On 22 July, the Liberal Democrats elected Jo Swinson as their leader. As The Canary pointed out, the coalition-era politician is “more Tory than some Tories”. Other people pointed out the same thing. Predictably, this set off all the usual suspects:
I see someone has had the monstrous temerity to criticise an elected politician on their voting record. Mercifully blue-tick-centrist-dad Twitter is on the case. https://t.co/SuLwNNbDBc
Get the news that really mattersSign me up
— Grace Blakeley (@graceblakeley) July 22, 2019
As Fréa Lockley of The Canary highlighted, Swinson:
consistently voted to reduce welfare and benefits, including cutting payments for people with illnesses or disabilities. She also voted to cut the Educational Maintenance Allowance for 16-to-19-year-olds. And she helped to raise university tuition fees, despite promising not to as one of the key policies that helped elect many Lib Dem MPs in 2010. Her track record on environmental issues, meanwhile, shows she supported the badger cull, fracking and HS2.
But are people right to call this stuff out? According to Dan Hodges – who coincidentally has a terrible record of his own – calling out people’s actions is a “hit job”:
Writing about someone's voting record of fucking people over is a "Hit Job"?
What a bellend… https://t.co/nbxgEuhxXT
— Matt Black (@NoirMJ) July 22, 2019
One Lib Dem suggested that people calling Swinson out are “scared”:
Compare and contrast with response of @CarolineLucas
Some things never change. My guess is they’re scared
Join us. We don’t support the Tories’ damaging Brexit
— CarolineVoaden MEP 🔶 #FBPE (@CarolineVoaden) July 22, 2019
Owen Jones suggested there’s a basic hypocrisy with this sort of thinking:
It’d be more honest if some political commentators said “we think Labour is fair game and both it and anyone sympathetic to it should be mercilessly denounced every day, including in the most vitriolic ways, but the left is forbidden from critiquing the record of its opponents”.
— Owen Jones🌹 (@OwenJones84) July 22, 2019
James O’Brien said this:
Jo Swinson’s election marks another milestone in the ‘footballification’ of our politics. It’s not permitted to be cautiously optimistic or even ambivalent about her. Failure to condemn & castigate is evidence of ideological impurity & will not be tolerated.
— James O'Brien (@mrjamesob) July 23, 2019
When Evolve Politics replied, O’Brien argued he hadn’t expressed any sort of opinion:
I've never expressed a single opinion about her, positive or negative! I merely observed that if you're not already 100% convinced that she's evil then you will be pilloried on here by people like you. A point you have just made more effectively than I could ever hope to.., https://t.co/YlaInLhmLJ
— James O'Brien (@mrjamesob) July 23, 2019
His initial argument has a big problem, though. A political party is not a football team; an MP is not a footballer; the (at least) 120,000 people dead to austerity weren’t just some hooligans. Football teams and their players play football – that’s it. Political parties and their politicians enact a wide array of policies and some of these hurt people. Disliking a politician because she enacted the austerity programme that’s worsened your life isn’t the same as disliking Wayne Rooney because he switched a blue jersey for a red one.
The Brex Factor
For some, Brexit really does heal all wounds. Take Caroline Lucas, who ignored Swinson’s record on the environment to highlight Brexit:
Congratulations to new Liberal Democrat leader @joswinson
Here's to strong women leaders listening, reaching out across party lines and standing up for the right for people to have a #finalsay on #Brexit
— Caroline Lucas (@CarolineLucas) July 22, 2019
For those interested, this is Swinson’s environmental voting record in all its forest-selling, badger-murdering, climate-flip-flopping glory:
— Hardeep #SuperCampaigner (@Hardeep216) July 22, 2019
This left people wondering: if the Green Party and its politicians aren’t there to relentlessly call out politicians’ failings on the environment, then what are they there for?
Sticks and stones
If we can’t judge politicians by their actions, then what can we judge them by? If you ignore their records, then all that’s left is their words.
In 2010, the Liberal Democrats said they’d end student fees. How did that work out?
Featured image via Wikimedia – Keith Edkins
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