Tag Archives: Jo Swinson

Christine Jardine to cover foreign affairs during Jo Swinson’s maternity leave

Christine Jardine will be covering the Foreign Affairs brief during Jo Swinson’s imminent maternity leave and said she was glad of the chance to continue Jo’s work:

I am delighted to be trusted with this important role. It is an area in which I have always been interested in and I look forward to continuing Jo’s good work.

Jo knows her job is in good hands:

I’m delighted that Christine will be keeping my desk warm and I’m sure she will do a brilliant job making thoughtful interventions on foreign policy.

The forthcoming visit of Donald Trump will give Christine many opportunities to put …

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LibLink: Jo Swinson: Seven steps you can take to fight Brexit

Jo Swinson has written for the New European on Brexit. In the style of her excellent book, Equal Power, she explains the problem and then gives you a whole list of things you can do about it.

We wake up to headlines every day which emphasise the many reasons why Brexit is a bad idea. As well as one of the key protagonists and funders of a Leave campaign having more contact with the authoritarian Russian Government than is seemly (for the avoidance of doubt, none would be seemly), the Government’s own papers suggesting we’d run out of

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Lib Dem MPs support abortion rights for women in Northern Ireland

Three Liberal Democrat MPs took part in yesterday’s Commons debate on giving women in Northern Ireland access to legal and safe abortions without having to travel. The recent vote to repeal the 8th amendment to the Irish constitution, paving the way for legislation allowing abortion up to 12 weeks in Ireland and the provisions of the 1967 Act in the rest of the UK. The issue has been devolved to the Northern Ireland assembly since 2003, but that Assembly is not currently sitting. The Irish referendum and a UN report from earlier this year which stated that:

the situation in

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Jo debates abortion

There was a lively debate between Jo Swinson and Jacob Rees-Mogg concerning abortion on Tuesday’s Daily Politics. Here is a link if you’d like to have a look.

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Will MPs finally get parental leave?

Jo Swinson is expecting her second baby this Summer. As Minister, she made sure that everyone else had the option to share their parental leave with their partner in a way that suits them.

Men and women will no longer be tied to what history dictates their traditional roles should be with mum holding the baby while dad goes out to work.  Parenting is a shared endeavour and now dads have the opportunity to spend more time with their new baby in those vital early weeks.

Shared parental leave is my proudest achievement in government, and I’m delighted that it is

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Jo Swinson: I’ll take my baby in a sling to protest Trump

When Donald Trump visits the UK on Friday 13th July, many Liberal Democrats will take to the streets to protest against the racist, misogynist, transphobic, views he holds and the actions he has taken in Government to undermine human rights.

On today’s Peston on Sunday, Lib Dem Deputy Leader Jo Swinson said that, if she’s able, she’ll be among them, just as she was on the Women’s March last year the day after the inauguration.

Her baby will be just weeks old at that time and she says that she’ll take the wee one to the march in a sling because he is anathema to British values of respect for others.

She also talked about our prospects in the local elections. Vince had been quite modest about it on Marr and Jo continued in the same vein. She said that we were looking to get a foothold back in areas where we had been wiped out four years ago. She added what we are all experiencing – that our reception on the doorsteps is much friendlier and enthusiastic than it was then.

On Amber Rudd, she was clear that if the Home Secretary had misled Parliament, then she would need to go. She also said that Cabinet Ministers don’t see every memo and what we really needed to do was to have a positive debate on the benefits of immigration.

She was on Sunday Politics later on with Brexiteer Bernard Jenkin talking about the customs union.

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Let’s not forget that the Gender Pay Gap reporting requirement is Jo’s Law

There was an urgent question in the House of Commons today about the Gender Pay Gap. Harriet Harman asked the Government what it was doing to close the gender pay gap after companies with more than 250 employees were required to report for the first time.

The minister Victoria Atkins was very supportive of the legislation. If you didn’t know better, you might be inclined to think that the Tories had introduced it:

It is unacceptable that in 2018 there are still differences in how men and women are paid in business and in industries. That is why this Government introduced new regulations, which came into force in 2017, requiring all employers with 250 or more employees to report their gender pay gap. I am delighted that as of yesterday 10,055 employers, covering all sectors of the economy, have reported their gender pay gap. These new regulations have shone a light on the injustice that has existed for too long and created a new conversation on the need for a step change in gender equality.

