EXCL Lib Dems blast back as Diane Abbott says Jo Swinson 'enabling' Donald Trump and Nigel Farage

Posted On: 
22nd September 2019

The Liberal Democrats have pushed back angrily after Labour's Diane Abbott accused their new leader Jo Swinson of "enabling" Donald Trump and Nigel Farage.

The row marks the latest blast in the bitter fight between Labour and the Lib Dems.
Credit: 
PA

A party source told PoliticsHome Jeremy Corbyn had "aided and abetted" the Conservatives on Brexit as the Shadow Home Secretary joined key figures at the party's conference in lashing out at Ms Swinson's pro-Remain stance.

The Lib Dems used their annual conference in Bournemouth to throw their weight behind revoking Article 50 - a move that would cancel Brexit outright - if they win a majority at the next election.

But Labour, which has yet to determine how it would campaign in any second referendum on Britain's EU membership, has accused the Lib Dems of seeking to ignore voters who backed Leave in the 2016 campaign.

Ms Abbott told an event organised by the LabourList website at Labour's own Brighton gathering that her party would campaign hard "against Boris Johnson and against his patron Donald Trump".

And, taking direct aim at Ms Swinson, she added: "Brexit is bad for Britain and bad for working people. And of course: as well as a struggle against Boris and his patrons, it'll be a struggle against Boris's sidekick Nigel Farage and their enabler, Jo Swinson."

Ms Abbott said: "I don't want to spend too long talking about Jo Swinson. But she thinks that the British public will forget that the leader of her party was a member of the coalition Cabinet under David Cameron.

"And the Lib Dems voted for the police cuts, they voted for the welfare cuts, they voted for austerity."

She added: "It's no good Jo Swinson pretending to be a new figure in British politics and wringing her hands - because she's an old figure in British politics. And she shares just as much responsibility for austerity as David Cameron himself."

But a Lib Dem source said: "I don’t think Diane Abbott should be going around calling anyone an enabler considering the fact that every time a Brexit vote has gone through Parliament it has been on the back of Labour votes."

And they claimed: "Labour has aided and abetted Tory Brexit from day one.

"If people want to stop Brexit they must support the Liberal Democrats, the biggest Remain party in the country, rather than a confused and split Labour Party.”

'DISMISS HALF OUR NATION'

The blast back at the Shadow Cabinet member came as Unite general secretary Len McCluskey - a key ally of Jeremy Corbyn - also trained his fire on the Lib Dem leader.

The union boss - who is urging Labour's members to back a Brexit motion on Sunday which would set up a "special conference" to determine the party's position in a future EU referendum - likened Ms Swinson's outfit to the avowedly pro-Leave Conservatives.

He told the same LabourList event: "Jeremy Corbyn, one of the most honourable people I know, gets attacked of course by the media for apparently being indecisive. It's called consultation."

And, dialling up the attacks on the Lib Dems, he added: "Where the Tory Party led by Johnson would already dismiss one half of our nation, we have Jo Swinson, the Liberal Party - I don't want to call them a party - [are] wanting to dismiss the other half of our nation. 

"I'd love to know what her definition is of 'Liberal' and 'Democrat'. But these two are feeding into the toxic debate that has gone on for two years, that has polarised us."

'TALIBAN' FEUD

The latest row between the Lib Dems and Labour comes after Shadow Home Secretary Emily Thornberry likened the party to Afghani extremist group the Taliban because of their hardline position on staying in the EU.

She told PolHome's sister title The House magazine: "The Lib Dems have gotten kind of Taliban, haven’t they? They’ve said they’re just going to revoke, there’s not going to be another referendum.

"I don’t think it’s very democratic to seek to overturn a referendum without asking the people first. I really think the only democratic way to get through this and to break the logjam is to go back to the people and trust their good sense."

But former Labour MP Chuka Umunna - now a Lib Dem MP and spokesperson - branded the comparison "grossly insulting".