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
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
- voted to increase £university tuition fees to £9,000
- consistently voted against increasing benefits to those unable to work due to illness or disability
- voted to reduce local government spending on a number of occasions
- voted against bankers bonus tax on a number of occasions
- voted to lower corporation tax
- voted for the bedroom tax
- voted in favour of the badger cull
- voted in favour of fracking
- voted against capping rail fare increases on a number of occasions
- 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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