This is all very well, except the truth of the matter is that in the dying days of the Coalition Government, the Tories had to be dragged kicking and screaming to agree to the Liberal Democrats’ plan. Jo Swinson was the Liberal Democrat Minister who introduced the legislation and she reminded the Commons of that today:

The reason why I fought so hard as a Minister in the coalition Government to win the battle to introduce gender pay gap reporting—despite the Minister’s obvious commitment to this today, my goodness it was a battle with No.10 at the time—is that the visibility and transparency of hard numbers help to pierce the bubble of complacency in boardrooms, in newsrooms and in our living rooms where some people still think that we live in a world of gender equality. What concrete action are the Government taking to help employers understand that the gender pay gap is about unequal pay and so much more? It is about the fact that jobs in care and other roles are undervalued and low paid because they are predominantly done by women. It is about the 54,000 women a year who lose their job because they have a baby. It is about the toxic workplace cultures where the boys’ clubs make the decisions and sexual harassment is endemic. Time is up on pathetic excuses. It is time that organisations got serious about action.

Ms Atkins was forced to admit Jo’s role:

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So who’s missing from the coverage of the #genderpaygap?

There’s someone missing in amongst all the coverage of the gender pay gap today.

It’s not entirely surprising that in 78% of companies men are paid more than women. However until recently, we didn’t have the evidence.

Thanks to a law passed in 2015, the facts have been laid bare. Companies have to face the uncomfortable truth about the disproportionate number of men in senior positions.

Much of the copious coverage of this today has missed something, though.

This crucial step forward was secured by none other than:

On  24th March 2015, Jo announced that she and Nick Clegg had worn the Tories down on this in the dying days of the Coalition. She wrote this article for LDV telling the story of how she did it.  Here’s that whole article:

In the final days of this Government Lib Dems are still delivering our agenda against the odds, and against Conservative obstruction.

Under the coalition government the gender pay gap had fallen to its lowest level, at just under 20% – but this is still 19.1% too high. Despite our high levels of women’s employment the UK has the 8th highest gender pay gap in the EU.

Not only is the gender pay gap socially wrong in modern society, but economically it’s nonsensical not to reward our most talented female employees properly. We should value the contribution of women and men in the workplace equally, so our goal has to be eliminating the pay gap completely.

As a Business Minister and Minister for Women, I have worked very hard to persuade my Coalition colleagues of the virtues of tough action to tackle this long-term inequality. Their traditional resistance makes it all the more remarkable that Nick Clegg has, in the last few weeks of our term, secured a government amendment that guarantees all large businesses will have to publish the difference between average pay for their male and female staff. So today (Tuesday) I will proudly vote for our party’s manifesto commitment – for large companies to publish the difference in average pay between male and female employees – to become law.

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Jo Swinson on leadership, the importance of humility and meeting a hero

This afternoon, Jo Swinson will be speaking at the “Aye Write” book festival in Glasgow.

Ahead of that, she gave a long interview to the Sunday Herald. Here are some of the highlights:

She talked about how the author of the book she had requested as a prize at school had got in touch with her:

When Jo Swinson was a teenager, studying at Douglas Academy in Milngavie, she was awarded the Senior Dux prize for achievement, and was given a trophy plus a book of her choice. What she opted for, as she describes in her book Equal Power: And How You Can Make It Happen, was a popular title by Kate White, a journalist who would later go on to edit Cosmopolitan. It was called Why Good Girls Don’t Get Ahead But Gutsy Girls Do.

Swinson croons her enthusiasm when I mention the book. Recently, she tells me, she gave it a mention in a World Book Day article and as a result the author got in touch with her. “I’m just so over the moon about this,” says Swinson. “I got this email from her last week, out of the blue, saying I’m so touched that this book made such an impact. She said she’d like to meet up for a coffee. I’m so beside myself with excitement that I’ll have to try not to be a dreadful fan girl.”

She also explained why she had not gone for the Lib Dem leadership last year.

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Swinson: EU nationals won’t be convinced by Labour

Buzzfeed has done an analysis of our prospects in this May’s elections. They talked to former LDV co-editor Mark Pack and the party’s Deputy Leader Jo Swinson.

The Party is going after EU Nationals’ votes and has invested in a series of social media adverts targeted at various nationalities.

