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Jo Swinson steps down as Liberal Democrat leader after losing her seat to the SNP

Jo Swinson steps down as Liberal Democrat leader after losing her seat to the SNP
4 min read

Jo Swinson has confirmed she is stepping down as Liberal Democrat leader after losing her seat to the SNP.

Ms Swinson was defeated by just 149 votes in the East Dunbartonshire seat she regained from the Nationalists in 2017.

She will be replaced by her deputy Ed Davey and party president Baroness Sal Brinton who will co-lead the party until a new contest can be arranged in 2020.

Ms Swinson, who only became Lib Dem leader in July, had initially set her sights on making major gains when the election was called six weeks ago.

But after a faltering campaign, the party is now sitting on just 11 seats, down one from 2017.

Ms Swinson said the result was "hugely disappointing" for her party across the country.

"I am proud that in this campaign, the Liberal Democrats have stood up for openness, generosity and hope. We were honest about what we believe in and what we were trying to achieve," she said.

“This is clearly a setback for liberal values. But there are millions of people across the country who believe in them. By coming together to fight for them, we can create a positive future."

Baroness Brinton thanked Ms Swinson for her "fearless leadership", adding: “In the weeks ahead we will elect a new leader and our party will continue to be the rallying point for anyone who believes in a country where everyone has the chance to get on in life."

Speaking after losing to SNP candidate Amy Callaghan, Ms Swinson said: "I would like to thank the people of East Dunbartonshire for putting your faith in me for twelve and a half years to represent this wonderful place. 

"I've enjoyed serving our communities. I've enjoyed having the opportunity to make a difference. Whether it is here on local issues, whether it is supporting people working on the national minimum wage by introducing penalties for rogue employers, whether it is for women in our economy by introducing gender paygap reporting."

Ms Swinson, whose party campaigned against Brexit and Scottish independence, also used her speech to take a swipe at nationalism which she said was "sweeping on both sides of the border".

"Tonight we have seen that it is likely that Boris Johnson is on course to get a majority, and it is clear for the SNP", she said. 

"Some will be celebrating the wave of nationalism is sweeping on both sides of the border and I do congratulate all those who are newly elected. 

"These are very significant for the future of our country and I will be making further remarks later today."

She added: "But let me say now, for millions of people in our country these results will bring dread and dismay and people are looking for hope. 

"I still believe that we, as a country, can be warm and generous. Inclusive and open, and that by working together with our nearest neighbours we can achieve so much more. 

"Liberal Democrats will continue to stand up for these values that guide our liberal movement. Openess, fairness, inclusivity. We will stand up for hope."

Speaking moments after the result, Scottish First Minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, said: "Commiserations to Jo Swinson.

"I understand more than most the pressures and the challenges of leadership and to lose her seat tonight when she’s led her party through the campaign will be a bitter blow for her so on a person level I really do feel for her, but I can’t help but be delighted by the performance of my party."

The result comes after Ms Swinson was severely criticised for her party's pledge to scrap Brexit entirely if it won the election, as well as the lacklustre nature of the Lib Dem campaign.

One party source told PoliticsHome: "There's lots of anger towards Swinson and the national campaign. Revoke Article 50 went down badly on the doors, even with Remainers."

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