LibLink: Jo Swinson: The Lib Dems represent modern Britain and we’re aiming for the top

It’s been a busy first week as leader for Jo Swinson.

She’s questioned two Prime Ministers, been all over the media, headed to Brecon and Radnorshire to campaign with Jane Dodds ahead of the by-election next Thursday and has found time to write for the Evening Standard as well.

She contrasted the hype and the reality of our new Prime Minister:

Earlier this week, when Boris Johnson, London’s former Mayor, finally got the keys to No 10, he promised a Cabinet that represents modern Britain. But as all Londoners know, promises made by Johnson tend to be less impressive in reality than they are in rhetoric. In his reshuffle this week, he gave jobs to people who have supported the death penalty, who have bragged about not being a feminist, and who are completely opposed to abortion even in cases of rape. He has also sacked the only LGBT+ member of the Cabinet.

It shouldn’t surprise us that these are the people Johnson picked. Just look at him and what he has said. He has compared Muslim women to letterboxes and described elite women athletes as “glistening like wet otters”. He is determined, despite all the evidence on how damaging it will be to our economy, to pursue a no-deal Brexit. And yesterday, when I asked him to fulfil his reassurances that the three million EU citizens — our friends, family and neighbours — would retain their rights after Brexit, and to back a Lib Dem Bill to that effect, he was all talk and no trousers.

It’s enough to make anyone cry -but there is hope.

From Aberdeen to Cornwall, and everywhere in between, I’ve met so many people who believe that Britain should celebrate our differences, not just tolerate them; who believe that we should embrace the cultural diversity that has made Britain great, and who believe that we are at our strongest when we work with our European neighbours, not when we turn our back on them.

Those fundamentally liberal values — openness, inclusion, internationalism — are what truly represent the best of Britain, and it’s those values that I’m determined to fight for as leader of the Liberal Democrats.

And when she fights both Johnson and Corbyn, she is doing it as their equal.

When I decided to run for the leadership of the Lib Dems, the party was in a very different situation. But the febrile nature of politics right now means people are no longer asking whether it is realistic to aim for the top. With the future of the country at stake, aiming for the top is what the Liberal Democrats must do, because the UK deserves better than Boris Johnson or Jeremy Corbyn.

And this is how she will do it.

To take on the forces of nationalism and populism, we need to rally a liberal movement that offers a positive, alternative vision for the kind of country we want to be. One where our economy works for people and our planet, where we work with our closest allies to resolve the climate emergency and keep us safe, and one where no matter who you are, whatever your background, you can access the opportunities you deserve.

You can read the whole article here.

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23 Comments

  • Richard Underhill 28th Jul '19 - 10:09am
  • Do I understand correctly that the party is still seeking a second referendum, but if the result is still Leave, this will not be accepted or acted upon by the party, whether in government or not?

  • John Marriott 28th Jul '19 - 10:21am

    To use that Michelle Obama phrase, “ When they aim low, we aim high”.

    I’ve got my next book lined up, following a recommendation from someone on LDV. It’s the late George Dangerfield’s ‘The Strange Death of Liberal England’. I reckon that, when I’ve read it, I might be on equal terms with my friend, David Raw. Perhaps he and I might still live long enough to witness ‘The Strange Rebirth of Liberal England’ (and NI, Wales and Scotland too).

    Just to think, a few years ago the Lib Dems were criticised for having so few leading women. Look at them now : Brinton, Swinson, Moran, Hobhouse, Jardine, possibly soon Dodds and later even Wollaston and Allen. Oh, and not forgetting LDV’s Lindsay and Pindar. I’m sure I’ve missed a few out and I’m not sure whether or not to add ‘Esq’ after their names as advised by the MP for the 18th Century.

    As Annie Lennox and Aretha Franklin sang; “Sisters are doing it for themselves”. Come on chaps, smarten up!

  • @Peter

    You do.

    The Lib Dems and Greens while both asking for a People’s Vote have both declared they will ignore the result and continue to campaign against Brexit.

    Any veneer of democracy has been removed.

  • David Becket 28th Jul '19 - 10:50am

    If Brexiters want to use this site to have a swipe at Lib Dems can they please get their facts right.

    Jo, in another post today, has made her view clear. She would not change her views, but if a referendum supported a particular form of Brexit then she would honour that vote.

    This is democracy. You do not change your beliefs, and you continue to fight for them. However if the country supports a particular path then you would honour that.

  • John Peters. See Jo on the Sophie Ridge Programme. She said very clearly that we would have to honour the result of a people’s vote, not ignore it as you suggest. However, that wouldn’t change our view the we were better off in the EU and once the UK had left the EU if the third referendum went for Brexit, we would be campaigning to go back in. This is what you do in a democracy, you campaign for what you believe in and to change people’s minds.

