Jo Swinson: EU and independence referendums have divided the UK

The Lib Dems must challenge the 'populist blame game' by providing radical solutions to the problems 21st century Britain is facing, the party's deputy leader has said.

Jo Swinson MP makes a speech during the second day of the Liberal Democrats Autumn Conference at the Bournemouth International Centre.
Jo Swinson MP makes a speech during the second day of the Liberal Democrats Autumn Conference at the Bournemouth International Centre.

Jo Swinson claimed subsequent referendums on Scottish independence and European Union membership had left the UK divided, with public “resentment” towards a political system that “feels broken”.

Speaking in Dunfermline today, the Scots MP insisted there is “an appetite for change” and that her party could provide the “radical liberal solutions to the many future challenges hurtling down the tracks at us”.

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With an ageing population and increasing numbers of jobs at threat from the improving technology and automation, the Liberal Democrat deputy leader said the Government should have already started planning for the future.

But she hit out at Theresa May’s administration, saying: “The Conservative Government limps from one crisis to the next, running away from votes in Parliament, ministers clinging on courtesy of a weak Prime Minister.”

She claimed the Tory Government “isn’t doing enough to prepare for next month, let along the next decade”.

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Ms Swinson, who recaptured the East Dunbartonshire seat she had previously held from the SNP in June’s general election, continued: “It’s just Brexit at all costs, whatever the cost - and we know the cost will be huge.

“There is no room for anything else. They are so obsessed with the constitutional question they have taken their eye off the ball.”

Speaking at the Scottish Liberal Democrat conference, she argued that the Government had “doubled down on a hard Brexit instead of trying to bring the country together”.

To counter this she said her party “must seek positive, radical, 21st century, liberal solutions”, adding that “this is not a time for incremental change”.

With up to 10 million jobs at threat because of automation in the next 15 years, Ms Swinson said: “The march of the robots into our workplaces means we need to rethink jobs.

“Machines still have limits, and will continue to do so. They cannot empathise or accurately mimic the full complexity of human interaction, and there are few signs they will be able to do so in the near future.

“Increasingly, this will be what separates us from them. Our very humanity will be more precious than ever.

“Our ageing population requires a growing care sector. Care work should no longer be dismissed as low paid and unskilled.

“Instead we need a care revolution to place caregiving where it belongs: as a vital and hugely valued part of our society, with well-paid staff recognised for the significant skills they bring.”

She also called for more investment in renewable energy, a quicker phasing out of traditional petrol and diesel cars - something the UK Government wants to achieve by 2040 - and greater use of technology in the NHS.