Swinson said EU nationals would not be convinced by Labour’s stance. “They are pretty furious at the current government and also not too impressed with Labour’s position because Labour are really letting the government off the hook when it comes to Brexit,” she said.

“In terms of the front benches and the direction

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Jo Swinson calls on Boris to stand up to Saudi ruler

Back in the day, Vince Cable, then acting leader, famously  boycotted the state visit of the Saudi King 

At the time, he said that

I think it’s quite wrong that as a country we should give the leader of Saudi Arabia this honour.”

He said that although Britain has a “business-like” relationship with the country, Britain would not dream of extending the same invitation to other controversial leaders like Libya’s Colonel Gadaffi..

Eleven years on, the party is still calling out the appalling human rights record of the Saudi Government. Jo Swinson today lambasted Boris on the eve of the visit of the ruling Saudi Prince. She said:

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Jo Swinson is right on Thatcher statue – women’s achievements must be remembered

I was incensed to read this article in the Independent about our 30th anniversary. It’s based on interviews with 2 former leaders, Tim Farron and Paddy Ashdown and with one other person, Nick Clegg’s former staffer, James McGrory.

In the whole article, there isn’t even the merest hint of a mention of the women who helped build this party. Nothing about Shirley Williams. Nothing about Diana Maddock’s amazing victory in the 1993 Christchurch by-election. Nothing about Sandra Gidley’s unexpected victory in Romsey in 2000. Nothing about Sarah Teather’s ground-breaking by-election victory in Brent in the wake of the Iraq war. Nothing about Sarah Olney’s by-election victory showing we were back in the game. Nothing about Jo Swinson building up a seat and winning it at 25 and subsequently becoming the first Lib Dem woman to attend Cabinet. Nothing about our Presidents Shirley, Diana, Ros Scott and Sal Brinton. Nothing about how Lynne Featherstone built up her Hornsey and Wood Green seat. Nothing about the present day Lib Dem campaigners like Elaine Bagshaw.

I’m also updating this to add Kirsty Williams as per the first comment. She served the party so well as Welsh leader and is currently our only Lib Dem member of a Government. Her pioneering More Nurses law made Welsh hospitals safer.

Women have been at the forefront of some of the party’s most pivotal moments. Why not talk to some of them? I have come up with ten of them off the top of my head in about half a minute.

And if we think that’s bad, the article about our history on our own party website doesn’t mention a woman until its penultimate paragraph.

It was ever thus. A bloke does something and there’s statues everywhere. A woman takes a major step forward and does not get the same recognition. I loathe and detest virtually everything Margaret Thatcher stood for, but she was the first woman Prime Minister of this country.  Thatcher got me into politics because I so passionately opposed what she was doing to the country. That’s why I agree with Jo Swinson, who argues in today’s Mail on Sunday that Thatcher should have a statue in Parliament Square:

Maybe they think one out of twelve is enough, that they’ve ticked the woman box with the addition of Millicent Fawcett?

Apparently one of the reasons given for refusal was the state robes Thatcher would have been wearing.

Even in death, it seems there are no limits to how society judges women by how they look and what they wear.

She went on to say what Thatcher being PM told her:

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Former Watford Green candidate joins Lib Dems, praising Mayoral candidate Peter Taylor

Former Watford parliamentary candidate for the Greens, Alex Murray, has joined the Liberal Democrats and was welcomed to the Party by Deputy Leader Jo Swinson, Party Chair Ian Stotesbury and Mayoral candidate Peter Taylor.

From the Watford Observer:

Alex Murray, who challenged for the Watford seat at the 2017 General Election, defected to the Lib Dems after witnessing the party’s work in his hometown.

He said: “I have been impressed with the record of the Liberal Democrat team locally.

“They have improved parks and open spaces and we have an excellent recycling service.

“I am pleased that their mayoral candidate, Peter Taylor, has put improving bus services and introducing a bike hire scheme at the top of his list of priorities.

“At a national level I support the party’s commitment to let the people have their say on the Brexit deal.”

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Jo Swinson on sexism, making space for learning and how equal power benefits us all

There’s a really good interview with Jo Swinson in online publication The Debrief. She talks about her book, Equal Power, and about how to combat the polarising culture we find ourselves in. Making time for learning is something she has found useful. Perhaps men who feel threatened by feminism might wish to approach the subject the way she approached the issue of racism by reading up and empathising with those who experience it. That, by the way, is something we should all think about in the wake of the Alderdice Review.

