Joanne Kate "Jo" Swinson CBE (born 5 February 1980) is a British Liberal Democrat politician and is the Member of Parliament (MP) for East Dunbartonshire. She was first elected at the 2005 general election, serving until her defeat by John Nicolson of the Scottish National Party ten years later. Swinson regained the seat at the 2017 snap general election with a majority of 5,339 votes. She had been the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Employment relations, consumer and postal affairs. Swinson was formerly a junior Equalities Minister. In June 2017, she was elected unopposed as Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats.
From 2007–08, she was the Liberal Democrats' spokesperson for Women and Equality and the Department for Communities and Local Government, and was their spokeswoman for Foreign Affairs from 2008–10, when the party entered into a coalition agreement with the Conservatives. She was previously the Liberal Democrats' spokesperson on Scotland and has chaired the Liberal Democrats' Campaign for Gender Balance since 2004. From 2005–09, she was the Baby of the House (youngest member of the House of Commons).
Early life and education
Swinson 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 in 2000. She signed up as an active member of the Liberal Democrats at the age of seventeen.
After graduating from the LSE, Swinson moved to Yorkshire and worked for Ace Visual & Sound Systems in Thorne, South Yorkshire from August 2000, then as a marketing and public relations manager for Kingston upon Hull based commercial radio station Viking FM from December 2000.
In 2001, at the age of 21, Swinson stood as a Liberal Democrat for the Hull East constituency in the general election, gaining a 6% swing from John Prescott, deputy leader of the Labour Party. In 2003, she unsuccessfully contested the Strathkelvin and Bearsden seat in the Scottish Parliament, coming 3rd with 14% of the vote in the election.
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 when first elected, (informally known as the "Baby of the House") she replaced fellow Lib Dem MP Sarah Teather. This situation lasted until 2009, when Conservative MP Chloe Smith was elected at the Norwich North by-election, 2009.
Swinson was vocal in her opposition to the Iraq War and the Labour government's proposals for national identity cards. She supports measures both by individuals and government to tackle climate change such as conserving energy in the home and the current Liberal Democrat policy of introducing green taxes while reducing income tax to offset the burden of this. 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 coercion in achieving this. She opposes positive discrimination to address gender imbalance, and famously 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 (the motion was backed by members from across the political spectrum). Swinson cited the fact that although standard of living had increased, peoples' 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, this replacement prison will retain its original name, Lowmoss Prison.
She is an active campaigner against packaging of chocolate Easter eggs, and each year from 2007 saw Swinson attack confectionery manufacturers for what she sees as excessive 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, though with a slightly decreased majority. Her party, the Liberal Democrats, subsequently entered into a coalition with the Conservative Party.
Parliamentary Private Secretary
In February 2012, Swinson replaced Norman Lamb as Parliamentary Private Secretary to then Liberal Democrat Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, holding this position until her promotion to government minister later that year.
In September 2012, Swinson was appointed Under Secretary of State for Employment Relations and Consumer Affairs in a reshuffle by then Prime Minister David Cameron. She maintained this role for the remainder of the Cameron-Clegg coalition, except for several months of maternity leave between 2013 and 2014.
Swinson initially focused efforts on scrapping The 1871 Pedlars Act, which prevents pedlars (travelling salesmen) and street traders from trading without first acquiring a certificate from the police. In November 2012, Swinson said that the proposed deregulation would help “eliminate barriers to street traders and pedlars by making it easier to trade, boosting retail and helping small traders – including many young entrepreneurs – to expand and grow”. The proposal was criticised by the Local Government Association, which claimed that it would lead to a 'free for all' of pedlars targeting vulnerable people. By 2014, however, Swinson announced she would seek to amend rather than repeal the laws.
Swinson opposed forcing companies to adopt gender quotas, stating that such a move would “negatively affect” the performance of businesses. Swinson instead promoted voluntary solutions, telling an event organised by the British Chambers of Commerce, “What women need is confidence, not quotas, So rather than telling companies what to do, we’re encouraging them to see the real business benefits of taking voluntary action.”
From 2013, Swinson sought to promote fathers' rights in regard to parental leave, bringing forth new legislation which allowed parents to divide parental leave between themselves with an aim to encourage fathers to spend more time with their newborn infants.
In October 2013, controversy emerged after MPs in the House of Commons allowed Swinson, then pregnant, to stand for twenty minutes without offering her a seat. This led to political debate and comment about whether or not it was sexist to give up a seat for a pregnant woman, with Prime Minister David Cameron wading into the row to say that offering pregnant women seats was the right thing to do. Swinson herself later commented that it was not sexist to offer a pregnant woman a seat, and that it was "great for people to offer, and part of life's little courtesies."
