‘We have the fight of our lives’: Jo Swinson says the Lib Dems can win the next general election and scrap Brexit

Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson makes a speech during the Liberal Democrats autumn conference at the Bournemouth International Centre in Bournemouth. Jonathan Brady/PA Images via Getty Images
  • Jo Swinson says she is ready to defeat “dictator” Boris Johnson and “Brexit by nature” Jeremy Corbyn at the next general election.
  • The Lib Dem leader on Tuesday told her party’s conference she “cannot wait to take on the collective forces of nationalism and populism” of the prime minister and opposition leader.
  • She said pro-Europeans face “the fight our lives for the heart and soul of Britain.”
  • Swinson described Johnson’s handling of Brexit as “sickening” and said the government’s policy of accepting a no-deal Brexit was putting lives at risk.
  • At their conference in Bournemouth, southern England, the Lib Dems vowed to scrap Brexit by revoking Article 50 if they win a majority at the next election.
  • Visit Business Insider’s home page for more stories.

BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND – Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson says she is ready to take on the “nationalism and populism” of Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn at the next general election – and become the United Kingdom’s prime minister.

“There is no limit to my ambition for our party. And today I am standing here as your candidate for Prime Minister,” she said in a speech to the Liberal Democrats’ conference in Bournemouth, southern England on Tuesday.

Swinson said Lib Dems and pro-Europeans face “the fight of our lives for the heart and soul of Britain.”

She told party members that if the Lib Dems win a majority at the next election, which is widelly-expected to take place before the end of the year, it would cancel Brexit “on day one” of being in power, by revoking Article 50.

Read more: 3 things we learned at the 2019 Liberal Democrat conference

Liberal Democrat members on Sunday voted overwhelmingly for a policy of scrapping Brexit if elected with a majority.

“The first task is clear. We must stop Brexit,” Swinson said in a speech on Tuesday afternoon.

“Because there is no Brexit that will be good for our country.

“Europe makes our United Kingdom stronger. But Brexit hurts our family of nations.”

The member of Parliament for East Dunbartonshire took aim at Prime Minister Johnson and Labour Party leader Corbyn, accusing UK’s two main political parties of “looking inward at a time of national crisis.”

“When the general election comes, I cannot wait to take on the collective forces of nationalism and populism that will be standing on that debate stage. Johnson, [Nigel] Farage, and Corbyn,” Swinson said.

Swinson says Johnson’s Brexit policy is putting lives at risk

Swinson, who succeeded Sir Vince Cable as Lib Dem leader this summer, compared Johnson to a “dictator” for his “do or die” approach to delivering Brexit, and “sickening” willingness to leave the European Union without a deal.

“He [Johnson] prorogued Parliament to try and deny MPs a chance to stop no-deal,” Swinson said.

“He’s kicked 21 MPs out of the Conservative party, including the Father of the House Ken Clarke, and Churchill’s grandson Nicholas Soames. Just because they dared to stand up to him.

“There is even now the suggestion that he would break the law and refuse to ask for an extension to Article 50. Silencing critics. Purging opponents. Ignoring the law.

Read more: Lib Dems call for Britain’s ‘disaster ridden’ railways to be overhauled in order to save the planet

“For someone who proclaims to hate socialist dictators, he’s doing a pretty good impression of one.”

Swinson said that if Johnson delivers a no-deal Brexit, border delays will leave “cancer patients waiting longer for scans and treatments as a direct consequence of government policy.”

She said thousands of jobs had already been lost as a result of the British vote to leave the EU, and that “this Brexiteer Government wants to pay for their ideology with other people’s jobs.”

Swinson also attacked Corbyn for his refusal to back remaining in the EU.

When faced with all the clear and obvious dangers that Brexit brings… [Corbyn] still insists that if Labour win a General Election, they will negotiate their own Brexit deal to take us out of the EU,” she said.

“Nigel Farage might be Brexit by name, but it is very clear that Jeremy Corbyn is Brexit by nature.”

In her speech to party members, Swinson said her party was “building a movement across the United Kingdom” which could defy the odds to win the next general election.

Party figures have identified 80 seats which they believe they can win at an election. The party currently holds 18.

She said that if elected to government, her party would introduce a system under which all policies would undergo a “wellbeing” impact assessment, to ensure that they have positive impact on people’s lives.

Party figures say this would use Office for National Statistics research and is in response to a Conservative government which failed to see how their policies have actually impacted people around the country.

Lib Dems defend their hardened Remain policy

Chuka Umunna
Lib Dem MP Chuka Umunna. Stefan Rousseau/PA Images via Getty Images

The Lib Dems gathered on south coast of England after an eventful calendar year, which has seen the party surge in local and European elections, and have six MPs join from other parties in the House of Commons.

The most recent acquisition was former Conservative minister Sam Gyimah, who was unveiled on Saturday.

The party has made headlines at its autumn conference for its policy of scrapping Brexit without a referendum if it wins a majority at the next general election. Other pro-Remain parties – including the anti-Brexit Green Party – accused the Lib Dems of adopting an “undemocratic” measure.

Green MP Caroline Lucas tweeted: “Brexit referendum didn’t deliver the outcome many of us hoped for But you can’t pretend the result didn’t happen. Lib Dems are doing just that You can’t turn back the clock. Nor ignore the 17m who voted Leave This doesn’t strengthen our democracy. It further imperils it.”

Swinson and other senior Lib Dem MPs insisted that it would not be an undemocratic course of action.

Read more: David Cameron says Boris Johnson backed Brexit to ‘help his political career’ and lied during the campaign

“If we win a majority in parliament on the very clear position of stopping Brexit then that will be a mandate to do that… People would expect us to fulfil what we’ve said we would do in that election campaign,” she told Sky News.

Chuka Umunna, the party’s shadow foreign secretary, said: “This is a general election policy.

“The way our democracy usually works is that you put your promises in a manifesto to the people, and if you get a majority, you implement them. The undemocratic thing would be not to implement your manifesto commitments.”

“If you get a majority Liberal Democrat government, why shouldn’t we implement our manifesto?”

They also insisted that forcing a new referendum – or what campaigners call a People’s Vote – was still the party’s preferred means of keeping the UK in the EU.