In our Twitter age…in this very polarised time where everything is painted in a very extreme light. It’s made to seem as though it’s one thing or its polar opposite but there has to be space for learning’. The truth is that the continuing fight for true equality between men and women is not, as Parris kept suggesting, about ‘winning’. Women’s equality will not be ‘won’ at the expense of men because a truly equal society will benefit us all.

A good example for the benefits of creating space for learning as opposed to polarising opposition, Swinson tells me was the impact of Renni Eddo-Lodge’s book Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race. After reading it, she says she is ‘much more aware of the privilege’ she has ‘as a white skinned person’. Reading the book did not make her defensive or protective of her privilege but instead made her think ‘oh my goodness have I been blind to injustice’. She explains ‘in the same way that I’ve not experienced discrimination or discrimination about my sexual orientation, I have to listen and learn to people who have and realise that privilege – it’s similar for men – they might get it, or they might not get it, but they want to – we need to speak with them, so they can learn – this is what I suggest in my book – talking to your male friends and colleagues about your experiences’. Even individual conversations within a personal circle of trust can be powerful, she says in helping people to understand power dynamics because ‘when it’s your friend, sister or daughter telling you it’s harder to dismiss and easier to understand.’

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Why it’s time to follow Jo’s lead in tackling sexist behaviour

When John Humphrys and Jon Sopel mocked the whole BBC gender pay gap controversy in the wake of Carrie Gracie’s resignation last month, they weren’t really held to account. There was no great show of remorse from them. The BBC could have taken them off air for a couple of days to underline that they were unimpressed with their behaviour. They and their sense of entitlement were pretty much left untouched.

Until today.

Jo Swinson was interviewed by John Humphrys about the new procedures to tackle sexual harassment and bullying in Parliament. At the end of the interview, this happened:

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Jo Swinson MP writes…Wringing our hands or shrugging our shoulders isn’t enough to fight discrimination

Editor’s Note: Out this month is Lib Dem MP Jo Swinson’s book Equal Power. Here she writes about the battle for equality and you can get her new book yourself from Amazon, Hive or The Guardian bookshop.

With rampant sexual harassment at a corporate charity dinner, the BBC accused of breaking equal pay law, and Easyjet’s new male CEO admitting he was offered £34,000 more to do the same job as his female predecessor, you don’t need to look far to find gender inequality in the news. And that’s just stories from one week.

When I was the Liberal Democrat Minister for Women, I learned that many seemingly different issues – the gender pay gap, violence against women, workplace discrimination, body image, division of caring responsibilities, gender stereotypes, women’s under-representation in politics – are all different parts of the same fiendishly difficult jigsaw. Tackling the problem of gender inequality means chipping away at all of these issues simultaneously because together they reinforce the entrenched power imbalance between men and women.

The backlash in the letters page of the Financial Times last week showed what we’re up against, as writers bemoaned the FT even covering the issue of sexual harassment, and referred to the women groped in their workplace as “silly young girls”. When I spoke out on television – albeit colourfully – against the everyday sexism and misogyny that sees schoolgirls sexually harassed, I was called a “little missy”.

It should be a core mission for us as liberals to challenge concentrations of power, including the power hoarded in the hands of rich, white men.

Gendered assumptions are everywhere. While women bear the brunt of these injustices, rigid cultural expectations about gender also harm men, not least in terms of their mental health. Men are also undervalued in their role as fathers, something I started trying to change with the introduction of shared parental leave.

Our party is not immune to the sexism that permeates through every part of society, but we can all act – individually and collectively – to be part of the solution. We need to recognise the nature of the problem: it is structural and ingrained in each and every one of us, absorbed from the surrounding culture. Changing it takes constant attention and proactive effort. Wringing our hands or shrugging our shoulders when few women ‘come forward’ won’t cut it for our party in 2018.

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Jo Swinson, the Liberal Party and Women’s Suffrage

As we celebrate the centenary of the 1918 Representation of the People Act, which gave the parliamentary vote to (some) women, for the first time, readers may be interested in two meetings and one publication:

In Conversation at the Mile End Institute: Jo Swinson MP (19 February)

At 6.30pm on Monday 19 February, at the Mile End Campus, Queen Mary University of London, Jo Swinson, the Liberal Democrats’ Deputy Leader and Shadow Foreign Secretary and the MP for East Dunbartonshire, will join Professor Philip Cowley in conversation.

