Rebecca Hanson (Bootle), Lib Dem Leader Jo Swinson & Keith Crawdron (Sefton Central) are ready to take on Jeremy Corbyn’s MP’s in Bootle (Peter Dowd) and Sefton Central (Bill Esterson) constituencies when the starting gun is fired for the soon to happen General Election.
Now let me say this first, Swinson was not my preferred candidate to become Lib Dem Leader, but as my preferred candidate did not stand I voted for her over Ed Davy. Secondly, it’s a little early to say how she will do in the post which she won with a pretty huge majority. Best to say I’m a disloyal (I always see myself as being disloyal to my party by the way*) sceptic of her leadership but one who will applaud her if she becomes a good leader.
So what to make of the Swinson/Lucas/Corbyn tussle over how a government of national unity can be put together to defeat Johnson and No Deal Brexit. I think a fair assessment of the present position is to say that Corbyn will get involved if he can be the head of such a government and that the Green Leader agrees with Corbyn. Swinson however holds the view that Corbyn’s a too divisive a figure to be the at the head of such a movement and that she thinks a more widely accepted figure should do the job. She wants either Harriet Harman and/or Ken Clarke to do the leadership role.
A government of national unity to stop a No Deal Brexit will need dissident Tory MP’s to back it and whilst this is a statement of the blindingly obvious, based on the House of Commons arithmetic, it is also the key to why the potential leader of such a government should surely to be a widely accepted and trusted figure i.e. not a present opposition party leader.
I understand that Jeremy C wants to be PM just as Lucas and Swinson do too; why else would they be political leaders? However, the present Brexit crisis faced by the UK is not one where individual political ambitions are the most important thing. Indeed, the imminent danger of a No Deal Brexit is what needs to be stopped and clearly a non/less-contentious leader of a short-term government of national unity is required to do that.
Once you put a political leader up to do that job politicians will take sides especially if that person is seen to hold views way to the left of right of the center of UK politics. So telling Jeremy that he’s not the person for the job is a matter of political pragmatism for me because he’s not a man who politicians from differing political backgrounds can coalesce around. And if they can’t coalesce around him by implication his government is highly unlikely to commend a majority in our fractured House of Commons.
Sadly Lucas has misjudged this issue just as she did a few days ago when bizarrely she suggested an all women Cabinet to run the UK. Now don’t get me wrong, I do accept that women make better leaders than men because they are generally less likely to be politically tribal etc. But to suggest, as Caroline sadly did, that no men can be trusted to take on senior government positions is just not sensible or practical politics. Politics is the art of the possible, what Caroline was suggesting was clearly highly improbable.
The other problem with Jeremy is his political baggage associated with Brexit. Across the political spectrum people say he’s not had a good Brexit and has not handled the matter at all well. Significantly, this is often said by Labour Party members and supporters so it’s not just a opposition view of Jez. It also has to be remembered that Jez is at heart a Brexiteer and he wants what he calls a ‘Labour Brexit’, whatever that may mean. And there’s the rub because he’s not going to get the chance to negotiate a Labour Brexit until he wins a General Election and Labour winning such an election seems at best slight if present opinion polls are anything to go by.
Will Labour now sit back and say it’s our way or no way over a government of national unity or will they back off on their wish to crown Jeremy as PM for this interim emergency government?
For what my view is worth I think Swinson’s stance is right and that figures such as Clarke and/or Harman are best placed to try to put a Commons majority together to defeat a No Deal Brexit. I say this simply because her position is more logical, more likely to work and it’s the art of the possible rather than the improbable. And to balance my view of Swinson I remain highly sceptical of her seemingly strident anti-SNP views. I get that she’s a not a nationalist and is in favour of the Union but we need the SNP onside over Brexit, so poking them in the political eye regularly is not helpful.
