is not the attitude that wins over voters.

    Statements from the LibDems are sliding under the radar at the moment but just remember they are out there, ready for your opponents to dig back up when the time is right (for them).

  • I’m really surprised to see Jo being accused of being sexist. Those readers seem to have completely missed the point that Jo is making.

    My understanding is that she’s examining her subconscious bias to determine whether it is influencing her thinking. There’s a lot of research on gender differences in this area and plenty written on the topic, see for example in Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In.

    She’s wondering whether her subconscious bias is influencing her instinct and that is why she is not putting herself forward for leader. She concludes that it isn’t and she is making up her own mind.

  • Despite being – i’m sorry Jo, whisper it- a man, I have chosen to pursue time with my kids ahead of money, ahead of my career, ahead of status. I work part-time, I don’t go for jobs that people think I ‘should’ go for. It has made me happier than I would otherwise have been – there is literally nothing I would swap for the time I have spent with my kids in their early childhoods.

    I think Jo ought to be careful of the dangers of hypocrisy. In the same blog post she rails against stereotyping… then says without a hint of irony ‘obviously, blokes would of course go for this like a shot’.

    Get over yourself Jo. You aren’t the only one, and your gender is not the only gender, that is capable of making such a choice.

  • Neal Kelshaw 18th Jun '17 - 11:09pm

    I had previously been lobbying support in our local party for a vote on a Vince Cable leadership, Jo Swinson deputy leadership ticket. Vince is what the party needs for electorate and business appeal supported by Jo Swinson for social liberalism. What concerned me was Jo’s attack dogs playing the girlie/’representative’ card and also quite frankly insulting behaviour towards Vince.

    The party needs Vince. Jo will be a great deputy, but quite frankly at the moment since everyone knows Vince Cable and not many people outside of the Lib Dems knows who Jo Swinson is, we need to build out from what is right to appeal to the electorate, not who we like internally.

    Perhaps Jo would make a good leader in future. But I do believe talent should be on merit alone, I believe Nick Clegg and Tim Farron followed this principle.

    I now fear, reading this, that Jo’s attitudes are in fact rather divisive and rather sexist. Shouldn’t you stand on your abilities, not insult malekind nor play a vote for me as I’m female card? We need skill in MPs and leadership, not reverse sexism.

    Are we really in this day and age to be called ‘blokes’, and is this a pejorative term? What uproar would there be if calling a female nominee a ‘bird’?

    Tell us why we should vote for Jo Swinson because of what you stand for and will do as deputy leader, how would you be as deputy PM if that happened under a mass vote for Lib Dem’s – I’m begging to be convinced.

    Will the ‘friends of Jo’ who launched the disgraceful attack on Vince be apologising?

  • Many interesting comments and much speculation.
    If I may speculate just a little further, what happens if, following Jo’s example, none of our MPs actually applies to be leader?

  • “Finally, Hywel, who would you suggest as an alternative to Vince?”

    Well, um, Jo!

    @Mark Inskip – “I’m really surprised to see Jo being accused of being sexist.” I’m fairly certain that being familiar with the internet you’re not really that surprised 🙂

  • @ Chris.

    No individual can ever be ‘most blokes’, and fewer are ‘most blokes in my shoes’. You might be a bloke, but you aren’t in her shoes, and your efforts to point out you aren’t like ‘most blokes’ is compatible with her statement.

    She makes good points. She’s not going to do something just because it’s expected of her, and she’s not going to do it just so that we can announce we’ve got a female leader before the Labour party.

    Jo is being canny. She must know that if she becomes leader now, she’ll be undermined at every turn, and then if the next election (possibly next year) doesn’t result in enough MPs, people will be demanding her resignation, and where would we be?

  • Philip Rolle 18th Jun '17 - 11:45pm

    Canny enough perhaps to deliberately insert an explanation that will be labelled sexist as an “aunt Sally” Or should it be an “Uncle Arthur?

  • I don’t expect it to happen but Allan does ask an intriguing question!

  • @ Fiona
    “No individual can ever be ‘most blokes’, and fewer are ‘most blokes in my shoes’. You might be a bloke, but you aren’t in her shoes, and your efforts to point out you aren’t like ‘most blokes’ is compatible with her statement.”

    Sir Humphrey would be proud Fiona 🙂

  • I don’t think anyone should feel held back by a lack of experience – if your heart’s in the right place that’s what counts. Look at Macron’s people – all novices. Hopefully Jo may recant and accept the leadership by popular demand. If even the lib dems sell out on Brexit I think I’ll go away and join a monastery.