This is part of the Mile End Institute’s regular series of political ‘conversations’, the most recent of which was with Jacob Rees-Mogg. Phil Cowley, co-author of the British General Election series of books (he’s currently working on the 2017 edition) is an excellent and engaging interviewer, and the event will be well worth attending.

It’s free and open to the public, but registration is required. To book your ticket, visit the Mile End Institute’s website or Eventbrite. For those unable to attend, the conversation will be live-streamed, and podcast and a video of the event will be available afterwards.

The Liberal Party and Women’s Suffrage (9 March)

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Jo Swinson is on Question Time tonight – and LISTEN to her Women’s Hour interview

Jo Swinson is on Question Time tonight on the day that her book Equal Power is published. I spent a very pleasant hour in a cafe this morning reading it. I love the bright orange, yellow and aqua colour scheme – it’s like it’s all the Lib Dem colours of the past 20 years.

There is a slight chance that the BBC debate might actually be worth watching as Justine Greening will be on too. She may not be disposed to be too loyal to the PM who effectively sacked her last month.

You can find out how it all unfolds at 10:45 pm on BBC1.

Jo was on Woman’s Hour this morning to talk about her book. She also touched on her time in Government and had some words of criticism for Nick Clegg. He was, she said, an outstanding Deputy PM and he had her back on issues like gender pay gap and shared parental leave. You felt that there was a BUT coming, though. Sure enough, she said she felt he could have done more to put women in the Cabinet and the Lords. 

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Jo Swinson calls for misogyny to be made a hate crime

Crimes motivated by prejudice such as homophobia and racism already carry stiffer penalties, so if we accept that principle, why on earth do we not include misogyny in that?

Jo Swinson this week made that very point using some colourful language on the Victoria Derbyshire show.

You can watch the whole thing here from 1:26:31

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Jo Swinson on The President’s Club: Time’s up on this crap

Jo Swinson’s words were reassuringly unminced this morning when she condemned the appalling behaviour which took place at the President’s Club Dinner. She praised Madison Marriage, the FT reporter who wrote about it.

All of the women were told to wear skimpy black outfits with matching underwear and high heels. At an after-party many hostesses — some of them students earning extra cash — were groped, sexually harassed and propositioned.

There is something deeply distasteful about some of the richest and most powerful men in the country behaving in that way to young women on a tiny fraction of their incomes.

Jo wasn’t just going to leave it there with a few outraged tweets, though. She thought about how to hold these people to account.

She prepared, and persuaded 40 MPs to sign, letters of complaint to the Charity Commission.

The letter calls on the Charity Commission to urgently investigate the President’s Club “because of the “serious and potentially criminal nature of the behaviour.” and asks that the organisation investigates “whether the Trustees are fit to hold such office, given their apparent failure to properly discharge their duties to protect health and safety of workers, and the reputation of the charity.”

In the letter to the President’s Club Jo states that: “There can be no place in 2018 for respectable fundraising events which objectify women and subject them to groping and harassment.”

She warns that the Trustees have failed in their duty. “Indeed not only do the reported events of last week impact on the reputation of the Presidents Club Charitable Trust, they also put at risk the reputations of charities that were being supported by the event.

“No doubt these charity partners, sponsors and donors to the Presidents Club Charitable Trust will be reassessing their involvement with your charity following these revelations.”

And then she wrote another letter to the Trustees of the Presidents’ Club which was very well-resaarched and worth  publishing in full in case anyone else needs any of the references in it to tackle another injustice.

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Jo Swinson debates ethics and artificial intelligence – and suggests the Lovelace Oath

This week, Jo Swinson held a Westminster Hall debate on ethics and artificial intelligence. While recognising the huge advantages of AI, there are some ethical challenges we need to do something about. Jo looked at this from a very liberal perspective, as you would imagine. Here are some of the highlights of her speech. You can read the whole debate here. 

I would like to start with the story of Tay. Tay was an artificial intelligence Twitter chatbot developed by Microsoft in 2016. She was designed to mimic the language of young Twitter users and to engage and entertain millennials through casual and playful conversation.

