Jo Swinson to lead Liberal Democrats

Party’s fight to stop Brexit has rejuvenated the fortunes of Britain’s third political force

epa07733696 New leader of the Liberal Democratic Party Jo Swinson delivers a speech during the Liberal Democratic Party leadership announcement in London, Britain, 22 July 2019. Swinson has become the first female Liberal Democrat leader after defeating Sir Ed Davey.  EPA/ANDY RAIN
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Jo Swinson has become Britain’s first frontline political leader born in the 1980s and first woman to lead Britain’s Liberal Democrat party as she promised to capitalise on a recent surge in the polls.

Ms Swinson, 39,  crushed her rival Ed Davey by almost 20,000 votes in an election which saw 72 percent of the party membership turn out to vote.

"I am delighted, honoured, absolutely over the moon to stand before you as the leader of the Lib Dems,” Ms Swinson said on Monday.

She joined the party at the age of 17 and has been involved in politics ever since. Elected as an MP at the age of 25, Ms Swinson became the House of Commons’ youngest MP in 2005. She rose quickly within the coalition government to the post of junior minister in the Department for Business.

It has not been a straightforward journey for the MP, who was cast aside by the public in 2017 as part of the backlash against her party for entering a coalition with the Conservatives. Re-elected in 2017’s snap election, she has served as deputy leader of the party for the last two years.

On accepting the mantle to lead the party, Ms Swinson committed to the party’s ongoing fight against Brexit.

"In the face of nationalism, populism, the catastrophe of Brexit, the two old parties have failed,” she said.

"Our party has been clear on Brexit from day one. We believe the UK's best future is as members of the European Union and that’s why as your leader I will do whatever it takes to stop Brexit.”

Ms Swinson takes over from veteran Liberal Democrat MP Vince Cable, who has led the party through its anti-Brexit campaign since 2007, a stance which saw the party take 20 per cent of the vote in May’s EU elections.

As proceedings began, President of the party, Sal Brinton praised Mr Cable’s work to rehabilitate the Liberal Democrats’ image.

"From the bottom of our heart, thank you Vince," she said.