Earlier this year, she declined to run for leadership of the Liberal Democrats. But insiders say her time may yet comeby Rachel Sylvester / September 14, 2017 / Leave a comment
She was for years the “Baby of the House”—the youngest MP and the first person born in the 1980s to be elected to parliament. Her own baby was also the first to go through the Commons division lobby. Jo Swinson, the new Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats, has never been a conventional politician. “She’s very modern,” says one colleague. “She hates all the male clubbiness of Westminster. And she certainly doesn’t suit the stereotype of the sandal-wearing Lib Dem. She’s a power dresser.”
A former member of the coalition government, this strong-willed Scot has also redefined political ambition at the age of 37. Most MPs are desperate to lead their party, but when Tim Farron resigned earlier this year, Swinson quickly ruled herself out of the leadership contest despite being the favourite to win. When colleagues questioned whether she was lacking in confidence, or letting down the feminist cause, she admitted that most men in her position would “run for leader like a shot,” but explained that she was simply refusing to conform. “Just because a man would do it doesn’t make it the right thing to do,” she said. “I have consistently fought against stereotypes and structures that impose a choice on someone.” But don’t mistake her decision for diffidence: she also pointed out that she had observed many male politicians “going for the promotion when they shouldn’t.”
Born in 1980, she grew up in Milngavie, a middle-class, affluent part of the area near Glasgow she now represents. Her parents were never particularly political—her mother is a primary school teacher and her father was in economic development—but she has always been fascinated by politics and loved debating at her comprehensive school. Swinson joined the Liberal Democrats at the age of 17, a decision that suggested a certain independence of mind, given most young people on the centre-left were much taken at this time by Tony Blair’s Labour Party.
Swinson studied Management at the LSE, before going on to work in marketing and PR for Viking FM, a Hull-based commercial radio station. Then, in 2005, she got her breakthrough—elected as MP for East Dunbartonshire at just 25. It was a new seat, carved out of others—none of which had a Lib Dem…