Jo Swinson writes….Why I’m backing Tim for leader

The Liberal Democrats have always felt like a family, and none more so than with the rallying round after the crushing election results this month.  As the results unfolded, the texts and tweets began to arrive.  I had to read them in small batches over the next few days: it’s often the words of kindness that bring the raw emotions to the surface the most.

On one level, the pain I felt was deeply personal – Duncan and I both lost our seats after 12 years of campaigning and service to our communities.  Compounding this was the shared anguish of watching liberal giants like Vince and Simon defeated; transfixed by the TV in a sort of stunned post-count vigil with my campaign manager Katy Gordon as the new political reality dawned.

By Friday morning, I was reunited with Duncan and Andrew, whose excited “Mummy, mummy!” was the best possible antidote to the haze of sleep-deprived sadness.  I turned on the radio to hear Nick’s resignation speech – taking responsibility with dignity, and reinforcing the need for our liberal values more than ever – and that was when the tears flowed freely down my cheeks. 
At a time of economic crisis, to lead the smaller party into the first UK coalition government for decades was an almost impossible challenge.  Nick rose to it brilliantly, with determination, amazing resilience and dignity in the face of constant onslaught from vested interests.  Yes, we made mistakes, but we have learned from them and changed our country for the better.  From ending child detention to fairer pensions, shared parental leave to same sex marriage, the Pupil Premium to scrapping ID cards, we made our liberal mark – and all while getting our economy back on track.

Now we must choose Nick’s successor for the next chapter of our party’s journey.  A very different challenge lies ahead – rebuilding from the grassroots up, and inspiring a new generation of Liberal Democrats.  The thousands of new members who have flocked to the party in the last fortnight give us great cause for optimism.

We also must seize this rare opportunity to reshape our party in a fair and representative way.  Achieving a gender-balanced parliamentary party with real diversity in 2020 is now absolutely possible – though it will need political will, leadership and drive to make that happen.  Whoever is our new leader needs to ensure that diversity is reflected across the party – it’s not just about Parliament, but also who is advising the leader, our party staff, local government base and party officers.

There are two excellent candidates so far in the race to lead our party – either could do the job well and we will all rally behind whoever wins.  We need a positive leadership election campaign that celebrates that we are fortunate still to have great political experience to draw from in our Commons team.

I believe that Tim Farron is the best choice to lead the #LibDemFightback.  As Party President, Tim showed how he can inspire our members right across the country, always with good humour and leading by example.  From Westmorland to Southwark, week in, week out, Tim has dedicated the last decade and more to campaigning for the Liberal Democrats.  More than ever, we need his energy to lead us as we dust ourselves off, recharge our batteries, and maximise the boost of our new members to set our sights on future success.

We know from election night programmes and Question Time that Tim is a star communicator – direct and no-nonsense, putting the Lib Dem case with passion.  He has the talent, character and verve to lead us, and the infectious enthusiasm that will inspire us and others to follow him and champion our liberal cause.

* 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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  • I agree 100% with this final conclusion —
    “….We know from election night programmes and Question Time that Tim is a star communicator – direct and no-nonsense, putting the Lib Dem case with passion.  He has the talent, character and verve to lead us, and the infectious enthusiasm that will inspire us and others to follow him …”

    In Tim Farron we have someone who has already demonstrated these talents. It makes sense to stick with a proven winner who has shown he can inspire and enthuse others.

    He also has the advantage of being younger and better able to appeal to a new generation of Liberals. democrats, and the other 92% of voters who did not support us in 2015.

  • I agree with’s Time for Tim!

  • Paul Butters 26th May '15 - 1:03pm

    This is the best reason to support Tim. Tim is the person we need!

  • Paul Pettinger 26th May '15 - 1:27pm

    The last five years have been a disaster and it’s going to take a lot more than the turning of a page to overcome that. Tim must be allowed to forge a fresh identity in the public’s eye for himself and the Party.

  • Liberal Neil 26th May '15 - 1:54pm

    Spot on Jo 🙂

  • Jo supports Tim, Lynne supports Norman. Both Jo and Lynne would have been excellent candidates, possibly better than either the two on offer.

    What Jo fails to mention is whether Lib Dems should see themselves as potential coalition partners in the future or not. She rightly points out our achievements in government, but is the price too high? If we judge that it is, it becomes easier to support TIm Farron for the reasons Jo gives. As to whether Tim Farron is “a fantastic communicator”, I have not yet sen him fight his corner under great pressure. Since he has been a minister, we have seen Norman Lamb under more pressure and what I saw was better than adequate.

    What worries me is that the media may not bother to probe our two candidates sufficiently before the vote.

  • Such a shame that you’re not there to stand for Leader.

  • Eddie Sammon 26th May '15 - 3:39pm

    Can somebody tell me what Tim and Norman believe in? I feel that Norman is more consistent, a kind of light economic liberalism, but Tim seems to have gone from the left, to the centre and back to the left again. Now he has supporters from the left and the centre and rather than seeing it as someone who can “win support from either side” I see it as a kind of fudged offering, which is mostly on the left.

