Jo Swinson was yesterday elected leader of the Lib Dems. Our blog pieces on this odious feminist (but I repeat myself), a Minister for Wimmin & Equalities in the Conservative / Lib Dem coalition (2010-15), are here. They include links to both her Gormless Feminist of the Month and Whiny Feminist of the Month awards. A few years ago, when the party was in the electoral doldrums, she stated she had no ambition to become party leader. After the party’s electoral fortunes were revived by the EU elections – the Lib Dems being an avowedly anti-Brexit party – she suddenly became keen on the party leadership.
Along with Natty Kadifa I attended the 2017 International Men’s Day debate in Westminster Hall, and Jo Swinson seated herself right in front of us, just a few feet away. At one point Natty harrumphed loudly at some particularly idiotic statement by a feminist MP. Swinson turned round and gave me a vicious glare. How I didn’t laugh out loud at Swinson, I don’t know to this day.
Good riddance to Vince Cable, the outgoing leader, an enthusiastic campaigner for more women on boards during his time as business secretary in the 2010-15 coalition government. During one select committee meeting a year or two ago, he gave evidence, and stated proudly that the Lib Dems have all-women shortlists for “winnable” seats. Presumably there are all-men shortlists for unwinnable seats.
A piece by Quentin Letts in today’s Times:
The Lib Dems have held their leadership announcement at Proud Embankment, a London cabaret club. Normally it is the preserve of nipple-tasselled dancers and artistes such as Didi Derriere, Beau Rocks and Chastity Belt. Sir Cyril Smith would have loved it. Proud Embankment holds burlesque brunches, drag extravaganzas and Opulence evenings, where dominatrices are not unknown.
Yesterday it was filled with happy-eyed, hessian-bagged Lib Dems shouting “Jo, Jo, Jo, Jo”. Feminists every one of ’em. [J4MB emphasis] Plus Chuka Umunna, who amid all this TCP-scented earnestness must be aching for Ibiza.
The stage had been festooned in Lib Dem party colours and “Stop Brexit” signs. The activists broke into a peal of ululations when Baroness Brinton, the party president, announced that Jo Swinson had, in the best traditions of Proud Embankment, given Sir Ed Davey a jolly good thrashing. The noise made by Swinson supporters was so high, only younger gundogs will have heard it. It was a massed squeaking — like mice celebrating the start of their summer holiday.
Sir Ed took it like a man. He grabbed hold of Ms Swinson, who was next to him in the front row, and embraced her. In her victory speech his new leader repaid the compliment by calling Davey ”a huge talent”. We must permit a woman a few fibs on the day of her ascent.
Lady Brinton had not vacated the stage willingly. “I haven’t finished yet!” she snarled while the room was cheering. She remarked that the Lib Dems’ leadership contest had been conducted with respect and courtesy, unlike — nudge, nudge — “another leadership election”. Both candidates, she said, had been “exceptional . . . fantastic”. But into even the most assiduously egalitarian nursery play-pod must tumble a little competitiveness, and Swinson had creamed it. Weekend reports that the contest had been “too close to call” had proved reliably unreliable.
The victor, after a gulp of water and some posed waving for the press snappers, gave an unexpectedly long speech. She is not the most succinct or extempore of orators but she certainly radiated plenty of happiness that she had just become — a little exhalation of achievement with this — the Lib Dems’ first female leader. There was also a sweet moment when she remembered her late dad.
Politically she said she had “big shoes to fill”. This puzzled some onlookers. Ms Swinson explained that she was referring to Sir Vince Cable’s ballroom-dancing shoes and Sir Ming Campbell’s running spikes, as well as the late Paddy Ashdown and Charles Kennedy. Such was her confidence that she even praised another former party leader, Sir Nick Clegg, who led the Lib Dems to electoral slaughter.
She used her speech mainly to attack Nigel Farage, who made her feel “sick”, and Boris Johnson, whom she declared “not fit to be prime minister”. She made a defence of liberalism that may have been a Skibbereen Eagle-type warning to the Kremlin. Jeremy Corbyn also came in for some treatment, though less than the other two. Mr Corbyn’s indecision on Brexit meant he “doesn’t deserve my time and doesn’t deserve your vote”, she said. A different Labour leader is surely the last thing the Lib Dems want.
Then things all went a bit David Steel. Ms Swinson, baring that gap in her teeth, became wonderfully carried away. “I stand before you as a candidate for prime minister,” she hollered, to great yelps of delight from the crowd and another chorus of “Jo, Jo, Jo, Jo”. The mustard-yellow set bounced as she waved her arms. “I am ready to take my party into a general election and win it!”
In other news, HMS Duncan was steaming to the crisis zone. HMS Duncan is a destroyer. Yesterday’s resignation by Sir Alan Duncan, at present only a would-be destroyer, came as no surprise. Two weeks ago he told me he wanted to go and make “some serious money”.
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