Jo Swinson strolled into the Lib Dems‘ election launch yesterday, her chestnut tresses more primped than a Pantene shampoo model.
Strolled? Scrap that. Sashayed would be more the mot juste. Eyes out front, left foot in front of right foot. Work it girl, work it!
Despite being half an hour late, she was unruffled. And why shouldn’t she have been? You could imagine her in the moments before, blotting those pouty red smackers one last time and casually informing her panicky elves: ‘They’ll wait for me.’
The leader of the Liberal Democrats, Jo Swinson, strolled into the party’s launch for their general election campaign in London
It has become clear that the Lib Dems regard La Swinson as their greatest asset. Without doubt, she herself does.
Ever since becoming leader in July, the former public relations manager has styled herself as a glamorous, presidential figure. Not only does her face adorn much of the party’s campaign literature, we increasingly now hear of ‘Jo Swinson’s Lib Dems’.
Does she possess the necessary clout to merit such a lofty strategy? Certainly, she’s a more credible candidate than Sir Vince Cable, though some would say there are hirsute Campaign for Real Ale members who could claim more political influence than dear old Vince.
But Swinson doesn’t charm audiences the way some of her more genteel predecessors did. It does not help that, occasionally, her catguttight vocal chords have the potential to curdle words as if they were clotted cream.
She spoke in loops and at times, came across as a tad menacing as she gritted her teeth and clenched her fist
Yesterday, she spoke in loops like a pre-programmed autobot. Even her favourite slogan, ‘Stop Brexit’, sounds weirdly automated. She says it in two sentences – ‘Stop. Brexit.’ – like a hypnotist trying to mentally sear the words across a patient’s frontal lobes.
She also, at times, comes across as a tad menacing. She grits her teeth. She clenches her fists.
We kicked off with a short speech by Luciana Berger, a Labour defector who joined the Change UK party before switching to the Lib Dems. Introducing herself, she hesitated for moment, having to remind herself, perhaps, which party she now belongs to.
Down in front, former Coalition minister Sir Ed Davey took a selfie. Further along sat ex-leader Sir Ming Campbell, looking like he’d spent the past few years preserved in pickling brine.
Since becoming leader in July, the former public relations manager has styled herself as a glamorous, presidential figure
Chuka Umunna, all preening pulchritude, purred into party chairman Sal Brinton’s ear.
‘I’m excited,’ Swinson announced, arms spread wide. We could hear her loud and clear – boy, we could – but to voters who watched on TV she sounded strangely muffled.
Both the Conservatives and Labour, she claimed, were now busted flushes. Clapped out. Spent. Jeremy Corbyn ‘wasn’t fit to govern’. Boris Johnson, she quipped, ‘just looked after Boris Johnson’.
This has always been the Lib Dem shtick, playing the plucky outsiders who can cut through the bluster of the two main parties.
Only four years ago, of course, she and her colleagues were in government. Who can forget that Swinson was once employment Relations minister with responsibility for consumer and postal affairs? We heard a lot about ambition. The Lib Dems are showing ambition, the country needs to show more ambition, et cetera.
But then some might say there is a fine line between ambition and fantasy. When Swinson told her audience – wide-eyed in wonder – that she considered herself to be a prime ministerial candidate, she sounded plain delusional.
We got a lot of the usual ‘Stop. Brexit’ stuff. When someone asked why she thought the EU referendum result could be overturned but she opposed letting SNP have a re-run of the Scottish independence referendum, she failed to provide a satisfactory answer.
She was then asked if she would meet Donald Trump if she became prime minister. Swinson relished the question. She rolled it around her mouth for while, allowing herself to mull the prospect of getting her court shoes under the desk in No 10 Downing Street. ‘I wouldn’t refuse to engage with Donald Trump,’ she said grandly.
Phew. White House officials must be breathing a sigh of relief.
Jo Swinson talks big but her speech was strangely solipsistic. All ‘me, me, me’. I was surprised she didn’t boast about her impressive achievement of having run the Loch Ness Marathon in four hours, seven minutes and 18 seconds.
Her party, meanwhile, far from being a happy haven for the recently enlightened over Brexit seems more of a tinderbox of mercenaries and opportunists.
Let this bunch anywhere near power and they’ll tear each other apart before they’ve even had the chance to set about wrecking the country.