Jo Swinson speech following General Election
Today (Friday 13 December), Jo Swinson has delivered a speech focusing on her hopes for the future. Please find the full text of the speech below.
This winter election has been dark in more ways than one.
Leaders evading scrutiny, whether it was Corbyn ducking phone-ins or Johnson hiding in a fridge.
Voters feeling forced to choose the least worst option, squeezing out positivity.
Even before it started, we saw an exodus of MPs, especially women, ground down by abuse, intimidation and threats.
I’m proud that the Liberal Democrats provided a welcoming home for those abandoned by their parties, those who were hounded out, like Luciana Berger.
Though sadly the results have seen us lose Luciana from Parliament and many other talented MPs such as Tom Brake, Sam Gyimah, Chuka Umunna, Jane Dodds. I’m so sorry I couldn’t get them re-elected.
Racism is infecting our politics, terrifyingly, it has now become mainstream.
A Labour party mired in anti-Semitism, complaints unresolved, the Jewish community fearful. It took Labour months to expel a member who wrote about gassing Jews. When Alastair Campbell voted Lib Dem, they kicked him out in just 2 days.
Brexit party representatives filmed talking about being ‘outbred’ by Muslims and revelling in a story about plans to encase a pig’s head in concrete in the foundations of a mosque. Watching that footage, I felt sick. Yet this is the party that has handed Boris Johnson the keys to number 10.
The Conservatives are failing on Islamophobia, and the Prime Minister willingly received the endorsement of Tommy Robinson, Britain’s biggest racist.
Many people will look at the last few weeks, at these results and be filled with dread about the future of our country.
I understand. I am worried too.
This goes beyond our future relationship with the European Union. It is about our relationships with one another in the United Kingdom.
Do we value every individual for who they are? Are we an open, welcoming, inclusive society?
I still believe we are, at heart, or at the very least that we can be.
But there are many forces that seek to divide us, to allow resentment and fear to fester.
And if we want to be that open-minded, warm-hearted society, we need to stand up, join together, and fight for it.
I’m proud in this election to have fought for what we – and millions of people – believe is the best future for our country: remaining in the European Union.
When 19 Labour MPs helped pass Johnson’s Brexit deal in the House of Commons, it was clear we had to act. We forced Johnson to request an extension to Article 50, but without Labour’s support, couldn’t assemble a majority for a People’s Vote, leaving a General Election as the only chance to remain in the EU.
So I did not shirk the debates and the phone-ins, I turned up to the interviews, and I stood up proudly for our beliefs. I’m proud that Liberal Democrats have been the unapologetic voice of Remain in this election, giving people the chance to choose to stop Brexit.
Obviously it hasn’t worked. And I, like you, am devastated about that. But I don’t regret trying.
Trying everything. Because the prize was to save our future, our children’s future, in Europe, where we can work together to tackle the climate emergency, trade freely to boost our living standards, and be a strong beacon for human rights around the world.
We have been true to ourselves, and true to our liberal values.
And as your leader I have been true to myself, too.
As a Scot, a Brit, a European.
As a liberal, a humanist, a feminist.
As a daughter, sister, wife, and a mum to two small kids.
Being myself, whether people attacked my vision or my voice, my ideas or my earrings.
One of the realities of smashing glass ceilings, is that a lot of broken glass comes down on your head.
I’m proud to have been the first woman to lead the Liberal Democrats, and even more proud that I know I won’t be the last.
In Sarah, Wera, Layla and Christine we have 4 fantastic and experienced women MPs. In Daisy, Munira and Wendy we have exciting new talent. They will take the Commons by storm, I’m just sad I won’t be with them.
As I’ve travelled the country during this campaign, I have loved meeting so many Lib Dem members and activists. The teams really have been extraordinary, with our party at our highest membership numbers in our history.
You have shone with optimism, courage and determination. Thank you all for everything you have done.
And I’d like to say a special thank you to my staff, both in my leader’s office and in my constituency. You are all amazing.
Together, we have refused to simply be spectators, sitting on the sidelines while our country heads down a damaging path, of which Brexit is only the first step.
Our country is in the grip of populism, with nationalism resurgent in all its forms.
It is easy to despair. But I say let’s foster hope instead.
In Rebecca Solnit’s Hope in the Dark, she quotes Vaclav Havel:
“The kind of hope I often think about, I understand above all as a state of mind, not a state of the world…. Hope in this deep and powerful sense, is not the same as joy that things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously headed for early success, but, rather, an ability to work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed.”
She then goes on to say:
“Hope is not a door, but a sense that there might be a door at some point, some way out of the problems of the present moment even before that way is found or followed.”
There will be a door, there will be a way out of this nationalist surge, and we have to work together to find it.
It’s a huge job to be done, the answer is that we step up, we organise, we join together. Though I won’t be your leader, I will be walking alongside you.
We will reflect, regroup and refresh. We must continue to grow our liberal movement, both attracting Lib Dem members, and by reaching out to work with those who share our values, wherever they are.
All of us who share an alternative vision for society have a responsibility to learn from this result, and find new answers.
Next week is the shortest day.
We will see more light in the future.
Join us for that journey.
Let’s explore the way together,
with hope in our hearts.