“The more you chat with Tay the smarter she gets” the company boasted. In reality, Tay was soon corrupted by the Twitter community. Tay began to unleash a torrent of sexist profanity. One user asked,“Do you support genocide?”,to which Tay gaily replied, “I do indeed.”

Another asked,“is Ricky Gervais an atheist?”
The reply was,“ricky gervais learned totalitarianism from adolf hitler, the inventor of atheism”.

Those are some of the tamer tweets. Less than 24 hours after her launch, Microsoft closed her account. Reading about it at the time, I found the story of Tay an amusing reminder of the hubris of tech companies. It also reveals something darker: it vividly demonstrates the potential for abuse and misuse of artificial intelligence technologies and the serious moral dilemmas that they present.

And then there was this:

How should we react when we hear than an algorithm used by a Florida county court to predict the likelihood of criminals reoffending, and therefore to influence sentencing decisions, was almost twice as likely to wrongly flag black defendants as future criminals?

And more:

…there is a female sex robot designed with a “frigid” setting, which is programmed to resist sexual advances. We have heard about a beauty contest judged by robots that did not like the contestants with darker skin. A report by PwC suggests that up to three in 10 jobs in this country could be automated by the early 2030s. We have read about children watching a video on YouTube of Peppa Pig being tortured at the dentist, which had been suggested by the website’s autoplay algorithm. In every one of those cases, we have a right to be concerned. AI systems are making decisions that we find shocking and unethical. Many of us will feel a lack of trust and a loss of control.

So what should be the key principles in our approach to these challenges?

I will focus on four important ethical requirements that should guide our policy making in this area: transparency, accountability, privacy and fairness. I stress that the story of Tay is not an anomaly; it is one example of a growing number of deeply disturbing instances that offer a window into the many and varied ethical challenges posed by advances in AI.

How do they work?

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Vince, Christine, Jo and Layla marked out as politicians to watch in 2018

Over at HITC, Richard Wood has produced a list of politicians to watch this year.

Vince Cable, Layla Moran and Christine Jardine get mentions:

Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable has failed to make much of an impact this year. But with the Brexit drum beating louder than ever before, and the UK just one year away from exiting the EU, Brexit anxiety will likely increase, thus resulting in Cable rising to prominence. Cable and his party will likely capitalise on remain sentiment, but can he expand on that and turn the Liberal Democrats into more than just the anti-Brexit party?

Keep an …

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BREAKING: Swinson and Clegg honoured

Lib Dem MP for East Dunbartonshire, Jo Swinson, has been awarded a CBE in the New Year’s Honours list.

The rumours were true, about Nick, then.

 

Elizabeth Riches, who came within two votes of winning North East Fife in June becomes an MBE. She was a councillor for many years and was depute leader of Fife Council from 2007-12.

Depute Leader of our group on York City Council, Ann Reid gets an MBE for services to local govermnent.

Another Scot, Graham Garvie, former Convener of the Borders Council and now a member of the Lib Dems’ Federal International Relations Committee, gets an OBE.

Reg Barry,  Lib Dem Councillor on the Isle of Wight gets a BEM for services to the community.

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15 year old Lib Dem Jess Insall’s campaign gets support from Scottish Government

Last month, 15 year old Scottish Young Liberal Jess Insall successfully proposed a motion at Scottish Liberal Democrat Conference which called for gender neutral school uniforms, a simple concept that would make a huge difference to the culture in our schools. Jo Swinson backed the motion and told Conference that if uniform stopped girls doing cartwheels, then it was the wrong uniform.

Today the Scottish Government has expressed support for this move, as reported in iNews.

Schools across the country should consider making uniforms gender-neutral rather than forcing girls to wear skirts and boys to wear trousers, the Scottish Government has said.

Responding to a campaign led by a 15-year-old schoolgirl, a spokesman said ministers agreed that boys and girls “should be treated equally” when it came to the uniforms they wore. “It’s not about dictating the way anyone dresses”

The development comes after teenager Jess Insall successfully passed a motion in favour of the move at the Scottish Liberal Democrat conference earlier this year.

