Jo Swinson grilled over supporting austerity measures during coalition with Tories

4 December 2019, 23:04

The Lib Dem leader faced a grilling over her voting record
The Lib Dem leader faced a grilling over her voting record. Picture: PA

Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson has apologised for her party's role in supporting welfare cuts during its time in coalition with the Conservatives.

The Lib Dem chief was a minister for three years in the coalition government, led by the Tory Party.

From 2010 onwards, a number of significant cuts were made to public services and the welfare state in order to reduce government spending.

However, Ms Swinson was apologetic for her party's role in inflicting austerity upon Britain.

"Clearly too much was cut. Clearly not enough was raised from taxation," she said.

"Some cuts were necessary, but the shape of those cuts and certainly the balance between cuts and tax rises, I don't think was the right balance."

The Liberal Democrat leader said she was "sorry" for backing the controversial bedroom tax that was implemented under her party's watch.

"I am sorry that I did that. It was not the right policy and we should have stopped it," she added.

"And our manifesto makes clear that that should be scrapped . . . it was one of the things that we did get wrong.

"We did spend five years in a coalition government where clearly we didn't win every battle against the Conservatives."

Ms Swinson said her party lost some battles with the Conservatives
Ms Swinson said her party lost some battles with the Conservatives. Picture: PA

However, Ms Swinson added the Lib Dems won "many battles" whilst in coalition with the Tories, including attaining more "money for schools" and "more money for the poorest pupils."

"There are many things that I am very proud of and where we made a difference, but of course there are things where we didn't win those battles, and I am sorry about that," she said.

When asked by the BBC's Andrew Neil about the ability of the current Conservative and Labour leaders, she claimed neither were fit for No 10.

"Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson, neither of them are fit to be prime minister," she continued.

"I will vote for legislation to pass a people's vote [on Brexit], of course I will, and I would have done that under the previous Conservative government, just as I would do it under any other government."

She also ruled out helping the Labour leader form a government in the result of a hung parliament, saying "no one knows" his Brexit stance.

Extinction Rebellion protesters glued themselves to the Lib Dem party bus
Extinction Rebellion protesters glued themselves to the Lib Dem party bus. Picture: PA

"If Boris Johnson or Jeremy Corbyn don't win a majority at this election then there is no guarantee that they are still going to be the ones that are leading their parties a week afterwards," Ms Swinson said.

"So, Liberal Democrats will work to stop Brexit. We will support legislation that puts in place a people's vote and we will work across parties."

When grilled over why the electorate appeared to like her less the more they got to know her, she said: "I don't know the answer to that question.

"I have seen some polls that say something slightly differently to that. At the end of the day, I am going to stand for what I believe in. And there will be people who dislike that."

The TV interview was released hours after Extinction Rebellion protesters glued themselves to the Lib Dem leader's electric battle bus.

Demonstrators dressed as bumblebees targeted the bus to demand that "climate and ecological emergency is top of the agenda this election."

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