In the area of employment, she was supportive of both zero hours contracts and flexible working, seeking to promote the latter especially. On minimum wage, in February 2013 Swinson joined calls by other ministers to warn that "caution" was required when increasing it any further amid claims that minimum wage could be cut or frozen if it began costing jobs. Swinson pledged £80,000 of government financial support for the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark, an initiative led by corporations including Aviva Investors and Calvert which measures and ranks performance of global companies in regard to human rights.
Swinson was keen to promote employee ownership, such as employee ownership of shares, through the establishment of a FTSE-compliant UK Employee Ownership Index, supporting measures to reduce regulations for companies choosing to adopt employee ownership practices, and a scheme allowing companies to contractually offer employees £2,000 to £50,000 worth of shares (which would be exempted from capital gains tax) in exchange for waivering certain employee rights. Swinson traced employee ownership back to the philosophy of Jeremy Bentham, and claimed such ownership models improve productivity and lower absenteeism in staff.
By 2014, it was being reported that Swinson was tipped to replace Alistair Carmichael as Scottish Secretary and enter the Cabinet in a potential reshuffle, which at the time would have made her the youngest Cabinet member ever and the first Cabinet member to be born in the 1980s. At the same time, however, electoral projections for the 2015 general election showed Swinson was under serious risk of losing her East Dunbartonshire seat to a surge of Scottish National Party support.
Shortly before the 2015 general election, The Times and Financial Times reported that Swinson was one of a number of prominent 'right-leaning' Liberal Democrat MPs, aligned to then Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, deliberately excluded from campaign funding by former leading Liberal Democrat peer and donor Matthew Lord Oakeshott even though their seats, including Swinson's, were vulnerable marginals.
2015 and 2017 general elections
Swinson lost her parliamentary seat in the 2015 general election to Scottish National Party candidate John Nicolson by 2,167 votes (4.0%). She stood again for her former seat during the 2017 general election and won with a lead of 5,339 votes (10.3%) over Nicolson.
Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats
After the resignation of Tim Farron as Liberal Democrat leader on 14 June 2017, Swinson was named by the BBC as one of the possible contenders for the leadership along with Norman Lamb and Vince Cable. She later announced that she would not seek the leadership; instead, she became Deputy Leader after being the only candidate at the close of nominations.
She is currently her party's Spokesperson for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs.
At the Liberal Democrat autumn conference of 2017, Swinson drew media attention for using the phrase "Faragey, Trumpy, angry, arsey, shouty slogans" in criticising populism. In the same speech she called for the state visit of U.S. President Donald Trump to be cancelled, warned about Brexit, and condemned Venezuela's Maduro government as well as Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn for his stance on the Venezuelan protests.
In February 2018, Swinson's first book Equal Power: And How You Can Make It Happen was published by Atlantic Books. Discussing her book, Swinson explained that government has "limitations" when addressing gender inequality, so her book instead mainly suggests ideas for people to make changes in their own homes and workplaces. The Irish Times likened Equal Power to the "corporate feminism" of Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In, while The Herald also noted "A read of Equal Power makes it apparent that Swinson is a fan of Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In." Swinson's book was featured at the Aye Write! literary festival in Glasgow.
In a March 2018 article for The Mail on Sunday, Swinson came out in favour of erecting a statue of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in Parliament Square. She justified her position on feminist grounds and claimed that Thatcher was able to “single-handedly transform the fortunes of women”, accusing opponents of the Thatcher statue as being “pretty sexist”. Swinson praised Thatcher for her skills negotiating the UK rebate and for taking the UK into the single market, but was also critical of Thatcher for the poll tax and stressed she does not consider herself a Thatcherite. In addition, she wrote that there should be a statue of the first female First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon in time, though she disagrees with Scottish independence.
In July 2018, Swinson was absent for key votes on the Brexit negotiations, having been on maternity leave following the birth of her second son. Despite this, she still attended an anti-Trump protest. Fellow MP, Labour's Kate Hoey, criticised this behaviour in a tweet. Conservative Party Chairman Brandon Lewis had formally agreed not to vote, so that Swinson's absence would not affect the result. Lewis voted with the government nonetheless, leading Swinson to accuse the government of resorting to "desperate stuff" and a "calculated, deliberate breaking of trust". Lewis apologised, alongside Cabinet Office minister David Lidington and government chief whip Julian Smith. Apologising on Twitter, Lewis said that it was an "honest mistake made by the whips in fast-moving circumstances."