  • Fiona @1140…

    With respect, you’re rather missing my point.

    You say I’m making ‘efforts to point out I’m not like most blokes’. You are falling into the same stereotyping that Jo Swinson is.

    Rather, what I’m saying is that ‘blokes’ (if that’s what you insist on calling us) aren’t some homogeneous mass who behave as one. And in my experience there are many (as it happens, including me), who don’t act along the stereotypes that Jo and perhaps you seem keen to perpetuate. And if people say they are against stereotyping then perhaps they ought not to stereotype.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 19th Jun '17 - 12:26am


    Not a good take to single out Chris as not like most blokes, because he shows it , implication, he is in a minority.

    Words are trivia until a woman today tells us otherwise !

    Thus the slang word blokes, is silly, but used by men and women, and some women do not like to hear men say the word ,girl, instead of woman, yet if from a woman, and very many use it, it is acceptable , though not from a man. It is acceptable to say, guys, the word, yet ” birds “used to be used , as in “she is a nice bird, he’s a nice bloke !”

    The stereotype Jo Swinson uses is a stereotype and a presumption, and generalisation.

    Actually Catherine Jane Crosland shows an example of where it works, Hague, another, is Macron.

    But , amidst his sarcasm and anger , I see why Chris has a point to salvage, for no Liberal should embrace such a way of seeing things too often.

    Most men, in a so called man’s world, are neither highly successful , or professionally driven to the extent that politicians are of both genders.

    Our current scenario politically has, women running the Scottish, Northern Irish , and UK governments, and political parties in Wales too! Is our prime minister someone who did not go great guns for the top job though she should ?!

    Mediocrity , like talent, and ambition or lack of it in professional realms , has Sweet Fanny Adams to do with gender , compared to other factors today.

    Or should that be Strong Francis Adams ?!

  • @ Lorenzo
    “Most men, in a so called man’s world, are neither highly successful , or professionally driven to the extent that politicians are of both genders.”

    Obviously some may take issue with the word “successful” but I get your drift and agree fully .
    I wonder if Jo’s stereotyping has been coloured by her experiences by working in the testosterone infused westminster bubble for many years?

    @ Lorenzo
    “……some women do not like to hear men say the word ,girl, instead of woman, yet if from a woman, and very many use it, it is acceptable , though not from a man………”

    This is surely just tying ourselves in knots with crazy political correctness. Maybe I’ll get into trouble here, but surely to goodness, its more about the way something is said than the word itself?

    Where I come from – she’s a “grand lass’, he’s one of the “lads” (or she sometimes).
    No different to the Aussie – “He’s a legend”,
    These are all just terms of affection surely for people you like/get on with/enjoy spending time with. I really hope no woman would take offence if I called her a grand lass!

    When I was growing up in Yorkshire it certainly would have raised a smile and maybe if I was lucky even a date 🙂

  • Jo should make it clearer that her strategy is ‘reculer pour mieux sauter’ – i.e. she is not afraid of the leadership but will marshall her forces on the springboard on the deputy leadership. This would reassure people

  • If there is one thing that Brexit should have taught people, its dont recklessly rip down one structure without having a better alternative or two ready. Who are the wreckers who ejected Farron?

  • Dear Jo, I respect your decision. If you were to have stood as Leader, you would have had my vote hands down! I agree with Russell Kent – a period with Vince Cable (whom I also admire deeply) as leader and you as Deputy as we move into the future. I really hope that Vince will stand!

    I was very distressed by Tim’s departure (whatever the real circumstances behind it) and would question my continuation in the party with some possible leadership configurations.

  • Richard Fagence 19th Jun '17 - 8:11am

    I fully respect Jo’s decision and if she stands for Deputy Leader she will have my support and my vote. Personally, I hope that Norman Lamb will stand for the leadership. I attended two hustings during the last leadership elections and he was, for me, easily the more impressive of the two candidates. As for “having to defend a small majority” Yeovil Yokel (whoever you are), there are a number of members of parliament – not all of them Liberal Democrats – who would love a majority of 3,512!

  • So the only potential leadership candidate who might be better than the one we’ve just lost isn’t going to stand – well, that’s great…

  • Alasdair Brooks 19th Jun '17 - 8:39am

    Like many writing here, I’m simultaneously disappointed but understanding. A couple of years of Jo as deputy leader with Vince leading us through the next election to offer us a period of ‘Strong and Cable’ stability while Jo gets some more leadership experience and more media exposure as our likely leader in waiting (acknowledging the final decision is in the hands of the party members) strikes me as sensible. Vince hopefully shouldn’t be treated quite as unfairly as Ming was given that Corbyn isn’t much younger.

