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Jo Swinson only has herself to blame for the Lib Dems’s election disaster

13 December 2019

10:16 AM

13 December 2019

10:16 AM

There’s been a lot of criticism about Jeremy Corbyn’s want of humility and refusal to apologise for his errors in the wake of his party’s annihilation in its former safe spaces. But rather less for Jo Swinson about the dismal showing of the Lib Dems in this election. This was epitomised by her own defeat by the SNP in Dunbartonshire (and if I were a Unionist, I wouldn’t be quite so gung ho about the results as most Tories). She went down as she went up, utterly immune to self doubt:

“Liberal Democrats will continue to stand up for these values that guide our Liberal movement – openness, fairness, inclusivity. We will stand up for hope”

You could say that this result was a resounding ‘No to Hope’, or rather ‘No to Woke’. At least, I’d like to think so. And certainly to the things the “openness, fairness, inclusivity” stuff stands for: a refusal to countenance the result of the referendum, no discernible controls on immigration and an approach to the cultural issues of the day summed up by the Lib Dem insistence that gender is all in the mind, not in anything so restrictive as chromosomes. She epitomised social liberalism – I didn’t really hear her on the economic sort – and she lost. Nothing in this result cheered me up so much.

In fact, I’d have been happier to see Jeremy Corbyn (whom I like as a person) in Downing Street than Jo Swinson. It was that bad. That relentless head-of-school self-righteousness, the confidence she was the answer to every complex question, epitomised in that appalling declaration at the outset of the campaign that she was all set to be the next prime minister (you could almost hear the nation mutter under its breath, “Really”?). And the facile rhetoric about openness and inclusivity which was sort of summed up in those uncompromising block, bright colours she was so fond of wearing.

The electorate was offered the chance of a young, female, uber-social liberal as its leader, and led by the heroes of East Dunbartonshire, it shrugged and said: ‘No, thanks all the same’.

She won’t, obviously, be taking this as definitive; somehow, it’s likely to be someone else’s fault.

I went off the Lib Dems when it came to their treatment of Robert Flello, a defector from Labour who reasonably expected to be chosen to stand for his old constituency only to be deselected for his off-message views on gay marriage and abortion (against). The decision to revoke Article 50 – take a bow, Jo – put paid to its claim to be democratic; the Flello case for me put paid to its claim to liberalism. Just think: it was once led by articulate and rather decent individuals like Jo Grimond and Charles Kennedy.

But the questions go beyond Woke Jo, don’t they? If the socially liberal stuff didn’t exactly sweep the board, the makeup of parliament will, in its way, reflect that (at least in England; Northern Ireland and Scotland are another matter).

But will there be any corresponding change, any sign of humility, in the pundits who are even more socially liberal, even more relentlessly unrepresentative of the actual feeling on the ground, than the Labour party? I wouldn’t hold your breath for humility on that front.


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