Humiliated Liberal Democrats are cast into political wilderness with Jo Swinson losing her seat amid catastrophic losses for the pro-Remain party
- An inquest into Jo Swinson has begun after the Lib Dems secured just 11 seats
- By 3.45am she lost the East Dunbartonshire seat to SNP’s Amy Callaghan by 149
- Sir Ed Davey and Baroness Sal Brinton will replace her, it was said hours later
- Former Lib Dem deputy said everything Swinson did was ‘the wrong decision’
The Liberal Democrats were facing political wilderness last night after leader Jo Swinson lost her seat on a catastrophic night for the party.
The Lib Dems lost nine of their 20 MPs, with Chuka Umunna and Luciana Berger among those who came up short.
Despite having swelled their ranks in Parliament with a string of defections, yesterday’s poll saw the Lib Dems secure just 11 seats – one fewer than in 2017.
An inquest into Jo Swinson’s disastrous leadership after yesterday’s poll saw the Liberal Democrats secure just 11 seats in the general election has begun – one fewer than in 2017. Here Swinson is photographed as she loses her East Dumbartonshire constituency
Yesterday, a furious inquest began into Miss Swinson’s disastrous leadership under which the party failed to deliver on high hopes. The former coalition minister, 39, had begun her campaign – which focused on stopping Brexit – by saying she was a potential prime minister.
But at 3.45am she lost the East Dunbartonshire seat to the SNP’s Amy Callaghan by just 149 votes – prompting SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon to pump the air with joy in front of TV cameras. The result echoed the shock defeat of former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg in 2017 – when he lost his Sheffield Hallam seat to Labour by 2,125 votes.
At 6.20am the Liberal Democrats announced that Miss Swinson, who became the party’s leader just four-and-a-half months ago, would be replaced by Sir Ed Davey and Baroness Sal Brinton as joint acting heads of the party. A full leadership contest will follow in the new year.
Miss Swinson said she was ‘devastated’ by the results but did not ‘regret trying’ to be the ‘unapologetic voice of Remain’.
Swinson, pictured with husband Duncan Hames on December 13, lost the East Dunbartonshire seat to the SNP’s Amy Callaghan by just 149 votes – prompting SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon to pump the air with joy in front of TV cameras
But former Lib Dem deputy leader Simon Hughes turned on her, saying: ‘We’ve thrown most people under the bus and it’s our own fault.’
He told Sky News: ‘Every single decision taken since Jo became the leader and Ed [Davey] became the deputy leader has been the wrong decision.
‘Every strategic decision. They decided to go for revoking Article 50, having ignored the referendum. They decided that they could argue that that was because we might be a majority government. Incredible.’
Liberal Democrat deputy leader Simon Hughes told Sky News that ‘every single decision taken since Jo became the leader and Ed [Davey] became the deputy leader has been the wrong decision’
Under Miss Swinson, the Lib Dems became more anti-Brexit, which went down badly on doorsteps. With Brexit now set to happen sooner rather than later following the Tory triumph, the party will need to rebrand.
When the election was called, the Lib Dems were polling above 20 per cent, having been bolstered by the defections of well-known MPs from other parties.
But Miss Swinson’s decision to switch the party’s stance from backing a second referendum to revoking Article 50 was seen as extreme by many Remain voters and allowed Labour to attract anti-Brexit supporters from it.
A decision by broadcasters to exclude her from leadership debates cemented the impression that the election was a two-horse race. And Miss Swinson was forced to backtrack on her position of being a potential prime minister when polls put the party on just 12 per cent.
She also struggled to win over voters on a personal level, with a recent Ipsos Mori poll finding she had a net favourability rating of minus 31 – making her less popular than Jeremy Corbyn. A brutal mauling from a live television audience during a Q&A midway through the campaign, when she was lambasted by both Remainers and Leavers, summed up the party’s difficulties.
The Lib Dems lost South Cambridgeshire, North Norfolk, Eastbourne, and Brecon and Radnorshire to the Tories and failed to take Sheffield Hallam from Labour. They did, however, win Richmond Park – unseating environment minister Zac Goldsmith – and North East Fife from the SNP.
In 2010, the Lib Dems, led by Sir Nick Clegg, had 57 seats but plummeted to just eight in 2015 following five years of coalition government with the Tories.