    As to the minor controversy regarding Jo’s comments about how ‘Most blokes in my shoes would run for leader like a shot … I have observed men going for the promotion when they shouldn’t’, well… I’m obviously male, and I think she’s entirely right. I accept that it doesn’t apply to all men, but it certainly applies to _some_ men; I’ve seen it happen often enough in my professional roles.

  • Geoff English 19th Jun '17 - 8:40am

    My feeling was very similar to John Bicknell above that I would have preferred to go straight to Jo as leader with Vince mentoring from the deputy position. though there was also a lot to be said for Vince as interim leader and Jo taking over in a couple of years – I don’t think there is anything in Jo’s statement that doesn’t make that a reasonable scenario. The problem with this at the moment though is that none of us know how long we have before the next snap election and we cannot afford to go into that in a great muddle on the leadership issue. Frankly I would be worried going into another general election with Vince or Norman or Ed or any other likely candidate holding the fort while we wait for Jo to decide the time is right for her.

  • Are we stuck with a man again?. We juastcannot be distinctive. I hope Jo has not been got at by those Lords. I can say now that I will NOT be voting in the election for Leader, if there is one.

  • @Chris, my point was that you not a homogenous mass, and it’s OK for you to be different. It’s fine if you want to point out that not all men are like ‘most men’ in Jo’s situation, but that was already inherent within her writing.

    @Lorenzo, Chris is annoyed because he didn’t think I grasped that he wasn’t like ‘most blokes’, and you think I am wrong to say he isn’t like ‘most blokes’, even though that was the thrust of his comment.

    Anyway, my point wasn’t about him particularly. More that unnecessary offence often stems from confusion between the words most and all, and when the caveats to describe a situation are ignored.

    So for clarity, I don’t think Jo is saying all men would rush for a promotion they weren’t ready for. However, it is a common concern, with data to back it up, that men are far more likely to apply for a job or promotion despite not meeting all of the criteria than women are. That’s one of the reasons so many equality campaigners wanted to make the point of encouraging Jo to apply, so she is acknowledging that legitimate encouragement, while explaining that going against a stereotype for the sake of it isn’t much better than going along with one.

    I don’t have full national data, but I know in my work place we were having this very conversation with HR last week and what to do when the only person applying for a promotion is an under-qualified man when we know there are qualified women who chose not to. We discussed several aspects of succession planning, and while I think the party has been making great strides by positively encouraging individuals from under-represented groups to consider becoming a parliamentary candidate, we’re not yet in a position to treat our leaders as disposable.

  • To respond to the frankly patronising comments above (mentally filed under Liberal Democrats, installment in slow death of). Jo has more ministerial experience than any previous Lib Dem leader had on election – and any leader of the Liberal party since Sinclair

  • Nonconformistradical 19th Jun '17 - 9:35am

    @John King
    “Look at Macron’s people – all novices…..”

    And as yet untested. Also they did not have to contend with the FPTP electoral system which facilitates ‘elective dictatorships” as described by the late Lord Hailsham

  • Lynne Featherstone 19th Jun '17 - 9:43am

    Very very disappointed that Jo has decided not to stand

  • David Westaby 19th Jun '17 - 9:55am

    I understand Jo may not feel the complete candidate for the leadership at this time point. However, I feel that at this time a risk was worth taking. We need to engage a new generation of supporters in the wider electorate . A safe option might suffice to hold us where we are but does not address the future. I hope she will reconsider.

  • Very disappointed Jo is not standing as we need fresher, younger voices just now. Full credit for dealing with an issue very early on and firmly. A lesson for all!

  • David Evershed 19th Jun '17 - 10:20am

    Good to see Jo Swinson taking the longer term view.

  • Yeovil Yokel 19th Jun '17 - 10:24am

    Paul Walter – I didn’t mean to imply that I agree with Montgomery’s assessment of Eisenhower (he was wrong about many things), I was merely trying to illustrate why I feel that Norman is a leading liberal lieutenant but not a leader. I attended one of the Farron vs. Lamb hustings and I was struck by Tim’s passion and charisma – Norman came across as highly capable but slightly dull and intellectual, and unfortunately we Brits don’t do intellectual!!