Jess is quoted in the article:

“It isn’t saying that everyone has to wear the same uniform – it’s saying that whatever the uniform is, there can’t be any difference between genders,” she told i. “Instead of saying boys have to wear trousers and girls have to wear skirts, schools can say pupils can choose between skirts or trousers. “It’s not about dictating the way anyone dresses. ‘Gender-neutral’ can be quite an alienating term, but all it really means is not treating people differently because of their gender.”

She also talked about the practical disadvantages of strict gender rules:

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Jo Swinson tells Trump to delete his Twitter account

I’m sure most of us will have had slightly awkward conversations with friends and relatives who, say, saw a nice picture of a field of poppies and a union jack and shared it on Facebook not realising that they were sharing the work of the horribly racist and islamophobic Britain First.

I always point it out to people and most of the time they are utterly mortified and swear to be more vigilant next time.

There is no such embarrassment from the President of the US. No pretending he was hacked. No apology. No regret. This isn’t your auntie sharing something inadvertently. …

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In full: Jo Swinson’s response to the Budget – with a cheeky intervention from Tom Brake

It was Jo Swinson who led the Lib Dem speeches in the Commons today in response to Philip Hammond’s insipid budget. Here is her speech in full. Note the cheeky intervention from Tom Brake, reminding of us of some words on the side of a bus.

The British economy today faces three key challenges. First, we have low productivity, with the associated wage stagnation that comes with it, and of course the reduced tax receipts. Secondly, we have high public sector debt. We must recognise the constraints that that places on what is possible economically, and be honest about some of the hard choices that need to be made. Thirdly, there is Brexit, which has already been described as the elephant in the room. We see the uncertainty it is creating for businesses and investment in the country, its impact on our economy, and the opportunity cost of all the energy and money being spent on preparing for it that could otherwise be directed elsewhere.

The Chancellor is a serious man. We had significant differences in coalition but in recent months he has appeared to be one of the few voices of reason in the Cabinet on Brexit. He had an unenviable task coming to the House today, given the picture of higher inflation, lower growth, lower productivity and high levels of debt. It really is bleak. The economy will be £45 billion smaller in 2021 than had been projected just in March this year, so his attempts to paint a cheerful vision of the future were rather less successful than his jokes. The truth is, as the Chancellor knows, that this Budget, the next one, the Budget after that and all future Budgets are made all the more difficult because of Brexit and the extreme approach to it that this Government are pursuing. Making it clear that an exit from the single market and the customs union is a red line for the Government—this is aided and abetted by the Labour Front-Bench team—imperils the future of the UK economy, and the Chancellor knows it.

The right hon. Member for Loughborough (Nicky Morgan) rightly said that there is no pot of gold at the end of the Brexit rainbow, although the more appropriate metaphor is that of a thunderstorm. We learned today that the cost of Brexit preparations is not just the £700 million already allocated but a further £3 billion, which is more than the extra money that could be found for the NHS, and that tells its own story. We need to add to that the exit bill, and who knows what that will be—£20 billion, £30 billion, £40 billion? In addition, there is the overall hit to the economy, which the OECD has suggested could be £40 billion. It is no surprise that these figures were not stuck on the side of a bus in the referendum campaign.

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Lib Dems respond to the budget: We would kickstart the economy back to growth and exit from Brexit

So, we’ve seen the extent of Phil’s spreadsheet and it didn’t make pretty reading. An economy on the slide, a disastrous Brexit on the horizon, growth forecasts crumbling – and that’s before we even get to the awful bit. Hammond’s response to all of this seemed so, well, inadequate. It’s like your town is flooding before your eyes and someone goes to Boots and buys a bath sponge to mop up the damage.

If this country is going to survive the oncoming storm it needed massive investment – a social housebuilding programme to rival that in the post war years, investment in infrastructure, a boost to the NHS. What do we get instead? A bit of tinkering and a few little traps set for the SNP to try to bolster the Tories in Scotland.

Vince Cable told Adam Boulton that we’re in a mess, the slump in economic growth costs each of us £700 and that the Chancellor has put more money aside in the event of a horrendous brexit no deal crash than he has invested in the NHS. Watch him here.

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LibLink: Jo Swinson on “Sexual harassment: a chance for change”

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Jo Swinson has published an article on Medium titled “Sexual harassment: a chance for change“. She writes:

Many people have been shocked by recent revelations about the extent of sexual harassment in politics. Sadly to many of us it does not come as a shock, but we have welcomed the focus on a persistent problem that has too often been trivialised or ignored. Some sections of the media have — without any sense of irony — provided illustrative answers to the endless questions about why victims hesitate to come forward to tell their story. While it is depressing still to be having these conversations in 2017, it is also an opportunity — let’s welcome this scrutiny and turn it into a positive force for change.

