Analysis comment

Corbyn v Swinson on EU – an embarrassingly one-sided contest

New LibDem leader has tried to mark start of tenure by attacking Labour and its leader on Brexit – but examination of facts is humiliating for Swinson
A Labour wag’s all-too-accurate summary of Swinson’s career on Brexit

New LibDem leader Jo Swinson faces a desperate need to distance herself from her party’s – and her personal – collusion with the Tories during five years of brutal and callous austerity as part of the coalition government.

That problem is compounded by the fact that, apart from ‘Stop Brexit!’, she’s got no convincing policies to offer. Nobody seriously expects the LibDems to get near government except on the coat-tails of another party – and their hasty readiness to throw away promises such as their pledge not to increase tuition fees means that nobody believes them on policy anyway.

It seems her solution to this conundrum is to attack Jeremy Corbyn on Brexit. She launched straight into this tactic in her inaugural appearance on Radio 4’s Today programme on Tuesday – except she told a (let’s be kind) ‘untruth’, as Labour’s press team had to point out:

Ms Swinson failed to apologise, instead attempting a ‘look over there’ response.

But is there a kind of sense to the rather sad ploy? After all, a commitment to stopping Brexit is the LibDems’ sole credible selling point – isn’t it?

Well, not that big a commitment as it turns out, when you dig into it – at last on Ms Swinson’s personal part.

In May 2016 – the last full month of the Brexit referendum campaign – you’d expect any avid remainer to be talking about nothing but the importance and advantages of remaining in the EU. However. Jo Swinson’s Twitter feed for the month contains not one tweet mentioning the referendum – just one retweet of a call to register to vote.

As Labour activist Matt Thomas pointed out, it’s not as though she was absent from Twitter entirely:

By contrast, Jeremy Corbyn was in the middle of conducting a remain campaign that led centrist MP Angela Eagle to observe that it would have exhausted a man half his age.

During the 46-day EU referendum campaign, Corbyn:

• travelled 5,851 kilometres on referendum campaigns
• spoke at 15 remain rallies
• Sent 100 remain tweets that were shared 33,760 times
• appeared 120 times in the media
• appeared on Marr, Peston & The Last Leg

Corbyn also took part in a live, televised debate with an invited sky audience to argue for Labour’s remain position. The Labour leader sat in direct sunlight on a hot day but answered questions from the audience thoughtfully, calmly and in an informed fashion.

Ms Swinson, however short of other options she might find herself, should be hiding her face on the subject of campaigning for remain in the referendum campaign.

Of course, her record of supporting Tory austerity is another matter. On that, she does have a considerable list of activity – though one she clearly still wants us to forget. Swinson:

• warned against rises in the minimum wage
• defended Tory tribunal fees
• voted to scrap the EMA allowance for poor pupils
• voted for cuts in disability payments
• backed the hated Bedroom Tax
• voted to triple tuition fees
• voted to bomb several Muslim countries
• backed austerity throughout

That record is fully attested:

Ten times that Jo Swinson propped up the Tories

Jo Swinson:

  1. voted to increase £university tuition fees to £9,000
  2. consistently voted against increasing benefits to those unable to work due to illness or disability
  3. voted to reduce local government spending on a number of occasions
  4. voted against bankers bonus tax on a number of occasions
  5. voted to lower corporation tax
  6. voted for the bedroom tax
  7. voted in favour of the badger cull
  8. voted in favour of fracking
  9. voted against capping rail fare increases on a number of occasions
  10. voted in favour of cuts to legal aid.

Ms Swinson’s record next to Jeremy Corbyn’s is a towering embarrassmnet for her – and in pretty much every area, not just on the referendum campaign.

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  1. Yes … well … Swinson and the LibDems are a bit of a side-issue.

    … except for one fact : that Labour has allowed them to suck up a fair number of ‘Remain’ votes by being clearer on the Brexit issue.

    There’s a lesson there. Mr Toad is setting out to regain Leave votes from the Faragos. The majority innate conservative vote in so-called ‘Leave’ constituencies will continue to head in one of those two directions. Labour is pissing in the wind if it thinks there’s any electoral advantage in chasing that long-lost constituency.

    It is pissing into an even stronger wind if it gifts Labour support to the LibDems by not being in *clear* opposition to the Toadies – a move that will simultaneously do damage to the internal PLP right with the forked tongue. (Apart from the massive facts that opposition to Brexit is (a) clearly the sane policy and (b) the policy favoured by the majority of Labour support).

    The Tory-favouring MSM will still manufacture lies about anti-semitism, but a clear anti-Brexit policy will also take force from that attack line.

    The very least move has to be a commitment to another public vote – whatever the circumstances.

    Otherwise look at the poll of polls and weep.

    1. “Yes … well … Swinson and the LibDems are a bit of a side-issue.”

      What about the ridiculous VONC issue on day 2 ffs?

      I feel a pincer movement to completely contain or remove Corbyn is in full swing. Of course the metro liberal identity luvvies who are also British/western exceptionalists are one arm of that pincer, of course their criticism is ‘comradely’…

      Meanwhile Johnson’s cabinet feels like a war cabinet to me… increased war on UK population and on citizens abroad.

      I’m sure Socialists on the ground know this and are doing all they can to support Corbyn and what he stands for. They have my full support.

