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Jo Swinson

Joanne Kate Swinson CBE is a British former Liberal Democrat politician who served as leader of the Liberal Democrats from 22 July to 13 December 2019.

She was the first woman and the youngest person to hold the position. She was the Member of Parliament for East Dunbartonshire from 2005 to 2015 and from 2017 to 2019.

  • Full name: Joanne Kate Swinson CBE
  • Profession: British politician
  • Leader of the Liberal Democrats of the Liberal Democrats
  • Born: 5 February 1980 (age 40 years), Glasgow
  • Party: Liberal Democrats
  • Education: Douglas Academy, London School of Economics and Political Science
  • Books: Equal Power: Shortlisted for the Best Memoir by a Parliamentarian 2018
  • Spouse: Duncan Hames (m. 2011)
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About Jo Swinson

Swinson was born on 5 February 1980 in Glasgow, Scotland, UK. She is the daughter of Peter and Annette Swinson.

She was educated at Douglas Academy, a mixed state school in the town of Milngavie in East Dunbartonshire in western Scotland, followed by the London School of Economics, where she studied Management, gaining a first-class Bachelor of Science degree in 2000.

She signed up as an active member of the Liberal Democrats at the age of 17.

Career

After graduating from the London School of Economics, Swinson moved to Yorkshire and worked for Ace Visual and Sound Systems in Thorne, before becoming a marketing and public relations manager for Hull-based commercial radio station Viking FM from December 2000, and media company Space and People.

At the age of 21, Swinson stood unsuccessfully in the Kingston upon Hull East constituency in the 2001 general election, but gained a 6% swing from John Prescott, then the Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

In 2003, she unsuccessfully contested Strathkelvin and Bearsden seat in the Scottish Parliament election, finishing third with 14% of the vote.

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Swinson was elected to the House of Commons as the MP for East Dunbartonshire at the 2005 general election. She defeated John Lyons of Labour by 4,061 votes, and was the first ever Member of Parliament born in the 1980s.

As the youngest MP she replaced fellow Lib Dem MP Sarah Teather as the “Baby of the House”. This lasted until 2009, when Conservative MP Chloe Smith was elected at the Norwich North by-election.

Swinson was vocal in her opposition to the Iraq War and the Labour government’s proposals for national identity cards.

She has supported measures both by individuals and government to tackle climate change such as conserving energy in the home and the Liberal Democrat policy of introducing green taxes while reducing income tax to offset the burden.

She supports reducing the voting age to 16 as one way of engaging young people in politics. She believes more women should be involved in politics but that encouragement is better than affirmative action in achieving this.

She opposes positive discrimination to address gender imbalance, and led the argument against positive discrimination to select her party’s candidates at their national party conference in 2002, wearing a pink T-shirt inscribed with the slogan, “I am not a token woman”.

Swinson has also called for a “wellbeing index” to be introduced, to be compared against GDP, and tabled an early day motion on the issue in 2008, gaining 50 signatures.

She found support from MPs such as Vince Cable and Angela Eagle. Swinson cited the fact that although standard of living had increased, people’s level of wellbeing had been virtually static for some time, according to polls.

Swinson believed that new prisons ought not to be built and had campaigned vocally, but without success, against the rebuilding of a prison at Bishopbriggs within the constituency.

She had said that if a prison was built it must not be built cheaply, and that it must not be named after the town in which is to be sited.

The campaign to give the prison its original name was ultimately successful, as the replacement prison will retain its original name, Lowmoss Prison.

She is an active campaigner against excessive packaging of chocolate Easter eggs. Each year from 2007 saw Swinson attack confectionery manufacturers for wasteful use of non-recyclable materials in packaging of the seasonal goods. She has named Guylian as the worst offender, followed by Lindt, Baileys and Cadbury.

Swinson successfully held her seat of East Dunbartonshire in the 2010 general election, although with a slightly decreased majority. Her party, the Liberal Democrats, subsequently entered into a coalition with the Conservative Party.

Summary

Swinson studied at the London School of Economics, and briefly worked in public relations, before being elected to the House of Commons, becoming the youngest MP at the time.

She served as a Liberal Democrat Spokesperson covering various portfolios, including Scotland, Women and Equalities, Communities and Local Government, and Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs.

In 2010, after the Liberal Democrats entered into a coalition government with the Conservative Party, Swinson served as a Parliamentary Private Secretary to Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, and was later appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Employment Relations and Postal Affairs.

She lost her seat in the 2015 election, but regained it in the snap election held two years later. Shortly after returning to Parliament, she was elected unopposed as Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats.

In July 2019, after the retirement of Vince Cable, Swinson defeated Ed Davey in a leadership election to become Leader of the Liberal Democrats.

Swinson led her party through the 2019 general election shortly afterwards, suggesting she could lead a Liberal Democrat majority government which would revoke Article 50 and cancel Brexit.

Instead, Swinson lost her seat to the Scottish National Party and was disqualified from continuing as party leader.

Leader of the party for four and a half months, Swinson was the youngest leader in the Liberal Democrats’ history.