But above all this the real elephant trap is that a Government of national unity which gets rid of No Deal Brexit could also be used as a platform to promote a Brexit Deal! If Swinson was involved in that it would finish her and the Lib Dems. Think about it, there are quite a few Labour and Tory MP’s out there who want to get rid of No Deal but who would be happy to get out of the EU with some form of a deal. They would probably be happy with Corbyn at the head of a Government as he’s on their side. Any Government temporary or otherwise which tries to negotiate a deal to leave the EU will end up in the same appalling mess that Teresa may found herself in. Swinson needs to be very cautious and ignore the Corbynite ritualistic tribal abuse presently being aimed at her. If she weakens she could easily end up enabling a Brexit deal of whatever kind and frankly no one will have any sympathy for her then.
Political tribalism has blighted UK politics for far too long. Of course other political parties have good ideas which should gain wide support but our tribal system teaches our politicians to slag off ideas from opposition politicians just because they are not ‘one of ours’. It’s time to do the right thing to save the UK from the mad idea that a No Deal Brexit will be fine. It won’t be – our public services will suffer, tax revenues will fall, exports will dry up, unemployment will rise, living standards will fall, workers rights will be chucked away, environmental and food regulations will be ripped up. Only the rich and powerful will benefit from a No Deal Brexit. And let’s not forget that any form of Brexit, with a deal or not, will cause all of these disaster scenarios to come into play to some extent – the best deal the UK has is the one it has now with the EU. No ifs, no buts, no maybes.
* If you don’t get my disloyalty, it’s associated with my view that we should trust no one with power. Our job is to hold those who hold power to account, not to idolise them.
I attended the Lib Dem Leadership hustings event held in Manchester yesterday evening to help me decide whether to back Jo Swinson or Ed Davey. I came away more impressed with Davey than I expected to be but Swinson shaded it for me because of her engaging and down to earth way of connecting with her audience.
Those who know me well will realise that I had wanted Layla Moran to stand for Lib Dem Leader but probably for all the right reasons she decided not to. I’m guessing that she wants to get more experience under her belt before taking such a step.
I thought Davey was very good on the issues of climate change and the economics of switching from fossil fuels to renewable ones but Swinson was better for me across the whole range of questioning she came under at the event. And that range of questioning covered saving the NHS, stopping Brexit, investing in rail transportation in the north, equalities, education, climate change and other issues too.
I do however subscribe to Jonathan Calder’s view that this contest is between two Steel’s with no Pardoe. And for those not well up on Liberal history, when David Steel became Liberal leader his opponent was John Pardoe who was seen as being a more radical alternative for leader. It’s that more radical approach that I want to see from both the present Lib Dem leadership candidates. I don’t do Centrist moderation, it’s too comfortable – be more Pardoe please and challenge us all, whether we be Lib Dem members and supporters or not, to back a more radical and socially progressive Liberal movement.
Oh and by the way whilst backing Swinson, I will be content with either winning the contest so long as they embark on a radical agenda of course…….
Former minister Jo Swinson has spoken of the “delicious” moment she was mistaken for a secretary by a senior government official.
The ex-MP, an equalities minister in the coalition government, was speaking about the difficulties faced by women in the workplace.
She said the official was mortified when he realised his mistake.
The former Lib Dem MP, who lost her seat at May’s general election, pushed through reforms allowing shared parental leave, seen as one of the biggest changes in employment law under the coalition.
She spoke out against all-women shortlists at a Liberal Reform fringe meeting at the party’s conference in Bournemouth. But she argued that some state intervention and positive discrimination was needed to shift ingrained cultural attitudes, offering an insight into her own experience at the heart of government.
“I remember as a minister, when I was making a public appointment, the officer for public appointments was coming along to discuss who we were going to appoint to this position and the interview process,” she said.
“And basically came into my office and talked to me with the clear assumption that he thought I was the secretary to the minister.
It was wonderful – the look on his face when he realised his mistake.”
And the lesson from this is one for us men not to assume that when we go to a meeting with someone whom we do not know that it will be with another man! Equalities clearly has some way to go.
With thanks to Jen Robertson for the lead to this story.