  • @David Becket @Mick Taylor

    She made no such commitment. She is quoted as saying

    “If we had a situation where we had a People’s Vote on a specific Brexit, then if there were to be a vote in that scenario in favour of a specific Brexit deal, then I would absolutely recognise that that was what the country had decided to do …”

    In other words she decides if the question is acceptable and only if she decides the question is acceptable will she “…absolutely recognise that that was what the country had decided to do …”. A meaningless phrase. A meaningless commitment.

  • Another thread successfully hijacked by Brexiteers Trills, we are far too soft on this.
    Pretty obviously we can’t just accept any old Vote until we see the questions & we can’t implement something we don’t agree with.

  • John Marriott 28th Jul '19 - 11:44am

    For goodness sake, calm down, you lot! All this ‘yes she did’ and ‘no she didn’t’ is clearly the problem of putting all your eggs in one basket. If, and it’s still a big if, we have another referendum, we have got to accept the result either way. However, if we make it clear that it is advisory and that it’s up to Parliament to interpret the result, that might just stop either side of the argument becoming a hostage to fortune.

    I personally would still favour a preferential referendum with Leave with Deal v Leave without a Deal v Remain. Mind you, is this method expecting too much of the Electoral Commission or whichever body is tasked with formulating the question(s)? I think that Mick Taylor’s response is perfectly legitimate. However, getting back in on the same terms that we currently enjoy might be problematical.

  • @Paul Barker

    You say, I quote “… we can’t implement something we don’t agree with.”

    The rest of us live in a Democracy (however imperfect).

  • David Becket 28th Jul '19 - 12:52pm

    It is obvious from the increased hostility on this site and the attacks on twitter that we have got Brexiters and Labour worried.
    Labour have good cause to be worried, as Corbyn has failed as leader of the opposition. Many Labour supporters would agree with Jo on this. It is not anti Labour to point this out.
    As far as this site the hostile correspondents need to be ignored. I will make no further comments on these pro brexit anti Lib Dem digs.

  • My perfectly reasonable question seems to have stirred up a hornet’s nest. I have now found the relevant BBC clip.
    https://youtu.be/1_YUCqiBxQg

    Having played it several times I conclude that Ms Swinson regards it as her duty to remain in the EU even if a second referendum produced a Leave instruction. It is not clear how her logic arrives at that. Surely her duty is to the massed votes of the electorate when they are invited to decide on this important matter?

    Then again, her logic is completely compatible with that of her predecessor, who adopted exactly the same policy after the first referendum.

    If the party was in power I would not expect it to hold such a referendum. Such a vote would be pointless since the policy is to remain regardless of the result. The party is becoming the most extreme in the UK by discarding democracy. Dictatorships behave like this, perhaps the party name should be changed to Liberal Dictators or simply Lib Dics.

  • Mick Taylor 28th Jul '19 - 2:16pm

    I guess a lot of this hinges on whether you agree with Margaret Thatcher that referendums are the tools of demagogues and dictators. I happen to believe that referendums are poor democracy for two reasons:
    1. It is usually impossible to boil down complicated decisions to yes/no questions
    2. A lot of the time the voters don’t answer the question posed but a different topical one. Viz in the alternative vote referendum many people voted to give Nick Clegg a kicking rather than on the issue on the ballot paper.
    Complicated decisions involving many facets and variables need detailed consideration and that is why we elect MPs to make those decisions on our behalf. In a parliamentary democracy, referendums should have no place.
    We are however where we are and whilst at the end of the day Parliament will have to vote on whether to leave or remain, it is arguable that since this whole process started with a referendum, then it should finish with one.
    As to who implements it, I would argue that since we are fundamentally opposed to this course of action that we shouldn’t be the ones to implement it. Those who support leaving should carry it through.
    Finally to John Marriott I would say that the 2016 referendum was only advisory – it says so in the Act setting it up – but it is being treated as obligatory. So any future referendum will be treated the same way however much it is said to be advisory. And if we do end up going back into the EU at a later date it will not be on the terms we currently enjoy. It will be on the same terms as other new entrants and so we will lose all the opt outs we currently enjoy.

  • @ John Marriott Always a pleasure to tutor the youth wing of the party, John. Hope you enjoy Dangerfield.