A sufferer of a peanut allergy, Swinson went into anaphylactic shock in May 2013 after she accidentally ate a biscuit containing nuts at an event in Glasgow. Swinson collapsed and had difficulty breathing, but recovered following an emergency injection of adrenaline and an overnight stay in hospital.
Political career timeline
(Current position in bold)
- Secretary, Liberal Democrat Youth and Students (1998–1999)
- Vice Chair (Communications), Liberal Democrat Youth and Students – job share with Ruth Polling (1999–2000)
- Vice Chair (Campaigns), Liberal Democrat Youth and Students (2000–2001)
- Westminster Parliamentary Candidate, Hull East (2001)
- Honorary Vice President, Liberal Democrat Youth and Students (2002–2004)
- Scottish Parliamentary Candidate, Strathkelvin and Bearsden (2003)
- Chair, Gender Balance Task Force (2004–present)
- Member of Parliament, East Dunbartonshire (2005–2015; 2017–present)
- Spokeswoman Department of Culture, Media and Sport (2005–2006)
- Spokeswoman Scottish Secretary (2006–2007)
- Spokeswoman Department of Communities and Local Government (2007–2008)
- Spokeswoman Minister for Women and Equality (2007–2008)
- Spokeswoman for Foreign Affairs (2008–2010; 2017– Present)
- Deputy Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats (2010–2012)
- Parliamentary Private Secretary to Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills Vincent Cable (2010–2012)
- Parliamentary Private Secretary to Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg (2012)
- Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (2012–2015)
- Junior Equalities Minister (2012–2015)
- Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats (2017– Present)
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- Dean, Lewis (2015-02-20). "Jo Swinson: Liberal Democrats will not die at general election after rise of SNP". International Business Times UK. Retrieved 2018-04-07.
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- "Parents can now apply for Shared Parental Leave – GOV.UK". www.gov.uk. Archived from the original on 25 April 2017. Retrieved 13 January 2018.
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- Elliott, Francis (2013-10-18). "Row as MPs leave pregnant minister standing". The Times. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 2018-01-13.
- "Sexist or not? Seven-months pregnant Scots MP Jo Swinson is left standing in Commons". HeraldScotland. Archived from the original on 14 January 2018. Retrieved 13 January 2018.
- "Is it sexist for a man to offer a woman a seat?". Channel 4 News. Archived from the original on 21 January 2016. Retrieved 13 January 2018.
- "Swinson: It's Not Sexist To Offer Pregnant Women A Seat". HuffPost UK. 6 November 2013. Archived from the original on 4 June 2015. Retrieved 13 January 2018.
- Brinded, Lianna (5 August 2013). "Jo Swinson MP on Zero-Hours Contracts [Exclusive Interview]". International Business Times UK. Archived from the original on 14 January 2018. Retrieved 13 January 2018.
- "For and against flexible working rule". BBC News. Archived from the original on 14 January 2018. Retrieved 13 January 2018.
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- Hope, Christopher (1 April 2013). "Minimum wage could be frozen or cut if it starts to cost jobs or damage economy, Government suggests". ISSN 0307-1235. Archived from the original on 14 January 2018. Retrieved 14 January 2018.
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- Medland, Dina. "Ranking Business For Human Rights In A 'Race To The Top'". Forbes. Retrieved 2018-01-15.
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- Silvera, Ian (2013-11-19). "UK Government Unveils FTSE Index to Boost Employee Ownership". International Business Times UK. Retrieved 2018-03-19.
- "Employee ownership flourishes in UK – GOV.UK". www.gov.uk. Retrieved 2018-03-19.
- "Government measures boost direct employee ownership – GOV.UK". www.gov.uk. Retrieved 2018-03-19.
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- "John Lewis boss: Worker-ownership can teach lesson". Retrieved 2018-03-19.
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- Hope, Christopher (4 October 2014). "Nick Clegg's Cabinet reshuffle stalls as Alistair Carmichael refuses to budge". ISSN 0307-1235. Archived from the original on 22 November 2014. Retrieved 14 January 2018.
- "Michael Gove Sacked As Education Secretary In Dramatic Reshuffle". HuffPost UK. 15 July 2014. Archived from the original on 23 June 2017. Retrieved 14 January 2018.
- "Could the SNP win 25 Labour seats in 2015?". www.newstatesman.com. Archived from the original on 23 October 2017. Retrieved 14 January 2018.
- Riley-Smith, Ben (18 November 2014). "Danny Alexander 'will lose seat in 2015 unless there is a miracle turnaround' according to Lib Dem strategist". ISSN 0307-1235. Archived from the original on 28 October 2015. Retrieved 14 January 2018.