    Some posters are pitching into this thread with their ideas about what they would like to see happen but seem to be ignoring the realities of the situation. We can only vote for those that put themselves forward and Jo will not be one of them. I agree with others above that in taking the decision she has, she is demonstrating that she has good judgement and excellent leadership potential.

    As I posted above recruitment is an exercise in compromise. We have to decide what are the attributes of a Lib Dem leader and which one of the candidates has the best combination of those attributes, PLUS as few negative traits as possible; it’s trite but true to say that no candidate will be perfect. The key words here are political leadership: which of the likely candidates could be a Prime Minister-in -waiting?

  • Jo Swinson has shown more wisdom than some of her supporters by going for the Deputy Leadership. The next election won’t be far off and she can hopefully have time to be learning her craft from Vince – who can lead from the front as an experienced big hitter.

    Anyone who underestimates the wolf pack that is modern journalism needs to reflect on that.

    Wise decision Jo.

  • Roger Billins 19th Jun '17 - 10:34am

    A sad but wise move from Jo. I am of the Vince and Jo school of thought. The economy is in for a very rough ride indeed and we need to do what Macron is doing in France-embarking on major economic and fiscal reform. Vince has the vision, skill and experience to advocate such a programme

  • I’m sad to read this. I hoped Jo would stand because I remember her doing great things as a coalition minister.

    But I was also very disappointed that Jo used her article to take an unnecessary side-swipe at “blokes” (a loaded choice of word I think). Explaining her personal decision specifically, and advancing the cause of women generally, didn’t need to involve this kind of unnecessary insult.

    Gender caricatures are unfair, whichever way they go. Jo’s article implied that “most blokes” are unthinking, over-ambitious, greasy-pole climbers. And I think Jo is better than that.

  • Sad Jo is not standing, but it is her decision. My concern is that if we have an election in the next year, none of the likely candidates will inspire voters and we may move even further backwards.

  • Andrew Noblet 19th Jun '17 - 11:49am

    I agree with all your reasons. But you also have Duncan and Andrew to think about as well as your newly won constituents. I can’t think who will replace Tim. His faith and politics are not in conflict – only in the eyes of some of the media. More experience would have helped him but two years wasn’t long enough. I wish him and yourself well.

  • Sue Sutherland 19th Jun '17 - 12:11pm

    I don’t know Jo but my youngest daughter thinks you’re amazing and are going to change the world. I think you’ve made a wise decision because if you’re a gut politician then whatever you do has to feel right. I think your comment about most blokes, while being correct in my view, wasn’t necessary and diffused your message. Focussing on what you really want to say is vital if you’re given 1 minute to get your message across, I do hope you become deputy leader and use that time to learn about leadership and sharpen your undoubted communication skills, it won’t take very long and then everybody had better watch out!

  • I wish Jo well and agree with her reasons completely.

  • Like most people desperately disappointed Jo is not standing as she would have been the breath of fresh air the party and country needs at this time. However I respect her decision and wish all the very best but just very sad.

    I disagree with those that say now isn’t the time. Now is the time!! Some have said she would be the long term candidate unless we start appealing to voters now there won’t be a long term.

    None of the remaining potential male candidates will in my opinion go anywhere near to inspiring the people we need to reach out to. I sincerely hope one of the new female MP’s will consider standing. After all we have nothing to lose.

  • Galen Milne 19th Jun '17 - 1:44pm

    Good article penned with sincerity.
    Reference to a marathon is also spot on.
    Do it your own way Jo, and all in good time.
    I also look forward to day we have another Jo to lead the liberals in the UK once again.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 19th Jun '17 - 1:47pm

    I find this crowning of Vince of a piece with the , preparing for Jo, attitude, wrong !

    Are we to have a contest , or are the Liberal Democrats the new House of Windsor, celebrating one hundred years this year with little publicity !

    I do not understand all the talk of Norman Lamb as not being a leader and dull, boring, nonsense !

    I just saw him again on Question Time, gravitas, sensitivity, empathy ,importantly, humility! The latter are not qualities other leadership contestants reveal much.

    David Raw and other admires of Corbyn might note, unlike our current leader he has always been less of a knee jerk critic of Labour over many months , and described Corbyn as dignified and authentic in the general election, qualities Norman also has.

    Sorry, Sir Vince lacks warmth in public, though he is in private a lovely man, Sir Ed lacks reserve, over combative . Both were senior cabinet secretaries of state with big responsibilities in the coalition in controversial policy briefs. I like and rate them both , would strongly back them if it was they elected . But I am for Norman definitely.

