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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > October 2017 > Don’t call her baby

Don’t call her baby

Jo Swinson turned down the chance to lead her party, but this tough-minded Lib Dem is biding her time, says Rachel Sylvester

She was for years the “Baby of the House”—the youngest MP and the first person born in the 1980s to be elected to parliament. Her own baby was also the first to go through the Commons division lobby. Jo Swinson, the new Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats, has never been a conventional politician. “She’s very modern,” says one colleague. “She hates all the male clubbiness of Westminster. And she certainly doesn’t suit the stereotype of the sandal-wearing Lib Dem. She’s a power dresser.”

A former member of the coalition government, this strong-willed Scot has also redefined political ambition at the age of 37. Most MPs are desperate to lead their party, but when Tim Farron resigned earlier this year, Swinson quickly ruled herself out of the leadership contest despite being the favourite to win. When colleagues questioned whether she was lacking in confidence, or letting down the feminist cause, she admitted that most men in her position would “run for leader like a shot,” but explained that she was simply refusing to conform. “Just because a man would do it doesn’t make it the right thing to do,” she said. “I have consistently fought against stereotypes and structures that impose a choice on someone.” But don’t mistake her decision for diffidence: she also pointed out that she had observed many male politicians “going for the promotion when they shouldn’t.”

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In Prospect’s October issue: Andrew Adonis, Steve Richards, Gaby Hinsliff, Rachel Sylvester and Jennifer Williams look at the idea that leadership is the only thing that matters when it comes to elections. Adonis leads the cover package arguing exactly that point and outlining his ratings of the leaders who have competed every election in the UK and the United States since 1944—Richards offers a rebuttal. Hinsliff, Sylvester and Williams profile three potential leaders in waiting—Amber Rudd, Jo Swinson and Angela Rayner. Elsewhere in the issue we map out the potential road the UK might travel down to stay in the European Union and explore the relationship between UN Secretary General António Guterres and Donald Trump as the two prepare to meet at the UN. Also in this issue: Philip Collins on the similarities between Britain’s Brexiteers and the Gaullists of yesteryear, John Bercow explains how parliament could function better and our “View from” comes from Nairobi, where the recent election result has been annulled.