- "Subscribe to read". Financial Times. Retrieved 2018-01-14.
- Fisher, Lucy (2015). "Lib Dem peer Lord Oakeshott switches cash to Labour". The Times. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 2018-01-14.
- "Ex-Lib Dem Peer Funding Labour Election Fight". HuffPost UK. 2015-01-22. Retrieved 2018-04-07.
- "LibDem donor snubs Danny Alexander, Jo Swinson to back Labour candidates with £300k". HeraldScotland. Retrieved 2018-04-07.
- "London's 1000 most influential people 2011: Politics". Evening Standard. Retrieved 2018-04-07.
- "London's 1000 most influential people 2012: Power Rangers, Westminster". Evening Standard. Retrieved 2018-04-07.
- "The Power 1000 – London's most influential people 2013: Power rangers,". Evening Standard. Retrieved 2018-04-07.
- "The 1000 – London's most influential people 2014: Capital politics". Evening Standard. Retrieved 2018-04-07.
- Chakelian, Anoosh (3 June 2017). "Ex-Lib Dem minister Jo Swinson: 'When we went into coalition, I knew it might be impossible to win my seat'". New Statesman. Archived from the original on 18 May 2017. Retrieved 19 April 2017.
- MacNab, Scott (19 April 2017). "Jo Swinson to fight East Dunbartonshire seat for Lib Dems". The Scotsman. Archived from the original on 18 May 2017. Retrieved 19 April 2017.
- "Tim Farron quits as Lib Dem leader". BBC News. 14 June 2017. Archived from the original on 14 June 2017. Retrieved 14 June 2017.
- Smith, Mikey (18 June 2017). "Lib Dem Jo Swinson will not stand to replace Tim Farron as leader". mirror. Archived from the original on 18 June 2017. Retrieved 18 June 2017.
- http://www.libdems.org.uk/ (12 October 2017). "New Liberal Democrat spokespeople". Liberal Democrats. Archived from the original on 19 November 2017. Retrieved 14 January 2018.
- "Donald Trump is a 'racist, misogynist bully' and shouldn't be invited to the UK, says Lib Dems' Deputy Leader". The Independent. 2017-09-17. Retrieved 2018-03-19.
- "Jo Swinson: 'Bully' Donald Trump should not get state visit". HeraldScotland. Retrieved 2018-03-19.
- Elgot, Jessica (2017-09-17). "Lib Dem conference: Jo Swinson hits out at Trump and 'bully politics'". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-03-19.
- Hughes, Laura (2017-09-17). "Russia 'more measured' than America and China is a 'voice of reason', Jo Swinson says". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 2018-03-19.
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- "Aye Write! Festival welcomes 200 authors to Glasgow". HeraldScotland. Retrieved 2018-03-19.
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- "Why opponents of the Thatcher statue are wasting their time | Coffee House". Coffee House. 2018-03-06. Retrieved 2018-03-19.
- "We must have a Margaret Thatcher statue, writes Jo Swinson". Mail Online. Retrieved 2018-03-19.
- "Here's five perfect Thatcher monuments we could erect in Scotland". The National. Retrieved 2018-03-19.
- "We should build statue to Margaret Thatcher, says Scottish MP". HeraldScotland. Retrieved 2018-04-07.
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- Kunal Ditta "MP Jo Swinson recovering after suffering a potentially fatal anaphylactic shock" Archived 9 May 2013 at the Wayback Machine, The Independent, 5 May 2013
- "Jo Swinson MP recovers from allergic reaction" Archived 6 May 2013 at the Wayback Machine, BBC News, 6 May 2013
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Jo Swinson.|
- Jo Swinson MP official constituency website
- Jo Swinson at the Liberal Democrats
- Profile at the Scottish Liberal Democrats
- Profile at Parliament of the United Kingdom
- Contributions in Parliament at Hansard 2010–present
- Contributions in Parliament during 2006–07 2007–08 2008–09 2009–10 at Hansard Archives
- Voting record at Public Whip
- Record in Parliament at TheyWorkForYou
- Articles authored at Journalisted
- Politics on Demand – includes regular podcasts by Jo Swinson
- Jo Swinson on Women's Parliamentary Radio
- Video: People and Parliament – Jo Swinson MP's response, hosted by YouTube on the Liberal Democrats official channel
- Contributor page at The Guardian
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
|New constituency|| Member of Parliament
for East Dunbartonshire
| Baby of the House
| Member of Parliament
for East Dunbartonshire
|Party political offices|
| Deputy Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats
Title last held byMalcolm Bruce
| Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats