Scottish leader would be a boon to Lib Dems, says Jo Swinson

Swinson was the youngest MP, at 25, when she was elected in 2005. Picture: Ian Forsyth/GettySwinson was the youngest MP, at 25, when she was elected in 2005. Picture: Ian Forsyth/Getty
Swinson was the youngest MP, at 25, when she was elected in 2005. Picture: Ian Forsyth/Getty
Liberal Democrat leadership contender Jo Swinson insists that being a Scottish MP will not hinder her efforts to take the helm of a UK-wide party in the era of devolution.

Former Labour prime minister Gordon Brown found himself under fire in the role from some who said he was taking decisions about the NHS and schools south of the border, while such issues in his then Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath constituency were decided by the Scottish Parliament.

But the East Dunbartonshire MP and Liberal Democrat deputy leader told Scotland on Sunday the situation was not a flaw in the UK political system.

“I think it’s a strength,” she insisted.

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“We’re a country of four great nations and our United Kingdom is stronger because of those four nations and so it is vital that our UK parliament and our UK government is drawn from those different parts of the UK, and that those voices are heard and listened to and that they’re instrumental in the decisions being taken.

“If I think about it, in our own party’s history, we had Charles Kennedy, one of the most successful leaders of the Liberal Democrats who took us to our highest ever numbers of members of parliament.

“There’s lots of division in our country at the moment in lots of different ways. One of those is geographic, and making sure that politics isn’t seen as something which is all about London and the South-East is more important in these times than ever.”

Swinson, married to ex-Lib Dem MP Duncan Hames, was the youngest member of Parliament when she was first elected at the age of 25 in 2005.

She served as business minister in the Coalition Government, but is less experienced than her opponent for the leadership, former UK energy secretary Ed Davey.

Both are out to capitalise on the party’s return to the political fore after widespread gains in the recent EU elections on an anti-Brexit platform which attracted moderate voters from the Tories and Labour.

Swinson found herself outside parliament after losing her seat to the SNP’s John Nicolson in 2015, before winning it back two years later.

“Anyone who loses their seat will say that it’s painful and I’ve always felt at elections counts that to lose your job on national television is not a pleasant thing for anybody. My husband and I lost our seats on the same day and had a 16-month-old baby so it was a really stressful time.

“At the same time I learned a huge amount.

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“I didn’t want to lose, but I did have that space to reflect on what was really important in politics. What was my motivation for doing it? I wasn’t standing in the 2017 election as some kind of default. I was really determined that I wanted to get back into the political debate because I was worried about the direction that our country was going in on both sides of the border and I think that’s given me even more steel and determination in what I want to achieve.

“It also gave me a couple of years when I had that perspective when remembering that for most people what goes on in the bubble of politics – whether that’s in Holyrood or Westminster – is still seen as pretty distant.

“The impact is actually where it touches people’s lives and that’s what you need to focus on.”