So far, things have gone very smoothly for Jo Swinson since she was elected leader of the Liberal Democrats. The party has managed to increase its numbers in parliament and coalesced around a new hardline Remain position of revoking Article 50.
Yet, there were signs today that all is not well with some Liberal Democrat members, when Swinson led a question and answer session at party conference. While most of the questions lobbed at the new leader were remarkably friendly, one woman took issue with Swinson’s decision to allow the former Tory MP, Phillip Lee, to join the party. The defection, while swelling the Lib Dem ranks, has gone down like a lead balloon with many members, due to Lee’s failure to back same-sex marriage in the past.
The member of the audience asked Swinson if the party was vetting new MPs carefully enough, to see if they have liberal values, and added that:
‘I am concerned that some of the people that have joined recently don’t share those [liberal] values, and their voting records show their true colours.’
Swinson attempted to answer the question by suggesting that not all Liberal Democrats need to share exactly the same values on every issue, and could arrive at a different conclusion from a liberal perspective. But her answer was given short shrift by a heckling audience member who (as far as Mr S could make out), hollered:
‘This is a Ukip policy, this is literally a Ukip policy.’
Before being silenced by the moderator on stage. Awkward.