Jo Swinson’s speech to the Lib Dem spring conference highlighted her again as a confident performer who has higher to rise in the party. I was at a fringe session last night where, though scheduled to speak first, she insisted on going last so she could answer the other panellists’ concerns on changes to employment law.
One of the areas she touched on today was helping women to break glass ceilings in their professions. ‘When Nick invited me to join the government as a minister in the department for business, I immediately asked “Do I get shared parental leave?”‘ she said. There was a slightly awkward pause, before she added: ‘Don’t worry Duncan!’ adding that she meant taking the legislation through parliament.
That joke didn’t quite work, but Swinson then went on to describe the work the Coalition was doing on childcare, adding ‘and there will be more help on childcare to come’.
The government has yet to launch its childcare tax break. Initial reports had suggested that the Lib Dems had blocked the plan because it would not help middle earners. But those in the party working on the reforms insist that this isn’t the case. They have been pushing for similar help for those on universal credit, so that returning to work does pay for those with young children on benefits. And it seems that this is going to happen after all.
I understand the real battle continues to be keeping the announcement separate from the Budget. Those trying to do this say they are confident of a separate launch, possibly from the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister (remember that this was part of the mid-term review, designed to show the Coalition working well) very soon.