    I don’t mind if someone keeps changing their mind or has developed a fudge, but I’m surprised people feel so enthusiastic about it and worse of all I don’t like the way he keeps calling people on the right names. He keeps calling the tories “nasty” and “wicked” – so therefore are the electorate nasty and wicked too? Or does he think they aren’t smart enough to realise it?

    When it comes to gender balance: I’ve moved a bit on this, but I believe in “diversity short-lists” rather than “all women short-lists”. People say that we can have a “BAME mix” within an all women short list, but why not have a women mix in a BAME short-list? Basically I think we shouldn’t prioritise one inequality over another and that is why I see the best solution as diversity short-lists.

  • Mick Humphreys 26th May '15 - 3:45pm

    I feel that the new Leader needs to address our radical policies with much more determination than we have done in the past. Our Party is still viewed as being, really nice and kind, but far too timid by those who want to see real reform and would vote for us if we were.
    For example: our members decided, and our manifesto pronounced, that people who consumed illegal drugs should not be convicted , given criminal records or sent to prison. A really firm step in the right direction. But it failed to advocate any effective legal control over the production and supply of these drugs. So are we to assume that the Party encourages criminals to maintain their monopoly for the supply of drugs in the very dangerous way that they do? I think not.
    But that is what this half-baked policy is saying.
    If we want credible and effective reform, we need to start at the right end of this problem which is how we make it safe for people to obtain drugs. Legal possession follows naturally. It cannot precede it.
    There are other things that need to be addressed such as Prison Reform. We have the highest prison population in Europe. Magistrates can only award short prison sentences, which cannot work and never do. Yet, despite being told not to by the senior judiciary for more than 10 years, they still do it. Our Party tries to reduce incarceration of women, which is wonderful; but what about most of the rest (84,500 Oct 2014), who should not be there?
    If we are going to be led back to where we belong we must stop being wishy-washy and half-baked and address these important matters. Matters which are merely essential, such as the economy, will always be done by any Party in office, because they must. But the policies that make us liberal are not “merely essential”. They are important. They are Liberal.

  • Sara, quite right, I said this yesterday a family is tied by blood. We are a political organisation, we should cease the sentimental approach as part of our new way forward.
    PS Organisations normally have a method of staff renewal after their organisation has fully or partially failed. Not at all clear where we currently stand on this.

  • Simon Gilbert 26th May '15 - 4:22pm

    Mick demonstrates perfectly a policy that would be radical, liberal yet neither ‘right’ nor ‘left’. This is the kind of choice the electorate don’t have, as political parties are too timid to offer them. Perhaps this is the space the LibDems should move towards, particularly at a time when there is less for the party to lose in terms of MPs and influence on the government.

  • David Evershed 26th May '15 - 6:45pm

    The next leader has two main tasks.

    1. To make clearer and more distinctive what Liberal Democrats stand for; and how liberal principles apply to our economic, business and welfare policies.

    2. To raise the morale of the membership and grow the membership of the party.

    If one candidate is better at the first and another candidate is better at the second we have to decide which is the priority task befor deciding the best candidate. Jo Swinson seems to jump the gun here.

  • kevin cooke 26th May '15 - 7:53pm

    this piece that jo wrote is excellent yes if jo was still an mp for me she would be an excellant leader she served east dunbartonshire with dignity cared about others equalities etc yes i will go for tim farron as jo is a good judge of character

  • Good luck Jo!

  • Tim will become Prime Minister of a majority government one day soon, mark my words.

  • Keep posting Jo. There are so many good topics we need to read – from Jo and others – in order to understand fully what to do in the near and medium future. The distant future will grow from what we begin now. Then more new members will join – and our team will be renewed.

    The responses locally and nationally are inspiring and clearly coming from everyone working together. That’s why new members are joining us – and we approach 59,000. Start by defending the Human Rights we already have. Start today if you are near Westminster.

  • Richard Underhill 30th May '15 - 3:09pm

    Those who know Nick Clegg, including Tim Farron, have given very positive comments about him. We should not have allowed the media and our opponents to demonise him. We should not allow media and opponents to demonise his successor, we will need to fight back if they try.

    If Nick Clegg actually said to PM Gordon Brown that “You lot are knackered” he was only stating the obvious, which was supported by Labour when Ed Miliband decided to appoint his shadow cabinet rather than allowing Labour MPs to elect it.

    The voters seem surprised when told that we are a democratic party, so that responsibility for the coalition decision was shared in layers, the leader, the negotiating team, the MPs and the delegates to the special conference.

    Therefore whomsoever is elected as our next leader we must accept a democratically taken decision and support him.

    We should also consider at conference whether we want to continue to restrict the leadership to MPs.

    Personally I would like to from Kirsty Williams more often in preference to Plaid Cymru and from Catherine Bearder, whose position as an MEP is especially important in the IN/OUT referendum on the EU, which will happen.

    The timing of the referendum may be affected by elections in other EU member states. For instance Sarkozy is renaming his party as Republicans.

    We can be sure that Downing Street will be keeping an eye on the timetable for elections in France and Germanu in 2017 and the likely outcomes.

    With the retirement of William Hague it is noticeable that David Cameron seems to want to be his own Foreign Secretary.

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