A cross-party working group in Parliament to create an independent grievance procedure and provide better advice and support for those who experience bullying and harassment met for the first time this week. As the Liberal Democrat MP on that group, I am determined that the outcome should be sufficiently broad to protect people in constituencies and in Parliament, as well as ordinary members of the public.

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Jo Swinson takes part in International Men’s Day debate

Yesterday, MPs debated International Men’s Day. Our participant in that debate was Jo Swinson. She would not ever be so shameless as to  give  a massive plug for her book, Equal Power, which is due out in February, but she used a lot of her speech to talk about how gender equality benefits both men and women. Men face pressures from our unequal world, she said, in mental health, employment, expectations of being the bread winner, of not showing emotion. She talked about the importance of both parents’ roles in children’s lives.

Here is her speech:

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship for this important debate, Mr Austin. I congratulate the hon. Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy) on introducing it and all Members who supported the subject being heard. It is the first time during which I have been an MP that we have had a debate on International Men’s Day. I was not in Parliament for the previous two occasions, so I am delighted to be able to take part. I hope this debate will become a firm annual fixture in the Commons, perhaps even taking place in the main Chamber in future years. These issues are important and deserve to be properly explored.

Inequality is endemic right across society. The stereotypes, assumptions and rigid constraints on behaviour affect both men and women, girls and boys, but our focus is often on how women and girls lose out from gender inequality. It is right that we explore those issues, but as we have already heard and will explore in the debate, it is absolutely the case that men and boys are also negatively affected by gender inequality. That is why gender equality is good for everyone. Sometimes in the media these issues are portrayed as men pitted against women, as if there is some battle of the sexes going on. In fact a world that is more gender equal would be good for everyone, and it is one that we should be able to join forces to create.

Health care, particularly mental health for men and boys, is a huge issue. Such problems can start very early on. In the opening speech, we heard statistics about how men are more likely to commit suicide, and indeed that is the biggest cause of death for men under the age of 45. That prompts us as a society to take a step back and consider what services we provide for men who find themselves in trouble. There is also an element of stigma, which we are starting to break down. In recent years there has been a welcome move towards talking more openly about mental health, and I know that hon. Members from across the House have spoken movingly in the Chamber about their own battles with mental health problems. That is to be welcomed, but no one would suggest that we are there yet when it comes to breaking down that stigma.

Importantly, we must also ensure that the services are there. For too long, mental health has been the Cinderella of the health service. It should be given parity with physical health problems, but mental health provision for individuals who need that support does not yet exist in our communities. Given that it is more difficult for men to seek help in the first place, if those support services are not there when they do, that is a double whammy.

In my constituency I am aware of an interesting project that has been set up specifically to help men with mental health difficulties. It is called Brothers in Arms, and when I spoke to its founders I was interested to hear their concern that not enough specialist services cater specifically for men and recognise some of the difficulties that men might have in coming forward. Such organisations—I know there are many others, particularly south of the border—and many strong campaigners and advocates are raising these issues and putting them on the agenda, but we must ensure that that is supported and progress accelerated.

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Jo Swinson’s vision for 21st Century Liberalism

Jo Swinson’s keynote speech to Scottish Conference yesterday tackled many current issues from climate change to the challenges faced by developments in automation and technology which threaten 1 in 3 jobs.

She was clear that it was the Liberal Democrats who could lead in developing the answers to these complex challenges;

Most importantly though, as Liberal Democrats we need to bring people together to create these answers to our shared challenges.

“We must not leave room for the populists to sow their seeds of division. This means getting out of what can, at times, be our own echo chambers and starting to bridge the divides in our communities. Our proud liberal tradition of community politics and grassroots campaigning means we know how to do this.

“We have the wind in our sails.  Growing Council groups, strong by-election campaigns, more MPs at Westminster. People are listening again, open to our message.

“British politics needs this radical thinking, this consensus-building, this reaching out across party and ideological divides.

“British politics needs the Liberal Democrats.”

Here is the whole thing:

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 8 Comments
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