      1. “What about the ridiculous VONC issue on day 2 ffs?”

        A clear side issue, Maria – Labour can wrap that one up quite easily.

        “the metro liberal identity luvvies”

        Don’t fall for simple typifications. Some might fall into such a category – but then we have the horny-handed-sons-of-northern-toil caricature like John Mann, and the Chris Leslie eenie-meenie-mynee-mo-which part-shall-I-be types.

        Like Johnson, they’re all fakers (not fakirs).

      2. I forgot to add I am speaking of ‘establishment approved’ liberal luvvies. RH… I speak/write as I see things, you don’t agree, that’s fine. I don’t want committed Socialists to be co-opted or sidelined by another faction as some were under Blair.

        Anyway, here’s Craig Murray’s assessment of Johnson’s cabinet.

        Another pincer, I notice is of course the “extreme centre” – western exceptionalist neoliberal/neocons in LP and parliament.

      3. ” I speak/write as I see things, you don’t agree, that’s fine.”


      4. … and, yes, Maria – that piece by Craig Murray is spot on. Which is where I’m coming from … Labour needs to cut to the chase as effectively as possible. It will be a little while before we can get a reasonable assessment of public attitudes – but I firmly believe that the only way to improve indications of the moving average of polls is to abandon certain myths about the Brexit vote and conservative working class voters in ‘the north’ (the mythical Labour ‘core vote’) suddenly being amenable to becoming Labour voters.

      5. Your assessment of war cabinet is nail on the head.Sorouded by political extremists,but who’s going to attack first …..Corbyn or Hunt.Swinson has made it clear that she will lean towards propping up a TORY government even if she has not spoken about that.We can look forward to a general election campaign sooner than most of us thought?We cannot afford disunity and the fate of the Labour party is in the hands of the CLPs to deselect quickly,any socialist will do,.. The games on?

    2. RH but I firmly believe that the only way to improve indications of the moving average of polls is to abandon certain myths about the Brexit vote and conservative working class voters in ‘the north’ (the mythical Labour ‘core vote’) suddenly being amenable to becoming Labour voters”

      Another area we disagree. I believe people are mostly worried about losing their homes (even having a stable home), having enough coming in to pay their basic bills and living expenses and rising debt that cannot be cleared or in many cases consistently reduced. I think LP should put major effort into promoting economic and reversing privatisation policies first and foremost.

      1. My post got chopped… that was a quote from RH I was replying to. I am having a lot of internet and pc problems today. Both keep crashing along with mouse playing up. Touch pad already dead. The reply box wasn’t showing either.

      2. Maria ,being a northerner I believe the threat may come in marginal seats formerly held by smug right wing Labour mps! BOLTON being an example of independent Torys hoodwinking the electors!and installing a Tory council against the wishes of the locals who would not normally have voted tory…..Whos funding these very professional so called independent candidates….and always aided by libs ,….who few in Lancashire take seriously but are still always lurking to put the boot in……!

    3. RH. Please would you go and knock on the door at Southside and tell them you are there to take over Labour’s Brexit policy because what they’ve offered so far has been a complete shambles – seriously.

  2. I was absolutely delighted with Jo Swinson’s performance – she completely exposed her nastiness, arrogance and hypocrisy and her party’s lack of policy.The Lib Dems lack of principle had been exposed long ago.
    Also Boris Johnson’s nasty personal attacks today were evidence of the dire situation the Tories are in. His former leader Thatcher used to say she didn’t mind personal attacks because it showed her opponents had no policy arguments. This was clearly the case with Johnson today.

  3. In a bad Brexit all MP’s of any stripe risk is some time in opposition. The rich are still rich and ex MP’s are always employable – so that’s OK then.
    It’s always the poor who bear the burden of parliament’s fuck ups while parliament says “we must learn lessons from this fuck up for which no single individual can be held responsible.”
    A lesson has to be blindingly bleedin’ obvious for a parliament to learn it, and most often it won’t even then.
    Referenda spread the blame for any failure among the people yet allow the government of the day to claim credit for any success.
    That’s not a coincidence.
    Choose one or the other – representative government or poll the population electronically on EVERY controversial issue now that the tech exists – but FFS from now on can we PLEASE have the cost-benefit analysis BEFORE the vote?

    1. “Referenda spread the blame for any failure among the people yet allow the government of the day to claim credit for any success.”

      That insight is irrefutable.

      The other part of the equation is that, if you have the propaganda tools in your hands, a referendum result is a great way of looking democratic as you harvest the votes of the Whethfukawe tribe who’ve done what they were told to do.

  4. The Liberal Party / Lib Dems call them what you will have not been able to form a Government of their own in over 100 years and they are no closer to doing so now. There’s not much else you can say about that

    1. True but they are power hungry enablers of right wing neoliberal economic, foreign and other policies as are many MPs.

      1. … but that said, it is a despairing Labour vote that they are sucking the blood from.

  5. On the 9th of April this year Swinson received a donation of £3000 from a Mihir Magudia. Magudia is supposedly a cryptocurrency expert and also a director of Leocoin which is allegedly an illegal Ponzi scheme. Leocoin’s CEO is currently under arrest in Pakistan and forbidden to leave the country.

    I wonder if Swinson intends to return the donation?

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