Liberalism Is the Antidote to the Rise of Populism and Nationalism

By Swinson, Jo | The Scotsman, July 2, 2019 | Go to article overview

Liberalism Is the Antidote to the Rise of Populism and Nationalism


Swinson, Jo, The Scotsman


P olitics now is fractured. At home and abroad, we're seeing the rising tide of nationalism and populism. Whether it is Trump or Putin abroad or Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage at home, our political order is increasingly dominated by forces who seek to divide us. Forces that believe a better future lies through closing ourselves off from the world, blaming those who are different and stoking hate and division in order to win.

In other times, it would be the Labour Party who would be the home for those seeking to stand up to the likes of Boris Johnson, but under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour are simply missing in action.

From Jeremy Corbyn going on holiday during the referendum campaign, to his refusal to back a People's Vote, to their total failure to tackle the scourge of anti-semitism that infects their party, Labour are not fit for purpose. They are letting down the millions of people who are desperately in need of a political force to oppose the Tories' damaging Brexit, which would also put Scotland's place in the UK at risk.

But all is not lost. The answer to nationalism is liberalism. The rise of populism has steadily coalesced movements of millions of people around its divisive us-against-them rhetoric, motivating so many more people to become active political campaigners and party members to champion the case for liberal democracy.

It's why I've put myself forward to be leader of the Liberal Democrats. I want to lead the Liberal Democrats so that we can build a movement to stand up to those nationalist forces and stop Brexit, then transform our broken economy so that it is focused on the long term and works for both people and our planet, tackling poverty and averting climate crisis. Those might sound like big challenges, but I've never shied away from a challenge.

Growing up, my dad would always tell me that if I'm not happy with something I need to change it. As a child visiting The Body Shop I got my first taste of activism, signing petitions on fair trade or the environment while buying my strawberry soap. It was that same passion that led me to try, aged nine, to convince my dad to vote Green at the European elections. Looking back, he was, of course, right that the Liberal Democrats were a better bet, combining green policies with wider issues. But I also believe that nine-year old me was right, that if we didn't act urgently to stop global warming, nothing else would matter, because our planet would be uninhabitable.

Tackling the climate emergency is one of the reasons why I wanted to get back into politics. …

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