General Election 2019: Who is Amy Callaghan, the MSP who beat Jo Swinson?

Although SNP MSP Amy Callaghan's victory over leader of the Liberal Democrats Jo Swinson was impressive, it is nothing compared to the battles she has won in the past.

The young politician has in the past been branded as 'Jo Swinson's rival', and unseating the Liberal Democrat leader as MP for East Dunbartonshire was a battle she was willing to take on.

Although the challenge Ms. Callaghan faced was significant, as she was up against a high-profile MP who, during the 2017 election, was 10 per cent ahead of the SNP in 2017, when considering her past and the battles she has fought before, it is evident she is not afraid of a little confrontation.

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In the past, the 27-year-old struck out at Ms Swinson, accusing her of being a “pop-up” MP and an architect of austerity, more focused on her ambitions of being Prime Minister than representing the community.

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Working locally, she worked on representing values which she felt would resonate with locals of the area, which consists of both affluent suburbs and regions of deep deprivation, and spoke with people in the community about local as well as national concerns – ranging from education to parking charges.

However, her main drive was to safeguard public services, particularly the NHS.

Jo Swinson lost her seat in East Dunbartonshire to SNP's Amy Callaghan. Picture: Getty ImagesJo Swinson lost her seat in East Dunbartonshire to SNP's Amy Callaghan. Picture: Getty Images
Jo Swinson lost her seat in East Dunbartonshire to SNP's Amy Callaghan. Picture: Getty Images

This determination to protect the NHS was fuelled in part by her battle with skin cancer which started when she was 17, and she credits the health service with saving her life.

She told the Daily Record: “If I can take anything away from having cancer, it’s that it ignited a fire in my belly and a strength in me that I will use to fight for our NHS. It must be protected at all costs.

“I want to stand against everything that Jo Swinson has done in terms of damaging our health service. The thought that the NHS could end up in private hands terrifies me.”

She referred to Ms Swinson abstaining from voting in favour of Labour’s motion to safeguard the NHS from being put on the table in any future Johnson-Trump trade deal, which the Tories voted against.

Nicola Sturgeon joined Amy Callaghan on her campaign trail. Picture: John DevlinNicola Sturgeon joined Amy Callaghan on her campaign trail. Picture: John Devlin
Nicola Sturgeon joined Amy Callaghan on her campaign trail. Picture: John Devlin

She added: “Jo Swinson had a chance to protect our NHS and she sat on her hands. That was appalling. All that I hold dear, she is willing to throw away. I won’t let that happen.”

Battle against melanoma

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Ms Callaghan was 17 when she became worried about a mole on the left-hand side of her face, which was starting to evolve in shape and size.

Although her concerns were originally dismissed by doctors, the mole was removed in 2009, however two years later, she noticed a lump on the inside of her left cheek.

Following surgical removal of the lump, she was told by her plastic surgeon that she suffered from melanoma, a cancer which had penetrated her bone, her muscle and her nerves.

She underwent several surgeries which left her physically and emotionally scarred.

She told the Daily Record: “I was 19 and I’d been on an incredible high, I’d come out of school at the top of my game and was flying at university. Life was going incredibly well then cancer turned my life upside down. The ground disappeared from under me and I fell dramatically.”

The treatment was successful, but with an 80 per cent chance of returning, her disease continued to play a big role in her life, as she recalls: "“I used to worry about sleeping in case I didn’t wake up."

In 2014, she discovered another tiny lump, and five days later she was back in the operating theatre after a relapse was confirmed.

Although the tumour was small, it was also very invasive, requiring her to undergo substantial surgery.

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wrapping around nerves and muscle, and the surgery was substantial. When she came round, she couldn’t move her top lip and it took intensive physiotherapy before she could smile again.

Now, she has regained her confidence and cherishes the NHS, and all the health care workers who provided her “exceptional” aftercare.

She told the Daily Record: “The NHS is so special, it can never be jeopardised.”

Losing battle for Swinson

Although Ms Swinson is the more prolific of the two politicians, her campaign as leader for the Liberal Democrats showed little sign of success from the very beginning, when her proclamations to become Prime Minister were quickly pushed aside.

As her campaign trial continued, her party's poll numbers started dropping, and whilst one poll found that, the more voters saw Ms Swinson, the less they liked her, a YouGov poll from three weeks before the election hinted she would still hold the seat.

In the end, Ms Callaghan took the seat for the SNP after beating Ms Swinson by just 149 votes, resulting in Ms Swinson quitting as leader of the party.

Ms Swinson said she lost her seat to the SNP after a "wave of nationalism" swept politics on both sides of the border.