Three years ago Donald J. Trump became the 45th President of the United States. Each person to have been elected to that position has had a penis and a pair of bollocks dangling between their legs. He won despite being woefully under-qualified and by doing so, he beat the most qualified person ever to have run for that particular job in Hillary Clinton. One big difference between the two of them is her reproductive organs weren’t on the outside (small hat tip there to the opening episode of Stargate SG-1…).
Now clearly the United Kingdom isn’t the United States. We have had two female Prime Ministers but only one of them actually won a General Election. Margaret Thatcher won three terms from 1979 through to 1987 and was ousted before she could run a fourth term by her party. I wasn’t alive for much of this having been born in the early 80s and she has shall we say, a divided legacy to put it mildly.
Logically you would think that as our society has moved forwards since this time that being a woman wouldn’t be a factor in this type of thing. Yet I keep hearing the same thing about Jo Swinson and that is she’s too shrill or full of self-importance, lacks personality and isn’t relatable. Personally I just don’t get that and then I look at the other two leaders and remember that women are being unfairly graded on a very steep curve.
Boris Johnson is a known cheat and a liar who will say whatever he feels like in an attempt to get his own way. He quite clearly acts like a petulant child but that doesn’t seem to raise an eyebrow, ‘oh that is Boris just being Boris’ say the media and the electorate. Do people want to vote for someone they think would be fun to sit around with in a pub having a few beers with or do they want the person who might actually do the best job?
Next up is Jeremy Corbyn who I actually think is probably a decent bloke but whose views of the world are certainly not forward-looking in any stretch of the term. His lack of empathy and strength regarding tackling antisemitic behaviour within his own party is a huge pox of his own house. Yet many people who deeply distrust him are will willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Why is that? He has constantly tried to walk along the top of a very narrow fence on the biggest issue of the day, no-one really trusts him to deliver what he says regarding Brexit but yet they still want to believe him oh so desperately.
If you were hiring a person for a job in a managerial position and had three candidates whose personalities were the three leaders of the Tories, Labour and Lib Dems, most people would gravitate towards the latter. Boris Johnson’s tomfoolery and lack of substance in an interview would be off-putting. Jeremy Corbyn you’d probably like to some degree but you would struggle to be inspired or think that he take the company forward. With Jo Swinson you’d probably like her gusto, her forward-planning and vision for the short to medium term future. Yet in politics it is a different beast.
As the years have gone on (heck even in my relatively short time on this planet) substance has given way to style somewhat. Look at some of the political leaders around the world, people like tough guys but tough women, not so much. The fact both Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson are too scared to debate Jo Swinson on the same stage says everything you need to know. The fact ITV and BBC have facilitated this also says a lot.
The glass ceiling clearly hasn’t been busted through just yet and it might be fair to say that we’re not even close in some parts of our society. It pisses me right off that so many still have preconceived ideas into how a person should act based solely upon something out of their control, in this instance men and women. A powerful man is good the electorate says but a powerful woman, not so much.
Even in other areas of society, some young boys are taught that to cry is to show weakness. To have empathy isn’t manly. I just don’t get it. Anyone should be allowed to feel emotions and to act accordingly. People shouldn’t be judged for who they are but for how they act.
I’m sure the Lib Dems did plenty of focus groups and got lots of data going into this campaign. Clearly the feedback was to put Jo Swinson front and centre but at this point, that clearly isn’t moving the needle much. The policies of stopping Brexit and negating a Conservative majority in the House of Commons must surely now take centre stage.
In the 2019 Local and European elections, I didn’t see Vince Cable everywhere but everyone was talking about Bollocks to Brexit and the Lib Dem ground game had been re-energised. A General Election is different but saying a simple and relatable thing many many times will slowly sink in. Jo Swinson is highly highly unlikely to be the next PM. I admired her (and our) ambition in saying this but too many people still see politics in this country as a binary choice between Labour and the Conservatives. So maybe we just need to take small steps rather than one giant leap.
There are maybe what, seven seats where the Lib Dems could realistically take a seat from Labour on December 12, Portsmouth South, Bermondsey & Old Southwick, Hornsey & Wood Green, Kensington, Cambridge, Leeds North West and Sheffield Hallam. There are several more in play should the Lib Dems vault up to the low 20s in the polls like say Hampstead & Kilburn and Islington South & Finsbury but they seem optimistic at this juncture.
Whereas there are maybe 60-70 seats that are within reaching point for the Lib Dems against the Tories across England, particularity in leafy Remain areas that have been staunch Conservative since day dot. It is pretty clear that the Lib Dems need to get that David Cameron type Conservative into the fold and then squeeze the Labour vote in these areas by saying you’ll stop Boris Johnson running roughshod over you regarding scrutiny over Brexit.
If I know it then people a lot smarter than me most certainly do and by constantly saying you can be Prime Minister, you aren’t reiterating that message. Stopping Brexit and Stopping Boris are two peas from the same pod. You need one to do the other. For me it is time to lower our sights and aim for influence rather than outright victory.
This ramble started out as a piece about how unfair it is that Jo Swinson is seen through a different pair of critical eyes compared to Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson but I’m ending it looking at how best to remedy the current state of play. Boris Johnson is on course to get a majority and drag the country out of the EU and do whatever his right-wing paymasters tell him. Jeremy Corbyn cannot stop him, simple electoral maths should make that evident to most. So it is time to game-plan not being the Kingmaker but being the mediating force stopping the government going too far away from the centre ground. If the Lib Dems can get that pragmatic argument across then maybe, just maybe it will resonate with enough voters who are distraught and appalled at the offerings of the two main parties.
Should this strategy work then it won’t lead to Downing Street (and we weren’t heading there anyway) but it could lead to Boris Johnson not being able to govern this country based on his own personal whims. The more extreme the government the more inequality is felt. The country is already divided and the only way to hold it together is to find some sort of middle-ground. The coalition burned us bad but that was nine years ago. The only people that care deeply any more are eerily similar to those who believe Jeremy Corbyn is perfect. Another coalition or even putting Boris or Jeremy back in Number 10 Downing Street isn’t on the cards but ensuring the government isn’t too right or left wing is and that is the card the Lib Dems need to play.
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