    Be interesting to see if you agree with my verdict :

    Partly self inflicted, partly suicide, partly complacency in not recognising changing circumstances. Ignoring the importance of women, illiberal decisions after getting into a war we could have kept out of, carelessness (and greed) in dishing out honours (plus ca change), not recognising old Leaders were over the hill and old Leaders were not recognising it themselves,and finally, ignoring Labour when they could have been kept inside the tent. Add at end, middle class flight and fright after an Asquith decision in 1923 as

    When you’ve done with G.D. take a peek at Kenneth O. Morgan, ‘Consensus and Disunity : The Lloyd George Coa;ition Government 1918-1922’ – and Maurice Cowling, ‘The Impact of Labour 1920-1924’. Both quite cheap online and real eye openers.

  • nvelope2003 28th Jul '19 - 2:53pm

    “Peter”: Presumably you believe that the people who rejected the Remain vote in1975 should have accepted it whatever their own private beliefs and should never have campaigned against it. Ms Swinson was simply stating that she believed it was better to remain in the EU and the only reason you might not have grasped that simple matter is that you did not want to. I understand that the leading Brexit campaigner thinks that facts are not necessary. No surprise there then.

  • Malcolm Todd 28th Jul '19 - 4:23pm

    Mick Taylor 28th Jul ’19 – 2:16pm
    “the 2016 referendum was only advisory – it says so in the Act setting it up”

    It doesn’t – it really doesn’t. I wish people would stop just making things up to suit their opinions around here. (I mean, I expect it of the likes of “Peter”, but there’s no reason for our side to do the same.)

    The referendum was exactly what it was: a question that asked the electorate’s opinion. The Act establishing it says nothing about what the answer would mean. Calling that “advisory” really is just putting a political slant on it – it’s certainly not how it was treated by anyone during the campaign and I think it’s dishonest to pretend otherwise.

    We should, however, be able to say – “Actually, because we asked the question in a really simple-minded way, it’s not really possible to work out what action the referendum endorsed, especially as the vote was so close. So here’s a specific, worked-out proposal: are you in favour of it?” Any Act introducing a new referendum should, like the Scotland Act and the Voting System Act, specify exactly what will happen in the event of a vote either way.

  • It is very unusual, probably unique, for a political party to campaign for a referendum whilst pledging that it will not honour the result if it turns out to be the “wrong” answer.

    There is nothing wrong with parties campaigning for whichever result they want prior to the referendum, but the point of the referendum is usually to settle the matter and the parties that participate usually agree to honour the result. That is democracy. If the parties promise not to accept a particular result, there is no point in the referendum and it cannot be described as a democratic way of reaching a decision.

    Commenters above seem to confuse these two scenarios which are quite different.

    With regard to whether referenda are advisory or not, most are advisory. The 2016 vote was binding because the political parties and the government clearly stated in advance that they would honour the result and act on it.

    The result of the 2016 referendum was clear and unambiguous. Those who want a second referendum only do so in an attempt to get a different result. Will we be faced with endless demands for endless referenda until we get the “right” answer?

  • Hardly unique, Peter. Farage made it clear in 2016 a narrow win for Remain would be “unfinished business” and would prompt him to fight for a second referendum.

  • The matter is now resolved, now that our leader trashing democracy is all over the internet. Ms Swinson has corrected her earlier statement but in doing so, she employed cartwheels, contortions, caveats and a myriad of conditions that will not convince anyone.

    She is left with the impossible position that she has created for herself and partly inherited.

    A political party campaigns strongly for a referendum AND pledges that it will not accept a LEAVE result. How does that work in a democracy?

    Answers required from the Lib Dics. (Liberal Dictatorship Party.) JS says she will accept the result but there were so many ifs, buts and caveats, it was just a joke.

    I recommend going back to the drawing board on this one or expect to be called much worse names by the electorate.

  • @Cassie
    You still don’t understand the point. JS is a party leader, hoping to be a major political player and canvassing strongly for another referendum as the Party has ever since 2016.

    In 2016, Farage was not directly connected to the referendum (though indirectly he achieved it) . He was an MEP but had no connection with any party, having left UKIP much earlier. In effect he was just a man in the street.

  • Tum ti tum ti tum.
    I saw ‘the 2 Peters’ posts here this morning and thought, Hmmm. should I waste my Sunday arguing with their nonsense, or should I instead make some calls for Jane Dodds? I’ll let you guess what I decided. Very enjoyable it was too. 🙂
    The Brexiteers shills be back tomorrow, hijacking LDV as Paul rightly says. Just remember it’s our choice whether we engage with them, or whether we use that time to help elect a LibDem MP. https://www.libdems.org.uk/make-calls

  • nvelope2003 29th Jul '19 - 2:06pm

    If a Prime Minister calls a referendum and loses then they usually resign as Cameron did in 2016 but they do not have to change their view – why should they ?
    On the general principle Martin has given an excellent explanation.
    Billions are going to be spent on Brexit while cuts are still being made to public services – maybe the Brexiteers would like to organise and pay for help where needed.

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