General election: I will fight on for people ignored by politicians who just want power – Christine Jardine MP

Jo Swinson, who resigned as Liberal Democrat leader after losing her seat, will leave a gap in the party that is hard to fill, says Christine Jardine (Picture: David Cheskin/Getty Images)Jo Swinson, who resigned as Liberal Democrat leader after losing her seat, will leave a gap in the party that is hard to fill, says Christine Jardine (Picture: David Cheskin/Getty Images)
Jo Swinson, who resigned as Liberal Democrat leader after losing her seat, will leave a gap in the party that is hard to fill, says Christine Jardine (Picture: David Cheskin/Getty Images)
Politicians must work together to reverse the tide of poverty that blights the UK, the fifth richest country in the world, writes Christine Jardine.

Saturday morning. The first time this year that I was able to wake up and start to think about Christmas.

There were a lot of other thoughts to get over first of course. Chief amongst them was how to deal with the loss of my friend, colleague and political mentor as leader of the Liberal Democrats.

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Jo Swinson is someone who has transformed the way our party does politics and, as she said herself on Friday, she may have been the first woman leader of our party, but she won’t be the last.

The group she leaves behind is marginally smaller but a better representation of our society. More and stronger women.

But the gap that she leaves will be extremely difficult to fill. And I hope that she doesn’t remove her talent from the political stage completely.

I hope that like me she will now be able to turn her attention to the holidays and her boys.

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Certainly after six weeks of knocking on doors, back-to-back TV and radio interviews, community hustings and delivering leaflets, decorating the tree with my daughter was the perfect relaxation.

There was also some important Christmas present chatter. But I’ve already been given what I asked for this year.

It is an absolute honour and privilege to have been re-elected to serve the people of Edinburgh West as their Member of Parliament.

I fully intend to continue to work first and foremost for my constituents and their interest. And whatever happens over the weeks and months to come, I promise to always campaign to keep Scotland in the UK and the EU.

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But I also promise to be an MP for all my constituents, whether they voted for me or not, and regardless of their views on independence. It is the individual who matters to me, not their political position.

In the last Parliament, my team and I dealt with more than 5,000 individual pieces of casework.

Countless times we took on the cruel and punitive policies of the Department of Work and Pensions, and we fought tooth and nail against the Tories’ hostile environment at the Home Office. And countless times we won.

I’ll be heading back to the green benches with a renewed and steadfast determination to challenge the new hard-right Tory Government in every possible way I can.

I refuse to stand by and watch as the Conservatives use their majority in the Commons to close us off from the world, and inflict yet more stress and hardship on families that are already struggling to get by.

And surely there is no bigger reminder of just how many people the political system is failing than Christmas.

Every day I pause to remind myself how lucky I am. In our modern, increasingly impersonal society, governed by parties who care more about national identity – both at Westminster and Holyrood – than the interests of the people they are elected to serve, the festive season feels particularly cruel.

I grew up in a comfortable working-class family in a working-class part of greater Glasgow. But my two sisters and I never wanted for anything, even after my Dad died, because we had the support of a big loving family to get us through.

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Growing up, Christmas was always special. If there were times when it was tough for my parents, we would never have known.

This past few weeks, for the right to represent my community in the parliament of the fifth largest economy in the world, I was continually horrified at the level of poverty we have come, somehow, to have allowed.

That any family in this country has to turn to a food bank is a shame on us all.

And at Christmas, to see charities providing presents for children who might otherwise have to go without is unacceptable. Yes I can donate, and will. But more importantly I think that I, and every other person lucky enough to have been given the opportunity to represent their community, should be committed to reversing the tide of poverty that blights our society.

We must work together to ensure that those wo are struggling to get by have the support they need and not ignored by the political machines who survive on power, and division.

To do that, our political system needs to change. To be more open, consensual and focussed on the well-being of the population.

Thursday’s election result may make that more difficult and longer to achieve, but it must not stop us altogether.

We can make progress and by next Christmas I am determined that we will have.

Christine Jardine is the Scottish Liberal Democrat MP for Edinburgh West