Jo Swinson and Lib Dems need to look beyond Brexit and revoking Article 50 – The Yorkshire Post says

JO Swinson is certainly making her mark as leader of the Liberal Democrats.

Jo Swinson has just delivered her first keybote address to the Lib Dem conference as party leader.
Jo Swinson has just delivered her first keybote address to the Lib Dem conference as party leader.

Six MPs have defected to her party since she succeeded Sir Vince Cable two months ago and her policy on Brexit is unambiguous – she will revoke Article 50, and commit Britain to staying in the EU, if – and that’s a key caveat – she becomes PM.

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Yet, while the Lib Dems appear revitalised after five bruising years in coalition with the Tories, renewed talk of ‘going back to your constituencies to prepare for government’, to paraphrase David Steel from 1981, does appear to be premature. Even with recent defections, including Penistone and Stocksbridge MP Angela Smith, the Lib Dems still only have 18 MPs – far fewer than the SNP – and Ms Swinson has readily conceded that the first-past-the-post electoral system will do her party no favours in a national election.

Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson (centre) with some of her Mps at her party's annual conference in Bournemouth.

And while many will share her misgivings about both Boris Johnson, and Jeremy Corbyn for that matter, she has a number of challenges to overcome if her party is to even double its number of MPs.

First, Ms Swinson needs to appease those Remain supporters who do still advocate a second referendum. Even some of her own MPs see this policy as illiberal. Second, the Lib Dems need – as a national party – to build up their support in areas that they have traditionally not targeted – seats like Hull East which Ms Swinson contested in 2001 when she took on John Prescott. Finally, Ms Swinson’s stance risks the Lib Dems becoming a single issue party when many just want Brexit settled. The task is maintaining this momentum while also widening her policy programme.

New Lib Dem leader Jo Swimson contested the Hull East seat in 2001.