Jo Swinson warns PM he’s about to find out that ‘being a woman is not a weakness’

Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson after her conference speech. Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire.

Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson after her conference speech. Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire. - Credit: PA

Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson has warned Boris Johnson that being a woman will not stop her from toppling him as prime minister.

The East Dunbartonshire MP told a rejuvenated party that the Conservative Party leader would find out that being a female was not a "weakness".

She told members in Bournemouth in her closing speech: "Boris Johnson's insults of choice are rather revealing - big girl's blouse, girly swot.

"But let me tell you conference, if he thinks being a woman is somehow a weakness, he's about to find out: it is not."

The 39-year-old compared Johnson to a dictator for suspending parliament and sacking 21 Tory MPs for rebelling against him.

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Watched on by her mother Annette and husband Duncan Hames, a former MP, Swinson told members that they must no longer view themselves as big players in Westminster.

The party currently has 18 MPs - boosted by six defections this year alone - meaning it would need more than 300 additional seats to secure a majority in the House of Commons.

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Yet the former minister has continually dismissed calls to join in a coalition with either Johnson or Labour's Jeremy Corbyn after the next general election, saying that neither are "fit" to lead the country.

Instead, she told conference: "I am standing here as your candidate for prime minister."

She added: "We can win, we must win. And to do so, we must build the biggest liberal movement this country has ever seen.

"We cannot be satisfied with a place on the fringes of British politics, narrow and pure, small and irrelevant.

"Only a Liberal Democrat government can deliver the fair, inclusive and open future that we deserve."

The party this week committed to cancelling Brexit without a referendum if Swinson is elected to Downing Street.

"There is no Brexit that will be good for our country," she said.

Swinson predicted that Brexit would "hurt" jobs and the British economy, while pouring scorn on the PM's likelihood of securing a deal with the European Union.

Referring to his decision to pull out of a press conference in Luxembourg due to fears of not being heard over protests, she said: "He claims he can negotiate a Brexit deal in a month.

"I wouldn't hold much hope - yesterday he failed to negotiate where to have a press conference."

She criticised the millions spent on preparing for a no-deal exit as "sickening" and compared leaving without an agreement as equivalent to "burning your own house down".

"You might have insurance, but you're still going to lose all your stuff," she explained.

Former Lib Dem leader Tim Farron that Swinson's speech "offered a new alternative for the UK about more than just Brexit."

He told PA: "My sense is that the Liberal Democrats have had opportunities over time, this is more than an opportunity, this is a duty.

"If the country is faced with a choice between hard left socialism and populist English nationalism that's an appalling choice and we need to step into that space and we're very very lucky that we have a leader who is doing just that, who is genuinely a credible alternative Prime Minister."

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