Jo Swinson: ‘Nationalism has fractured politics’

The “rising tide of nationalism and populism” has left British politics fractured, according to Liberal Democrat leadership hopeful Jo Swinson.

Jo Swinson.

The Scot has insisted that “closing ourselves off from the world” is the wrong approach and insists liberalism is the answer, in a bid to lead the party which swept back to forefront of UK politics in the recent European elections.

The East Dunbartonshire MSP warns that politics increasingly dominated by divisive forces, in an article for today’s Scotsman. “We’re seeing the rising tide of nationalism and populism,” she 

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“Forces that believe a better future lies through closing ourselves off from the world, blaming those who are different and stoking hate and division in order to win.”

Ms Swinson is the favourite to beat former UK environment secretary Ed Davey, the only other contender in the Lib Dem leadership race to replace Sir Vince Cable.

It comes after the party stormed to second place in the recent European elections, outpolling the Tories and Labour, behind the Brexit party.

“The answer to nationalism is liberalism,” Swinson added.

“The rise of populism has steadily coalesced movements of millions of people around its divisive us-against-them rhetoric, motivating so many more people to become active political campaigners and party members to champion the case for liberal democracy.

“It’s why I’ve put myself forward to be the leader of the Liberal Democrats. I want to lead the Liberal Democrats so that we can build a liberal movement to stand up to those nationalist forces and stop Brexit, then transform our broken economy so that it is focused on the long-term and works for both people and our planet, tackling poverty and averting climate crisis.”
But Ms Swinson came under fire yesterday as she refused to rule out working with the Conservatives or labour in a future UK government coalition.

“I have not said never in any future scenario, where things are different,” she told the Herald newspaper

“I’m looking at the situation right now in terms of being led by Brexiters on both sides.

“The same holds for confidence and supply. We need to stop Brexit and work with people who agree with us on that, and that’s not the leadership of the Conservatives or the Labour Party.”

The 39-year-old said this is “ambitious” and she does not “underestimate” the challenge of the Lib Dems needing to boost their 12 MPs by 300 to form the next government.

In the wide-ranging interview, Ms Swinson also addressed the issue of Scottish independence, claiming the SNP does not have a mandate for a second independence referendum as the 2014 ballot, based on the party’s vision outlined in the white paper Scotland’s Future, was rejected.

Her leadership rival claimed the “SNP is not either for the Scottish people or the United Kingdom.”

Speaking on the BBC Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland radio programme, Sir Edward Davey said: “We reject nationalism per se. We believe think it divides people unnecessarily. That’s why we believe that the SNP is not good either for the Scottish people or for the United Kingdom, and we believe Britain should stay in the EU.”

He added that he “fought the Tories day in, day out” during the coalition and doesn’t believe his role will damage his leadership bid.