  • Alan Mallyon 19th Jun '17 - 3:55pm

    the winning ticket is Vince deputy and Jo leader, I have been saying this for a long time and now that they’ve both been returned, I see in the Rune’s

    Hay Jo give it a go

  • I am very disappointed in your decision not to stand for the leadership Jo, but it is of course your choice and I fully respect it. I believe you would appeal to a much wider electorate than any other of the candidates and the bottom line is winning votes. If we are going to make a big impact we need to inspire youth and it’s about time we demonstrated our equality credentials with a female leader.

    Unfortunately, the only other qualified candidates are “men in grey suits” as a previous respondent put it. I am now going to really struggle to make a decision on who to vote for.

  • I also do find the crowning of Vince a little uncomfortable. (Also sharing Hywel’s concern it would just lead to constant talk of when they were standing aside).

    Personally I’m not convinced any of the men with parliamentary experience are ideal, though Leaders are often the right person for the right role at the right time so someone may grow in to the role (as Corbyn actually seemed to over the GE, having been terrible at the referendum and apparently from those who saw him more closely since 1983).

    Perhaps someone is there to rise to the challenge, but I’m wondering if it would be better to roll the dice with one of the newbies (then again the media would start ripping in to them, so perhaps too much to take).

  • timothy keenan 19th Jun '17 - 4:30pm

    “Feminist that I am, I have of course wondered what a bloke in my position would do. It’s obvious. Most blokes in my shoes would run for leader like a shot.”

    Odd. I thought feminism included challenging the unfair generalisations men make about women not simply in turn making equally vacuous generalisations about men.

  • timothy keenan – isn’t Jo Swinson just being realistic that no-one bats an eyelid about a male party leader with pre-school child(ren) – Blair, Cameron, Miliband, Clegg, Brown but there would have been extra scrutiny on a female party leader in that position. Seeing her pioneer this would have been a source of pride for us as a party but it wouldn’t necessarily be much fun for the plucky pioneer herself.

  • Neil Sandison 20th Jun '17 - 2:13pm

    Sad to see Jo stepping aside from the leadership race ,concerned we will only have a choice between the male ,pale and stale rather than a dynamic and fresh leader to take the Liberal Democrats forward to the next general election that does not mean i undervalue Vince and what an excellent shadow chancellor he undoubtable is but you cant be both leader and chancellor at the same time . Jo Please think again we need political direction from a leader, that you are not seeking the post but rather you have the support from across the party is probable the best reason why you should be that leader .

  • Nick Collins 20th Jun '17 - 5:57pm

    A tortoise has been found crossing the Severn Bridge from Wales to England: no sign of the hare yet.

  • @Ruth 11.14am

    She didn’t make any mention that having pre-school children was a factor in her decision. She didn’t really give any specific reasons at all. And that’s completely fair enough, she doesn’t have to justify her decision to anyone.

    What she did do – and I agree with Timothy Keenan on this (see my post of yesterday at 11.14am) – was to draw a distinction between her own decision and what she believes “most blokes” would do, which is to go for it before they’re ready. And I think that’s a shame.

  • Richard Underhill 22nd Jun '17 - 8:57am

    There was a Prime Minister who Chancellor of the Exchequer at the same time. The Napoleonic wars were very expensive.
    Later, on the income tax, Gladstone obtained the support of those who wanted abolition and of those who wanted permanence.
    Research by the late Roy Jenkins.

  • @ Richard Underhill It may be of interest that on 7 May, 1908, and subsequently, the Prime Minister H.H. Asquith presented and conducted the Budget through Parliament instead of the Chancellor Lloyd George.

    H.H.A. ceased to be Chancellor the previous month on the death of Campbell-Bannerman and LL.G. was still being briefed into the role. The main issue – the new Old Age Pension which Asquith devised but which LL.G. has often been given credit for. Balfour, the Tory leader opposed it and wanted to build Dreadnoughts instead (shades of Trident ?).

    All politicians are wise if they learn to walk before they run – regardless of gender – as our current PM might acknowledge.

  • So now Vince has been selected as the sole candidate. Let’s compare Jo’s model predictions to reality:
    Jo’s model – 4
    Reality – 2
    Jo’s model – 4
    Reality – 1
    Time for a new model. Having a bad model is not something to be too embarrassed about at this point, but clinging to it despite it being increasingly wrong will start to do damage.

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