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Jo Swinson’s anti-populist pitch

18 November 2019

6:14 PM

18 November 2019

6:14 PM

I emerged with three thoughts from my interview with the Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson, which is three more thoughts than I often have after interviewing a senior politician.

First, her attack on Labour was massively personalised as an attack on Jeremy Corbyn, who she says is not fit to be PM, rather than on the party itself.

Second, she refused to “discuss hypotheticals” when I asked whether her condition for Lib Dems propping up a Labour government was that Labour would have to find a way for someone other than Corbyn to move in to No.10.

Which was probably as close to a confirmation as she can give that she expects in some way to support a minority Labour government if Boris Johnson’s lead in the polls can be cut back, while maintaining the conceit that she is fighting to win the election.

To reinforce this point, she was explicit that although the Lib Dems’s position is that it would like the UK to stay in the EU by government fiat and without another referendum taking place, she also said her party would in practice do all it could after the election to make sure there is another referendum.

Third, she made a big point of claiming that only the Lib Dems can win seats from the Tories.

And that goes some way to explaining why on public service spending the Lib Dems are setting tighter constraints than either Labour or the Conservatives (Lib Dems are targeting a one per cent surplus on day-to-day or current spending compared with the Tory and Labour ambitions of achieving balance).

Here is the nutshell of Swinson’s Lib Dem big policies: more conservative than the Conservatives on the economy; more Remainy than Labour on the EU.

So when Swinson says she carries the flag for the nation’s anti-populists, she is not being disingenuous.

But the risk of course is that anti-populism turns out to be not especially popular.

Robert Peston is ITV’s Political Editor. This article originally appeared on his ITV news blog


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