Monday, 19 June 2017

Jo Swinson may well be Liberal Democrat leader - but not yet

I cannot claim to have met Jo Swinson, but, already a busy MP, she came to the 2006 by-election in Dunfermline and West Fife and I overheard her conversation with party workers. She struck me then as a clear-sighted and determined person. In coalition, she was a late call-up by Nick Clegg, first as a stand-in for a Jenny Willot taking maternity leave, but later as a junior minister at BIS. Less tainted than most of the pre-coalition intake (she voted against the rise in tuition fees, for instance), she would seem to be the natural successor to Tim Farron. However, she has early ruled herself out, preferring to stand for the deputy leadership. Admittedly, she still has a young child and a constituency remote from Westminster to look after, but one suspects a long-term plan. There is a hint in her Liberal Democrat Voice statement:

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.

If this parliament runs its full course, the typical Liberal Democrat pattern would be followed, gaining momentum through by-election and local authority successes. However, the chances are that there will be an early general election, when the advantage will still be with the well-endowed conservative parties, before the dire effects of Brexit hit the general public. For this reason, the new leader's reign will almost certainly be seen as a failure in that we will not regain the heights of 2006.

No comments: